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Reporter’s Notebook: Let the good times roll

Monday, October 26, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Rock ‘n’ roll … and energy audits?… While touting an uptick in compliance with the city’s Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure ordinance at Thursday’s Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee meeting, Debbie Kimberly, Austin Energy’s vice president of customer energy solutions, pointed out that staff has taken some new approaches to getting people’s attention. One of those includes reaching out to music lovers by doing promotions at the Blues on the Green festival and buying ads on the online custom radio service Pandora. “I don’t have a Pandora account, but you put together your own music, right?” Kimberly said. “We had nine times the standard click-through rate … for our Pandora campaign on single-family (homes). That’s huge,” she continued. “And it’s a very inexpensive way to reach a broader demographic and the folks that would likely adopt our program. So I’m really happy about this. We plan to continue this, and I think it’s promising.” Although rules differ based on whether a property is single-family, multifamily or commercial, the goal of the energy audit ordinance is to get more property owners to adopt energy efficiency measures. Between 2013 and 2014, single-family compliance increased from 52 to 62 percent, multifamily climbed from 80 to 85 percent and commercial jumped from 49 to 62 percent.

Up in smoking areas… City Council spent the better part of its abbreviated, two-item special called meeting Thursday debating whether to grant a temporary exemption to the city’s public park smoking ban so that Fun Fun Fun Fest organizers could set up designated smoking areas at this year’s event, which will take place between Nov. 6 and 8 at Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores). Although it ultimately granted the waiver on a 9-1 vote with Council Member Sheri Gallo dissenting and Council Member Ellen Troxclair absent, Council added the topic of smoking in parks to its ever-growing list of “policy discussions” – in the words of Mayor Steve Adler – that it intends to have in the future. “I’m OK with moving this item forward, but I’d like to send an item to the appropriate committee, whether that’s (Open Space, Environment and Sustainability) or Health and Human Services, to re-examine our policy of allowing exemptions to smoking in the parks during events,” said Council Member Ann Kitchen. Gallo explained why she planned to vote against the item. “If we, as a city, have adopted an ordinance and a policy that says smoking is not allowed in our parks, I think it’s a little uncomfortable to me to grant permission to smoke to a commercial entity using our park for a function,” she said. Adler agreed about sending the topic to a committee and pointed out that smoking is allowed on public rights-of-way. People at the recent Austin City Limits festival, which did not have designated smoking areas, would step onto the right-of-way to smoke, he said. Council Member Pio Renteria explained his own rationale for supporting the item. “I know that smokers are – they have to have their cigarettes, and they do. And I noticed that even at ACL, they were smoking at the park and taking a chance of getting a ticket. And I believe that if we provide them a safe location, then we wouldn’t have that problem that we’re having right now, where people are just illegally … hiding behind a corner somewhere, smoking a cigarette.”

Calling all know-it-alls… Do you also miss former Council Member Bill Spelman? Well, tonight you don’t have to watch old ATXN videos in the dark! Come join the Austin Monitor, KOOP Radio and the Austin Facial Hair Club for our first-ever trivia night. Not only will we have prizes for first and second place, but there will also be drink specials and a prize for best costume. It all happens at the Mohawk from 5 until 8 p.m. – all the details you need are here.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the meticulous notes of Tyler Whitson and Elizabeth Pagano.

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