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Reporter’s Notebook: Monitored

Monday, October 5, 2015 by Austin Monitor

Lost Highway… There’s something missing from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2040 Plan, but not for long. While working on a story about the 290 East Toll, also known as the Manor Expressway, one Austin Monitor reporter was left scratching his head early Friday morning, trying to figure out why the highway isn’t listed in the table outlining the total number of tolled highway lane miles that the planning organization envisions for the six-county region in 2040. It turns out that, due to an oversight, a description of the existing highway – which stretches 34.4 lane miles from U.S. 183 South to just past Parmer Lane – was left out of the table. However, it does show up in a map of the projected 2040 transportation network in the same section of the plan, and it is accounted for in the total number of lane miles listed in the table. “That inadvertently fell out,” CAMPO Assistant Director Phillip Tindall told the Monitor on Friday afternoon. “We checked, and that was the only one.” Tindall went on to explain that, while CAMPO staff will amend the plan to correct the oversight at some point in the next few months, the change will not require a vote of the CAMPO board of directors, since it is not a substantive change. “It’s essentially a typo, so that’s the kind of thing we could handle with an administrative amendment,” Tindall concluded.

Maybe this rule could apply to other bodies?… Things got a little testy at the Austin Independent School District’s regular meeting Monday when Board President Gina Hinojosa decided to enforce a board policy that trustees had forgotten to use in the past. Board members now need a majority vote to remove items from the consent agenda, which means that items can no longer be pulled according to each individual’s whim. The new change did not sit well with District 6 Trustee Paul Saldaña, who often pulls things off the agenda for comment or separate motions. “The full board has not vetted or participated in a conversation (about the policy). We are forced into a position where we have to vote on something we don’t want or where we’d like to abstain,” he said, stating he wanted to abstain from voting on the consent agenda to “make a point.” Saldaña said the unenforced policy should have come to the AISD Policy Committee before it was enacted. However, Hinojosa stated she was trying to enforce the policy in a fair way, and board members would get a chance to debate it soon. After some legal back-and-forth over whether board members could amend the consent agenda after items were already pulled from it under the policy, Saldaña eventually relented and threw in his vote for the consent agenda.

Noted… During discussion of proposed solar contracts, City Council Member Delia Garza had strong words for Austin Energy and the management of its Twitter account. “I received some information from my staff that Austin Energy had tweeted out on social media what I believe was a very inappropriate tweet. It was tweeting an editorial by the Austin American-Statesman weighing in on this agreement. And I think the charter is very clear on policy decisions, and that’s the Council’s responsibility. I’d like some kind of report from our city manager that makes me understand the policy that allows one of our city departments to use social media to forward a policy issue,” said Garza. “If there are members of Austin Energy that want to get involved with policy, depending on what district you live in, I believe you can file for office in April of next year.”

Word of the week… Last week, Mayor Steve Adler sent some Council members (and reporters) scrambling for their dictionaries when he posed a question about the “first tranche” of a proposal. Council Member Ora Houston said, “Some of us didn’t know what ‘tranche’ is, but we’ve looked it up.” We did, too: A “tranche” is a portion, usually used when talking about money.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook was compiled from the notes of Tyler Whitson, Courtney Griffin and Elizabeth Pagano.

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