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Reporter’s Notebook: The elephant in the closet

Monday, January 11, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Must be a walk-in… At the most recent meeting of the Public Safety Commission, members decided it was time to take matters into their own hands to initiate a conversation about Uber and Lyft and the impact that transportation network companies might have on public safety. “It seems like we’ve been bypassed in the discussion by (City) Council,” said Commissioner Brian Haley, whose statement was met with agreement from fellow commissioners.”It’s an important issue. If we disagree with Council, I think we continue to discuss it.” Commissioner Mike Levy said that he wanted to hear from the Austin Police Department about what it thought was necessary. “The elephant in the closet is: How can we be more effective? We seem to be forgotten. … Vision Zero (a plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths) went to the (Pedestrian Advisory Council), but the thought was never there to bring it to us and, ultimately, it was a public safety kind of issue.” Though Chair Kim Rossmo, who sets the agenda, was not present, the commission seemed to reach a general consensus that they would speak to APD in the future as well as review actions that Council has taken thus far.

Trap King… Over the holiday break, City Council Member Don Zimmerman apparently resolved to dive into the ongoing debate about coyote management in the city. In his December newsletter, Zimmerman explained that he supports continuing the city’s contract with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services and not changing the existing management agreement. That agreement allows for lethal control with (padded) foot-hold traps, when determined to be necessary. Zimmerman explained on his Facebook page, “At the heart of the issue: are people more important than coyotes? It’s frightening that the question needs to be asked, but the answer is still yes.” That comment appears beneath a video of the Council member testing out the padded trap with his hand, while wearing an Aggie Santa hat.

In case you’ve missed it (which seems unlikely)… Mayor Steve Adler has spent the past week on a media blitz launching “the Year of Mobility in Austin,” which could likely end with a transportation bond election in the fall. (We’ve reported on some of Adler’s ideas in the past.) Over the weekend, Adler sent an email to supporters reiterating an invitation for Austinites to take part in the solution-making, either by emailing him at steve.adler@austintexas.gov or by participating in the discussions taking place on his Facebook page. A quick look at that page revealed suggestions about I-35, including: building an underground subway, tolls for major roads that lead to downtown from the highways, eliminating tolls on 130, closing it to people who don’t live in Travis County, and prayer.

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