Monday, February 15, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Reporter’s Notebook: Drive crashes

All4Nothing… South Austin, for better or worse, has long been considered the bastion of Austin of Yore. From hippies to low-slung bungalows to grimy music clubs, South River City keeps it weird. One hallmark of local heritage to which it will not hark back, however, is our lost tradition of municipal elections in May. It seems that despite all of the bluster, City Council Member Ann Kitchen of South Austin’s District 5 will not face a recall election any time before November. The Office of the City Clerk confirmed to the Austin Monitor on Friday that Austin4All, the group behind a petition to knock the popular former state legislator from her Council office, has missed the deadline to turn in its signatures in time to make the May ballot. Austin4All declared two weeks ago that it had reached the threshold number of signatures required of valid petitions but has yet to prove it. Paid canvassers working on Austin4All’s behalf were still reportedly soliciting support as recently as Friday. The clerk’s office informed the Monitor that the group has until Aug. 22 to make the November ballot but added that a petition can only legally be circulated for no more than 180 days. In the meantime, a prominent sheet based out of South Austin with occasional pretensions toward newsgathering has recently run a fairly oblivious perspective that fails to mention these details. Bless their hearts.

Tick tock… When the new single-member district City Council took office, it did so with a flourish of promises. Chief among them was a vow to do away with the after-midnight Council meetings of years past. Of course, that hasn’t happened at all. Then, this past week, delivering on earlier threats, Council members Sheri Gallo, Ann Kitchen and Ellen Troxclair voted in opposition to extending Thursday’s meeting past 10 p.m. – right in the middle of the transportation network company debate. Though their vote was largely symbolic and all three remained at the meeting until its 12:45 a.m. end, it certainly speaks to the growing dissatisfaction with the now-frequent lengthy Council meetings.

News from the gulf… Though not our usual beat, the city of Beaumont caught our attention this past week with the hint of interesting news to come. State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Port Arthur) has written Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking for an opinion on “whether a Planning and Zoning Commissioner or Historic Landmark Commissioner and/or staff member … who resides or owns property in the geographically defined historic district may vote or decide on matters that affect that district where preserving the value of property in the district is a major focus?” Last year, similar questions were raised at the Ethics Review Commission, and Historic Landmark Commissioner Arif Panju was reprimanded for his participation in the Bluebonnet Hills local historic district case. We’ve embedded Deshotel’s request below, for the curious.

[embeddoc url=”http://www.austinmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/opinion.pdf”]

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the files of Caleb Pritchard and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Ann Kitchen: Austin City Council member for District 5. Kitchen also represented southwest Austin from 2000 to 2002 as a member of the Texas House.

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

historic preservation: Official actions of a municipality such as the City of Austin taken to preserve structures with their jurisdiction. Preservation is often accompanied by a property tax exemption.

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