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Reporter’s Notebook: Same as it ever was

Monday, March 7, 2016 by Austin Monitor

Sharing information… An Austin Monitor reporter received a call Friday from a polling firm conducting a survey on the ongoing debate in Austin over ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft. During a six-minute call, the caller asked a series of questions aimed at gauging opinion and awareness of the May referendum prompted by the two companies and their supporters. The referendum seeks to repeal a series of rules that City Council voted to impose on the two companies. The questioner asked whether the reporter had used Uber or Lyft in the past three months, whether his impression of the two companies was favorable or unfavorable, whether he planned to vote in the May election and how he planned to vote. In addition, the caller presented two generic arguments – one that described the proposed regulations of the ride-hailing services as overly burdensome and one that presented them as reasonable – and asked the reporter whether he found the arguments convincing. The reporter regrettably forgot to ask who had sponsored the poll. Although the call was from a local number, it did not appear to be in service when he tried to call it the following day. Nick Van Zandt, who worked on Mayor Steve Adler’s 2014 campaign, also got a call. From Twitter:

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 7.52.05 PM

In defense of language… It’s likely that you missed it, but at the opening of last week’s City Council meeting, Council Member Don Zimmerman took a stance against amendments to the Zero Waste Advisory Commission’s bylaws on the grounds that the changes were “Orwellian.” As he explained to his colleagues: “I wanted to call attention to the pages here in the ordinance that strike the words ‘solid waste.’ In some instances, ‘solid waste’ is struck and replaced with the word ‘materials.’ And in kind of a bizarre, Orwellian way, it tends to suggest that solid waste is impermissible to now use. There’s no such thing as waste, there’s only material. So this kind of thing as an engineer drives me absolutely crazy because there’s an incredibly important difference between a material – that has use in a manufacturing process, that has inherent value as a material; you can use it to construct, build, control, make something – and waste, which you cannot find an economical use for. So I think this is an absolutely terrible edit that’s going on here. There’s another one here that says ‘electronic discard’ has been replaced for ‘electronic waste.’ ‘Electronic discard.’ I think these are terrible edits, and I’m going to be voting against these, and I think this is very bad policy to do this kind of wordsmithing. It tends to confuse issues, and when we talk material, we don’t know if we’re talking garbage or something inherently valuable.” Zimmerman voted against the changes.

The Petition: The End… Of course, the big City Hall news over the weekend was that the petition to recall City Council Member Ann Kitchen was rejected. The rejection came about two weeks after the signatures were submitted and after the city clerk determined that the forms lacked notarization and, therefore, had not been filled out properly. The Monitor reported on all of that Friday through our partners at KUT, but we did not include the full statement released by Kitchen on Friday evening. For the curious, here’s an edited version:

Today the Austin City Clerk found that Austin4All petition leaders disregarded a threshold safeguard of the City of Austin Charter that requires the petitioners for the group to swear that statements made on the petition they collected were true. The City Clerk’s report said that, “On no page [of the petition] did the language submitted in the block designated for an affidavit contain a sworn statement that ‘the statements therein made are true.’” … It should come as no surprise that Austin4All did not follow the law and failed to swear to the truth of their petitions. This validates everything my constituents have been saying – that the Austin4All PAC has operated in a manner that is not above board, and that has been misleading the voters. … I have heard from dozens of outraged District 5 residents and leaders from all over the district about attempts by Austin4All to deceive them at their doorsteps. Austin4All’s campaign has led to four ethics complaints against the group and an outraged public. This unethical petition effort violated our City Charter and I’m pleased that our City Charter is being upheld. Our city is facing many real and serious challenges. I’m proud to continue serving the people of District 5 and Austin as we tackle these challenges together.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook came from the notebooks of Jack Craver and Elizabeth Pagano.

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