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Reporter’s Notebook: Could it be … Satan?

Monday, April 18, 2016 by Jack Craver

The devil is in the details… It may be a while before City Council members are willing to accept amendments offered to their resolutions by Council Member Don Zimmerman, no matter how inoffensive they appear at first glance. On Thursday, a discussion over a symbolic resolution to declare Austin a “compassionate community” was prolonged significantly after Zimmerman announced that language in his amendment – as accepted by the resolution’s sponsor, Council Member Ann Kitchen – had in fact been lifted from the website of the Satanic Temple. This language was a largely innocuous call for compassion and empathy, but Zimmerman delighted in displaying what he saw as Council’s hypocrisy, since Kitchen had rejected two other amendments he offered that included specific references to Christianity. Kitchen responded earnestly that it was not her intent to endorse any particular religious view, and Mayor Steve Adler urged his colleagues to strike the amendment and pass the resolution. He didn’t want a “meme” to emerge about Council endorsing Satanism, and, just as important, he didn’t believe city government should be spending so much time debating a purely symbolic measure. Council voted to strike the amendment and then voted 9-1 to approve the resolution, with only Zimmerman opposed. Council Member Ellen Troxclair was absent.

Props where props are due… As the May 7 election looms, the rhetoric and spending around Proposition 1, which could change the way that ride-hailing companies are regulated in the city, continues to heat up. And last week saw some local groups jumping into (and staying clear of) the fray and finding new ways to be on opposite sides of each other. On Thursday, the Real Estate Council of Austin announced that its board of directors had voted to support Prop 1. The ballot initiative, which is driven by the Ridesharing Works for Austin political action committee, would overturn recent City Council action and reinstate 2014 interim rules that do not include fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. In a press release about the decision, RECA Board Chair Brian Cassidy said, “We urge our members and the community to vote ‘Yes’ on May 7 to replace the new TNC ordinance with one that’s consistent with the regulations TNCs have operated safely and successfully under for the past 18 months. … It is regrettable that the issue has been handled in a manner that led to this process, but Proposition 1 is now the best course of action to assure that Austin residents will have continued access to TNC services.” The press release further explained that RECA supports Proposition 1 because of the increase in transportation access, decrease in strain on downtown parking and reduction in drunken driving. One day earlier, the Austin Neighborhoods Council’s executive committee voted to oppose Proposition 1 and urged Austinites to vote against the measure. Its resolution notes that “the City Council enacted reasonable public safety and other regulations for transportation companies operating in the City” and that “corporate power and money is being utilized in an attempt to repeal public safety regulations that were enacted by the City Council through a fair and transparent public stakeholder process.” The stance puts the group in the familiar position of opposing RECA. AURA members, on the other hand, voted to stay out of the thing and will not be officially endorsing either proposition position.

And, speaking of Prop 1… If you missed the debate held last week by the Austin Monitor and KUT, you are in luck (if unmotivated). Video of the Prop 1 debate, which featured Ridesharing Works PAC representatives Huey Rey Fischer and Joe Bowen arguing in favor of Prop 1 and Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice PAC representatives Laura Morrison and Dean Rindy arguing against. The debate was moderated by KUT reporters Nathan Bernier and Audrey McGlinchy and the Monitor’s own Caleb Pritchard.

We have embedded that video below for your convenience:

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