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Reporter’s Notebook: TNC (and TNC-adjacent) battles continue

Monday, July 18, 2016 by Austin Monitor

We’re here for your posts… If you checked out of the news over the weekend, the Austin Monitor has your back. Late Friday afternoon, the city’s Transportation Department attempted to enter the Matrix and track down the Facebook group for the listing service Arcade City. Unfortunately, it did so at the Capital Factory co-working space. It did not find Arcade City CEO Christopher David there. It did find Capital Factory CEO Joshua Baer, who promptly tweeted out a video of the search. That video, and the story, quickly jumped into the news cycle. There is a lot of local coverage, but we recommend the Vice site “Motherboard” for a pretty thorough recap of the whole thing. Arcade City responded with a number of taunts, asking the Austin Police Department to “Tweet first next time” in a tweet and posting all of the articles about the thwarted raid to its Facebook page with captions like “Good luck with that.”

Music Commission talks diversity… As the city aspires to create a new music culture with its implementation of the Omnibus Resolution, it’s having to take a hard look at itself and some of the not-so-pretty aspects of the “Live Music Capital of the World.” At a Music Commission meeting on July 12, the talk turned to race and how Austin’s music leadership has closed minorities out of the music scene. One of the loudest rounds of applause of the night went to Chris Omenihu, a recent UT graduate who said he’s been able to create more opportunities for minority artists in nine months than he’s seen many of the big music venues around town offer for years. “I think about (South By Southwest) all the time and we have an influx of imports, of big artists and then our local artists feel like refugees in their own city,” he said. Commissioner Revlynn Lawson took venues to task, telling them to “Look at yourselves and really think about the environment that you’ve created for many people in this city.” She talked about the “red herring” of businesses believing that certain genres of music, like hip-hop, lead to more violence and crime. She finished by telling the participants, “I have a running list of places (on Sixth Street) where you will never see me. And if you’re not going to be inclusive or accommodating to me, you’re not going to get my money. That’s the reality in this city for many people of color.”

Out of order… On Thursday, the Zoning and Platting Commission convened for a special meeting to finally make a recommendation on the Grove at Shoal Creek, a controversial planned unit development on the corner of Bull Creek Road and 45th Street. Some on the commission, including Chair Tom Weber, clearly thought that the seven hours of testimony the panel had heard from supporters and opponents of the plan at a previous meeting in June was enough. Weber made clear at the beginning that he wanted to limit public input to the roughly dozen neighbors who had signed up to speak at the last meeting but hadn’t gotten the chance to do so. At various junctures throughout the meeting, however, it appeared that that plan was going to unravel. Tensions finally boiled over when Commissioner Betsy Greenberg noted the presence in the audience of David Steitle, a San Antonio traffic engineer hired by the Bull Creek Road Coalition, a group opposed to the current PUD proposal, and requested that he give his take on the traffic impact of the project. Weber said that would be out of order, because it would open up the hearing to further testimony. He later said that Greenberg was welcome to ask city traffic staff questions “relevant to what you’ve heard from this person.” But she hadn’t heard from the person, she responded. “Well, then I’ll just conclude that that’s out of order,” he responded. Commission Parliamentarian Ann Denkler rebuked the chair on his ruling: “Actually, that’s my job, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” she said. “I don’t believe that’s your job,” interjected Weber. “I think it’s your job to advise me if you think that’s out of order.” Denkler then gave her advice, which Weber rejected. After taking a short break, Weber, in a show of diplomacy, allowed Greenberg’s witness to come forward.

They didn’t not accept (Grove, Part 3)… One of the many issues in the debate over the Grove PUD is a certain amount of right-of-way on 45th Street that the developer or the city will need to acquire in order to make certain road improvements for the project. Standing between that acquisition, however, is Ferinaz Arman, who owns a home at 2645 W. 45th Street. Arman told the Zoning and Platting Commission on Thursday that ARG Bull Creek Ltd., the developer, had made an “insulting” offer on her house 18 months ago, but had not made another offer since. Garrett Mitchell, one of ARG’s owners, responded that his company had approached Arman about her home more recently, but that she refused to sell for less than $950,000, a price that he noted was more than double the property’s market value. “The right to purchase the right-of-way was not accepted, is that correct?” asked Commissioner Betsy Greenberg, who is a staunch critic of the PUD. “The offer was neither accepted nor declined,” responded Martin. “So it was not accepted,” stated Greenberg. “It was neither accepted nor declined,” repeated Martin. “So far it has not been accepted, is that correct?” Greenberg continued. Chair Tom Weber interjected before Martin could respond yet again. “I think we can move on,” he said.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the Notebooks of Jack Craver, Cate Malek and Elizabeth Pagano. A complete list of Austin Monitor donors can be found here.

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