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Reporter’s Notebook: Reach for the czars

Monday, August 15, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

It’s a dog-eat-chicken world… In comments to City Council during citizens communication Thursday, the city’s top anti-dog demagogue, Robert “Crocodile” Corbin, described the Austin Animal Center’s “no kill” policy as “destructive to humans, animals, the environment and our finances.” He reminded them of a previous story he had recounted to them “about a large, old pit bull” whose seven-month stay at the shelter cost city taxpayers $7,000, according to Corbin’s estimate. Keeping that dog alive, explained Corbin, is hardly a bloodless affair. “I estimate to feed that pit bull, some no-killer contracted a hired killer to kill lots of chickens. That’s how supply-and-demand economies work. Five more years of life, and hundreds more chickens get killed.” Humans, particularly children, are also victims of no-kill, said Corbin. “In our global economy, upscale dogs compete with poor people for food. An upscale dog usually wins.” He was horrified that the “anti-child” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recently rescued 200 dogs from the Korean meat trade. Since six of the pooches will apparently be coming to Texas, Corbin added, “one likely will make it to Austin, where it will leave poop by a creek, run loose in an on-leash area and make life anxious for a mother and her child in a local park. And chickens will shudder.”

Cost-benefit analysis… City Council is divided over whether to let Austinites off the hook for their blatant disregard of parking regulations. At a budget work session, it came to Council’s attention that some members of the public have figured out that it costs less to pay a parking ticket than to pay for a parking garage downtown, especially during all-day festivals. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo took a hard line, saying that the city should start piling on the tickets for these offenders. Transportation staff shrugged off the suggestion, saying they didn’t want Austin to be known around the country for its “parking czars,” which provoked some laughter from the rest of Council. Staff members said they would consider raising ticket prices, but they plan to stick to the policy of giving parking offenders one ticket only. Council Member Ellen Troxclair defended Austinites, saying that some people may genuinely be misreading the parking signs. But despite the lack of support from staff, Tovo didn’t back down. “We certainly want (tourists) to enjoy their experience,” she said. “But we want them to follow the regulations.”

Head congestion… Beverly Silas, vice chair of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors, personally apologized to her colleagues on the Urban Transportation Commission last Wednesday over comments she had made during the group’s July meeting. During a discussion of possibly sending along a light rail referendum recommendation to City Council, Silas took aim at the notion of laying rail tracks on the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor. At the time, Silas tangled with fellow Commissioner J.D. Gins and heatedly insisted that the Federal Transit Administration would never under any circumstances fund the project, because the agency had already committed large grants to kick-start Capital Metro’s MetroRapid service, part of which runs along what advocates see as the future rail route. On Wednesday, Silas said she allowed herself “to go to an emotional level” that clouded her usual protocols for polite participation. She explained that what she meant to say was that “the FTA will not put additional funds in a corridor that already has (bus rapid transit) unless you have surpassed the BRT requirements,” thus leaving the door open to federal rail investment if MetroRapid were a runaway success. Silas said she would have made that point more clearly had it not been for a “traffic jam” between her brain and her mouth. Her colleagues graciously accepted Silas’ apology, with one fellow member noting that the Urban Transportation Commission is a fine venue to discuss traffic jams.

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