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Reporter’s Notebook: What has hot dogs, great views and live music? It’s a roundup festival!

Monday, September 19, 2016 by Austin Monitor

Hot dogs at Town Lake Animal Center… Things got heated during the Animal Advisory Commission’s recent discussion of the temperature of the Town Lake Animal Center. There has been increasing public concern over ineffectual swamp coolers where the outdoor kennels are, which means dogs have no protection against the humid Austin summer. Veterinarians have determined that the heat is not a medical issue for the dogs but more a matter of comfort. Austin Animal Services plans to break ground on a new shelter in November, but volunteers are worried that the dogs will be suffering for the next few months. After a discussion of the intricacies of swamp coolers, Commission Chair David Lundstedt lost patience and reminded everyone that when he started on the commission, the issue it faced was whether to kill 50 percent of the dogs coming into the shelter. “I don’t know if I’m more amused or just annoyed that this is even being discussed because we’ve got the best damn shelter here in the country,” he said. “I guess it’s great that this is such a big issue instead of killing them, but seriously, let’s get them adopted, let’s get them out, let’s get them back to their owner.” Chief Animal Officer Tawny Hammond took offense at the discussion, though she said she appreciated volunteers coming forward and advocating for the dogs. Her concern was at the suggestion that Animal Services is ignoring a crisis. “I’m just bristling at the thought that we would not care or not do enough or pretend we don’t have money,” she said. “That’s not what’s happening here.”

Shoo the musicians away… A musical protest outside City Hall on Wednesday afternoon gave reporters covering City Council’s tortuous trudge toward a final budget a temporary reprieve from the tedium. A group of musicians and artists demonstrating to “save our spaces” and “to bring awareness to the city’s lack of investment to Austin’s arts and music infrastructure” interrupted the proceedings with a blaring rendition of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” The band was playing right outside the building, separated from Council only by the glass of the large windows behind the city clerk, to the left of the Council dais. But it was obscured by blinds covering the windows. At the urging of a couple of Council members, City Clerk Jannette Goodall began to raise the blind, revealing the legs of the musicians. She then apparently thought better of it, reversed course and pulled the blind back down again. The musicians soon went away. “I don’t think we wanted to encourage them to keep going,” Goodall later told the Austin Monitor.

Killer view…. It’s clear that Travis County never had a fighting chance. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s office shared with the Austin Monitor a letter from state Sen. Kirk Watson that lays out his official position on the long-shot effort to have the Legislature reconsider the Capitol view corridors that forbid the construction of a new civil courthouse on Block 126, just across the street from the Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse. “I personally believe the Capitol is a defining feature of Austin and we should maintain the integrity of the Capitol View Corridors,” Watson wrote. “Regardless of my personal belief, legislation that would obstruct views of this iconic building would be highly unlikely to pass.” To back up his assertion, Watson attached a letter from Texas State Preservation Board President John Sneed. Of the protected sight lines spelled out in both city and state laws, Sneed wrote, “The City, the State, and the development community have abided by the Capitol View Corridors for over three decades – all making allowances in their construction projects to respect Capitol views.” (Of course, the Legislature amended the statute to include an exemption for the expansion of the University of Texas’ football stadium…) Sneed concluded his letter by declaring, “It is my opinion that any exemption to a view corridor would be met with strong opposition from the preservation community, state leadership and the Legislature.” All of which means, the county will have to prolong its difficult and costly search for a suitable property on which to build a replacement for its 85-year-old headquarters of civil justice.

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This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Cate Malek, Jack Craver and Caleb Pritchard.

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