Monday, September 26, 2016 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Upscale dogs, other complaints

You’re never too old to throw shade… Last Monday, the Austin Independent School District’s workshop meeting was full of lively discussion, including more pondering of academic programming and how to correctly catalog it for parents and district members. Often, special programs like AISD’s Liberal Arts and Science Magnet school or McCallum High School’s Fine Arts Academy are a big help in keeping AISD students from leaving the district. And, it just wouldn’t be a true academic-and-enrollment discussion without AISD throwing shade at nearby charter schools, which District 3 Trustee Ann Teich wasted no time doing right after pushing for “the core of education,” aka, collaboration among teachers. “There is something that was mentioned – we are collaborating with charters,” she said. “I’m hearing that we are getting teachers from charters and they are instructing our teachers. And, I have real concern about that. So, I would like to know from the administration, what is the depth and breadth of the collaboration with charters in this district? You don’t have to answer tonight, because I’m putting you on the spot, but I have a real concern about what I’ve seen coming through on updates from this district (about charters). … We have the greatest teachers. … They shouldn’t be instructing charters.”

Dog is my pilot program?… For those who missed it, Thursday’s City Council meeting marked the very first time that someone participating in citizens communication was able to do so remotely. Karen Flanagan, from District 6, was the first participant in the city’s pilot program. Before expressing concern about flooding issues due to undredged ditches that she said had been neglected since annexation, Flanagan said, “This is perfect. It took me 10 minutes to get here, and I didn’t have any issues with parking.” Council Member Sheri Gallo said, “That is so cool. It really is.” Other communications at Thursday’s noon hour featured complaints about “animal subsidies” from Robert Corbin. He complained about the cost of the city’s no-kill animal shelter, which he said is “funding a religion,” untaxed prescription dog food for “upscale dogs” and a lack of Hotel Occupancy Taxes for kennels, among other things.

AMA, but not right now… The Friends of Austin Neighborhoods hosted their first online forum for City Council candidates, though it turned out to be more of a question-and-answer session with District 7 candidate Natalie Gauldin, who also serves on the board of FAN. If you are curious about the positions of the candidate who is challenging Council Member Leslie Pool, those questions and answers are archived here. Pool rescinded her participation in the Friday afternoon forum at about 2:30 in the morning, writing, “Unfortunately, given how late tonight’s (this morning’s) council meeting has run, and all of the demands on me as a Council Member, I will not be able to participate in the scheduled Reddit. My questionnaire is attached. I regret cancelling but, just as my opponent hasn’t been able to make all the forums, I simply can’t make this one. In the meantime, I look forward to debating and discussing the issues in the public forums that are on the schedule. Regards, Leslie Pool.”

The call is coming from inside the house… On Thursday, we promised that the city’s new Lobbying Ordinance would most likely be approved without much of a fuss. That kind of happened – though the discussion was a bit lengthier than anticipated, the ordinance eventually passed 9-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair absent. Council Member Don Zimmerman cast the lone vote in opposition, with the explanation that he felt the ordinance should also cover city employees. “They are the most powerful lobby group in Central Texas, the city staff,” said Zimmerman. “They are paid very well for what they do. They are very skillful at it and there are many, many instances where I get one point of view. … That’s the position that the city favors, and I don’t hear any other interest or any other positions.” Council Member Ann Kitchen disagreed with the categorization, saying it wasn’t fair to “degenerate our staff that way.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Courtney Griffin and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

AISD: Austin's largest school district, AISD is the Austin Independent School District.

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

charter schools: a publicly funded independent school

District 7: District 7 encompasses the Crestview, Allandale and Brentwood neighborhoods on the south, bounded by MoPac Boulevard and U.S. 183, and the Gracywoods, Milwood and Preston Oaks neighborhoods, sitting between Braker Lane on the south and Wells Branch Parkway on the north. Connecting the two is the Kramer Lane industrial area, including the Domain and Gateway commercial developments.

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods

lobbying: Lobbying, in short, occurs when someone attempts to influence the decisions of government officials.

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