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Reporter’s Notebook: Devolution and exclusion

Monday, October 24, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Mistakesman… As early voting starts on Monday morning, one candidate is facing an uphill battle reaching out to voters thanks to the Austin American-Statesman. David Holmes, the Democrat running for Travis County Commissioners Court Precinct 3, says the Statesman cut his race entirely from the League of Women Voters’ candidate guide that was included in the paper’s Sunday print editions. “First, we were told it was for space and cost reasons, then we were told it was an accident,” Holmes said. The first-time candidate is running against the better-funded Republican incumbent Gerald Daugherty. While Precinct 3 includes what could be considered the most conservative communities of Travis County, Daugherty’s re-election is no lock. He was ousted by a Democrat in 2008 and only regained his seat in 2012 with a margin of fewer than two percentage points. Despite that, Holmes said that the Statesman refuses to put out a corrected version of the voters’ guide. “They say they’ll print something in the newspaper, but people take the guide into the voting booth, not the entire paper,” Holmes said.

Tray bien… Luby’s will maintain its presence in downtown Austin for at least another year thanks to the Travis County Commissioners Court. On Tuesday, the court voted to renew the cafeteria chain’s lease in the basement of 700 Lavaca St. The $1,800-per-month deal faced a smidgen of headwinds from County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who proposed a six-month lease extension and a renewed effort to find alternative candidates for the space. Noting that no other companies besides Luby’s had bothered to express interest in the space – which doesn’t have a kitchen, meaning that all food prep is done off-site – Commissioner Gerald Daugherty argued against Eckhardt’s idea. “I make the motion to move forward with Luby’s from now until the Coming,” he said. And thus was the lease renewed on a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Ron Davis absent.

Go ahead and adjust your Google calendars now… It has been a slow devolution, but a couple of weeks ago, Mayor Steve Adler finally gave up the ghost and made it official: The “zoning only” City Council meetings that were part of the new way of business under 10-1 are now a thing of the past. At the Oct. 11 work session, Jerry Rusthoven, acting assistant director for the Planning and Zoning Department, explained that the change had not been “advantageous” from a staff perspective. He said it also was a problem for those with zoning cases, because postponements now meant a delay of a month instead of a week or two. “I also think we have not had a whole zoning agenda, yet. There are a lot of items that get put on the zoning agenda as well,” said Rusthoven. As a note, though everyone seemed on board with the change, it may take a few months to take effect. Live music and proclamations, which have not been included in the “zoning meetings,” will return to all of the meetings, and zoning cases will return to being scheduled at 2 p.m. or later. “Music is becoming my favorite part of our meetings,” said Adler. In related news, at its most recent meeting, the Board of Adjustment also moved forward with an adjustment to its meetings. In the past, board members have gathered the second Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate the variances and sign reviews of the month. From now on (probably), the board will meet at 6 p.m. instead, like many of the other city boards and commissions.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Caleb Pritchard and Elizabeth Pagano. 

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