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Reporter’s Notebook: Campaigns, opinions, etc.

Monday, October 10, 2016 by Austin Monitor

Locals vs. State Legislators… In case you missed it, The Texas Tribune has posted audio from most of its 2016 Texas Tribune Festival panels. Mayor Steve Adler managed to score a seat on one of the panels, “Rideshare’s Road Forward,” talking about Austin’s now infamous ordinance governing ride-hailing companies. For those out of the know, Austin’s ability to regulate transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft is up for grabs in the next legislative session, as part of a larger discussion about local control. At the panel, state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, declared (while wearing nearly identical outfits and matching boots) that ride-hailing regulations should be fair and consistent – and pro-business – throughout Texas, unlike the feudal patchwork of regulations popping up at the local level.

Uber snack table outside of a 2016 Texas Tribune Festival Panel.

Uber snack table outside of a 2016 Texas Tribune Festival Panel.

Meanwhile, Mayor Steve Adler defended the biometrically linked background check and “innovative” spirit of Austin’s ordinance. The state lawmakers argued that the fingerprint-based background check has no data to prove that it is safer than other options, and that a plethora of “innovative” regulation-abiding ride-hailing companies has been slow to materialize. But, in a foot-in-mouth moment, Schwertner said he wouldn’t be advocating for lifting regulations on similar services – aka, cab companies – at the state level because, unlike ride-hailing companies, “they aren’t coming to me or coming to local government and saying we want out of this.” As a case in point, Uber managed to set up a snack table outside one of the panels, complete with complimentary informational handouts. Perhaps cab companies were too busy picking up Austin residents to attend?

Make Campaign Ads Great Again… Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty has dropped his first video ad in his campaign for a fourth term in office, and you should make your life better by watching it right now. The minute-long mockumentary-style spot plays up Daugherty’s wonkish home life and features some first-class eye-rolling from his wife, Charlyn Daugherty. While variously washing dishes, standing over a backyard barbecue and doing laundry, the commissioner drones on about code violations, light rail, traffic and the county’s property tax rate to the consternation of his captive audience. “Gerald really doesn’t have any hobbies,” Charlyn explains. “Most people leave their work at the office.” After one scene wherein Daugherty tells a harried Charlyn that he enjoys helping around the house, she pleads with voters to “please re-elect Gerald. Please.” Daugherty is running against Democrat David Holmes, who himself might benefit from the candid conversations of a completely different Republican candidate.

Dr. No… City Council Member Ora Houston has opened fire on Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million transportation bond. With less than a month until Election Day, Houston has begun distributing an “op-ed” that she wrote to explain her opposition. The rough gist: The District 1 rep was not pleased with the bond’s provenance. “The process was not inclusive. The process was not transparent. This proposal was conceived by an ‘exclusive group of power brokers’ in Austin,” Houston writes. She does not elaborate on who that group of power brokers is, but one might safely assume it starts with a “C” and ends with a “hamber of Commerce.” In addition to claiming that the plan “will increase congestion, not lessen it,” Houston’s piece also decries the estimated $1.5 billion cost of fully building out the corridor plans that would receive $482 million in the bond package. “I took an oath to represent individuals on fixed incomes, renters, wisdom keepers, homeowners, the wealthy and individuals who are barely hanging on,” Houston wrote, this time without elaborating on what a wisdom keeper is. “Taxpayers must know the fiscal impact prior to going to the polls.” In August, Houston was the only Council member who voted against sending the bond package to voters. Along with Council Member Don Zimmerman, she also stood against Travis County’s $287 million civil courthouse proposal last year.

Does live music have a new capital, then?… In case you (most certainly) missed it, former Austin City Council Member and Austin nicknamer extraordinaire Max Nofziger recently successfully proposed a music commission for his hometown: the Village of Archbold in Ohio. Nofziger, of course, knows what he’s doing, having played a major role in the creation of Austin’s own music commission.

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

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