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Reporter’s Notebook: Campaign promises

Monday, January 23, 2017 by Austin Monitor

Leaders join the crowd… Saturday’s Women’s March on Austin saw massive crowds, including several City Council members, pack the streets of downtown. Spotted on the sidewalk of Congress Avenue was Council Member Pio Renteria, who gamely posed for at least one photograph. He linked up at the Capitol steps with Council colleagues Leslie Pool, Alison Alter, Ann Kitchen, Jimmy Flannigan and Mayor Steve Adler as well as Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea. Also among the giant throng of demonstrators was Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and her daughter. Council Member Delia Garza also showed up to the rally and tweeted a photo of her trip to the event. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member noted that her 801 MetroRapid bus was packed with riders, including Kyle City Council Member Daphne Tenorio.

More on the resistance… As the rest of the country’s eyes were pointed at the presidential inauguration festivities on Friday, the Texas Observer posted a passionate call to action penned by City Council Member Greg Casar. In the piece, the former Workers Defense Project policy director dismissed the idea that progressives should work with President Donald Trump, insisting that “Trump’s followers will not go easy on us for playing nice.” He called on his fellow Texans to protest, contact their representatives on every level and support the ones who follow through on their promises. Casar also praised Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez for her announcement last week that she would end the county’s cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He reiterated that sentiment in a press release on Friday: “Undoubtedly, Sheriff Hernandez will be falsely accused of skirting the law. It is not Sheriff Hernandez, but rather anti-immigrant leaders like (Gov. Greg) Abbott and Trump who are advocating for policies that have been found unconstitutional.” He was right. Soon after Hernandez’s announcement, Abbott responded with a tweet promising not only that his office would cut off funding to Travis County in response, but that there would be “stiffer penalties” on the way.

Strap on a guitar and belt out a tune… It may soon be legal – and even encouraged – for Austin musicians to strap on a guitar and belt out a tune in public wherever and whenever they want, in exchange for money. That will be a welcome change for members of the Austin Music Commission who have tried several times in recent years to fine-tune language that would separate busking from panhandling. The two activities are currently treated as the same under city law. Commissioner Barbara Rappaport has made busking legalization a pet project in recent months and said that while the practice is allowed by the First Amendment, the city’s legal department has yet to see language it is comfortable with. Other major cities across the nation have laws that make busking legal, and Rappaport said a progressive city like Austin should be able to draft guidelines that make busking a legal way to entertain and generate revenue. The issue will be a topic of discussion for a joint meeting between the Music Commission and the Arts Commission next month, when the two bodies will examine the first draft of CodeNEXT to determine its impact on creative communities across the city.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Caleb Pritchard, Nina Hernandez and Chad Swiatecki.

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