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Reporter’s Notebook: Same as it ever was

Monday, March 13, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The cycle continues… South by Southwest has brought another rogue set of transportation providers to Austin. Just as Uber bullied its way into town during a trial run during the 2013 iteration of the festival, several bikesharing companies have deployed their on-demand bicycle rentals on streets and sidewalks downtown. The move took Austin Transportation Department officials by surprise since none of the companies bothered to reach out to the city before launching. By Friday night, several of the bikes were seen with impound notifications affixed to their pedals. During a brief interview at the Hilton on Saturday afternoon, Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar told the Austin Monitor that the primary concern is safety and that the city simply wants to have a conversation with the companies. He said that each had agreed to suspend service prior to an arranged dialogue set for 1:30 p.m. on Monday. Spillar noted that one concern he had heard was that the bicycles themselves may not be of the highest quality. To drive the issue home, he pointed to the road below where a rider was wobbling along Neches Street on an orange Spin bicycle, the handlebars swerving far more dramatically than the front wheel. “We just want to make sure they’re safe,” Spillar said.

APD enforces new policies for gender-nonconforming victims… As reported by KUT last week, the Austin Police Department is enacting policies to ensure transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals are referenced properly in public statements. At a March 7 Public Safety Commission meeting, APD Sgt. Michael Crumrine, who is also president of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association, said APD was working to develop department-wide training on how to respectfully handle cases in which the victim, or perpetrator, is a gender-nonconforming individual. He said he expects the entire department will have undergone training by the end of the year. APD is also enforcing a policy of omitting victims’ names and genders from probable cause affidavits regardless of their gender identity, similar to how affidavits are written for minors, Crumrine said. A police report must include a legal name in order to meet all legal requirements, but APD will reach out to family and friends of the individual to determine their identity, he said. When speaking publicly about gender-nonconforming individuals, APD will use both the chosen and legal name of the individual. The changes stem from the Jan. 22, 2016, murder of Monica Loera in North Austin, whom APD officials referred to in the media by her legal name, David.

And, a brief programming note… Though the annual festival that is South by Southwest manages to infiltrate or shut down most of the city (including the regular operations at City Hall), the Monitor will do our level best to keep you updated on the noncelebrity goings-on of our fair city, if they occur. Good luck to us and good luck to you all!

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

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