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Reporter’s Notebook: But what came next will surprise you

Monday, April 17, 2017 by Austin Monitor

I, Stuart Harry Hersh… A few months ago, long-time housing advocate and former city staffer Stuart Harry Hersh bought a house. While undoubtedly a big moment for Hersh personally, it’s also been a transition at City Hall where for years, Hersh has been introducing himself by saying, “I’m Stuart Harry Hersh and, like most in Austin, I rent.” Since the purchase of his home, Hersh has been experimenting with taglines and this week, as an acknowledged tribute to Johnny Cash, he shopped: “My name is Stu, and I live in District 2.” (The Austin Monitor considers it a strong contender for a replacement.) And then, in a surprisingly sentimental turn for a discussion about strategic plans, this change was almost immediately followed by the next speaker, who offered up a Spartacus moment. “My name is Brennan Griffin,” he said. “I’m a native Austinite and, to borrow something Mr. Hersh used to say, like most in Austin, I rent.”

On and on and on and on… Speaking of things that have gone on for quite a while, in case you were wondering what ever happened to that whole Pressley v. Casar thing, it’s (unbelievably) still going on. If you remember back to the November 2014 City Council race, Laura Pressley sued to overturn the election that she lost. And, though Council Member Greg Casar has since been elected a second time, and though sanctions have been imposed on Pressley and her attorney, and though her appeal was rejected in December, it continues. Pressley filed a petition for review from the 3rd Court of Appeals on April 7. It’s online here, for the eternally curious.

We do stuff!… In addition to bringing you the day-to-day of City Hall, the Austin Monitor also thinks a lot about different ways to get Austinites engaged with what is going on in our city. Last week, New America Weekly was kind enough to cover one of those projects that we have been working on with Open Austin, thanks to a grant from the Mozilla Gigabit Community. In short, we are getting students involved with the city budget process. In long, well, why don’t you head over to New America and find out?

The benefits of fewer choices… If there’s a silver lining to the fact that so few qualified candidates have applied to be the next Travis County Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace, it’s that the Travis County Commissioners Court will not have to spend much time agonizing over picking the best applicant. Nine of the 13 applicants were immediately disqualified because they didn’t live in the precinct, and at the most recent Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced that they would proceed to interviews with only two of the remaining four. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty wondered why they wouldn’t just interview all of the candidates since there were so few of them. He asked, “Were two of the four just not even worth talking to?” Eckhardt, in so many words, responded that that was indeed the case. One of them, she noted, “was not yet an attorney.”

Taxonomy taxing me… In the tradition of dramatic, artistic testimony about the Austin Oaks planned unit development (RIP endless Austin Oaks PUD hearings) last Thursday brought us a gallery show. This time, seizing on the popularity of having a tree named after Willie Nelson, and with a (very, very) slight nod to Council Member Delia Garza’s somewhat-joking request for more diversity in tree-naming, Karen Cerroni presented portraits of all of the heritage trees on the PUD site, with portraits she had painted. This is all normal (within the context of zoning cases). However, the tree naming criteria raises more questions than anything we’ve ever borne witness to at City Hall. First the tree names: Selena, Pinetop, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Buddy Holly, Marcia Ball, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, Lady Yoga, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price and Willie Nelson. Now, questions: Why name an oak tree “pinetop”? (We understand it’s after Pinetop Perkins, but that’s just confusing.) Are these supposed to be Texas musicians? If so, why is there no Beyoncé (Treeoncé?) If so, why aren’t all these musicians from Texas? Lady Yoga? Send all answers to

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Elizabeth Pagano and Jack Craver.

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