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Reporter’s Notebook: CodeISSUES

Monday, May 1, 2017 by Austin Monitor

CodeNUDE… CodeNEXT might not represent as radical a change as some may hope (or fear). For instance, the draft of the new code that City Council is now examining made absolutely no changes to how the city will define “adult-specified anatomical areas.” For instance, a business is still considered an adult-oriented business and therefore subject to a variety of zoning restrictions if it emphasizes the display of “human male genitals in a discernibly turgid state, even if completely or opaquely covered.” The same goes for the display of a “female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola.” That begs the question: Can Austin truly be a 21st-century city if its code doesn’t even account for the growing popularity of underboob?

CodeWHAT?… Parks and Recreation Board Member Mark Vane was upfront at the beginning of a board discussion on CodeNEXT last week. “I really know nothing about this,” he said, before asking city staff whether the proposed code overhaul would be good for parks. Later, as his colleagues discussed whether to move forward on a resolution calling for changes to CodeNEXT, Vane expressed further frustration. “I really don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t feel comfortable voting for something or making a recommendation to Council when I just don’t have the level of experience.” A colleague hinted at ways he could remedy the situation: “Have you looked at any of the materials in the past or listened to any of the videos?” Vane, who works as a lobbyist on state legislative affairs, responded: “With the session going on, no, to be honest with you.”

Bathroom build… If you’ve ever been to a major metropolitan city, it’s no secret that Starbucks and other coffee/hospitality stops have a loose gentlemen’s agreement that they act as de facto public restrooms. And since Austin’s downtown core around Congress Avenue and Sixth Street is curiously short on those kinds of businesses, that creates an obvious problem for pedestrians and the area’s persistent homeless population when the urge strikes. Help is on the way, though, as the city is moving forward with a pilot program to provide public toilets in key high-traffic locations with the goal of eventually making the “facilities” permanent. Test toilets will be installed for about a month each at the following locations: East Sixth Street and I-35; East Sixth and Brazos streets; East Seventh and Neches streets; East Sixth and Trinity streets; and West Fifth and Colorado streets. The city will monitor usage data to see which areas will receive restrooms permanently. Aside from the inconvenience factor, the toilets are an answer to increased levels of human waste in Waller Creek near downtown. They will also make that area more hospitable to visitors, which will be helpful in making the ongoing Waller Creek Conservancy project a success.

Saving from what? And for whom?… Two sharply different views on the future of the Lions Municipal Golf Course (better-known as “Muny”) were on display at the Parks and Recreation Board last week. Amidst discussion of whether it was likely that the state legislature would approve proposed legislation to preserve the historic golf course, whose location just west of MoPac makes it a prime target for residential or commercial development, Board Member Rick Cofer said that in the absence of intervention from the legislature, “I have every confidence in the mayor and Council to do what it takes to save Muny.” Fellow Board Member Michael Casias responded: “From what?” provoking laughs around the room. Cofer replied: “From more condos.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jack Craver and Chad Swiatecki.

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