Monday, June 5, 2017 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Don’t knock it, or try it

Delay Red River… When the Austin Monitor published a sneak peek in April of the findings of a close-to-complete draft of Urban Land Institute’s examination of the precarious state of the Red River Cultural District, one of the key findings was that the entertainment district was in its “11th hour” and in danger of being wiped out by development pressures and rent increases. At the time the belief was that the final report was weeks away from its public viewing, with an expectation that its release would spark discussion and possible action to stabilize the area. But with the calendar hitting June, there’s been nothing, which got us wondering: “Why the holdup?” So we inquired with Nicole Klepadlo, project manager for the Soul-y Austin business district incubator program that has helped to organize the Red River Cultural District in recent years. Her response was that the final document appears to have been crunched by City Council’s all-consuming budget preparations. Her response: “We are still working on coordinating the final version and waiting on the green light to proceed with a City Council briefing once finalized. We are inching into budget time with the City Council so the agendas get tight and they have a July recess.” Which means live music fans might want to hope that clock ticking off the aforementioned “11th hour” hasn’t been wound in a while.

Parliamentary procedure strikes again… Last week, the Austin American-Statesman reported on a dust-up at the most recent meeting of the Travis County Democrats. At the heart of the dispute was a proposal to push for the resignation for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes who was largely absent during this year’s legislative session and is facing 13 felony counts in a corruption case. On Friday, Chair Vincent Harding responded to the article, which used a recording of the meeting obtained by the Statesman in which Harding spoke against the resolution saying it would do “irreparable harm” to the party. He also noted that no current or former African-American officials have called for Dukes’ resignation. Harding’s statement says that it is “unfortunate” that the public meeting was secretly recorded. Harding also explains that he was concerned that the resolution was not properly posted, and he was also concerned about voting on an unposted agenda item without proper input from the community. He continues, “This potential resolution should not be rushed through, and the community should be made aware of such a proposal. I will continue to urge the Party to not have the TCDP tip the scales in an election that is less than 10 months away. If Precinct Chairs are unsatisfied with their local elected official, then individual Precinct Chairs should work to elect a candidate they align with in the next election, and not have the Party weigh in on a Primary Election. After all, the voters of House District 46 have the final say on this matter. It would be unprecedented for the Party to call for the resignation when the Party did not and has not called on other Travis County elected officials to resign who have had concerns.” The resolution is expected to be taken up at the next TCDP meeting, on June 28.

Yes, an arch ought to do it… Show of hands, dear readers: How many of you in your certainly numerous wanderings around East Sixth Street near I-35 have thought, “Man, this place sure could use an arch”? OK, hands down, because we already have an answer and the downtown entertainment district that’s been known colloquially for years as “Dirty Sixth” is getting an arch. At least that’s how it looks based on paperwork recently filed with the city by some merchants in the district who have been pushing for the streetscape feature for more than six years. The Austin real estate blog Towers has the goods: the masonry and metal latticed arch would stretch over the street from the I-35 access road from properties owned by businessman John McCall, with a “Welcome” greeting of some sort and an acknowledgment of Austin’s place as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Money for that effort is being raised privately with an effort led in part by Bob Woody, the property owner and operator for a great many of the bars and nightclubs that make the area one of the city’s most well-known entertainment districts. Whatever the arch’s final state, it’ll wind up playing some role in any future efforts to remake East Sixth Street between I-35 and Congress Avenue. City leaders were pushing for that initiative three years ago but the switch to a district representative makeup of Council in 2015 has shuffled priorities since then, with housing affordability, transportation and the passage of CodeNEXT taking the majority of local leaders’ bandwidth.

Feathers ruffled… And, if you missed it over the weekend, our partners at KUT have the story of how Austin Energy is handling the city’s population of Monk parakeets. Last week, the Travis Audubon Society caused a ruckus with a Facebook post that claimed the city utility uses long poles to knock the parakeet’s nests down from power poles, calling it a “heartless” and “cruel” practice and asking people to help by contacting Austin Energy or by volunteering to follow crews at night. The next day, Austin Energy responded with a press conference that explained crews only “work on” nests that are in the energized space, where they use long poles to lower (not knock) nests to the ground. Check out the full story at KUT, here.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin Energy: As a municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy is a rarity in the largely deregulated State of Texas. It's annual budget clocks in at over $1 billion. The utility's annual direct transfer of a Council-determined percentage of its revenues offers the city a notable revenue stream.

Red River Cultural District: Established in 2013, the Red River Cultural District runs from Sixth Street to Tenth Street and is a cultural district with the Texas Commission for the Arts. Its creation was intended to help preserve the live music venues located within the district.

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