Reporter’s Notebook: This week in conflict management
Fighting for privacy in the nude… During a special City Council meeting Wednesday, John Miki, one of the consultants leading the proposed overhaul of the city’s Land Development Code, described some of the community divisions over development that he encountered not long ago during a tour of the Crestview neighborhood. After noticing a recently constructed duplex – one two-story unit on the front of the property, one two-story unit in the back – Miki asked a man he encountered what he thought about it. The man, who happened to be a contractor, said he was a fan. Did some of his neighbors feel differently? Miki inquired. Indeed, replied the man. One of his neighbors was so furious by what he perceived as a loss of privacy in his backyard due to the unit in the back that he “decided to sunbathe in his birthday suit every day that there was an open house,” Miki recounted. He cautioned, however, “that not everybody is going to do that.”
The “D” word… While discussing setbacks during the same special Council meeting on CodeNEXT last week, Miki recalled a slide he may have showed them during an earlier meeting of “two buildings that happened to be in another town in Texas which I won’t mention … because I hear I’m not allowed to mention that city in Austin.” Council members responded with looks of puzzlement but did not investigate further as Miki continued to describe the buildings. The Austin Monitor later sought to uncover the unstated city’s identity by reaching out to CodeNEXT spokesperson Alina Carnahan, who was also stumped but got in touch with Miki on the matter. Apparently, he had been referring to Dallas.
Make new friends… During former Council Member Sheri Gallo’s last meeting in December, days after losing her bid for re-election to current Council Member Alison Alter, she took a minute to publicly thank her Council colleagues individually, highlighting what she liked and respected about each one. She got particularly emotional when thanking her staff, whom she urged others to hire. Her comments on Council Member Leslie Pool were predictably briefer and stiffer. Pool and Gallo had been on opposite sides of a few contentious development issues facing their neighboring districts, and Pool publicly (and perhaps astutely) predicted Gallo’s political demise earlier in the year in a message to an aide that she accidentally posted on Twitter. “So maybe this is the nail in Gallo’s coffin,” she wrote after Gallo voted for a controversial development approval rule. Gallo’s legacy is far from absent at City Hall, however. One of her former aides, Taylor Smith, works for Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. And another former aide, Suzie Chase, was recently hired by – wait for it – Pool.
Networking or death… And, in case you missed it last week, Mayor Steve Adler continued his letter-writing hot streak with a very specific parody. On June 7, Adler penned his version of the “Travis Letter,” which was written when the Alamo was under siege. In the “Adler Letter,” our mayor explains that asking South by Southwest to leave Austin is “the most ridiculous thing (he has) ever heard” and reiterates his opposition to the “sanctuary cities” law from the heart of Texas.
This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebook of Jack Craver, with help from Elizabeth Pagano.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
CodeNEXT: CodeNEXT is the name given to the land development code rewrite process undertaken in the early 2010s by the City of Austin.
SXSW: Organizers of the massive annual festival that takes over the City of Austin each March. SXSW has donated to the Capital of Texas Media Foundation.