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Reporter’s Notebook: Good vibes

Monday, July 3, 2017 by Austin Monitor

Worth getting up for… Sometimes in the course of covering events for the Austin Monitor there are moments when it seems like things are going to go off the rails. It happens pretty frequently during the public comment portion of a meeting – we still love you heavy metal egg lady! – when a citizen long on gripes and short on self-awareness launches into a tirade that casts a pall over everything else. There was an “On no, not now” moment like that on Wednesday while covering the Urban Land Institute Austin’s member breakfast, about the role city leaders need to take in protecting the Red River Cultural District and the music venues therein. Panelist Cody Cowan, general manager of the Mohawk nightclub, responded to a question about why Austin music is worth saving by delivering what we will describe as a “metaphysical sermon” about why music is essential for mankind. Despite fears that he was heading straight into the ditch, he instead got a room full of suit-and-tie types cheering and applauding at 8:30 in the morning. Here’s the sermon, in full:

“In the beginning there was sound. This vibration has continued through all atoms, through all of our being. This vibration stirs us, livens us, quickens our blood. This vibration fills us, moves us, brings us to tears and laughter. This vibration takes us to the heights of ecstasy and throws us into the depths of our sadness and carries us through the entire experience of life. This helps us to fall in love and to fall out of love. These are the experiences that one has in the setting, and that I have had in the setting of of venues. These are experiences that are not translatable through your television or through your iPhone or your Galaxy. These are tangible things that can only be felt, heard, seen and experienced. So my answer is, what else is there?”

Data, with emotion chip… During the Library Commission’s meeting last week, Commissioner Philip Howry demanded to know how much the construction contractor has been paid by the Public Works Department for building the new Central Library. The city has put $125 million into the new downtown library, which does not have a set date for completion, leaving the commissioners frazzled. Library facilities planner John Gillum relayed data on the project from Public Works to the commission in a report, which Howry said was unnecessarily confusing and dodged his question. “This is about as convoluted as a report that you can put out without telling me anything,” Howry said. “What I really asked was for a report on what the contract amount paid to (Hensel Phelps).” Gillum said the department was confused as to what exactly Howry was asking for when he originally asked for data, saying Howry’s inquiries were too vague for them to pick out specific information from a complex project. Howry said he wanted to know how much progress exactly has been made, and what that would look like in expenses. “If you can write down and go, ‘I want to know this, I want to know that,’ I can get that information,” Gillum said. “We know where we are in the job, we may be pulling our hair out and screaming bloody murder, but we know where we are and we can share that information.”

Commemorate this… Though there is very little the city or neighborhoods can actually do in most cases when a property owner is set on demolition, oftentimes owners will offer to erect a plaque in remembrance of a structure or history as an act of goodwill or mollification. During the course of the June 26 meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission, Chair Mary Jo Galindo questioned whether there was a standard for these non-official commemorations (which are different from the state historic markers). “No,” said Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky. “This is a fairly new thing … but it’s going to be very similar to the state plaques.” How will they look? “Without a city logo,” said Sadowsky, “Or with a city logo! We haven’t decided that yet.”

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

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