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Reporter’s Notebook: Fine by APL

Monday, August 14, 2017 by Austin Monitor

We’re thunderstruck… Into the apparent state Democratic vacuum for next year’s governor’s race steps Austin musician – and owner of an absolutely superb and bitchin’ beard – Thor Harris. The news came last week via Twitter when Harris, holding a rainbow flag, made a flat and deadpan announcement he’s going to run for the state’s highest office, “’cause, f— this.” For those not up on their avant garde indie rock heroes, Harris is a percussionist who has played in Swans, Shearwater and many other local combos, but is also something of a renaissance man and 21st-century font of good living advice. Worth noting: In follow-up tweets on the matter, Harris has said he’s undecided on what party ticket he’d run on, and doesn’t seem to have worked out any other of the logistical matters surrounding a statewide run, really. But this should tell us a lot about the state of a state that left-leaning politicos have spent years predicting/hoping/wishing can flip blue as demographics shift. As of summer 2017, the highest-profile challenger to Republican governor who’s done not much of anything to inspire newcomers is a beloved but marginally popular musician who’s wisdom includes bon mots such as, “If you fart, claim it.”

What? Is there anything else going on online?… It’s August, and summer has lost its luster once again. Those joining the Austin Monitor in “not leaving the house during daylight hours” might be interested in hitting pause on their binge-watch of “Riverdale” to join the Monitor in another pursuit – snooping through city data. At the moment, the city is making it easy for us all to be creeps, with two separate, topical, open-data projects. The first is a new open budget portal that lets us all get into the nitty-gritty of the $5.02 billion operating budget or the $4.95 billion revenue budget. It’s honestly really fascinating – here is a weird chart that shows office supply spending dropped from $13,002 in 2016 to $0 in 2017 in the Austin Code Department, for example. And those curious about where the $720 million in mobility bonds is being spent will find answers in this portal dedicated to just that. Have fun, and please email with any oddities you find!

Who among us… Speaking of budgets, a browse through City Council’s budget questions revealed that Austin is a town that is just asking for a lecture from my mother. Council Member Ann Kitchen inquired about the outstanding fees owed to Austin Public Library, and received this answer. “Since 1981 (36 years), the total amount owed to the Library totals $9.6 million. Included in this amount are $3.1 million in late fees and $5.9 million in charges and processing fees related to lost or damaged items.”

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

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