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Reporter’s Notebook: ’Tis the season

Monday, December 18, 2017 by Austin Monitor

No nativity scene for you, says Zimmerman… Former Council Member Don Zimmerman is evidently still smarting over his 2016 defeat, and especially the fact that a majority of his neighbors did not vote for him. In years past, Zimmerman and his wife, Jennifer, participated in a Christmas tree lighting festival in their neighborhood, Canyon Creek. As he wrote on a neighborhood listserv recently, addressing “the honest, rational people of Canyon Creek,” he was personally responsible for a nativity scene. “I constructed it from scrap political campaign signs (painted over with some old brown paint I had) and some spare lumber. The budget was ZERO dollars. Every year I have been erecting and decorating the simple structure, and simply quit doing it this year, out of respect for the majority of voters in Canyon Creek who rejected my reelection effort last year. As you see, the politically correct Christaphobes are now running Canyon Creek. … And finally, to all those who don’t harbor an irrational fear and hatred of Christ, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Peace and Goodwill from the Risen Messiah.” The first comment on the list after that was: “And there it is.” What more could we say?

Soft touch… In September, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Leslie Pool did a good job of distracting everyone with baby animals to mark the launch of a dog training and kitten fostering program at the Travis County Jail. This past Thursday, we got an update. “I’m going to really make a name for myself having kittens on the dais,” said Pool. “I did adopt the last one I held up here. I’m pretty sure I cannot do it again, but, mayor pro tem, there’s also puppies outside.” Tovo, also, was apparently set. “Because the puppy I was holding already had a family, I then started going to the animal shelter and within two weeks had my own puppy,” said Tovo. “You never know what’s going to happen when animals show up at City Hall.” She encouraged everyone to to visit the mobile animal shelter parked outside. Mayor Steve Adler jokingly declined the invitation. “Diane tells me I’m not allowed to go see any of the animals,” he said.

Casar stands up for troublemakers… Council Member Greg Casar was initially unsure of how to vote on a measure to create a city commission composed entirely of college students. Although enthusiastic about designating a platform for Austin’s sizable student community to discuss issues and make proposals to City Council, Casar was concerned by the fact that the commission members would be nominated by the leaders of their respective institutions, who have an interest in elevating students who will not criticize them. Or, as he put it: “I believe that troublemakers being appointed is a good thing and sometimes university administrators might not pick a slate of troublemakers.” However, Casar, only several years removed from campus activism himself, ultimately voted for the measure on Thursday, saying that he had been reassured that if Council is unsatisfied with the members nominated by the university, it can always vote against them and demand more representation from “troublemakers.”

Noted… Criticizing a proposed $124 million bond to upgrade the city’s pools during a Tuesday work session, Council Member Ellen Troxclair said she was not surprised that members of the task force recommending the bond were arguing that having a premier pools system should be a top priority. The task force, she said, was made up of “pools enthusiasts.” If there were a task force made up of “dog park enthusiasts,” she said, it probably would make the case that the city should spend significantly more on dog parks. Two days later, at least one pools enthusiast came to voice his displeasure at the analogy. “The No. 2 leading cause of death among children under 14 is accidental drowning,” explained Steve Johnson. “You gonna teach your kid to swim in a dog park? Dig a hole in the backyard, fill it with water and hope for the best? No. We need swimming pools.”

Don’t wake her up… Before darting out of the Council work session on Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo reminded her colleagues about the Point in Time Homeless Count organized by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, of which Tovo is a board member. The annual event, which takes place on Jan. 27 this year, involves hundreds of volunteers who participate in the early morning operation spanning across the city to count the number of people they encounter experiencing homelessness. Tovo stressed the importance of getting as accurate a count of the homeless population as possible in order to communicate with federal agencies about the city’s needs. Mayor Steve Adler recalled his own participation in the event, calling it an “incredible experience.” Council Member Ora Houston quickly declined the invitation to participate. Citing her experience working in mental health, Houston said she thought it was “rude to go into somebody’s house when they’re sound asleep at 3 a.m.” You never know how somebody might react to being awoken, she added. “And that’s why I don’t do it because I think if somebody came into my house at 3 a.m. and woke me up, I would wake up fighting and I just don’t want anybody to get hurt.” However, Houston later added that the count is “a wonderful thing and we need to do it.”

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jo Clifton, Elizabeth Pagano and Jack Craver.

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