Monday, March 5, 2018 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Humanist mockery and moonlight towers

Thoughts and prayers… Following the most recent mass shooting, a familiar debate has emerged that pits those who argue in favor of gun control against those who emphasize mental health treatment and (in some cases) more guns. In a Facebook message posted shortly after the Parkland massacre, former Council Member Don Zimmerman seemed to suggest that debate was missing the point. Back when his grandfather was growing up in Texas, he said, the threat of shootings was low: “They respected and feared authority because virtually everyone knew and feared GOD’s justice and terrifying retribution (like say, burning in hell) for evil lunatics who thought they had a right to commit mass murder.” Sadly, Zimmerman explained, things have since changed. “Thanks to government schools’ progressive humanist Christaphobes who mock God and illegally ‘outlaw’ any teaching or even mentioning of the lawful authority of Christ and His terrifying judgment against evil mass murdering lunatics, it is now the evil lunatics who terrify the government school.”

Speaking up… Trustee Ann Teich struggled to get her dissenting opinion across to an audience at Huston-Tillotson University at a Feb. 28 panel on the renaming of five Austin Independent School District facilities approved at the Feb. 26 meeting of the district’s board. Teich was joined by fellow trustee Edmund Gordon as well as Nelson Linder, the Austin chapter president of the NAACP, and two students from Sidney Lanier High School, one of the campuses set to be renamed. Her opening remarks anticipated resistance to her perspective. Teich said that throughout the debate that started last fall, she felt like she has been unfairly labeled and her truth has been shut down. Linder responded that Teich’s emphasis on the monetary and logistical challenges of the process overlooked the heart of the issue, which he felt was clearly about a legacy of white supremacy. Teich had to be coaxed into talking again by KLRU moderator Judy Maggio after Linder had said his piece. Teich claimed that Linder’s body language indicated that he was not really interested in engaging in a dialogue. At that point, members of the crowd started shouting at Teich, with one young man yelling, “You don’t need to make excuses for him!”

Renovation party at the moon towers… Austin has the notable designation of being the only city in America to still have operational moonlight towers. According to Robert Cullick, the director of marketing and communications at Austin Energy, these towers, which were purchased used at the end of the 19th century, were the first electric lights in the city and were the catalyst for the creation of what is today Austin Energy. Naturally, with structures so old, periodic repairs are required. When members of the public are not informed of these repairs, however, they tend to panic and think that their prized landmarks are simply being removed. At the Feb. 28 meeting of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee, Elaina Ball, chief operating officer and deputy general manager at Austin Energy, acknowledged that there has been a communication gap in restoration efforts. In fact, according to her, Austin Energy has not even communicated directly to the communities to notify them about the work. Due to the strong adverse reaction from residents that the utility experienced after moonlight towers were removed without explanation, Ball said that it is ramping up the project’s communication efforts. Each moonlight tower is being sandblasted, inspected, repainted, and retrofitted with LEDs and new electrical components to modernize their luminosity. So far, out of the 17 total towers in the city, four are completely renovated, two renovations are in progress and 11 towers are awaiting their turn.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jack Craver, Joseph Caterine and Jessi Devenyns. It has been corrected since publication to clarify that Zimmerman is a former, not current, member of City Council.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

AISD Board of Trustees: This is the governing board of the Austin Independent School District. The board is comprised of two at-large members and seven district representatives.

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.

Don Zimmerman: Former Austin City Council Member for District 6 (2014-2016)

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