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Reporter’s Notebook: Meet me at the cemetery gates (tough guy)

Monday, March 26, 2018 by Austin Monitor

More like Smashbel… A downtown Austin implosion occurs almost as infrequently as a freelance writer wakes up before Helios puts the sun in Sunday. But yesterday saw the stars align and gifted us with the rare spectacle of early morning crowds watching Sunday morning coming down. Despite a few surly construction yobs trying to muscle members of the media away from the prearranged staging point, your trusted Moniteer was able to find a choice roost in which to shoot some admittedly flawed footage of Ashbel Smith Hall’s demise. Boom goes the dynamite.

Cemetery duels… Do the city’s cemetery rules include dispute resolution procedures? As it turns out, maybe not. In a March 21 memo to the mayor and City Council, Acting Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly McNeeley wrote that while she believed such a process was in place, “I have come to learn that the Parks and Recreation Cemetery Team developed a dispute resolution process in 2013, but soon after development, the dispute resolution process was postponed in order to focus on other efforts.” It was apparently never picked up again, as McNeeley explains that the department didn’t establish a date for implementation or publish procedures. It also did not conduct dispute resolution hearings or get requests for resolutions. However, she continues, the department did “prioritize the completion of the Cemetery Master Plan that included an open and transparent public engagement process and further discussion around grave ornamentation. Subsequently, the Department developed the proposed Cemetery Rules, which includes a revised dispute resolution process.” Once those rules are adopted, she explained, the city will implement the dispute resolution process. In the meantime, please refrain from graveyard fights.

The biggest losers… On Thursday, Mayor Steve Adler was proud to announce that Austin had won the “It’s Time Texas Community Challenge,” a contest run by a nonprofit group, “It’s Time Texas,” in which people can earn points for their city, school district or university by engaging in a variety of health-oriented activities, including weekly weight-tracking. Adler noted that for a few years, Austin had “consistently” been losing the competition to San Antonio. “But now, two years in a row, we just have whupped them,” he said. “And I think it’s because we are fueled by the best breakfast tacos in the state.”

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

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