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Reporter’s Notebook: Better luck next time

Monday, May 7, 2018 by Austin Monitor

Best-laid plans… A pair of music festivals set to take place within six days of each other were felled by permitting problems, with one forced to reschedule until September and another planning a move into Austin nightclubs. The Punk In Drublic punk and craft beer festival was scheduled to take place May 5 on the property of the Austin American-Statesman, featuring a lineup of veteran punk rock bands such as NOFX and Mad Caddies. Ticketholders learned approximately six days beforehand that the Austin date – one of six for the first-time venture – had been rescheduled for Sept. 22 at the Circuit of the Americas. Initially, the delay was pegged to weather concerns since heavy storms were anticipated for the weekend. But city of Austin staff report that festival organizers didn’t apply for two permits – a temporary change of use permit and an amplified sound permit – until April 30, less than the respective 10 days and 30 days in advance required by the city for that paperwork. Euphoria Fest’s problems had been somewhat more known because of news coverage in recent weeks that the event planned for Carson Creek Ranch from May 11-13 hadn’t received a mass gathering permit from Travis County. Organizers of the electronic music event that had planned to feature overnight camping announced on May 4 that they were scrapping the outdoor event and would move as many of the artists into downtown clubs for shows at Empire Control Room & Garage, Mohawk and Barracuda, among others. Both events were offering provisional refunds for customers or the option for their already-purchased tickets to grant them access to the rescheduled and moved concerts. Online discussion boards for both festivals were frothy with discontent over the last-minute announcements and planning problems, with many comments accusing organizers of being less than transparent in delivering updates in a timely manner.

More information, please… Despite the city’s request for a recommendation regarding the development of an evidence-based staffing plan for the Austin Police Department, the Human Rights Commission was unable to discuss possible actions at its April 23 meeting due to a lack of information surrounding the topic. The requested recommendations were to be based off a resolution that was presented at the March 22 City Council regular meeting that provided direction to the city manager for the Austin Police Department and its staffing recommendations, including a request to develop a five-year staffing plan for both sworn and civilian APD staff. Though the Human Rights Commission’s participation is required as part of the resolution to move forward, at their meeting a number of commissioners were unsure of their specific role in the process. Commissioner Ashley Normand asked what exactly the commission was being asked to do and questioned whether the commission was supposed to have a discussion with the city manager before moving forward. Chair Sareta Davis confirmed the need for a discussion with the city manager but said the city had yet to contact her, which was the result of either a missed call or another unknown factor. Without sufficient information, Davis said she was unable to discuss the topic at the meeting. The commission agreed to postpone the discussion and possible recommendations until its June meeting, after the appropriate amount of information is received and reviewed.

Prime time propaganda… Perhaps in an attempt to take his mind off the Trump administration’s dismantling of environmental protections, longtime environmental advocate Paul Robbins recently switched on an episode of “Madam Secretary,” a CBS political drama. Alas, what he saw prompted him to write a 1,600-word email to CBS denouncing its treatment of renewable energy in the show. Among other things, Robbins was annoyed by the following line, uttered by Blake Morgan, the assistant to the secretary (played by Erich Bergen): “You need, like, 12 billion solar roofs just to match the projected growth in energy consumption by 2050.” In fact, said Robbins, the total potential of solar and wind power vastly exceeds the world’s energy needs; the challenge is not a shortage of renewable energy, but rather in developing the technology necessary to store and use it when needed. Robbins also chided the show for “glossing over” the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and completely neglecting the Fukushima disaster in its discussion of nuclear energy. “There were actually a couple other things I wanted to respond to,” he said by email, “but it would have taken another 2-3 days.”

More money for the MACC?… Members of the advisory board for the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center are looking forward to a visit from Mayor Steve Adler at the group’s June meeting, in a move to address concerns over the city’s plans for the center and this fall’s general obligation bond election. Chair Anna Maciel said she and Adler spoke about the bond election last month, specifically how likely it would be that he and the City Council would vote to include money for the MACC’s expansion in the November election. The city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force recommended $15 million go toward the center’s next phase of expansion, but the advisory board wrote a joint letter to Council asking for $40 million to cover nearly the entire expected price tag. Maciel said she and other community leaders including former Texas Senate member Gonzalo Barrientos are assembling a list of other issues that the local Latino community want city leaders to address in an attempt to increase civic participation and voter turnout. Maciel said she and Adler discussed how the proposed “downtown puzzle” policy package could provide Hotel Occupancy Tax money to fund expansion of the MACC, but in recent meetings she and other board members have been resistant to the idea of any interests related to Visit Austin or the Austin Convention Center having any influence in how the MACC is programmed.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki, Sommer Brugal and Jack Craver.

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