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Monday, June 18, 2018 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Throwing side eye, catching rides

Side eye, or stink eye?… What exactly is the name given to the withering glances occasionally dished out by City Council Member Ora Houston toward her colleagues on the dais? Council Member Leslie Pool learned directly on Thursday during discussion of the resolution that will create a new city Tourism Commission. While praising Houston’s championing of historical and culturally important sites in her district, Pool teasingly offered that Houston would make a perfect appointee to the commission, given her recent announcement that she won’t seek re-election for her District 1 seat. “She’s gonna give me the side eye, and I don’t blame her,” Pool said to a few chuckles. During a pause in discussion Houston offered, as dryly as possible, “It’s not a side eye. It’s a stink eye,” drawing a round of laughs in response. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, himself locked in a rhetorical sparring match over points in the resolution with its co-sponsor Ann Kitchen, seemed intent on picking up the not-so-subtle negotiating maneuver and commented, “I’m gonna learn that stink eye move.”

Back in action… District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair is still technically on maternity leave through the end of the month but made a return to the dais Thursday so she could vote on a handful of resolutions she has long championed. Chief among them was the decision to increase the city’s homestead property tax exemption to 10 percent, which passed with a 7-4 vote following some strong and occasionally heated debate from nearly the entire Council. Also of note, Troxclair’s former chief of staff Michael Searle received an “attaboy” during his admittedly flustered debut during citizen communication for the vote to create a city Tourism Commission. Troxclair, who just had her second child, left the meeting after the dinner break and in the process avoided having to spend 12-plus hours on duty at a meeting that adjourned well after midnight. She is expected to also attend the June 28 meeting to vote on several more critical resolutions before Council takes its July recess.

Half of everything is luck… Sometimes offering the best deal in town simply isn’t good enough. Even if the CEO of your company refrains from using racial slurs when speaking to government bodies. On Thursday, city staff informed City Council that it could not decide which of two companies – Techline Inc. and Texas Electric Cooperatives – that bid on a contract to provide the city with “polyvinyl chloride conduit and accessories” should be awarded the city’s business. The bids were essentially identical, reported City Purchasing Officer James Scarboro, for both of the key services or products solicited by the city. In accordance with state law, there was only one course of action: to draw lots. An employee of the city clerk’s office presented the mayor with an envelope, from which he pulled the lucky company’s name: Techline Inc. The mayor drew again to determine the winner of the other part of the solicitation; again he drew Techline Inc. Better luck next time, Texas Electric Cooperatives!

Zimmerman bets it all on red… Former Council Member Don Zimmerman doesn’t buy into the hype about a potential “blue wave” that will sweep Democrats into Congress this November. On Sunday, the former District 6 representative issued a prediction for his nearly 5,000 Facebook friends: “The constant stream of deceitful political propaganda from the TDS media has now reached overload – there will be a November red wave of resistance to the ‘blue wave’ of lies and propaganda.” Zimmerman appears to be using TDS to refer to “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

First infill stop is a go… The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority finally did it. On Saturday, the transit agency inaugurated MetroRapid service at Guadalupe and West 31st streets, the first fulfillment of a long-planned series of infill stops along the high-frequency bus lines. No official announcement was made until Sunday morning, but a handy source tipped us off to the news on Saturday evening. In the spirit of trusting but also verifying (we are, after all, nothing if not fair and balanced), we flagged down the first MetroRapid we found and, sure enough, the driver (a saint, typically) told us that just that morning he had received orders to pick up and drop off at the stop just outside the original Wheatsville Co-op (and near so many other retail shops, restaurants, and dense, walkable residential areas). Capital Metro has plans to expand MetroRapid service to other stops along the Nos. 801 and 803 routes, although, as of press time, a detailed timeline was not available. But, whatever. For the time being, just jump on a frequent MetroRapid and go enjoy your pick of pizzas, booze, groceries, Thai food, coffee, live music, sushi, tacos, gently used clothing, gently used vinyl, sneakers, bongs, barbecue, Mexi-marts and all the other fine and diverse things that cities encourage and that proper transit can connect us to. Yay!

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

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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

Ellen Troxclair: Austin City Council member for District 8

Ora Houston: Austin City Council member for District 1

Tourism Commission

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