Monday, July 2, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Reporter’s Notebook: Go Spurs go

What’s in the box… As City Council spends the next few weeks on vacation, let’s take a moment to reflect on the hardest-working body in local government, the Travis County Commissioners Court. Sure, the court took the first half of June off when County Judge Sarah Eckhardt went on a much-deserved vacation, but that was the extent of the dawdling. Even when Commissioner Gerald Daugherty himself split town after Eckhardt’s return, he still managed to participate in helping to govern the county’s affairs. Last Tuesday, he dialed into the weekly voting session via his laptop and webcam from a remote location. And bless the county’s A/V team, which built a video box of Daugherty’s feed right above his empty chair in the standard wide shot of the dais that was broadcast on the county’s television channel and webstream. Notch one more media triumph for the Emmy award-winning Daugherty.

Flying high… We’re mostly recovered from the Thursday/Friday 17-hour City Council meeting (and honestly wondering why there aren’t four Council meetings in the month before the July recess, so as to spread the agendas a little thinner and lessen the need to keister a stash of trucker speed into the proceedings to make it to the end). There is, though, a lingering sense of bewilderment from the return of resident Sylvia Mendoza to the public comment podium. Already something of a folk hero at City Hall, Mendoza is known as the “Cold as Ice” lady thanks to a mid-April appearance during which she played the ’80s Foreigner classic over her smartphone, injecting “Austin” over the lyrics at select points without saying anything else. Thursday saw Mendoza and a counterpart return to the mic at 11:30 p.m., during comment on a resolution directing city staff to convene design and development professionals to evaluate portions of CodeNEXT. “I think you need a break, so I’m here to provide the entertainment,” Mendoza said as she used her smartphone to cue up music that sounded like composer Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” theme song from the film “Rocky.” She proceeded to dish out praise for Council members Ora Houston, Jimmy Flannigan and Ellen Troxclair; City Manager Spencer Cronk; and new Police Chief Brian Manley before slipping on a pair of boxing gloves and shadowboxing with an imagined opponent for the duration of her speaking time. That marked the end of comic relief for the meeting, which at that point was still more than three hours from its conclusion.

Remember the Alamodome… Last Tuesday’s Council work session featured close to an hour of discussion related to the possible construction of a soccer stadium at McKalla Place, and also served as a reminder to tread lightly around Council members with an attachment to the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. Council Member Delia Garza offered that a professional soccer team in Austin could unite residents in ways similar to the way she saw Spurs fans rally around the club over the past two decades. Later, Council Member Alison Alter, who has pushed for considering other development proposals for the property, invoked the Spurs’ move into and out of the Alamodome over a 10-year span as a cautionary example. “There are plenty of stadium deals in the country where cities have gotten screwed because they didn’t do all of the due diligence along the way,” she said. “Even the Spurs do not play in the Alamodome anymore, and that cost the city of San Antonio millions of dollars.” Garza and fellow former San Antonian, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, jumped in soon after to fact-check Alter, pointing out that the Alamodome – paid for with a local sales tax – was built in an unsuccessful bid to attract a National Football League franchise and later made available to the Spurs, who played there until 2002. Their point being that painting that team as a bad actor when it comes to utilizing municipal facilities confuses the issue facing Austin and a possible stadium constructed on city-owned property. Tensions seemed to ease shortly after, and thankfully no one mentioned the fate of Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and his push to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes to you from the notebooks of Caleb Pritchard and Chad Swiatecki.

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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.

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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