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Reporter’s Notebook: Eyes wide open

Monday, September 10, 2018 by Austin Monitor

Four-eyed and proud… On Aug. 28, the Parks and Recreation Board considered the Camelback PUD, a proposed mixed-use development on Lake Austin being led by Jonathan Coon, the founder of 1-800 Contacts, a contact lens company that he sold for $900 million in 2012. After lauding the project, Board Member Frank Ward noted that in spite of making a fortune off contact lenses, Coon remained bespectacled. Coon said it’s a question he receives regularly. “I’ve always preferred glasses,” he explained.

First things first… Things have cooled down in the local political world as far as it concerns the city’s involvement in professional sports, but there’s still a distant hum of activity behind the scenes. The legal teams for the city and Precourt Sports Ventures – the group looking to move the Columbus Crew SC professional soccer team to Austin – continue to work on a final lease agreement that will allow for construction of a stadium on the city-owned property known as McKalla Place. In a recent interview with the Austin Monitor, Frank Jones, attorney for the Greenberg Traurig law firm who represented the city, said he expects the lease to be completed by December, with an Oct. 9 target date for completion looking “a little optimistic.” That agreement, which does not need further approval from City Council, is likely to meet a quick legal challenge from local attorney and vocal stadium opponent Bill Aleshire. Aleshire notified the city this summer of his intent to legally challenge any lease deal. When asked if he’ll stick to his threat, Aleshire responded by email: “Eventually, if the City actually contracts for what is in the Term Sheet. Right now, neither the City nor PSV have actually legally committed to anything, despite the political hype.”

Just a guess… Two efforts to strengthen Austin’s music community have received a windfall of support from an unnamed private donor in recent weeks, who is almost certainly local real estate magnate Gary Keller. The first show of support came in the form of three years of salary – at an undisclosed rate – to pay Cody Cowan in his new role as executive director of the Red River Cultural District. The second private donor gift was funding for the new Music Moves Austin 501(c)4 nonprofit organization that was formed to give some political organization and voting muscle to the diffuse and tough-to-codify music ecosystem. No one affiliated with either of the recent gifts would confirm Keller’s involvement, but surrogates of his have in the past year discussed forming a political organization focused around Austin’s creative community that is feeling the pinch of affordability especially hard. Keller funded and co-founded the ALL ATX Leadership group earlier this year to organize music industry professionals, and is the supporter of the ALL ATX umbrella group that seeks to steer funds to four of the city’s most prominent nonprofits focused on the welfare and careers of musicians.

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

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