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Reporter’s Notebook: Every dog has its day

Monday, October 22, 2018 by Austin Monitor

And another thing… At the beginning of Thursday’s City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano took a minute to update Austinites on the flood conditions in the city and efforts by the city to mitigate the issues caused by the heavy rains. He also reminded everyone to practice safe driving habits when encountering high waters, evoking the phrase coined (and trademarked) by the National Weather Service: “When you see a road that’s been closed or if there’s water on the road, Turn Around Don’t Drown.” After a few remarks by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Alison Alter, Mayor Steve Adler jumped in to wrap it all up, offering a bit of extra explanation, just in case: “I guess we should take this opportunity to remind everybody in the community that if you come to an intersection and there’s water that has been pooled, you should turn around and not test that water or the depth of that water. What’s the phrase that everybody uses? Turn around, don’t drown. Turn around, don’t drown.”

Birdie for City Council… Last week’s District 9 City Council forum at Capitol Factory featured the three candidates for the seat – Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, Danielle Skidmore and Linda O’Neal – along with a low-key but still noteworthy appearance by Birdie, O’Neal’s black cairn terrier mix dog. Right before answering a question about her ideas to solve homelessness in Austin, with Birdie decked out in a red holiday sweater and sitting almost perfectly still on her lap, O’Neal thanked the crowd and forum organizers for allowing her to bring the dog to the event after a day and part of the evening home alone, explaining that “She needed some people time.” Beyond that introduction Birdie was a quiet and almost statue-still non-presence for the rest of the 45-minute debate, though afterward O’Neal – a full-time schoolteacher – joked she may have had a small advantage on the night by having her dog there to help her stay relaxed while discussing the city’s most pressing issues. Birdie has also become something of a familiar sight in the Mueller neighborhood on O’Neal’s trips canvassing the district door to door. When asked if having a friendly animal along helps buy her more time while interacting with voters, O’Neal joked, “I think so, and who knows, she might get more votes than me.”

The gang’s all here… Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the next phase of Community First! Village in Northeast Austin saw a true who’s who of area politicos and business leaders on hand to celebrate the expansion of the project that provides permanent housing to the chronically homeless. In fact, with six members of Austin City Council on hand – Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Ora Houston, Pio Renteria, Greg Casar and Ellen Troxclair – Adler kicked off his address joking, “You know it’s an important day in the city when the Council manages to have a quorum present … don’t tell anybody.”

Everyone’s got a lot to say… The gathering also saw a bit of friendly ribbing between Houston and Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion concerning Travillion’s oratorical tendencies. The event kicked off with a somewhat lengthy and impassioned prayer from Matt Freeman, spiritual director for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, that highlighted the hard work and cooperation that made the creation of the village possible. By the time Travillion came up as the final speaker he dryly remarked, “I had put together an Episcopalian presentation, because Council Member Houston says I always talk longer than everybody on the podium, so I usually craft particularly for her. But then we started with a Baptist prayer …” He then launched into his own five-minute speech that dealt with the many different beliefs and backgrounds that Mobile Loaves founder and CEO Alan Graham has united since launching the community.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook is from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki and Katy McElroy.

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