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Reporters’ Notebook: On tacos and cities

Monday, December 17, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Bullish on tacos… Anyone who’s heard Mayor Steve Adler invoke his civic pride at events over the past four years has undoubtedly heard him praise the availability and variety of breakfast tacos as a badge of honor for the city. Adler has also been pretty frank about Austin’s mobility and transit challenges, which means an extremely unscientific new survey from the folks at CityLab will almost certainly become mayor speech fodder fairly soon. The survey tried to calculate a taco/transit index for major U.S. cities – because why not? – by asking respondents to rate their city’s performance in both of these critical, quality-of-life metrics. Austin’s results are about what you’d expect: Roughly 9.5 out of 10 for tacos, and less than four out of 10 on transit friendliness. On the whole, Texans and Californians were most bullish on their taco offerings, but all four major Texas metros rated below a four on the transit scale. The winner of the bunch? Chicago, in a surprise. Though if we’re being honest, the prospect of putting down a savory barbacoa and avocado taco in the midst of freezing wind coming off of Lake Michigan isn’t exactly all that inviting, thanks.

In between days… Scene: this past Friday, while Your Correspondent was conducting a phone interview with Mayor Steve Adler about 2018 accomplishments and looking ahead to his 2019 agenda. In the midst of drier-than-dirt talk about CodeNEXT, the spring bombing scares and homelessness, up on the computer screen pops the “Between Two Flags” video featuring Adler being sarcastically interviewed by CW Austin reporter Joe Barlow in a manner directly inspired by Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” comedy series. All was well since the audio on the video was muted, but a chyron identifying Adler as the drummer for rock band Guns N’ Roses – an old but still-funny gag – caused Your Correspondent nearly to collapse with laughter while Adler was reflecting on his convincing win in the November election. With the heavy lifting in the interview done about 20 minutes later, we informed Adler of the fun bit of circumstance, bringing a chuckle and a confession that he hoped he’d performed as well as former President Barack Obama did at his 2014 sit-down with Galifianakis.

Council boosts Cronk’s salary… Council once again signaled its approval of City Manager Spencer Cronk at last week’s meeting, boosting his salary from $325,000 a year plus benefits to $350,001.60 plus benefits. The benefits include an executive allowance of $7,200 per year and a cell phone and data allowance of $1,620, plus an additional $225 for cell phone equipment annually. Like all city employees, Cronk will be eligible to participate in the city’s group health and retirement benefits programs, according to backup material. The ordinance setting Cronk’s salary says he will receive 12 months compensation in case of involuntary separation from the city, unless he is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or any crime related to his city duties. Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin Monitor that Cronk had done a particularly good job getting everyone to agree on a new contract for Austin police officers and getting the budget finalized without spending days on the details, as they have in the past. Adler said it was important to give Cronk a substantial raise in order to align his salary with other managers of big Texas cities. San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who retired this fall after many years, was earning $475,000 a year and received a $75,000 bonus for her 2017 performance.

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