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Flannigan turns blogger with The Clawback

Thursday, May 30, 2019 by Chad Swiatecki

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan has taken to his personal campaign website as a forum for addressing issues and controversies he views as creating confusion around the work of City Council and staff.

He launched his new blog, The Clawback, last week and thus far has taken on two hot-button issues: confusion over the city’s scooter and “micro-mobility” devices, and claims by the nonprofit activism group Community Not Commodity concerning the restart of the land use code rewrite.

The two posts used imagery from “The Twilight Zone” and “Lord of the Rings” to frame the issues with easy-to-digest pop culture references. He dropped a hint to the Austin Monitor about a “Caddyshack” tone for an upcoming post, likely addressing one or both golf-related matters on the minds of those in City Hall.

Flannigan said he started the blog so he would have another tool, along with his frequent use of social media platforms, to try to dispel what he calls misinformation or misconceptions around city issues.

The code rewrite post takes Community Not Commodity to task for misrepresenting portions (in a dispatch that itself invoked “The Twilight Zone”) of Council’s recent direction to city staff regarding the basic goals and mechanics of the code rewrite.

“I responded to what they were saying on a neighborhood Facebook group, and I just posted that there’s a lot of this information and you’ve got to be really careful what you read … but people kind of dug into me on it. I realized I didn’t have a thing to share with them,” Flannigan told the Monitor.

“My voice is one that is much more direct and at times argumentative. It’s part of who I am and just natural to approach the situation in this way. It’s certainly not the only way these types of things need to be addressed, but we can’t not do this.”

He said decisions on what to post will be in large part based on emails and communications he receives from constituents that seem to be relying on incomplete or incorrect information.

The Clawback’s introductory post points out that Flannigan is using no city resources or staff time to produce the content. He said the website is managed with the help of volunteers from his campaign staff who will be working on his reelection campaign next year.

“I put it on my political website for a reason,” he said. “It really is about showing the community and my district and my constituents what’s actually going on and not having them rely upon things that are being misrepresented.”

Fred Lewis, one of the organizers of Community Not Commodity, said the group has been mostly quiet in recent months while waiting to see the direction City Council takes with the code rewrite. The group has argued that many of the mechanisms of previous drafts of the code – and the direction given earlier this month – will increase displacement problems.

Lewis said Flannigan incorrectly described CNC as a political action committee, but said his other objections to the blog post are based on differing views around housing and building policy.

“It’s a free country and he can do anything he wants. Whether his constituents like it, that’s a different issue,” Lewis said. “It is clear to us that in upzoned areas they are going to prevent people from demolishing their house and building a bigger one. I don’t think most people are going to like buying a piece of property and then Jimmy Flannigan is going to not let them build a bigger home.”

Photo by John Flynn.

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