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Reporter’s Notebook: Have some pride

Monday, August 12, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Build that fence… The Austin Music Commission has asked the city to send a representative to its September meeting to update the group on work to address the recent rash of shootings and violence in the area around Red River and Seventh streets during evening hours when clubs and music venues in that district are operating. Three shootings and one stabbing occurred between July 21 and July 30, prompting an emergency meeting between business owners in the Red River Cultural District, Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Kathie Tovo and Police Chief Brian Manley. As part of its extended agenda Thursday, Council approved a resolution calling for “prompt improvement of lighting, sanitation, and pedestrian mobility safety in the Red River Cultural District.” A long-discussed fence to block the alley between closed venue spaces Beerland and Sidewinder – an area used for criminal activity and squatting – is now expected to be installed in the next 40 days. The alley issue has also been identified as a deterrent for multiple potential business people who have explored reopening the Beerland space since its closure in May.

Story time… Council Member Jimmy Flannigan owned what was looking to be a pretty cantankerous moment Thursday during the citizen communication portion of Council’s first meeting back from its July recess. Two speakers signed up to speak against Drag Queen Story Hour at Austin Public Library and were met with protests from the LGBTQ community, the Austin LGBT Chamber and Flannigan. “Austin is better than this. Our community welcomes the entire city. Everyone who lives here has a right to their identity, to their beliefs, to their perspective,” said Flannigan, who is the first openly gay man to serve on City Council. “The real story is that people who want to lie and spread misinformation about my community are trying to leverage the work of this city in order to score some pointless political points. It’s ridiculous and I’m not going to stand for it. I am not going to stand for it. My community doesn’t stand for it. My district doesn’t stand for it. That’s how the city operates. And I will say this: I want to thank the members of the LGBTQ community and allies who showed up today to make this point during Pride Week. We are going to celebrate this weekend. We are going to celebrate a diverse community with our friends and allies, and to those who have come here to spread their hate, I only have two words: Sashay away.” At that, he waved a blue folding fan he had at the ready for a theatrical flourish. Adler added that he looked forward to marching with Flannigan and the community on Saturday, in the city’s Pride parade.

Things’ll be great… There has been, of late, a lot of discussion about increased crime in Austin’s downtown. A recent memo from Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to City Council gets away from the anecdotes to come up with a plan. According to the memo, “While violent crime is down citywide, the increases in aggravated assault and robbery in the Downtown Area Command (DT AC) over this past year, along with the recent high-profile shooting incidents, require some immediate changes to APD’s operations.” He reports that in the first five days of the new initiative, officers responded to 605 calls for service, with 90 reports written and 45 arrests.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki and Elizabeth Pagano. Photo by Jo Clifton.

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