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Reporter’s Notebook: The race is on

Monday, March 9, 2020 by Austin Monitor

Biscoe looks like the answer for Travis County… Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s name moves from the “very likely” category of contenders to take over Austin state Sen. Kirk Watson’s seat at the Legislature to the “almost certain” category with an item on the Commissioners Court agenda for Tuesday. That item would allow commissioners to accept Eckhardt’s resignation and appoint former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe “or other nomination” as interim county judge. Biscoe served as Precinct 1 County Commissioner from 1988-1997. After that, he took over the interim position when Bill Aleshire resigned in 1998. Biscoe then was elected and served until his retirement at the end of 2014. At this point, the likely candidates in the race for the Senate include state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who announced his candidacy last week, and Council Member Greg Casar, who has appointed a campaign treasurer but not made an official announcement. Community Impact has also reported that Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer was considering the race. At this point, any Republicans considering a run have been very quiet about it. One name that surfaced is that of former Austin Council Member Ellen Troxclair. She did not return a phone call requesting comment.

TCAD seeks to depose CoreLogic… The Travis Central Appraisal District is looking for a way out of the problem of having insufficient data to appraise residential properties this year. TCAD filed a petition in district court Friday seeking an order allowing the district to take the deposition of an official from CoreLogic, the company that solicited TCAD “with a proposal by which it would provide market sales data and other property-specific information that it (CoreLogic) allegedly ‘owned’ from the Travis County Multiple Listing Service.” TCAD contracted with CoreLogic in 2018 and used the data to perform its appraisals in 2019. The district has not yet filed suit against CoreLogic, but could do so after the deposition.

According to a statement from Marya Crigler, chief appraiser at TCAD, the agreement with CoreLogic “was based on the representation that CoreLogic had the right to license and sell that data through a contract with the Austin Board of Realtors. In April 2019, CoreLogic abruptly advised us that they would not be delivering sales data for 2020. To date, CoreLogic has not provided us with any documentation that their previous representations were incorrect.”

TCAD did not inform the public that the district would not be reappraising property in 2020. (They did inform school districts of the plan in February.) TCAD blamed ABoR for the problem and ABoR responded angrily. School districts also responded with concern. Eight districts notified TCAD that they would consider legal action if the district was unable to solve the problem satisfactorily.

ABoR proposed to let TCAD have the data on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, but not the MLS data. TCAD rejected that offer as insufficient. The requested deposition is a way for TCAD to show that it is trying to resolve the problem, and could lead to a resolution. The TCAD petition proposes to hold a hearing on its request for a deposition on March 23. No matter what happens now, appraisers will still face big challenges in producing an accurate appraisal roll this year.

Don’t throw out those flasks just yet… A March 4 memo from Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano explains that changes to the city’s public consumption laws aren’t quite ready, but will be headed to the Public Safety Commission in May. Currently, open container laws are not uniform across the city. In December, Council passed a resolution requesting that the current patchwork of laws be changed, noting the racist history and application of laws that regulate consuming alcoholic beverages on public streets or sidewalks.

This article has been changed to correct when TCAD informed school districts about the plan. This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jo Clifton and Elizabeth Pagano.

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