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Whispers

Friday, February 24, 2017 by Chad Swiatecki

Fun Fun Fun Fest brand may be changing hands

The hot word in Austin music circles this week was a rumor flying in several directions that C3 Presents had purchased the Fun Fun Fun Fest brand from local developer Stratus Properties, which retained the festival as part of its 2016 split with fest founders Transmission Events. Representatives from both companies were mum on whether the deal has been done, but multiple former Transmission employees have said they’d received word the sale was complete or imminent. Stratus emailed the Austin Monitor to say, “We have no comment,” and Charles Attal, one of the co-founders of C3 and one of the entrepreneurs responsible for the successful Austin City Limits Festival, texted that he had “nothing to talk about right now sir.” Whether the festival is revived or not, the Fun Fun Fun Fest brand had a three-day early November run reserved at Auditorium Shores for the next decade, and if those reserved dates convey to a new buyer, they’d be valuable to a large event promoter since the city has plans to scale back events held in its core urban parks.


Friday, February 24, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Bar poll receives some odd responses

The Austin Bar Association has released the results of its latest online poll evaluating the performance of local judges. According to the poll, 373 men and 239 women participated, along with 61 individuals who did not wish to reveal their gender. Of those 673 people, nearly 73 percent designated themselves as Caucasian while more than 7 percent said they are Hispanic and less than 3 percent African-American. That was not surprising, but one person claimed to be Klingon. Another 86 participants simply declined to state their ethnicity. The majority of the participants, more than 66 percent, indicated that they work for a private law firm, with more than 50 percent working solo or in a firm with up to 15 lawyers in a local office. More than 45 percent of the respondents indicated that they are involved in litigation, giving them a window onto the judiciary. In several cases, a relatively small number of participants chose to rate various judges, but the following judges were rated by at least 200 participants: District Judge Tim Sulak was among the highest-rated local jurists with more than 81 percent of respondents saying his overall performance was excellent. An additional 15 percent rated Sulak as acceptable. More than 64 percent of respondents rated District Judge Scott Jenkins’ overall performance as excellent, and another 26 percent rated his overall performance as acceptable. Likewise, 91 percent of respondents rated Judge Rhonda Hurley’s overall performance as excellent or acceptable. Overall, Judge Karin Crump was rated excellent by 67 percent of those responding and acceptable by about 26 percent. Of those responding to the survey, 41 percent rated Judge Gisela Triana’s overall performance as excellent, and another 40 percent rated her performance as acceptable. You can read the results for all those rated here.


Friday, February 24, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

East Austin pools to host extended dance party

East Austin pools are in for the Forklift Danceworks treatment. At a press conference yesterday with Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and City Council Member Greg Casar, the company revealed its plans to use city of Austin Aquatics lifeguards and staff as the talent for its three-year dance project called My Park, My Pool, My City. Forklift and Parks and Recreation Department staff hope that the project will raise awareness about the infrastructure needs of the city’s pool system. The first dance premieres at Bartholomew Pool July 21-22 and 28-29. “Bartholomew Pool is an important amenity and historic site as the first integrated public pool in Austin,” Casar wrote on Facebook. “I’m excited that Bartholomew Pool will be the center of this project that will bring together our City resources, the arts, and surrounding neighborhoods.”


Friday, February 24, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

All aboard! New omnibus on the way

Yesterday, City Council Member Ellen Troxclair announced that she is moving forward with an “affordability action plan” with the support of resolution co-sponsors Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Jimmy Flannigan, Ora Houston and Ann Kitchen. In a post on the City Council Message Board, Troxclair said that they would hold a press conference to explain the details of the plan on this upcoming Thursday and referred to the plan as an “affordability omnibus” that would “include ways to reform the way the City determines its budget, highlights our housing needs, and provide opportunities for our locally-owned, small businesses to thrive.” The resolution and plan outline, which are embedded below, get into a little more detail. The plan will apparently address housing and real estate affordability through home construction, supporting a streamlined Land Development Code through the CodeNEXT process and reformation of the city’s permitting process. It will tackle diversification of the local economy through a regional workforce plan, supporting “hometown innovation,” revamping the city’s economic development policy and supporting local businesses. The plan will push a “better way of budgeting” through a biennial review of city programs and spending, use of performance metrics and collaboration with area taxing entities. The plan aims to tackle the cost of living and doing business in the city by addressing property taxes, prioritization of health and human services contracts based on performance measures, and by not increasing the city’s many utility rates and fees. And, finally, the plan looks to increase affordable and accessible transportation for residents through a variety of strategies including bond oversight and transportation planning.

Download (DOCX, 16KB)

Download (DOCX, 30KB)


Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

MoPac misery might be extended

The MoPac Improvement Project’s mercurial deadline could shift yet one more time. At Wednesday’s Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board of directors meeting, a representative from lead contractor CH2M reported that two unforeseen developments are endangering the much-hoped-for June delivery of two new tolled express lanes from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane. “June will be difficult,” Rick Volk told the board. The problems causing the potential hiccup this time are the unexpected location of an underground Texas Department of Transportation utility box and the need to reconstruct one of the new soundwalls. Volk assured the members that he would have a definitive answer by the next board meeting on March 29. The project was originally set for completion by September 2015, but construction problems, labor shortages and heavy rains have played havoc on repeated attempts to relieve drivers of the constant construction that began in late 2013.


Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Changing of the board at CTRMA

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has a new board member. On Wednesday, Chair Ray Wilkerson rendered the oath of office to Amy Ellsworth. Ellsworth serves as the general manager of the Round Rock-Hutto-Pflugerville edition of Community Impact. She is also the chair of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce. She replaces former Williamson County appointee Robert Bennett, one of the original CTRMA board members, who joined in 2003. Before Ellsworth’s swearing-in, Wilkerson presented Bennett with a proclamation honoring his service. A clearly moved Bennett remarked, “I’ve always viewed what we’re about as economic development. And I think we get high marks when its comes to economic development. All you have to do is look at Cedar Park and Pflugerville and Hutto and some of the other areas of Williamson County. Our roads have spun off thousands and thousands of new jobs and millions and millions of dollars in tax base for the state of Texas and the local municipalities. And for that, I am most proud.”


Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

City hosts CodeNEXT open house series

The first draft of the city’s Land Development Code rewrite, CodeNEXT, came out nearly a month ago. Those still getting a handle on the whole situation are invited to attend a series of “CodeTEXT Open Houses,” where they can get a more detailed look at the new draft code, speak to experts and give much-needed feedback. The four remaining sessions, which run through April 1, will be held at high schools across the city. The next one on the schedule is set for Saturday, Feb. 25, at Lanier High School (1201 Payton Gin Road).


Thursday, February 23, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Carley retiring from Armbrust & Brown

One of the problem-solvers behind the scenes in the land use section of Armbrust & Brown, Lynn Ann Carley, has announced that she intends to take an early retirement at the end of April in order to be a full-time mom. She and her husband are the parents of an 8-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. Carley, who has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, began her career as a transportation planner with WHM Transportation. While conducting traffic studies for Wal-Mart, she said, she met Richard Suttle, who was working as Wal-Mart’s attorney. At that point in her career 12 years ago, Carley said she was looking for more challenges and approached Suttle for a job. She told the Austin Monitor, “I like to think my main job is problem-solving in development projects. I’m going to miss it, for sure. But my family needs me and I need to be there for them.” Carley said she and her husband have planned a six-week trip for this summer that includes Alaska, Vancouver, British Columbia and the West Coast as well as Hawaii, where she said she hopes to learn to be a good surfer. Meanwhile, attorneys David Armbrust and Suttle will pick up the slack along with their assistants, Amanda Morrow (who has also been with the firm for 12 years) and Eric DeYoung. But Suttle said the firm is actively looking for smart, energetic people who are interested in working on land use issues.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

On civil courthouse location, Commissioners Court votes for … something

More mystery is surrounding Travis County’s search for a new civil courthouse site following cryptic action taken by the Commissioners Court on Tuesday. On the agenda was the long-awaited consideration of properties proposed by the community advisory committee that had been vetting a string of candidates since early last year. Several members of that now-folded committee addressed the court on Tuesday, testifying that the body had conducted rigorous evaluations in good faith to not only find appropriate locations but also to drive down costs of the final design. Scott Dukette explained that in the wake of the 2014 2015 election – when voters shot down the idea of building the courthouse in the heart of downtown – he and others at first pressed for less central locations. “And I think we saw some reasons why some of those sites didn’t fare as well as our initial guess would’ve said they would have,” Dukette said. The committee, staff and the county’s consultants handed off to the court the final four sites that made it through the winnowing. One is the court’s headquarters at 700 Lavaca St., while the other three are privately owned. In order to protect the county’s bargaining position, the exact addresses of those properties have been withheld. Nor were they revealed when the court came out of an extended executive session Tuesday afternoon to vote on County Judge Sarah Eckhardt’s motion “to accept staff recommendation and proceed with negotiations.” Seconded by Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, that motion received unanimous approval, but zero elaboration. After the meeting, Eckhardt stayed mum when pressed for more information, but she did allow that tangible developments could be made public sometime in March.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Public Works raises awareness for Neighborhood Partnering Program

The city program that works with neighborhoods across Austin on small-to-medium revitalization projects wants to raise its profile in the community. To achieve this, the Neighborhood Partnering Program will spend the rest of this month and most of March infiltrating Austin Public Library branches and recreation centers throughout the city to spread more information on how neighborhoods can apply. These “Office Hours” sessions started yesterday and will continue through March 19. Visit the city’s website for a full schedule of events.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Queer Dance Freakout at the Governor’s Mansion

There’s going to be a dance party at the Governor’s Mansion. A group protesting anti-LGBT legislation is planning to take over Gov. Greg Abbott’s space with as many swaying bodies as possible. Meet up on Thursday, Feb. 23, between 10th and 11th streets, at 6 p.m., and don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes. “We say NO to anti-transgender bathroom bills. We say NO to marriage equality limitations. We say NO to old men saying what we can and cannot do,” the group said on Facebook. “We say YES to the freedoms of the body. We say YES to sweating in the streets while we ride the beat.”


Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Campaign tackles littering in San Marcos River

With more people than ever flooding into Central Texas, our rivers are experiencing higher numbers of visitors. And with that comes all the usual problems: littering, trespassing, noise violations, underage drinking and public intoxication. In an effort to combat that, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has named the Lower San Marcos River as a national hot spot to raise “awareness about outdoor recreation ethics” in our open spaces. Next month, the group, in conjunction with state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), will host a week of events that will include a river tour, training sessions and outreach events. Find out more, plus a full schedule of the events, on the group’s website.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Spring is coming

We mentioned it in Monday’s story about departing Music and Entertainment Division head Don Pitts’ departure, but for those who didn’t bother to click on the link, the city is updating its Spring Festival (normal people usually call this “South by Southwest”) events, online, here. Use it as you will.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week in CodeNEXT

Though there isn’t a City Council meeting this week, there is a City Council meeting. Council members will convene Wednesday morning to talk about CodeNEXT, and the “optional” meeting will feature a presentation on “the new zoning districts [transect and nontransect (use based) districts] and how they will work with the zoning map, the administration and procedures of the Conditional Use Permit process and the new Minor Use Permits, and zoning variances, and the expanded use Special Exceptions. The briefing will also overlay zones and regulations specific to specific land uses, connectivity, open space and parkland, parking and landscaping,” according to a very helpful post on the City Council Message Board from Mayor Steve Adler. Those who are unable to attend the meeting in person can, of course, watch the meeting on ATXN or stay tuned to the Austin Monitor for ongoing CodeNEXT coverage.


Monday, February 20, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Let’s talk

We might be taking it easy today, but the truth is that no one really knows how to celebrate Presidents Day. Taking advantage of that fact today is Conversation Corps, which will be using the day to host a series of conversations across the city. Today’s “Day of Dialogue” will take place from 7 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and cover such things as transportation, CodeNEXT, journalism and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Project Connect. Check out the map below for a conversation nearby, or head over to the Conversation Corps website for more details.


Monday, February 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Presidents Day closures

City of Austin offices including City Council, City Hall, Vital Records, the Austin Public Library, non-district rec centers, arts and cultural centers, and museums and senior centers are closed today to observe Presidents Day. Austin Independent School District students get the day off. The Entrepreneurial Center in Brodie Oaks Shopping Center and One Texas Center are both closed. Austin Resource Recovery maintains its normal schedule, as will the Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center (open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). The Zilker Botanical Gardens, the Austin Nature and Science Center, Stacey and Deep Eddy pools, city-operated golf courses and the Austin Animal Center are among the facilities open. Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority offices are closed, as is the transit store, but buses are running on a normal schedule.


Monday, February 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Open meeting on Austin Convention Center expansion

One of the options for expanding the Austin Convention Center would incorporate the old Palm School campus into the project. The convention center is 25 years old and has been in need of more square footage for some time. The Palm School was an elementary and high school from 1902 to 1980, and before that, in the Republic of Texas days, served as an armory and military base. On Saturday, the city and Travis County will host an open meeting to get public feedback on that specific proposal and the expansion plans in general. The meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 10 a.m. in the Austin Convention Center (500 East Cesar Chavez, Room 9ab).


Monday, February 20, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Watch the skies!

Add another festival to the list of spring festival season. On March 18, night sky advocates will gather in Dripping Springs for the Texas Night Sky Festival. According to a press release, “All attendees will join in fun citizen science activities, learn from engaging speakers and exhibits, see examples of good lighting for their home or business, view school projects and competition entries focused on protecting the night sky, feast at the food trucks, take home a book or work of art inspired by the night sky, earn a related scouting badge, or explore the stars” in an effort aimed at increasing appreciation of night skies and increasing awareness about their preservation. The next day, March 19, will feature discussions about preserving dark skies with speakers from the McDonald Observatory, the Texas Astronomical Society, the Texas Night Sky Coalition and the Hill Country Dark Sky Reserve. Tickets, information and a chance to reserve breakfast are available online.


Friday, February 17, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Richard Moya, trailblazer

Austin native Richard Moya, a trailblazer in local politics, died Thursday at the age of 84. Moya was the first Mexican-American to serve on the Travis County Commissioners Court. He was elected to represent Precinct 4 in 1970 and served continuously in that job until 1986. His protégé, Margaret Gómez, is currently serving as commissioner for Precinct 4. After leaving the Commissioners Court, Moya served as one of three deputy chiefs of staff for former Gov. Ann Richards. He attended Austin High School and graduated in 1950. According to records at the University of Texas, Moya was trained as a printer and worked in that profession for 15 years. After that, he took a job with the Travis County Legal Aid Society, where he developed an interest in politics and government. Moya was one of four Mexican-Americans to change the face of Austin politics. The others are former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, former Mayor Gus Garcia and former City Council Member John Trevino.


Friday, February 17, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Austin Oaks PUD delayed again

City Council postponed the Austin Oaks planned unit development once again at its most recent meeting and is now planning to hear the case on March 2. Council Member Alison Alter, whose district includes the proposed development, explained that last-minute changes and “a lot of moving parts” made both sides amendable to the two-week postponement (though the developer’s representative, attorney Michael Whellan, explained that they were “grudgingly” supporting the latest postponement). Not supporting the postponement was Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who cast the lone vote against the delay. “What’s our end game here?” he asked. “What’s the target here?”


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