Archive for March, 2008

Google Maps Adds Street View to Austin


Google debuted Street View in Google Maps last May, but it arrived in Austin yesterday along with 12 other cities and Yosemite Natl. Park. Click here to go to the map of Austin. The blue areas (or blue outlined streets) are the areas where Street View is available. I just looked at my house. Creepy!

How much per page?

Heralded by a City press release and a brief story buried inside the second section of today’s local daily, the 580-page document entitled Public Safety Police Operations is replete with fascinating factoids and plenty of opinions about what the police department, emergency management services, and the police monitor should be doing differently. Those who are more comfortable with report lite will find an executive summary on pages i through xiii. This document is an effort outsourced from the office of the city auditor, to the tune of $315,000. The local daily item bears this anodyne heading “Audit of police suggests ways to cut costs: Officials working to put many suggestions in place.”

There’s much more to the report than that, and it should not vanish without more comment than what runs along the lines of “we’re already doing what’s important and we’re doing it well and anything we’re not doing is because it’s not important.” The report, a year in the making, contains, according to the city auditor’s site, 123 recommendations, including 107 for the police department, 8 for emergency services, 7 for the police monitor, and one for the city manager’s office. The auditor’s site continues, “APD concurred with 89 recommendations, PSEM with 7, OPM with 7 and the City Manager’s Office did not concur with its recommendation.”

Among the many discussions of matters I’ve wondered about myself is a lengthy consideration of the cost of special events that use the streets and parks, as well as a discussion of the assignment of law enforcement officers and how the cost is figured and assessed. This portion of the report begins at section 5.4.2 (page 230, ending at page 244), concerning the special events unit of the police department. Other topics of interest include matters related to homeland security, traffic enforcement, training, the area or district commands, organization generally, and much, much more.

My favorite recommendation, and the police chief disagrees entirely with it, is to discontinue “air enforcement,” otherwise known as the airplane, plus the helicopter that rattles windows, shines searchlights into houses, awakens the innocent from their sleep many nights a week, and serves no apparent useful purpose. If I read the table correctly, this little item is budgeted to cost us a mere $1,691,400 for fiscal year 2008-09. And let’s not forget that fuel costs are rising. This recommendation is discussed in detail on pages 579-81. “This recommendation would save the city about $1 million annually in operating and insurance costs. The re-deployment of staff would result in an annual savings (cost avoidance) of $691,400.”

Willie’s Daughter Video

Willie Nelson’s daughter, Paula, apparently is a also a musician and plays gigs at the Saxon Pub. She also doesn’t like it when drunks get on her stage, so watch the f–k out!


h/t to Matt Dentler where I saw this first of several places today.

Update (2008.03.26 17:09 CDT): According to The Statesman’s Michael Corcoran, the whole incident was staged.

Thirty questions answered

Candidates for city council running in the local election set for May 10 (remember; the primary run-off election is on April 8, with early voting ending April 4) have stepped up and answered an additional set of thoughtful questions. This time, the questionnaire is from the BAT-PAC people. Whatever anyone thinks of the BAT endorsements, these questions and the replies that they elicited are the sort to assist the undecided in making up their minds. They’re just as useful as the earlier responses to the ANC battery of questions and the yet-to-be released responses to the League of Women Voters issue queries. This is the preamble to a question about an issue that I believe to be extremely important, especially in view of the rush to unload City-owned land downtown and transfer it into private hands on favorable terms: “We are told by the City Administration that the City can no longer afford to purchase land for community facilities downtown, yet land the city already owns downtown is being proposed for sale for private development. Moreover, we are told that we must relocate essential city services away from the populations they serve without adequate transportation services.” “BAT” stands for “Better Austin Today.” The complete elections calendar and additional information about registration and voting may be found at the site of the Travis County clerk.

Austin High Jazz Band Headed to NYC – Fundraiser Tonight

There have been several local news reports,  KUT and News8Austin among them, about the Austin High School Jazz Band headed to NYC for the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival at Lincoln Center in May. They’re having a fundraising concert tonight at 7pm at the Austin High School Performing Arts Center.

The KUT report was amusing in that one of the teen musicians mentions that he recognized one of the Ellington numbers from a cereal commercial. I’m guessing that’s how most kids get introduced to big band these days: commercials or cartoons. UT had an excellent jazz appreciation class when I was there in the late 80s / early 90s taught by Jeff Hellmer. The History of Rock N Roll class always gets all of the press, but I highly recommend taking Hellmer’s Jazz Appreciation class if you have the chance. They’re both under the same course heading: MUS 307 – Topics in Popular Music. I’m not sure if Hellmer still teaches the class or not.

And go support the Austin High kids tonight. It’s a very cool opportunity.

Cooperatively open for business

Wheatsville Co-op bulletin board
This is the bulletin board at Wheatsville Co-op, open all day today when plenty of places are not. I resisted the display of Duncan yo-yos, since I have a perfectly good one at home. I did not resist the 100% cotton string net bag at $4.99. These are available at two prices, $4.99 and $5.99, and in multiple strong and bright colors. I could not tell the difference between the $4.99 and the $5.99 items. These are the ones that collapse into nothing and weigh nothing, but expand to carry very heavy loads and accommodate irregularly shaped burdens. Today, Wheatsville had free samples of Tiger Balm, which has saved my bad shoulder more than once. We were hoping to score a turkey that had been pre-ordered but not picked up, but settled for some Buddy’s whole birds. We always get never-fail tomato plants started at the P/2 Organic Farm and sold at the South Austin Farmers Market, but there are some at Wheatsville right now. I noticed that Changos, next door, is open. Little children at their most angelic are to be seen all over town today. I’m sorry that I didn’t cross the street to take a picture of the Easter rabbit in costume outside Hickory Street. So far, this has been a day without the sound of leaf-blowers; may it be so until nightfall.

Seasonal treats

Sweetish Hill chocolate strawberryWe stopped by Sweetish Hill Bakery to catch some more of those perfect hot-cross buns before the season’s over. I say that they’re perfect, because they are: fresh flour, fresh spices, the perfect ratio of currants to dough, and that perfect cross of confectioner’s sugar icing hand-drawn on the glazed top of the bun. And, as this banner proclaims, Sweetish Hill is offering chocolate-dipped strawberries. How they compare with those of Lammes Candies, also available this week, I don’t know, since I like strawberries unadorned and chocolate pretty much the same way. Chocolate strawberries tend to reappear during the year (Valentine’s season is usually one of those times), but hot-cross buns don’t.

Three dozen questions answered

Thank the Austin Neighborhoods Council for asking them. Elections to fill three places on the city council are not all that far away. The topics include management of growth, neighborhood planning, community values, enforcement of building permits and codes, geographic representation on the council, open governance and public information, the school district, the environment, and transportation. Answers are placed side by side for purposes of comparison. ANC will sponsor a candidate forum on this coming Wednesday, March 26, at 6 pm, 721 Barton Springs (the electric utility building). There are certainly differences in candidate responses and some of the replies are not brief, so these questionnaires will be of great assistance for those thus far undecided.

Ace Mart moving

I’ve known for a while that Ace Mart will take up the space recently vacatged by Bealls at the big South Austin nexus of Congress and Oltorf. The downtown Ace Mart has closed and won’t reopen in the new place (set back from the street at the southeast block of the intersection) until June. Work on the new place has already started. I love Ace Mart. I’ll miss this particular Bealls, but there’s one down by Central Market South for a fallback.

Labyrinthine and feverish

These are words applied to the politics of Austin’s real estate market and anti-McMansion provisions. Metropolis magazine is on the newsstands now (see page 64, “Hot Property,” byline Peter Hall; contents of March issue not yet on line). The architect-owner is reported to have applied to demolish a circa-1930 bungalow to make way for the International-style dwelling that was eventually constructed. This one-page article quotes Burton Baldridge, the architect of the house depicted, plus another Austin architect in private practice, J. C. Schmeil, and Ulrich Dangel, a member of the UT faculty currently redesigning his own house. Some before-and-after pix would have been informative.

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