Archive for April, 2009

Street and Event Closures III

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the street!

Yep, the next round of this increasingly confusing topic is due on the agenda of Thursday April 30th council meeting as item #25. For those of you not paying attention, that means today, unless you are reading this before midnight, by which time I’ll have hopefully finished writing it…

You can find the full agenda here. I’m not a specialist on city council meetings/processes, but as far as I can tell, this is open to the public, but possibly only to listen. So far in the City Council meetings it has been heard in the afternoon or evening, in the Public Hearing section. As I read it, this time it’s being heard in normal council business, where no separate discussion is necessary unless desired by a Council Member. Unless you know better!

It would seem that since the last meeting, city staff have been busy. There is a comeback on the taskforce recommendations, which seemingly pretty much explains why they are not really implementing any of there major points. This can be read here.

Instead of a separate office for events, staff is recommending folding the responsibilities into the Urban Transportation Commission (UTC). This may be prudent, but it’s not at all clear its right. Prudent because at a time of trimming city budgets, declining tax revenues etc. the last thing the city could probably afford, was a new department. However, adding the “special events” to the UTC will double the number of monthly meetings and “require additional support staff” – which probably just means saving headed notepaper then, and then a potential new head of department on the city “shilling”.

Depending on which side you take, events, churches/business(not claiming they are the same, just lumping their objections together), residents or Task Force members, you can be sure that the final recommendations don’t add up. There seems to be a new 30-day Rules Posting Process, according to Jason Redfern, Right-of-Way Management Division Manager, Transportation Department – “that has not started yet, which will provide stakeholders the opportunity to make suggestions”.

Joey Trmyer of Conely Sports, isn’t pleased with what he’s seen far and wrote this blog post and this letter to the council. I have to say, and I’m taking Joeys “council” on this, a number of the plans might work for static events like the Art Fest, but they introduce significant safety questions for sports events of all sizes. Kathie Tovo, ex-Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association prez. is also concerned with a number of the proposals too. So far two out of four.

News reaches me though that Council Member of Mayoral candidate Leffingwell is this evening proposing his own set of changes which reach a more effective compromise. Hey Larry, why didn’t I hear about this from you?

So, who knows which way this will go, if you are at all interested, and able, head down to city hall in the morning but be prepared to be confused and delayed as the agenda, ordinances and time keeping get shifted around to suit the political time table. I won’t be there this time, please post comments and let me know how it goes.

Once Over Coffee again

Back in March I trumpetted the opening of (another) new coffee shop in town, Once Over Coffee on South 1st St. I was totally impressed by their cappuccino.

Well if you hadn’t had a chance to try it yet, then this Saturday could be for you. News reaches me from co-owner Jenee Ovitt, that they are having their official opening party including free cappuccinos from 2-4pm, as well as live music, Saint Joe’s Choir at 3pm and The Brimmers at 4pm.

Something I didn’t know or expect, apparently they’ve got a newn deck over looking Bouldin Creek and will be serving beer during the opening! I’ll be biking down to the Shiner Brewery Saturday as part of the Shiner fundraiser, but will try to get back for the finish. Maybe see you there!

Once Over Coffee Bar is at 2009 S. 1st Street (Mary/Live Oak) and http://www.onceovercoffeebar.com and on (512) 326-9575.

Graffiti uptick

Trash? Art? from atxgraffiti.com

Trash? Art? from atxgraffiti.com

Some consider graffiti to be art, others vandalism, either way, there has been a definate increase in south central Austin over the past year or so. Some of it, it has to be said is on permission walls, where the owner had approved the work.

One such was on the side of Sinsations on 1st, where a 75ft mural had been painted. It wasn’t a thing of beauty but a lot of time and effort had gone into it, not to mention, a lot of paint. I went back to take a picture a few days after I noticed it, and it had been painted over. When I asked why, apparently they’d painted the wrong wall. Whoops.

What I don’t get, no matter how “artfully” painted, and many are little more than mere scribble, is the 70’s style resurgance of tagging. Little or no thought goes into this, and it is a sometime gang-style marking of territory, doing little or nothing to enhance the area, and taken overall actually makes things worse. atxgraffiti.com documents some of the best and worse examples, sadly more bad than good in my opinion and much of it will cost the city to clean-up, never a good thing in a downturn.

I went looking for pictures of graffiti on flickr.com in Austin and was mildly amused that same of the very people who feel it’s ok for graffiti to be painted on other peoples property, without their permission. Have asked that their second hand “art” pictures of graffiti, is published all rights reserved, no reporduction or unauthorized use. Ironic eh? Even more ironic is this one, by UK Artist Banksy, which the flickr account owner has posted all rights reserved.

I guess ownership too is in the eye of the beholder. I have three of Banksy’s pictures on blocks hanging in my hall. Keep your coins, I want real change!

Art or vandalism?

Travis County Tax Appraisals

Cock-up or consipiracy theory? A quick survey of about twenty Bouldin Creek Residents, it looks like there’s been a conspiracy over at the property eval/assesment department to jack up property and/or lot values to reach the maximum 10% increase in property taxes.

It’s seems pretty obvious that while many are trying to talk Austin up, claiming that Austin isn’t being hit as hard, or even has a modest upswing. At least, as far as the Austin Real Estate blog is concerned, not only are sales on the decline, so are prices.

My 3-bed, 2 1/2 bath house on a modest south central Austin lot has gone up by $58,000 in a single year. That in what has to be one of the more serious economic downturns in a long time. It’s thus somewhat complexing to find Travis county thinks pretty much all properties have increased substantially, where the dwelling valuation has gone down, the lot value has been increased to compensate. Yes, we live in a decent neighborhood that benefits from being in a central/downtown area, but really, prices have gone up by how much?

If your valuation has gone up and you want to appeal, Amplify FCU are providing a seminar “Texas Property Tax Reform and How To Protest Your Property Tax Bill” at their Brockton branch this Saturday, May 2nd – 10:30 am to 11:30 am. This event is FREE but seating is limited, please RSVP here.

Certianly I’d like to hear what others are seeing across the city, how pervasive is this?

Thought for the day #2: Trust me on the sports bra!

Town lake is an amazing place to run at the weekends, there are often more people out running, than most cities can muster to participate in a 5k. You can’t really “see the wood for the trees” though, people flash by in all directions.

It’s not the same on weekday mornings though. Sure, there are still a lot of folks out, but the numbers are down and so you actually notice individuals. This post is for the late-20’s girl, blonde, red t-shirt, black shorts, with her hair held back with a white band, running on the trail this morning.

Running without a decent sports bra doesn’t do you any favors. Yes, it’s distracting, no they won’t get any bigger in any meaningful way, the skins just stretches. When you get older you’ll regret that. If you had a sports bra on this morning, you need a new one, it’s lost it’s support.

Me, I always run in spandex/lycra shorts, same reason, well thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it. As Baz Luhrman might have sung, “but trust me on the sports bra”.

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine at the Austin Music Hall

My Bloody Valentine at the Austin Music Hall

You can view the whole set here.

A rare opportunity

Dialogues of the Carmelites has three performances remaining (tomorrow evening at 7:30; Friday, April 24, at 7:30; and Sunday, April 26, at 3). Although this opera premiered in 1957 and is therefore “modern,” it’s not the sort of modern that should keep anyone from attending and enjoying this production. On Saturday, the orchestra was at its finest, having never sounded better, and it was a delight to hear the singing, especially the chorus of nuns. The staging was clear and fast-flowing, and the lighting was excellent.

The stage was raked, and I think that all action was visible from every seat. I’ve seen a performance of this work only once, and I had completely forgotten the first scene. The production’s sung in French, for the most part with a clarity of diction that allows every word to be distinguished. There was a time or two when the projected English translation fell a bit behind. It’s probably just something about the perspective, but to me the prop wood-range appeared to be miniature to the point of laughability.

The reggae fest was gearing up for the evening and had been in session all afternoon. The opera people sent special e-mails and recorded telephone messages to ticketholders, where possible, disseminating parking information and asking people to arrive early. I think that we were among the few who did arrive well before curtain time. It was beginning to look as though there’d be a lot of empty seats, but last-minute arrivals filled them.

The program, which I always read after the performance and never before or during (I like as much as possible to be a surprise), contained an insert informing us that several of those who performed in Dialogues will be on stage for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society performances of Iolanthe in June.

There’s seldom a chance to hear this work performed, and so well. I’m very glad that I was there and would advise any lover of excellent music to look into the availability of tickets. Thank you, Austin Lyric Opera!

Nuggets

  • All publicity’s good publicity, as they say. So they spelled his name wrong in a national news publication (“Suddenly There Are Long Lines to Buy Dirt,” Time, April 27). Austin’s own John Dromgoole, our Natural Gardener and proponent of square-foot gardening, is presented as a prophet of the new frugality.
  • Former Austinite Martha Rose Shulman and vegetarian cook extraordinaire keeps a blog for the NYT called Recipes for Health: Talk to the Chef and lets us all know how to keep a kitchen that prepares food that’s good for us and that tastes just as good. Somehow, I had overlooked this blog, but I won’t from now on. She is a prolific author of cookbooks. The Vegetarian Feast was published when she still lived in Austin, and Fast Vegetarian Feasts, after she had moved on. Both have a place on my shelves and both have remained in print through many editions, for good reason.

Real sports – HBO, Austin on

Even if you are not an avid sports fan, but have HBO access, it might be worth catching the current episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

One of the “stories” in episode 145 is about local Austin boxing coach Ann Wolfe. She is unique in any number of ways, Wolfe went 24-1 as a female boxer, including one massive knockout fight where she beat then defending World Champion, Vonda Ward as well as 7x other world titles. Wolfe went on to start her own gym and coaching, she’s out on Bastrop Highway. One of her current boxers is Austin’sJames Kirkland who is the WBO NABO light middleweight champion.

The show take you through Wolfes’ background and well as how boxing became her savior, it also shows some of her unsual training metheods. It also shows some some notable Austin landmarks from Wolfes past, including Brackenridge hospital emergency wing, where she used to spend the night with her kids when homeless. Wolfe is unique in other ways too. A couple of Travis Counties finest also feature when they stop Wolfe and another of her boxers, for driving in a stolen vehicle. It’s a look at a different way of life here in Austin.

Sorted out

The Big SortI’ve just now caught up with The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, by Austinite Bill Bishop, with statistical analysis by Robert G. Cushing. This book, now nearly a year old, follows up and greatly expands upon a series of articles on cities of ideas in the local daily of a few years ago (by Bill Bishop and Mark Lisheron), contending that Americans like to live in neighborhoods composed mostly of their cultural and political counterparts and that this may be a Bad Thing. The prose is accompanied by graphs, maps, a long bibliography, and footnotes galore.

I’m not sure that most people deliberately set out to live among their mirror images, but maybe they do. Austin is a oft-cited example in this book, and my own neighborhood, election precinct, and community Listserv come under the magnifying glass at times.

How did I come to live where I do? I’m now in my second habitation on the same side of the same street, having previously resided briefly in the Austin Motel on South Congress, back when the restaurant there was a Chinese cafe. It all came down to which landlords would willingly rent to tenants with two dogs and two cats and no security deposit. That world was south of the river, and it has changed a lot since then.

“Che” is cited in the book as a dog’s name in this part of town. Not our dogs: Mack and Brownie. Our cats? Spike and Mothra.

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