Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Juneteenth parade 2011

The weather was perfect for a perfect Juneteenth parade commemorating Emancipation Day.

Led off by the color guard depicted, which stepped lively to its own accompanying drum cadence, the procession included church groups, civic associations of many kinds, politicians galore, members of several riding clubs astride those beautiful gaited horses, the Spirit of the Drum percussion group, and our own Austin All Star Band.

The results of Saturday’s election seemed to be foreshadowed at the parade: one candidate rode inside a closed car and elicited no response from those lining the sidewalks; the other rode in an open car along with Sheryl Cole and Nelson Linder and was greeted enthusiastically.

We took up our customary viewing post across from the sign for the old Fresh Up Club. It’s easy to miss opportunities for photographs and videos, but there’s at least one (unedited) video of the All Star Band and also some extended views were captured along with glimpses of such sights as the Wells Fargo stagecoach, the H-E-B and Fiesta Mart floats, and handsome gaited horses in motion.

Saturday run-off election

All registered Austin voters are eligible to cast a ballot in Saturday’s run-off election whether or not they voted in the original election. The League of Women Voters supplies non-partisan information about the candidates’ views. The elections division of the Travis County clerk’s office shows polling places and furnishes additional information to voters.

A vote may be cast only at the voter’s home precinct now that early voting has concluded. Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm. Voter turnout was very low in the original election and is expected to be even lower in this run-off election.

I’ve seen no altered Tovo signs and this is the only altered Shade sign that I’ve noticed (at Flores Street, north of the river and just east of IH-35), but I do know that people have been reporting stolen and torn-up signs from both campaigns.

This election does matter. Your vote will count.

Shade and those signs

[see update at the bottom]

There’s a bit of a stink going around on email over those signs making “fun” of Randi Shade for the election. Apparently someone has reported Shade and staff members for removing them, even a “press release”, whatever…

I do find the use of the signs, and their ilk by defending them as free speech, puzzling. I understand that free speech is something you either have or don’t have, you can’t allow for people to decide the use of free speech otherwise its slippery slope into censorship.

That said, I know nothing of Randi Shades background before her time in city hall, but I assume at some point Shade was just a normal person. If someone other than Shade had been taking the signs, its questionable, but for if reports are true and Shade herself was taking down these signs, I should imagine this is a pretty depressing episode. The issue isn’t the signs, it has nothing to do with free speech.

The question is who do we want to stand for local office, and what example does this set? Do we want a bunch of people who don’t care when they are personally attached? Who take no notice, and thumb their noses? Well mostly those people are too busy running cut throat businesses and making more money than they could ever make as a city of Austin politician and they won’t need the leg-up that might give them, to bother standing for office to help the “little” people.

Imagine the next round of elections, if your candidate were treated in a similar way! How many of you would not take down the signs? Yes, you can claim they were humor, but really they were nothing more than a personal attack that exploited the law. If the reports are indeed true, personally I say good on Randi for having the gall to take these down herself, she must have known she’d be seen by someone. Some civility is surely called for in a civil society?

Turn out for voting in locals councils here in Austin is abysmally poor for a country that is trying to encourage the same local democracy in places where they don’t have something as “good”. If the proposed run-off between Shade and Tovo does go ahead, it’s likely less people in Austin will vote than will have paid bribes to a certain Afghan minister…

Anyway, what is it with these political signs littering all over town? It’s one thing to put them on your own property, but how is it free speech when they are left littering all over private property all over town? Tradition?

Update: After this afternoons Share press conference, Sarah Coppola is reporting on her Statesman blog: “Shade campaign manager Katherine Haenschen said because the makers of the signs have said they’re not political advertising, they are not subject to the protections of political speech and anyone can remove them.”

*For the sake of transparency, I am a Tovo supporter and a listed sponsor*

Quiet zones

Back in October I wrote and entry entitled, the Sound of Silence. While I know that many residents enjoy the sound of the train horns as they approach the various street level crossings in town, there are federally approved standards for design that eliminate the need for them.

Well Leander is moving forward on this, based on this report from KXAN. Josh Hinkle reports that Austin won’t be moving forward anytime soon.

Why? Well the city can’t find the $500,000 needed for a study. What?

Outrageous, why is a study needed and how the heck does it justify spending HALF A MILLION DOLLARS on it. It seems to me that’s just an excuse for the lack of real action.

While I know it’s not linked, Brian Kelsey Director of the Capital Area Council of Governments is leaving Friday May 14th. In a summary of his 5-years in planning he said: “Planning is critical, but it needs to evolve. We talk a lot about the value of a plan being in the process, rather than the end product. And then we spend 50 percent of the budget on a 125 page document that very few people will have time to read, much less use in any meaningful way.”

Someone at the city needs a rocket up their ass if they really think HALF A MILLION on a report will solve or help anything or tell us something we don’t already know. Get on and do something, less consultants, more action!! Make a decision will ya, thats what you were elected for…

Property values, guns and oil

Guns and Oil (1998) by Sokari Douglas Camp

Guns and Oil (1998) by Sokari Douglas Camp

Mike Mandel the Chief Economist at Business Week has an interesting post on his personal blog about house price values in major metro areas. In way that the web only can, there are also interesting comments and cross links to a separate blog that summarizes data on salaries.

If you feeling the squeeze here in Austin, maybe this is the reason for it. Salaries are increasing only a little more than 1% per year before inflation, and one of the lowest; house prices which many see as the bellweather of the Austin economy and many would argue the reason for so much [unwanted?] change, are also significantly lagging.

The areas with most growth? Those around significant development areas for guns and oil, Austin-Round Rock-San Macros, Killeen-Temple-Fort-Hood and Odessa, Texas are all discussed. Read through to the comments on both blog entries, I learned something… A Wonk isn’t just a cuddly creature from The Adventures of Wonk by Muriel Levy

Something stirring in Bouldin?

Saturday saw the streets blocked, not by parking for Polvos, or South Congress, but for the Austin Home tour. Ok, that wasn’t A change; but it at least it was at least different from the normal clogged streets, if you live in close proximity.

Change is in the air though. Turns out that iconic Bouldin Creek coffee shop will be moving sometime over the summer. According to the latest Bouldin bulletin, the newsletter of the neighborhood that proudly claims “weird starts here”, Bouldin Creek Coffee is moving to the long vacant Big G tire store location on the corner of S 1st and W Mary. Just up the street really, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the move.

Real change though is at Becker Elementary school on W Milton. Long a neighborhood corner stone, the small South Austin public elementary school is going dual language. What this means is that on top of the already excellent classes provided at the school, now the children will work together in English and Spanish. As someone who has long admired the ability of the Dutch to speak better English than many Brits and Americans, they do exactly this in their elementary schools. This is a massive opportunity for elementary age school kids.

Becker is having an open evening on Tuesday 2nd between 5-6:30pm, open to kids and parents. Come see what the school can offer your family. Becker is one of four AISD elementary schools chosen to pilot this program.

Next change for Bouldin Creek neighborhood, is that its’ neighborhood associations Annual General Meeting is moving to Austin City Hall on the 9th at 6:45pm. All residents from the West side of Congress to the East side of S Lamar, from Barton Springs to Oltorf are welcome and encouraged.

In fact, if you’ve ever been to a Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (BCNPCT) meeting before, at least one, then you are strongly encouraged to come to their meeting on Wednesday 3rd from 6-7pm at Morning Star on South 1st. BCNPT will be discussing and voting on two key ordinances, front and side parking, and Mobile Food vending. Arguably, the neighborhood has more mobile food vending than any other neighborhood in Austin.

They will also be electing officers, in order to vote on either of the ordinances or the elections, you need to have attended at least one prior meeting on the BCNAPT according to its’ rules. Even if you’ve not previously attended, this could be your first, and you’ll be able to vote at a future meeting.

Pulling up the drawbridge

Farewell to the Cactus Cafe, scene of countless wonderful musical experience for countless Austinites, whether affiliated officially with the campus or not. Farewell to Union Informal Classes, where people from every part of our community could be introduced to or continue learning about subjects that they might not otherwise encounter, meeting their neighbors and paying a modest fee. It makes me too sad to think about all the music over all the years, for which so many of us are so grateful. I’ll never forget the instructors or the fellow students in various wine-tasting classes, dance classes, and Spanish classes. It was via UT that so many of us here in Austin heard our first operas, being lectured on the bus by Dr. Walter Ducloux of sainted memory or Dr. William Reber. We’d travel to Houston or to Dallas by bus, and dine before the matinee performance, returning to Austin very late and stepping out into the real world again at the Villa Capri parking lot. Support for the formation of Austin Lyric Opera arose directly from those entertaining and educational jaunts. And I’ll never forget the sight of Placido Domingo being borne across the stage (precariously, it seemed) standing on a shield carried on the shoulders of a bunch of hefty guys during the Aida triumphal procession. Long gone are the fascinating movie series at the Union and elsewhere, which showed many, many movies each week and which introduced the best of Hong Kong productions to us. The obliteration of the Cactus and informal claases will result in paltry monetary savings and a great loss to our community. The fine folks at the local daily (Michael Corcoran and Tony Plohetsky) write about these latest planned curtailments at length.

KUT and the President, words matter

[An open letter to the Regents at the University of Texas, and the KUT Board]

I was a big supporter of NPR when I lived in New York, not only was WNYC informative, it was educational. When I moved to Austin, before I even got here, I paid to join two organizations, Austin Triathletes, and KUT. Both have been a disappointment.

After two years of membership of KUT, despite numerous written requests from KUT and especially new station general manager Stewart Vanderwilt, the seemingly endless bi-annual membership drives, this year I figured I wouldn’t just pay, I’d make a conscious decision about membership. A couple of close friends had raised their concerns about KUT membership with me, despite as far as I’m aware, having never discussed it with them before.

A quick perusal of the Internet, letters in the Austin Statesman, The Chronicle, etc. reveals I’m not alone in being uncomfortable with the recent changes at KUT.

Tonights coverage of the Presidents speech summed it up for me though. At 7:18, some 15-minutes into live coverage, KUT cut away to “commercial endorsement” from a number of commercial organizations, fronted by none other than Station General Manager Stewart Vanderwilt. Ok, so maybe the first incident was an accident, some pre-programmed error. Then around 7:29, the same thing.

Stewart, words matter, the fact you ran commercials over two key sections of the Presidents speech is not only disrespectful, it illustrates for me all thats wrong at KUT. And let’s remember, I’m not a US Citizen, wasn’t born in the US, yet I still can’t understand how this happended.

Retail campaigning

This is a beautiful day for it, and some campaigns were lured by this weather into going from door to door. I was out reading in the screened tent when someone on the front porch hailed me. It was candidate Raul Alvarez, former member of the Austin city council now running against a long-time incumbent for the office of Travis County precinct 4 commissioner. He made the mistake of asking what issues are of concern and probably heard way too much about proposed total elimination of our neighborhood bus route after a century of public transportation serving what began as a streetcar suburb and also about the lack of any health ordinances governing frequency of emptying or setback placement away from property lines of portable chemical toilets on construction sites. While Mr. A. was still on the front porch, the spouse of Democratic primary candidate Cliff Brown appeared and joined the conversation. He’s running for the office of judge of the 147th District Court. This was very much like the old days in Austin, when nearly all candidates running for city or county office went personally from door to door. What has changed is that modern candidates have Web sites and Twitter accounts. I’m glad that our doorbell doesn’t work, but I’m also glad to have enjoyed the opportunity to hear about these campaigns in person.

Early-voting sites few

vote aquiAnd what’s called “central” is not. In fact, for downtown workers accustomed to voting at the courthouse, there’s nowhere to vote throughout the early-voting period, which continues through Friday, October 30, apart from provision for “mobile voting” that appears at different locations each day. The county site listing early-voting locations available throughout the period lists the county offices on Airport and the north Fiesta Mart as “central.” And with our library austerity closings, Ruiz is not available on Fridays or Sundays (Carver’s available during abbreviated hours today and the Zaragoza Rec center is not available at all today). Despite these limitations, we saw a line today when we voted, and observed that the tally sheet showed a large turnout yesterday. On Election Day itself, November 3, it’s best to check to make sure that your customary precinct polling-place has not been consolidated with that of another. It’s never a bad idea to consult the nonpartisan voter guide prepared by our local League of Women Voters. Local political blog Burnt Orange Report has prepared a helpful explanation of the constitutional-amendment process and also a roundup of endorsements. Even though most of us, depending on our location, will not be electing officeholders, this is an important election.

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