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Austin @ Large: Austin at Large
Even if a current criminal probe turns up no fire, Austin's minority contracting program has never lacked for smoke and heat.
News Column  December 6, 2002, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...The recent news of a criminal probe into the city's Department of Small and Minority Business Resources, which oversees the program, is unlikely to make M/WBE any less controversial. "It's just a really tough program to manage," says Council Member Betty Dunkerley, who in her previous life as city finance director played a key role in Austin's M/WBE saga..."

East Austin Studio De-Tour
Homesteading artists face city code challenges – and raise old fears – in changing neighborhoods
News Story  July 15, 2011, by Mike Kanin
"...In February, officials from the city of Aus­tin's Code Compliance Department pored over Chung and Klinefelter's property. They took note of the little stuff: the space between the back stairs of the couple's living space, their shower, handrails on the staircase (or lack thereof)..."

Austin @ Large: The Smoke Unclears
Further adventures in symbolism – and unintended consequences – at City Hall
News Column  June 11, 2004, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...It will be nice to see if the city Health and Human Services Department can, somewhere down the line, come up with some data – y'know, the kind of "performance measures" that City Hall produces so assiduously and with such pride – to quantify the benefits of the new smoking ordinance. You may remember that I was (and still am) opposed to the smoking ban in the first place, and when this version was first ground out of the sausage mill last fall, I was as happy as anyone to declare victory and hope this whole stupid nonissue would go away..."

Austin @ Large: Austin at Large
The charter vs. the election code in court
News Column  February 8, 2002, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...Looking for Adversaries So the APA may be wasting its time; the union's president Mike Sheffield noted when the lawsuit was filed that "people should still be collecting their signatures, because this may fall flat on its face." Unfortunately, reformers fear, it may be the city law department that decides to take a flop. Despite Austin's valiant defense of SOS, there is precedent for the city to take a powder...."

Point Austin: The Healing of Wounded Knee
A tale of two city memos suggests more than paper-shuffling needed at APD
News Column  February 25, 2005, by Michael King
"...Ideally, the outcome will be a fairer and more effective disciplinary process, and a chief who can understand personally why officers wonder exactly what's expected of them. It would also be helpful if the public sees that the department is developing disciplinary standards proportionate to momentary lapses in judgment as opposed to persistent misconduct – especially persistent use of excessive force by some officers...."

Point Austin: Step Up to Citizenship
The curtain rises on the annual budget pageant – places, please
News Column  June 25, 2010, by Michael King
"...Nonetheless, now is the time for public-spirited citizens to engage in the discussion and to provide substantive feedback on the cuts and needs priorities developed by the departmental staff. The city has developed both online and public-meeting methods for Austinites to provide feedback, although there's no strictly scientific way of getting that done..."

The Department of Irresponsible, Unconfirmed Rumor
Is the city facing a secret crunch this budget?
DAILY News  April 25, 2007, by Wells Dunbar


Impressed With Coverage on Police Statistics
Postmarks  February 17, 2004
"...Dear Editor, I'm a bit more on the conservative side than the Chronicle and its readers seem to be, but my level of trust in your reporting just went up about a million percent. The way you straightened out the bad reporting that smeared our police department was first rate..."

Austin's Waterloo
Taking a Walk along Waller
News Story  July 7, 1995, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...The latest of those junctures is right now, as the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) embarks on a $1.6 million project - bankrolled with federal funds - to complete and rehabilitate the Waller Creek Hike and Bike Trail, first built out in the early 1980s with a previous federal allotment but left unfinished and since severely damaged. "Our primary task is to fill in missing links, from Waterloo Park [between 12th and 15th Streets] all the way to Town Lake," says PARD's Stuart Strong..."

Austin @ Large: Austin at Large
For the firefighters, City Hall's rep for putting its people first goes up in smoke
News Column  August 29, 2003, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...But there's a great, big, ugly, angry exception to the rule that the city's people come first. It's the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters, the union that represents the 800-plus men and women in uniform at the Austin Fire Department..."

Terrorism Hardens Austin
Austin learns what to do when terrorists – and acronyms – attack
News Story  April 4, 2008, by Matt Martinez
"...Pickle Research Campus into the world of DHS' OBP and its current campaign to improve preparedness against IED, WBIED, and VBIED attacks. Though DHS has an NIPP and is backed by HSPD-7 and HSPD-19, officials at the workshop said that Austin cannot depend upon the department to quell the carnage the terrorists are apparently causing here..."

Into The Black Hole at Other Worlds Austin
Director Gary Nelson on Disney's sci-fi epic, returning this weekend
DAILY Screens  December 7, 2017, by Richard Whittaker
"...GN: I turned it down, and Ron Miller said, "why don't you just meet with Peter Ellenshaw, who's our production designer, and the head of our matte department. Come to the studio, and take a look at some of the renderings Peter's done for some of the vehicles." I said, "Nah, I'm just wasting your time." He said, "Come along anyway."..."

Playback: The New Face of Austin Music Festivals
Taking stock of Austin’s festival landscape a week after the conclusion of ACL Fest
Music Column  October 19, 2017, by Kevin Curtin
"...Primarily, the event employs a valuable park reservation previously held by Stratus Properties for Fun Fun Fun Fest, the popular underground music gathering the developers inherited from former Transmission Events partners Graham Williams and James Moody in a nasty split that occurred in 2016. Austin Parks & Recreation Department head Jason Maurer confirms that C3 now owns that reservation and that the All ATX event will take the form of a three-day festival in 2018...."

Point Austin: Moths to a Flame
If it's Friday, we have a budget
News Story  September 10, 2015
"...Council chambers were nearly filled with various advocate-observers and even more departmental staff waiting patiently for Council questions that came only occasionally and randomly. Among the observers was Carol Guthrie, business manager of the AFSCME employees union, and I asked her for her sense of where things stand on employee pay and benefits..."

Austin Considers Film Incentives
Localized subsidies proposed to fight off in-state competition
DAILY Screens  April 22, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...Texas has economic incentives to encourage film, TV and video game projects to move to the Lone Star State. Last Thursday, staff from Austin's Economic Development Department briefed council on their plans for a Creative Content Incentive Program as a way to keep that new production within city limits...."

Austin Aquarium Manager Sent to Federal Shark Tank
Covino gets a year behind bars
DAILY News  December 4, 2013, by Jordan Smith
"...And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the exhibition of protected mammals, the Covinos have yet to submit a completed application to display otters or fur seals, federally-protected mammals that the Covinos intend to show, nor for a kinkajou, also federally-protected, that they have been exhibiting as an enticement for customers to the new aquarium..."

Gay Place: Austin Pride Parade
A look back at the 2009 Pride Parade as we prepare for 2012
Columns  September 14, 2012, by Kate X Messer and Anne Harris
"...Wearing a vintage white lace number procured by Mme. Kate Messer, I was just getting settled among the beanie babies and arranging some Twinkie packs, when WHOOP, lights flashing, here came an Austin Fire Department truck..."

Reefer Madness: Austin Is 'Command Center' for Drug Trafficking
City could draw federal dollars with new designation
News Story  April 9, 2010, by Jordan Smith
"...Thrash was among a panel of witnesses called before the commission to discuss how drug trafficking issues in Mexico are affecting or may affect Austin. Notably, no one had any particular evidence that Austin would be seeing more violence as a result of the increase in violence in Mexico over the last decade – though commission member Mike Levy pressed the representatives from the DEA, FBI, and Texas Department of Public Safety to try to give some sense of what they believe the future will hold for the city and state..."

Austin Film Festival Announces Full Lineup
AFF's finalized lineup
DAILY Screens  September 24, 2008, by Kimberley Jones
"...The lives of the denizens of a train station, from the lovelorn to the lonely, all intersect in and around the lost and found department...."

Reefer Madness: No Cite-and-Release in Austin
DAILY News  May 2, 2008, by Jordan Smith
"...According to APD Cmdr. Sean Mannix, the department decided against following the provisions of the law because APD actually operates in three counties -- Travis, Williamson and Hays, where portions of the city now lie -- and in two out of the three counties officials have decided not to honor the new law..."

Point Austin: Ringing in the New
New City Council takes its place, and the fun just keeps on coming
News Column  June 24, 2005, by Michael King
"...What may raise more immediate sand at today's meeting are three pending contracts (totaling roughly $51 million) with the Texas Department of Transportation for the city to sign on to toll road proposals for Highway 183 (Ed Bluestein) and portions of highways 71 and 290 – the state says, you want the money, you ratify the toll deal. Members will be uncomfortably caught between the local consensus that toll roads are the devil's own handiwork and the state's determination to push highway costs downward onto users and municipalities..."

Austin @ Large: Before the Flood
The Waller Creek Tunnel could have been a boon to Downtown; now its just another failed proposal in the City of Ideas.
News Column  August 23, 2002, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...Up the Creek Without a Tunnel Floods on Waller Creek -- which, even after fairly ordinary storms, overflows its banks downtown with surprising speed and force -- are dangerous, pollute Town Lake, and destroy property. That includes not just expensive private property like the Marriott and Sheraton hotels, or Symphony Square, or Stubb's, but expensive city-owned property like the Police Department and Municipal Court and Waller Creek Center (the former Avante Building)..."

Austin Stories
News Story  August 9, 2002
"...Mosquitoes spread West Nile from birds to humans, but you can't get it from another human being. Given the danger, the city/county health department has stepped up its mosquito control program, which includes spraying of "safe" insecticides as a last resort..."

Austin @ Large: Austin at Large: Chuck, We Hardly Knew You
Chuck Manning's departure from Austin Energy comes at a most inopportune time for the city.
News Column  December 21, 2001, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...And City Manager Jesus Garza will get to replace Manning all by his lonesome. The head of AE works directly for Garza, unlike almost all the other city department heads, who report to one of the assistant city managers..."

Point Austin: Death in Custody
Sandra Bland was guilty of driving while black
News Column  July 30, 2015, by Michael King
"...Because of the national notoriety of the incident, and the shaming of the Texas Department of Public Safety, there are various investigations in progress, including legislators looking into jail practices and perhaps even a Department of Justice review. All that's to the good – Bland's death should at least generate more than bootless mourning as its consequence..."

Police Use of Force Declined in 2007
The number of times police used force against Austin residents declined last year
DAILY News  December 18, 2008, by Jordan Smith
"...Austin Police arrested slightly fewer people in 2007, but used force less often when making those arrests, according to the department's annual use-of-force (or, more recently coined, "response to resistance") report. APD officers made 51,465 arrests last year, and employed force against 636 people; in 2006, police arrested 51,714 folks and used force against 822 of those arrested..."

Point Austin: Burning Down the House
Deadlock between city and firefighters reflects deeper problems
News Column  September 27, 2013, by Michael King
"...... The EEOC and the Department of Justice have their own timelines, and the city has nothing to do with that." Big Boss Men..."

Point Austin: Budget Finish Line
Council ponders final adjustments to General Fund
News Column  September 6, 2013, by Michael King
"...Early on, the city's finance department drafted a budget that proposed a 0.85 cent property tax rate increase (to 51.14); Council has already voted not to go any higher than 51.14. Whether it can do better than that is the subject of the next few days, to be decided formally next week at official "budget readings" (Monday, and if needed, through Wednesday)..."

Point Austin: Under Fire
Memo to Toby Futrell: it's called 'negotiation'
News Column  September 23, 2005, by Michael King
"...Futrell insists the city is negotiating in good faith but that the AAPFF proposals are simply unrealistic. She says the city entered the negotiations with three goals: 1) to "sync up" the public safety contracts chronologically, so that police and firefighters would be negotiating in the same year; 2) to "meet but not exceed" in contract value the contract for the police officers (proportionate to the size of the departments); and 3) to move from a "guaranteed percentage" increase (as with the police contract) to a "market point" target (competitive with similar cities)...."

Database Tracks Deaths in Police Custody
Project pulls data from the last decade
News Story  August 4, 2016, by Chase Hoffberger
"...Last Wednesday at UT-Austin, Amanda Woog, a policy analyst at the school's Insti­tute for Urban Policy Research & Analy­sis, presented 10 years' worth of data detailing Texans who've died at the hands of law enforcement or in custody of local jails or prisons. The database, available at www.texasjusticeinitiative.org, provides general demographic data for the 6,913 in-custody deaths that occurred in the state between 2005 and 2015, as well as an official summary provided by the state department or law enforcement agency that offers a narrative into the events leading up to the individual's death...."

Austin @ Large: What Happens Next?
Suggestions for a 2004 City Hall to-do list
News Column  December 26, 2003, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...Yes. But look at this department! Just look at this mess! (Said the fish in the pot.) The retirement -- under a great big ol' dark cumulonimbus cloud -- of the APD assistant chief may bring an end to the Mala Sangre scandal in which Chapman (and his buddy, disgraced Sheriff John Maspero) played a starring role..."

Point Austin: Madness in Many Packages
From Highland Mall to PACT, the lunatics are at large
News Column  April 10, 2009, by Michael King
"...I'm not what you'd call a veteran mall shopper – indeed, I undoubtedly score pretty high on the incompetent male consumer scale. But I live near the mall, and over the years when I've needed a last-minute birthday gift, a holiday or romantic effusion of chocolates, or just some indispensable sundry that only department stores seem to stock, I've gone over to Highland, wandered through the multiculti crowds and the curiosity shops – occasionally lingering a bit in the food court – and found what I needed...."

The Austin Music Scene's Spectrum of Sexism
From sexual assault to all-female bills, women musicians face myriad issues in the live music capital
Music Story  January 19, 2017, by Libby Webster
"...Washington, D.C.'s RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), which primarily pulls from the National Crime Victim­iz­ation Survey, an annual study conducted by the Justice Department, gives statistics nationwide: One out of every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. About two out of three sexual assaults go unreported, and three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim...."

Old West Austin Fights the Cut-Through Menace
Lamar, Enfield road reconstruction boxes in Downtown neighbors
News Story  May 21, 2004, by Amy Smith
"...City engineers overseeing the road construction say they have taken steps to alleviate the cut-through problem, but there is only so much that can be done. "We've done a lot of [police] traffic patrols during both morning and evening traffic," said Mike Curtis, the city Public Works Department's project manager for the Lamar and Enfield roadwork..."

Point Austin: Budgets Is Hard
Council begins digging into the budget details, and it ain't easy
News Column  May 7, 2015, by Michael King
"...Nevertheless, the level of discussion was distressingly low, with extremely elementary questions ruling the conversation, as though quite a few of these new Council members had never bothered to actually monitor a city budget process before deciding to run for office. Some were unclear on the difference between a forecast and an actual proposed budget, and Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo (seconded by City Manager Marc Ott) patiently explained that until departments actually submit their annual budget requests, all these numbers are simply estimates based on prior knowledge..."

Downtown Austin Plan: Why Do It?
At least three council members question cost
News Story  March 20, 2009, by Katherine Gregor
"...If the DAP effort were aborted now, without enforceable ordinances and a detailed implementation plan, then indeed the city might have wasted the $600,000 spent to date. New development-code principles drafted by the ROMA team – if adopted by council – will go to the city legal department (and perhaps more consultants) to be codified into ordinance...."

'Austin Chronicle' Endorsements
General Election, Nov. 6 – Proposed Constitutional Amendments
News Story  October 26, 2007
"...5: ... to permit the voters of a municipality having a population of less than 10,000 to authorize the governing body of the municipality to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the municipality that has been approved for funding under certain programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture under which the parties agree that all ad valorem taxes imposed on the owner's property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into."..."

'Austin Chronicle' Endorsements
General Election, Nov. 6 – Proposed Constitutional Amendments
News Story  October 19, 2007
"...5: ... to permit the voters of a municipality having a population of less than 10,000 to authorize the governing body of the municipality to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the municipality that has been approved for funding under certain programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture under which the parties agree that all ad valorem taxes imposed on the owner's property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into."..."

Austin @ Large: Analyzing the Analyst
A look at the proposed utility consumer analyst
News Column  April 19, 2002, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...As it happened, the city strategic plan for turning the utility into a proper competitive business, yet keeping it city-owned, passed on a 4-3 vote, against City Manager Jesus Garza's recommendation. (It was as part of this plan that the former Electric Utility Department got "rebranded" as Austin Energy.)Who Speaks for Us? -- Having made that narrow commitment, though, the actual role of Austin Energy within City Hall has remained a work in progress..."

"This Is Austin Bashing on Steroids"
This legislative session, state GOP lawmakers ran an all-out assault on municipal values
News Story  June 15, 2017, by Mary Tuma
"...The state doubled down in May when Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit against the mayor, City Council members, and Her­nan­dez over the "papers, please"-style law, a move that again pits deeply red state leadership against its progressive capital city. (Austin filed its own suit against Texas a few weeks later.) SB 4 intrudes on and overrides the policies in place at local law enforcement departments, a state-knows-best approach publicly opposed by virtually every police chief in Texas' cities...."

Point Austin: On the Backs of Immigrants
In the war over "sanctuary," the victims are most vulnerable
News Column  April 27, 2017, by Michael King
"...In the wake of word out of the U.S. Department of Justice that Austin and Travis County are in fact complying with federal immigration laws, it didn't take long for Gov..."

Point Austin: The Way Things Are
Another victory for judicial fairness leads to … more discrimination at the polls
News Column  April 13, 2017, by Michael King
"...Rodriguez called for the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act – the law that the voter ID requirements violated – raising the possibility that Texas would be required to return to "preclearance": U.S. Department of Justice review prior to any electoral changes that might produce similar racial discrimination..."

Playback: Austin Week in Angers, France
Kevin Curtin runs into more than a handful of musical Austinites on the other side of the globe
Music Column  September 22, 2016, by Kevin Curtin
"...The exchange reverses in November for Angers Week, where French bands, chefs, and artists invade the Lone Star seat of government. Austin Week, well-funded by the French government, spoiled our troupe with lodging and resources (isn't socialism great!), while Angers Week operates on a four-digit grant from Austin's Economic Development Department and private fundraising...."

Point Austin: Cutting and Spending
The Council looks in both directions on budgeting
News Column  April 16, 2015, by Michael King
"...In late March, city of Austin department heads received an email (subject: "Budget Reduction Menu") from Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo, with the following request: "Depart­ments whose budgets directly impact the General Fund will need to develop a list of budget reductions totaling 5% of their FY16 Forecasted General Fund Budget." Van Eenoo noted that the request is pursuant to a previous City Council resolution, which directed City Manager Marc Ott to "provide the Council with a list of service reductions that could potentially be used to offset the revenue loss associated with implementing a General Homestead Tax Exemption." That would be the proposed 20% homestead exemption on property taxes, estimated last year to cost the city an annual $36.6 million...."

'Austin Chronicle' Endorsements
General Election, Nov. 6 – Proposed Constitutional Amendments
News Story  November 2, 2007
"...5: ... to permit the voters of a municipality having a population of less than 10,000 to authorize the governing body of the municipality to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the municipality that has been approved for funding under certain programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture under which the parties agree that all ad valorem taxes imposed on the owner's property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into."..."

Point Austin: Getting Wello
Join the fight for universal health care
News Column  July 6, 2007, by Michael King
"...As she recuperated – waiting impatiently for her recalcitrant blood pressure to subside sufficiently for the doctors to release her – a hospital accountant suddenly appeared, pressing her and her 90-year-old roommate (heart trouble) to "settle their bills immediately" before they were discharged. Needless to say, my mother's blood pressure skyrocketed, and the doctors could thank the accounting department for yet another day of unanticipated expense...."

Point Austin: Conflict of Interest
Facing corporate tyranny, we're all "interested parties"
News Column  December 15, 2006, by Michael King
"...But it seems patently true that the city still much too often treats undifferentiated "economic development" – regardless of its actual consequences on the community at large – as an unquestionable good. And it also appears true that city officials, elected and appointed, heavily influenced by a notoriously craven legal department, inevitably quail at the prospect of defending well-established city priorities against the financial and legal intimidation of major property owners, especially absentee corporations..."

Point Austin: Beside the Point
Final City Council budget readings and votes this week
News Column  September 9, 2005, by Michael King
"...In better news, last week the firefighters union offered a way to break the apparent impasse in contract negotiations by suggesting a change in staffing policy, allowing the "quint" trucks to be manned by only four firefighters. Mike Martinez of the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters said the idea had been under discussion for some time, but was suggested to the department last week in order to free up personnel to help in the Katrina cleanup (teams are already rotating)..."

Austin @ Large: Austin at Large
Development review gets flattened by budget steamroller
News Column  September 5, 2003, by Mike Clark-Madison
"...What an opportune time for a budget crisis! The day Futrell released her FY 04 budget proposal -- that is, before the City Council had even seen it -- nearly one in three of the city's development-review jobs were eliminated and people were sent packing. The survivors, along with City Hall observers, remembered candidate Will Wynn's impolitic comments to his business backers that "the city needs to get out of the development review and inspection business." "Most employees feel the city manager has been pretty forthright," says one development-review staffer in an (anonymous) letter to the Chronicle, "but wonder if she was pressured to gut this department."..."

Bad Blood
Did the Austin Police Department Shut Down an Investigation of Its Own Cops?
News Story  February 16, 2001, by Jordan Smith
"...Austin Police Department officer Stan Farris sits in his lawyer's office and unzips the shirt of his starched navy blue uniform, just enough to adjust his Kevlar vest. He pushes it up a little, moves it to the right a bit, and scratches his sternum before zipping up again..."

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