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Advocacy, Ethics, and Opposition
News Story  August 7, 2014, by Mac McCann


Both Sides of the Tracks
Pro and Con on Rail
News Story  August 7, 2014


Point Austin: More Connected Than Thou
Multimodal objections to a multimodal project
News Column  August 7, 2014, by Michael King


The Road to 10-1: Now We Begin
How to fit six dozen candidates into a one-pound newspaper
News Story  July 17, 2014, by Michael King
"...It's less clear just how much that will matter in the district races – no longer demanding citywide resources – although fundraising will still deliver a suggestive thumbnail of who's serious and who's an electoral tourist. We'll be reporting on those this week and in the weeks following – and by the way, there are likely to be a couple of major local bond propositions and a state proposition on highway bonds, as well as Austin ISD and Austin Community College board elections...."

Where the Sidewalks End
Austin's patchwork sidewalk system has a history – and just maybe a better future
News Story  July 10, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"..."I know that in other places that are more 'sidewalk-centric,' people are assessed a certain amount of taxes that relate to sidewalks," Cole said, but not in Austin. That means relying on state and federal transportation and development grants, as well as money allocated in city bonds...."

'A Mayor Who Listens'
Sheryl Cole talks about her skills, her record, and what she learned on her 'house party tour'
News Story  June 19, 2014, by Amy Smith
"...SC: Of course there's the affordable housing bonds, there's the Waller creek revitalization project, there's a lot of racially charged incidents – from Texas Relays to officer-involved shootings, especially of African-Americans. There've been a number of zoning cases where I've worked to develop a consensus..."

More Bacon for Construction Workers on AISD Projects
Wage measure splits board
News Story  June 19, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...The new scale sets pay floors for staff on projects funded by AISD bonds. It takes its name from the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which set minimum wages for contractors on federal projects..."

Letters at 3AM: Snyder 'R' Us
Despite the illusion of autonomy, we have been colonized by the Oligarchy
Columns  June 12, 2014, by Michael Ventura
"...• Employ people in mass entities (Walmart, McDonald's) that exist now only for the purpose of moving the elements on which the financial system rests – the goods, services, and resources that are the excuse for the stocks, bonds, and speculative enterprises that make the really big money...."

Booking Austin's Library Future
City hopes new Central Library will be global trailblazer
News Story  May 29, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...All that adds up to one of the biggest infrastructure investments the city currently faces. Voters approved $90 million in construction bonds in 2006, and the final total to build and equip it will be closer to $120 million..."

Project Connect: Three Rail Plans Mulled for CCAG
Advisory Group looks at three options, plus costs
News Story  May 22, 2014, by Mac McCann
"...Officials declined to make an official recommendation at the meeting, instead planning to spend the next few weeks finding which plan would garner the most support from voters. Ideally, under any plan chosen, the Federal Transit Administration would cover about half of the total cost, with bonds covering the rest – which is why officials hope to gauge public support before putting it to voters in a November bond election...."

Davis: Abbott Failed to Police CPRIT
Senator accuses attorney general of turning a blind eye
News Story  May 15, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...It's a sad switch from CPRIT's origins as possibly the state's last truly bipartisan measure. In 2007, voters statewide passed Proposition 15 by a margin of 61% to 39%, creating the agency and allowing the issuance of $3 billion in bonds..."

Can Project Connect Connect?
Advisory group receives preferred corridor recommendation
News Story  May 8, 2014, by Michael King
"...While the funding possibilities are not yet confirmed, Leffingwell told Ben Wear of the Statesman Saturday that he expected the initial project would be reduced to about $1 billion, with half of that to be funded by bonds and half by federal underwriting. There remain several steps to the process before it gets to that stage, including the formal CCAG recommendations, briefings to City Council and the Capital Metro board, and a planned joint meeting of Council and Capital Metro in late June to consider the options..."

May Elections: Twice the Fun
Double election strains Travis County resources
News Story  May 8, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...Most of these are uncontested seats, so there's much more attention been paid to school district bonds. Eanes ISD is looking for voter approval of $89.5 million for a new elementary, a new support services facility and building renovations, plus investment in IT, performing arts, and energy efficiency..."

Can Project Connect Connect?
Advisory group receives preferred corridor recommendation
DAILY News  May 6, 2014, by Michael King
"...While the funding possibilities are not yet confirmed, Leffingwell told Ben Wear of the Statesman Saturday that he expected the initial project would be reduced to about $1 billion, with half of that to be funded by bonds and half by federal underwriting. There remain several steps to the process before it gets to that stage, including the formal CCAG recommendations, briefings to City Council and the Capital Metro board, and a planned joint meeting of Council and Capital Metro in late June to consider the options..."

DVD Watch: 'Hill Street Blues'
An aural history of the cop show that changed TV
DAILY Screens  April 29, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...Part of the appeal was that so many of the cops had partners. Their tensions and bonds were the perfect vehicle for the show to explore both the personal and political issues of the day, as their scenes locked in patrol cars became miniature two-hander plays..."

After Carstarphen, What Then?
Austin ISD enters a new era, searching for a road map
News Story  April 18, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...The last trustee elections in 2012 became a vote of no confidence on her administration. Then in 2013 she was partially blamed for the failure of two of the four AISD bonds in November, due to a combination of unpopular projects like a districtwide boys' academy and general distrust of her administration..."

UT's 'Shared Services' Begins Sharing ... Layoffs
Powers endorses controversial plan
News Story  April 18, 2014, by Lizzie Jespersen
"...Staff "are people who help make our campus the compassionate, intelligent, diverse, vibrant, and enviable place that attracts visitors to the Forty Acres," the letter reads. "Their support of faculty and students forge the lifelong bonds of attachment to and affection for the university that are its very lifeblood..."

A Chorus for Rod Kennedy
ATX songwriters pen one for the Kerrville Folk Festival founder
DAILY Music  April 17, 2014, by Jim Caligiuri
"...SARA HICKMAN Rod left an indelible, unique mark in his lifetime by building a world’s stage for musicians to bare their souls, and by doing so, he created bonds, families, memories, legacies, camping aficionados, and careers for thousands upon thousands of others. He was a smart man, and he could be shockingly blunt..."

November Calling: PACs Form on Rail Vote
Groups organizing for and against potential bond proposition
DAILY News  April 8, 2014, by Mac McCann and Michael King
"...Meanwhile, Greg Hartman, a chief administrator at Seton Healthcare, recently formed the “Let’s Go Austin” PAC to support the “transportation bond for City of Austin.” Hartman is a longtime go-to organizer on bond issues, having experience with AISD bonds, the medical school vote, and many other community efforts. Let’s Go Austin is in the early formation stage, but Hartman told Newsdesk, “We’re going to be looking at raising money and then hopefully be able to educate city officials, community leaders, and then voters if this moves forward and becomes a sort of thing that we hope the community can support as a new transportation solution.”..."

All Aboard the Soccer Train!
Major League Soccer and urban rail take city by storm
News Story  March 28, 2014, by Michael King
"...According to a joint statement to be released Tuesday by Mayor Lee Lef­fing­well, Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Rene Van De Zande of the Austin Aztex, UT-Austin President Bill Powers, Governor Rick Perry, and international soccer legend David Beck­ham, the planning group said, "We think it's time to acknowledge that Austin has long since become a major league city – and what better way to show it than by bringing a professional sports team into the heart of the city, along with an actual, functioning mass transit system." According to initial reports, the project will be funded by a combination of transit bonds (to be brought to the voters in November, as soon as the land-based routes are finalized), private investment, toll road overpayments, and a 25-year commitment of $10 million a year from the Texas Special Events Fund...."

Dinner Lab: You Never Know Where It’s Gonna Be, But It’s Gonna Be Real Damn Good
The stealthy supper club gives locals a taste of 'guerrilla cuisine'
DAILY Food  March 26, 2014, by Wayne Alan Brenner
"...And for this sponsored fete during SXSW, Reynolds chose a particularly fine chef to prepare the meal. Well, she chose her husband, actually, although she couldn’t have found much better beyond the bonds of matrimonial bliss: Chef Jayson Reynolds, native Texan and longtime teacher at Le Cordon Bleu, has worked at some of the best restaurants in Austin – and his skills are remarkable..."

Point Austin: Spending the 'Surplus'
If there's money left over, you're doing something wrong
News Column  March 21, 2014, by Michael King
"...Things started off on the wrong foot when Mayor Lee Leffingwell – who had been out of town for the previous work session that posted these items for action – began by saying he was opposed to such an unusual procedure because of diminished public "transparency," and to raising interim spending items at all outside of the larger 2014-15 budget discussion, still a few months away. Jumping over the policy discussion – nominally first on the agenda – the conversation abruptly leapt forward to Council Member Kathie Tovo's proposal to fund the expansion of the kitchen at the recently opened Asian American Resource Center, with Leffingwell reiterating his objections to isolated, out-of-season expenditures and Tovo stoutly defending the proposal as necessary, equitable, and promised for community outreach – oh, and by the way, to be funded not with General Fund money or the alleged $14.2 million "surplus," but (thanks to staff resourcefulness) with already voter-approved bonds dedicated to parks facilities (e.g, the AARC)...."

Then There's This: Dangerous Path
Commissioners commit to $15 million toll project, minus enviro study
News Column  March 21, 2014, by Amy Smith
"..."Loading more public debt on before there is full information [to] make really well-informed decisions hurts the public trust. There will be some major bond elections coming up that will require us to say to the public, 'Trust us, this is the right thing to do,'" Shea said, referring to upcoming voter decisions on rail, a new courthouse, and school bonds..."

Federal Dollars Arrive for Onion Creek Buyout
Neighborhoods to return to green space
News Story  March 14, 2014, by Amy Smith
"...The city and county buyout program has been an ongoing project hampered by budget wrangles in Washington. City voters in 2006 approved bonds for the program and the city had purchased more than 320 homes and the county more than 120 more..."

SXSW Film Review: 'For Those In Peril'
Melancholy seafaring tale shocks in the end
DAILY Screens  March 12, 2014, by Jessi Cape
"...George MacKay is masterful as Aaron, the traumatized sole survivor of a six-man fishing trip gone awry. Young Aaron clings to the delusional hope that his older brother, Michael, is still alive, and only sympathetic familial bonds tether him to sanity as his profound grief and the superstitious small town’s alienation propel him into madness...."

SXSW Film Review: 'Harmontown'
'Community' creator lets it all hang out
DAILY SXSW  March 9, 2014, by Kimberley Jones
"...“A human hand grenade with a predilection for pulling his own pin out” (as John Oliver puts it), Harmon lets it all hang out for the camera – his black moods and shame spirals, that devastatingly sharp tongue and a dizzying number of drinks poured – but Harmontown, a large-hearted film, also illustrates what Harmon calls “the misfit quality” that bonds him to his audience and his collaborators. Chief among those collaborators is scene-stealer Spencer Crittenden, a shy dungeon master who joins the show almost by accident and becomes a cult hero..."

Hell's Belle
'Hellion' marks Kat Candler's long road to overnight success
Screens Story  March 7, 2014, by Joe O'Connell
"...After Cicadas, Candler's life had big changes: An important personal relationship broke apart, and she strengthened bonds with other Austin independent filmmakers like David and Nathan Zellner, Yen Tan, Duane Graves, James Johnston, and David Lowery. She traveled to Sundance in 2001 just to watch movies..."

Council: Down by Lady Bird
City Council returns with a less imposing agenda
News Story  February 28, 2014, by Michael King
"...Before they get to that, Items 68-71 are hearings concerning bond financing of four proposed housing projects – three in South Austin and one at Parmer Lane – that would add more than 900 affordable housing units, pending the city's application to the state Department of Housing and Com­mun­ity Affairs for the tax-exempt bonds to help underwrite the projects, potential fruits of the city's affordable housing efforts. They're not likely to raise much opposition – unless somebody wants to object to the developer's faux French "Pointe at Ben White."..."

In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
The development of electricity prompts questions about intimacy in Sarah Ruhl's play
Arts Review  February 14, 2014, by Stacy Alexander Evans
"...Meanwhile, on the other side of the good doctor's closed office door, his wife (Jill Blackwood) suffers herself, feeling inadequate because her milk is not plentiful enough to meet the needs of her new baby. She bonds with the doctor's otherwise satisfied customer Mrs..."

City Council: Less Is More
CMs tackle stealth dorms and economic incentives deals
News Story  February 14, 2014, by Michael King
"...Early on (Items 17-21) there will be several proposals for loans to help kick-start affordable housing projects, three sponsored by Foun­da­tion Communities and a fourth, mixed-use project near Lakeline Mall. Listed on consent, those might get ceremonial discussion, but are unlikely to be controversial, as they are effectively matching funds for potential state Housing and Community Develop­ment tax credits, part of the reason we vote for those bonds every few years...."

Council Set to Tackle 'Stealth Dorms' Next Week
No meeting this week, but plenty of contention next week
News Story  February 7, 2014, by Amy Smith
"...Council is also set to approve $7.5 million in bonds to acquire a 352-acre site in Hays County for designation as water quality protection land. The acreage along Onion Creek is in the recharge zone and is considered one of the more environmentally sensitive areas of the Edwards Aquifer (Item 20). Last week ......"

Austin Studios Puts Out the 'For Rent' Sign
Austin Film Society seeks anchor tenants to build a new community
DAILY Screens  February 6, 2014, by Richard Whittaker
"...Their presence will also boost the renovation of the armory space: Although there are already small productions shooting and working in the old hanger and office space, there's a lot of work to be done. Even though voters approved $5.4 million in construction bonds in November 2012, the cost of a full rehab job will easily be double that...."

Klyde Warren Park: 'Think About It Bigger'
As Austin considers Reconnect Austin, a Dallas project gives a taste of what could come
News Story  January 17, 2014, by Robyn Ross
"...Ultimately the deck and park were funded at a cost of $110 million through a public-private partnership. A combined $56 million in public money from city of Dallas bonds, state highway funds, and the federal stimulus built the infrastructure..."

Top 10 Local Stories
The year in Austin: from the APD to urban rail
News Story  January 3, 2014, by Michael King
"...6) WAITING FOR THE TRAIN It's still only a gleam in the mayor's eye, but urban rail took a big step forward with tentative routes recommended by Project Connect and City Council – the big 2014 question is whether the votes will be there for the bonds. See "Top 10 City Council Stories."..."

Top 10 Education Stories
Mack Brown, Meria Carstarphen, and the rest of the gang
News Story  January 3, 2014, by Richard Whittaker


Day Trips
Looking back at 2013
Columns  January 3, 2014, by Gerald E. McLeod
"...The Astrodome failed to receive public support for bonds to refurbish the world's first domed stadium, so demolition may be on the horizon...."

Point Austin: The Meanings of 'Affordability'
The new year signals changes in the life of Austin
News Column  December 27, 2013, by Michael King
"...Voting directly to support affordable housing bonds is also a relatively small but important step; working to establish a viable mass transit system (where transportation increasingly requires as much as housing in the average family budget) is also important, although as a community we have waited so long to do so, that it will be a long time before those slow-moving plans make a substantial dent in our common expenses...."

Then There's This: The Big C Stands for Corruption
Even after reforms at CPRIT, Rick Perry still remains in charge
News Column  December 20, 2013, by Amy Smith
"...If anyone is more deserving of losing the public's confidence, it's our ethically challenged state leaders – not just Perry and Dewhurst, but Attorney General Greg Abbott, who served on CPRIT's governing board and, we now know, never attended any of CPRIT's 23 meetings. A little background here: Perry vowed to work toward curing cancer in his 2007 State of the State address and that same year, with Perry and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong leading the campaign charge, voters overwhelming approved $3 billion in bonds to create a cancer research and prevention agency..."

Michael King, Stop Bitching!
Postmarks  November 18, 2013
"...Older, inner city neighborhoods have only zoning – and that can get very flexible depending on the money and influence. So yeah, we work together supporting things like the affordable housing bonds, the 10-1 plan, our parks, schools, etc..."

Point Austin: Lessons on the Wind
Random speculations on the returns
News Column  November 8, 2013, by Michael King
"...First, it seems Austin voters (or at least 60% of the 14% who managed to get to the polls) have not given up on the bedrock principle that everybody does better if everybody does better. Nearly 40,000 voters supported the affordable housing bonds, raising sighs of relief among the advocates who last fall saw a nearly identical initiative narrowly defeated..."

A Victory for Housing
City bond prop wins 61% voter approval
News Story  November 8, 2013, by Amy Smith
"..."It was a hard lesson to learn, but this is what came out of it," De Mayo said above the celebratory din of the crowd at Scholz. She credited Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole for pushing the ball forward a second time (although Cole would later tell supporters that she initially was apprehensive about putting housing bonds back on the ballot so soon after voters' rejection)..."

Headlines
News Story  November 8, 2013
"...› Some Austin ISD teachers were shortchanged last week after the district's payroll software failed, under-calculating wages for 325 teachers and incentive pay for another 385. Voters approved $7.5 million in bonds to replace the decade-old system in May, but it's being held up by lawsuits...."

Prop. 6: Rainy Day Flows Downhill
State Water Implementation Fund wins in landslide
News Story  November 8, 2013, by Richard Whittaker
"...Who says Texans won't spend money on infrastructure? On Tuesday night, they voted 3-1 to spend $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund on large-scale water construction, repair, and conservation projects around the state. Proposition 6 establishes the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT): Effectively a dedicated bank for water utilities, it will use $2 billion in seed money from the Rainy Day Fund to help finance $53 billion in water projects over the next 50 years – reducing the cost of loans for smaller local utilities, and buying down the interest rates on $6 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2011...."

Votes Flood in for Prop 6 Water Cash
$2 billion and a new water infrastructure bank get voter approval
DAILY News  November 5, 2013, by Richard Whittaker
"...Allen Ritter, R-Nederland, creates the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and transfers $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund into its account. This will be used to help local entities pay for essential infrastructure investments over the next 50 years, and buy down the interest rates on $6 billion in water infrastructure bonds approved by voters in 2011..."

Vote!
Election day is here, so don't forget your voter ID
DAILY News  November 5, 2013, by Richard Whittaker
"...6. Locally, there is also a City of Austin proposition, a second attempt to pass affordable housing bonds after a similar measure failed last year..."

Early Voting Not High Water
At 5.6%, EV turnout not exactly a flood
DAILY News  November 2, 2013, by Michael King
"...Not exactly a cause for celebration, but perhaps better than to be expected for an election that features nine state constitutional amendments with one major issue (Prop. 6, the water fund), one interim special election to the state House (HD 50), a handful of local initiatives in small jurisdictions - and one unique, prominent city proposition for $65 million in affordable housing bonds...."

Alec Soth’s American Dream
Magnum photographer presents work and process to UT crowd
DAILY Arts  October 24, 2013, by Rod Machen
"...His new “Dispatch” series does exactly that. He has taken an interest in documenting “social life,” those ways in which we form bonds between each other through interactions and encounters...."

Headlines
News Story  October 18, 2013
"...According to an Oct. 14 report to trustees, those contractors received 23.3% of the $576.7 million awarded from the 2004 and 2008 bonds, most of that to non-minority women...."

AISD: Budget Covers Raises, Benefits
District approves third deficit budget
News Story  September 6, 2013, by Richard Whittaker
"...Ever since then, the administration and the board have been leery of going back to voters. This year, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said that "they're talking TRE the same way we were talking three years ago." Yet with the failure of two of the district's four bonds earlier this year, and the still-pending ruling from Judge John Dietz on the legality of the Texas public school finance system, Zarifis said, "We just have to find the right time to do it."..."

Kickstart Your Weekend: 'Blade Roller'
Aliens, saxophones, and rollerblades unite
DAILY Screens  August 23, 2013, by Monica Riese
"...In Blade Roller, Zeke, "an average rollerblading kid with a preternatural talent for the saxophone" and a glowing wardrobe reminiscent of Tron, bonds with a peaceful extraterrestrial over their shared love of the woodwind. But can he figure out the connection before the overbearing government silences them both?..."

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