Naked City

Austin Stories

Just in case you thought we didn't have enough empty office buildings in our midst, Austin's supersaturated market is poised to become extra-supersaturated by the end of the year. With the city's overall office vacancy rate creating 8.2 million square feet of empty space, we can expect an additional 610,000 square feet of new space to open by the end of the year, according to Colliers International's latest quarterly office report. "This trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future," the report states. On the upside, tenants can pretty much write their own lease contracts these days, while landlords fall all over themselves wooing prospective occupants with free rent and other perks. "Take this office -- please," could well be the refrain. -- Amy Smith

On Monday, downtown property owners and the Downtown Austin Alliance presented petitions to Mayor Gus Garcia requesting re-authorization of the Downtown Public Improvement District. The City Council first approved the Downtown PID nine years ago; it must be re-authorized every five years or it ceases to exist. The DAA, which gets funding from a special assesment on PID properties, is responsible for Tuesday noontime concerts, the holiday lights on Congress Avenue, litter removal, and many other downtown programs. -- L.A.

On Aug. 6 -- National Night Out -- the Balcones Village/Spicewood (BV/S) Homeowners Assoc. will officially kickoff "Pace Car," a traffic-calming program that asks residents to pledge they will come to a complete stop at all neighborhood stop signs and not exceed posted speed limits. In return, the association will provide "BV/S Pace Car" decals for the residents to display on their vehicles. Neighborhoods in other U.S. cities already have established the Pace Car initiative, which is run by residents and does not require cooperation from the city. "For years, the BV/S Homeowners Association has been trying to get some help from the city of Austin to eliminate the dangerous neighborhood traffic conditions," said a BV/S press statement. Pace Car "is the residents' own answer to fixing a problem that the city has shown little interest in solving." -- L.A.

Not a "spoiler": Travis Co. Green Party candidate Austin Dullnig has dropped out of the race against state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, concluding it's better not to endanger the Democratic incumbent's chances of holding his seat. Barrientos, who has served in the Legislature since 1975, faces serious competition this November from GOP challenger and high tech businessman Ben Bentzin. "Even though it is painfully clear that both the Democratic and Republican parties have unquestionably betrayed the American public, the Green Party is not dogmatic in its political strategy," Dullnig said. "It's in the best interest of the public that issues and common ground take precedence over strictly partisan politics. Such is the case with Senator Barrientos." The Green Party continues to promote its other local candidates, including Darren Scharf for District 51 state representative, Rae Petersen for County Commissioner Pct. 3, and Lesley Ramsey for State Board of Education District 10 (who faces no Democratic challenger). -- L.A.

Where's Jennifer Gale? A scan of the City Council's official agendas shows that the perennial candidate hasn't made an appearance during the designated citizens' communication period since May 23, when she announced her mayoral bid and discussed her campaign platform. Perhaps she's traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk strategy with that city's most colorful mayoral candidate, Faith, described by the New York Times as a "tiara-wearing ... 79-year-old exotic dancer who likes to ride a horse outside political events and blow her bugle." Then again, that's more up Leslie's alley ... -- L.A.

Chips Are for Kids: Twenty-three local high school students spent most of this week getting a firsthand look at jobs in the semiconductor industry, through a program sponsored by the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International Workforce Development Institute and Destination: Digital. In addition to learning math and science relevant to chipmaking, the students visited Austin Community College's teaching "clean room," met workers at Samsung, and participated in mock job interviews, among other things. S.E.M.I. and the Semiconductor Executive Council in Austin say such programs are geared towards resolving continuing shortages of students who are qualified for high tech jobs. -- L.A.

Naked stories for "Naked City"? We received this breathless bulletin from a regular reader: "So, I was at Kinko's downtown around 6:45pm on Tuesday, waiting impatiently for a copier to be available, when I noticed that across Congress Avenue there was a naked guy. I blinked, and indeed he was still there(!) and running across Congress -- with his arms behind his head, hands clasped like he was preparing to be frisked. He had a huge smile on his face, apparently amused with himself ... Was around 36 to 40, nice-looking fellow (not a bad bod either!), who appeared sane and mostly drug-free (in my official estimation)." Eventually, she reports, a police car, a fire truck, and an ambulance arrived on the scene to "take care of the naked guy who didn't seem to be on fire, or in need of medical attention. I'm confused as to whether I was missing something, or was this another case of the city of Austin going way overboard in taking care of the 'criminal element'?" -- L.A.

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