Beside the Point

The Heat Wave Top 10

What did I do on my summer vacation? Wait – I didn't have one. No traveling to exotic locales like Nebraska or New Mexico, à la Brewster McCracken or Lee Leffingwell. No exciting elective surgery, like that lucky dog Betty Dunkerley. No, BTP dutifully slaved away, compiling this council cheat sheet in the confines of his boiler-room office. (If you think I'm joking, stop by – but don't expect a chair.)

So, from within our twilit, musty summer dungeon, we present council's Top 10 Heat Wave Headaches:

1) Re-re-redistricting: Council addressed this Wednesday, in a special meeting over the latest GOP-gerrymandered map. Necessitated by the Supreme Court's ruling that South Texas be redrawn – and other dominoes follow – Attorney General Greg Abbott's map turns Travis County into a three-way wankfest among Republican incumbents. [Wednesday afternoon the council voted to object, strongly.]

2) Yo, Taxi!: Just as controversy from the Roy's Taxi/Yellow Cab merger diminished, the Urban Transportation Commission takes up the franchise lottery, considering a merit-based system. Like – wow! – ranking applicants on qualifications. Will they have guidelines in place before next week, when the drawing is scheduled? We give it 6-5, against.

3) Vote for (Just) Me!: Freshman member Mike Martinez tossed the flaming jalapeño – single-member districts – into In Fact Daily last week. Martinez wants a task force to consider the question, including the possibility of a mixed (district/at large) system. It will not be a Happy Meal: His colleagues reacted as though he'd suggested something really radical, like campaign finance limitations on PACs.

4) Chain Saw Massacre: To prevent "over-pruning" by Austin Energy – a term defined by its proximity to your front yard – a Tree Task Force report was delivered to the Land Use and Transportation commission May 8. A month later, it was passed to Toby Futrell, en route to council. Whatever they decide this year – it's definitely an evergreen.

5) Cop a Plea: When Leffingwell requested a feasibility study on rolling marshals, parks, and airport police into the APD, the Statesman conjured a police-union plot. Turns out, unbeknownst to council, the city manager was already mulling related questions, and when the bureaucratic dust settled, parks police chief Darryl Lewis had stepped down. Maybe the actual feasibility report won't disappear so quietly.

6) Drink Really Deep: The corollary to council's recent water-plant decision – going ahead with Water Treatment Plant 4 instead of Green WTP – is an ambitious policy of water conservation, with a goal of 10% use reduction in 10 years. The next green war: on thirsty St. Augustine.

7) The Shadow of Moriarty: WTP 4's lightning-fast reversal of fortune over Green raised the usual contracting questions. Whatever else happens, Clean Water Program Director Bill Moriarty's still-pending lawsuit against the city could shine a useful light. Moriarty says he was forced out by better-connected contractors – at a minimum, the process needs sunlight.

8) Butting Bicycle Heads: Ex-mayor Bruce Todd credits his cycling helmet with saving his life earlier this year, and wants to spread the safety – over the loud and rising objections of many cyclists. That building cacophony? Be ready for marathon August 24 helmet hearing.

9) Saving Save Our Springs: Post the Props knuckleduster last spring, Leffingwell assembled a stakeholder group to draft an alternative ordinance to protect Barton Springs. That should surface soon (along with what, if anything, the council's pursuing for open government).

10) Bottom Line Time: Considering the ink we'll inevitably spill over the budget, this week we'll keep it short: Council's looking to increase public investment, and will likely reap higher property tax income while still moderately cutting the rate. It sounds reasonable: The real challenge will be selling it to anti-tax hawks at the Statesman and the radio talk shows, who don't do reasonable.

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redistricting, Greg Abbott, roy's taxi, yellow cab, Mike Martinez, Sheryl Cole, Brewster McCracken, Lee Leffingwell, police, union, Bill Moriarty, city council

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