Beside the Point

Save the Dinosaurs!

When Mangiasaurus roars, Will Wynn listens.
When Mangiasaurus roars, Will Wynn listens.

When incumbent "Beside the Point" columnist Wells Dunbar announced gleefully that he would be out of state for a couple of weeks, it seemed like no coincidence he would be absent for the brutal council dustup over the future of the Town Lake Animal Center. Nor that he would be away when council members broached the controversial issue of roadside solicitation (aka the indelicately nicknamed Anti-Panhandling Ordinance). Actually, the fact that he cackled, "See ya, suckers!" as he sprinted for the door was downright suspicious.

It seemed like it would be two weeks of knockdown, drag-out politics. Well, half-right. While the Oct. 11 animal-shelter debate was as vitriolic as expected, it seemed the highlight of last week's (Oct. 18) council meeting was when Will Wynn got all tongue-tied over the proclamation of Red Ribbon Week (to be fair, try saying it three times fast). Or possibly when City Manager Toby Futrell pronounced Yom Kippur as Yom Kipper. Or the dog in an oxygen mask. Ah, you had to be there.

The panhandling punch-up got pushed back for further consultation to Nov. 29 by Jennifer Kim, who then completely canceled it on Monday. The only other potentially controversial item, a Planning Commission proposal for a charter amendment requiring sidewalks for any new construction or rebuilding, got rescheduled for Dec. 6. Now sidewalks rarely get front-page coverage, but, like fixing potholes in the road, they're something everybody can get behind. Unless, of course, you happen to be the developer or builder stuck with the construction bill for a particular sidewalk – so expect some paving-slab fireworks when that finally gets to the floor.

However, sidewalks were indeed a pivotal component of what, quietly, was the big issue of the day: the first stage of the adoption of the North Burnet/Gateway Area Master Plan, aka the proposed "Downtown North" at the Domain. No, not the actual adoption, but the first vote toward adoption, and since the plan itself – to rezone a massive area around MoPac and Braker for pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development to absorb up to 80,000 residents – is going to take 30 to 35 years to fulfill, it's not exactly burning news, either.

Ultimately, it seemed the greatest excitement of the day revolved around Wynn putting a small plastic dinosaur on the dais, or, as he called it, "the protest." It was a symbolic gesture of support for Mangiasaurus Rex, the iconic dinosaur logo for local pizza chain Mangia. For years, a statue of the Godzilla-esque figure stood on the roof of the restaurant's Guadalupe location, but when it moved a couple of blocks south this year, it had no flat roof. So, kindly, Mangia's neighbor Wheatsville Co-op gave Rex a new roost on its building. The city, however, has now decided Rex violates local sign laws – and this could spell the end for other landmarks like the kneeling Peter Pan at Peter Pan Mini-Golf on South Lamar. Wynn's response? "We're going to change our sign ordinance," he announced, to no small applause.

City Council's next scheduled meeting is Nov. 1, when we presume Wells Dunbar will condescend to return to his dungeon office. Continue sending hot tips, billets-doux, and/or declarations that the new guy is a whole lot better to wdunbar@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Town Lake Animal Center, panhandling ordinance, Domain, Mangiasaurus Rex

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