Beside the Point

Pissed On or Pissed Off

As a writer with, I presume, some degree of readership (hey, I know your toilet time is primo), I must recognize the powers of the platform afforded me. Not that markets rise, chests heave, and women swoon over my unyielding column inches, but still: Deciding what does and doesn't get covered raises interesting editorial questions. For instance: Say (hypothetically, of course), a certifiable regular of City Council's citizens commun­i­cations crowd showed up to make one of her weekly three-minute spiels – but this time placed a vessel of her own urine on the lectern. Do you reward such bat-shit-crazy behavior by writing about it, especially if the meeting was otherwise a snoozer?

Like I said, an interesting hypothetical question – or is it?

Another question: Was last week's City Council meeting inessential due to the mayor's absence, or vice versa? Will Wynn was off in Seattle, having trekked there from San Diego for the U.S. Conference of May­ors Climate Protection Summit. So with Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley at the helm, the meeting was rather unmemorable; after passing the consent agenda with little discussion, council then adjourned until noon. Which, by design or not, has left them with a surfeit of items for this week, including dual omnibus water resolutions.

Today sees the final, delayed adoption of the new water agreement between the Lower Colorado River Authority and the city of Austin to buy an additional 250,000 acre-feet each year of water through the year 2100. The complicated nature of the agreement has stoked worries in some quarters that it simply spends too much; also, with LCRA head Joe Beal's recent retirement, there are persistent yet unconfirmed fears the deal represents a potential golden parachute for a certain outgoing city manager. It's piqued public curiosity because the LCRA's become Valhalla for departing city staffers, and Toby Futrell's predecessor, Jesus Garza, left city management for the agency. A while back, BTP heard some loose talk on the dais about excluding anyone who worked on the deal from moving to LCRA, but will it remain just that ... talk?

The second waterlogged resolution is Lee Leffingwell's nod to redevelopment in the Barton Springs Zone, aka Son of SOS, up for public comment and possible adoption today. (We covered the ordinance in detail last week; see "Watershed Redo," Nov. 2.) Debate over the revisions, which would allow redevelopment of grandfathered, pre-Save Our Springs Ordinance sites in the Barton Springs Zone, is both philosophical and practical; boosters like Leffingwell assure us it protects the aquifer by requiring ecologically responsible protections, like filtration ponds and the like; SOS and company see any development above the aquifer – "re" or otherwise – as driving more growth. Hmm ... where do you think council will come down?

These two ordinances should generate hours of discussion alone (in a perfect world, that is), but they're joined by several other noteworthy items: a 2pm presentation from the Design Commission regarding proposed density bonuses; the return of Leffingwell and Mike Martinez's call for an election to change the way the city attorney is hired (by City Council, instead of the city manager); another Martinez item, this one clearing the way for EMS bargaining; and Jennifer Kim's request that the Afford­able Housing Incentives Task Force's findings be passed on for boards and commission review. (For lack of a second, she reluctantly pulled her motion calling on the University of Texas to protect the Brackenridge tract.)

Those are just the highlights. Hey, city staff, how's that plan to shorten council meetings coming along? It would be nice to have our elected officials actually explore these things, instead of plowing through in hopes of getting out before midnight.

Either way, today is council's last meeting until after Thanksgiving: On Nov. 29, they return for the first of their final three meetings of 2007. With time at a premium, let's not – pardon the pun – piss it away.

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City Council, Will Wynn, Betty Dunkerley, LCRA, SOS, Lee Leffingwell, Mike Martinez, Jennifer Kim

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