The Austin Chronicle

Beside the Point

The Calm After the ...

By Wells Dunbar, May 23, 2008, News

It was clear when they took the dais last Thursday that City Council had to address the storm that just tore through Austin. Not the torrent of wind and hail, which downed dozens of trees and riddled roofs and windows, plunging thousands into darkness and Austin Energy crews into overtime – no, that would come later. Instead, they spoke to the storm from the previous weekend, one that also downed a particular set of power lines: Jennifer Kim's stunning blowout loss to challenger – and as of June 25, council member – Randi Shade.

"First of all, I want to say to the people of Austin that it's been the greatest experience of my life to serve you on the Austin City Council," Kim began, having been given the floor by Will Wynn. Thanking her colleagues and staff for "making this a wonderful experience and for the opportunity to work on such great initiatives for our city," Kim also reached out to her electoral opponent. "I also want to wish Randi Shade much success in her term as council member, and I hope that our entire Austin community will reach out to her and support her and embrace her as she is taking on the helm of Place 3. It's a challenging job, but I'm sure she'll have a good time serving the city of Austin." Concluding, Kim said her opportunity to serve has "been an honor," and the people of Austin made it "very rewarding and fun. So thank you very much." To which Wynn wryly rejoined, "I will remind you, you still got three more meetings to work."

Good thing council faced an airy agenda that Thursday – an incomparably light 35 items – because a decent chunk of the morning was dedicated to bringing council up to speed on the damage from Wednesday night's massive storm. Damage was visible directly from the dais – Wynn noted that the meteorological mayhem had disrespectfully snapped in two the cypress just in front of City Hall. Austin Energy staff worked through the weekend to restore power to much of the city (which incidentally knocked out 1 Chronicle Place most of Thursday) – well enough, in City Manager Marc Ott's estimation, for him to send them a note, also copied to the media, noting his pleasure with AE's response: "You are all doing an outstanding job. I'm proud of you. Thank you for all your efforts."

While not directed to anyone on council, similar sentiments apply to Kim, as she embarks on the next stage of what will certainly be a long and illustrious career, in both the public and private sector. Good luck.

Disasters natural and political aside, precious little else occurred last week, save resolution of the impasse over bike and pedestrian access between a new planned development on 51st Street in North Hyde Park. Bike and ped connectivity, recommended by the Planning Commission, was initially pulled over fears it would turn existing neighborhoods into a parking lot for the new development. But after plenty of bad blog buzz – and developers promising to in-crease parking by 10% – everyone's reasonably happy. (Except Mike "M1EK" Dahmus, who's constitutionally incapable of that sorta thing.)

Bigger matters – try 5 acres bigger – have been saved for today, when council formally unveils the five proposed designs for the Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment. Already garnering massive media attention, the item exploring the feasibility of moving Police Department central operations out of Downtown is slated for approval, but the rest of the marquee items – discussion of the Stop Domain Subsidies charter amendment before voters in November, plus more on sale and development of Green and an adjacent Austin Energy tract – are reserved for private executive session discussion.

A cup to the door, anyone?  

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