Got Wheels This Weekend?
Planning to use Car2Go during the last weekend of South by Southwest? You may want to have a back-up plan. Car2Go Austin replaces its entire 200-car fleet – while expanding it to 300 custom-made Smart cars – between midnight on Friday (March 18) and 5pm on Sunday (March 20). "During this time," according to a company press release, "the Austin network of car2go will be temporarily unavailable for use." Paul DeLong, Car2Go's head of North American sales and marketing, told the Chronicle that the fleet's new telematics system (which connects each car to the Car2Go satellite network) will require an "entire system change. ... The transition had to happen at a synchronized time around the world." DeLong added, "We are trying to limit the impact on users by starting at midnight and doing the exchange as quickly and seemlessly and transparently as we can get up to speed – hopefully so that people using the program for [SXSW] can get back into those cars." New, blue membership cards compatible with the new technology were mailed to current members last week, according to Car2Go. (Take note: The blue cards won't work with the old cars, so don't throw out your white card until after the weekend; conversely, the white cards will not work with the new cars.) In case you can't get enough of the tiny-car transition, Car2Go Austin intends to follow it live at www.austincar2go.com, and on Facebook and Twitter as well. The call center will have extended hours during the switch: 877/488-4224. The fleet transition coincides with an extension of the Car2Go "geo-fence" – aka the boundaries of its operating area. See the new map at "Dude, Where's My Car2Go?," March 11. – Kate X Messer
Martinez'S Mea Culpa
Quoting Cesar Chavez, "Our language is the reflection of ourselves," Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez wrote an open letter to the community that he released Friday, March 11, in yet another apology for the e-mail comments recently released after an open records request. Among the hundreds of council e-mails made public was one in which Martinez and Mayor Lee Leffingwell exchanged brief insulting comments about City Manager Marc Ott and other officials. Martinez's letter is one result of his recent meeting with the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Austin. "I have been disrespectful and have created wounds within our community that might not be overcome," wrote Martinez. "For my words, and the lack of judgment shown within, I offer an open apology to all who will accept it." (The open letter is posted with this story online at here [PDF].) – Michael King
City Responds to Ethics Charges
On Wednesday, March 9, City Auditor Kenneth Mory notified Nelson Linder of the Austin NAACP that the city attorney and the auditor's integrity officer had reviewed Linder's ethics complaint against Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez concerning alleged violations of the City Charter, Article 2, Section 7 (prohibiting council members from interfering in personnel matters). The complaint addressed insulting comments (concerning city staff) exchanged in April 8, 2010, e-mails between Leffingwell and Martinez. Mory wrote that the review of the allegation found "that the communication in question does not violate this section of the City Charter." A second allegation charged violation of the Code of Ordinances, Section 2.7.62 (prohibiting council members' representation of a private interest – e.g., the Austin Firefighters Union – against the city). Mory noted that the city's Ethics Review Commission, not the Auditor's Office, has jurisdiction over violations of that section of the city code. The NAACP can choose to file a new complaint with the Ethics Commission; as of Tuesday, March 15, the Ethics Commission had not yet received a complaint. (For more, see "Council E-mails Prompt Ethics Complaint, Lawsuit," March 11.) – M.K.