Council: Watch Out for Angry Penguins

Council takes on Downtown density and the Summer X Games

Council: Watch Out for Angry Penguins

Adelaide, Australia was once home to poet Max Harris, a founder of the legendary Angry Penguins journal and accompanying modernist literary movement:

We know no mithridatum of despair
as drunks, the angry penguins of the night,
straddling the cobbles of the square
tying a shoelace by fogged lamplight.

Adelaide has also been a sister city to Austin for 30 years, an anniversary to be celebrated Thursday with a visit to City Council from Deputy Lord Mayor Michael Llewellyn-Smith, delivering an address during the morning briefings (proclamation to follow in the afternoon). Eat your heart out, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole – in Adelaide, you'd be a Deputy Lord Mayor!

That may well be the feel-good highlight of the day, as the 117-item agenda is burdened with persistent city controversies (along with briefings on the in-progress Auditorium Shores improvements and the Innovation Office, the city's tiny but ambitious tech-work think-tank). There may be a few angry penguins during Citizen Communications – fluoride and chemtrails are both on the noon list – but more are likely to show for the ongoing contretemps, which include a potential application to the state's Major Events Trust Fund for a pitch to get the Summer X Games at the Circuit of the Americas site for the next three years (Item 19). Austin is one of four finalist cities, with a decision to come sometime this summer. Staff delivered a glowing presentation at Tuesday's work session, but the matter may well get sucked into the whole controversy over the METF shoveling public money to private businesses.

An issue likely to raise even more sparks is the return of the Austin Energy "independent board" (Item 29), nominally on the consent agenda but seemingly ready to be pulled for additional tweaking. Perhaps in its thoroughly watered-down version – having added yet another advisory commission – Council will shrug and move on; but an extended discussion at the work session over a yeoman's effort by CM Bill Spelman to draft a workable compromise (between a powerless commission and a significantly independent board) seemed to come to no conclusion. After more spinning of wheels, Council informally decided to kick the whole matter to the curb (until some future rate crisis, for example).

Simmering controversies over the Down­town Density Bonus Program (Item 79) and shared city park parking arrangements (80; see story above) look to be posted for public hearings in June – something to look forward to. Today's public hearings already offer plenty of possibilities for uproar: the much-delayed proposal to raise Texas Gas rates (102); a neighborhood association appeal of the outdoor music venue permit for Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar on West Avenue (103); the return of the short-term rental regulation revisions (105); and, if they miraculously wrangle all of those, more discussion of a proposal to enable relocation of historic Rainey Street buildings (106).

Honored musicians of the day are the Tiarra Girls – three young and very talented sisters, the darlings of South Austin and the Ann Richards School – whose breakout tune may well be "No Time to Worry" (find 'em on Facebook). For the inveterate worriers among you, it's also Mental Health Awareness Month (proclamation to be accepted by the National Alliance on Mental Ill­ness) – always a good thing to keep in mind during Council meetings, when an angry penguin may well be sitting in the chair beside you, or even your own.

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News, Michael Llewellyn-Smith, Auditorium Shores, Sheryl Cole, Major Events Trust Fund, Summer X Games, Circuit of the Americas, Austin Energy, Bill Spelman, Downtown Density Bonus Program, Texas Gas, Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar, Tiarra Girls, Ann Richards School, National Mental Health Month

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