Between the once-in-a-lifetime 10-1 election and the heated three-way mayoral donnybrook, it seems like all eyes are on City Council these days. Here in Austin, even Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and hard-working Comptroller candidate Mike Collier are struggling to catch the public's attention, as the countdown continues to Oct. 20 early voting. There's a lot more about Council on the following pages – and we're already hard at work on our endorsements, which will appear in next week's issue – but it's worth a reminder that there is yet more on the local ballot that needs your attention: five contested Austin ISD school board races (four districts, one at-large), plus, regarding Austin Community College, two board seats and about a half-billion dollars in funding proposals (yes, that's a "B"). The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a series of AISD candidate forums this week – see info below and in "Civics 101" – and I promise, we'll catch you up on the ACC issues next week – there's only so much time in the day.
There was some headline education news Tuesday, as the College Board released figures showing that Texas (but not Austin) students this year posted some of the lowest SAT scores ever, and have fallen more than 20 points behind the national averages. Predictably, the first person quoted in the Austin American-Statesman story on the matter is right-wing ideologue Bill Hammond, head of the anti-public-education Texas Association of Business. And also predictably, Hammond took the opportunity to double down on the failed policies that he's been assaulting Texas schools with for the last decade or so: more "accountability" for students (high-stakes testing) and schools (withhold money from those that need the most help). This misanthrope makes me want to barf, and why anyone is still listening to him, let alone seeking out his twisted opinions, remains a complete mystery. TAB purports to be the state "Chamber of Commerce," but its real function has little to do with business promotion, and everything to do with slashing education funding, removing government regulations on everything except schools, and supporting GOP electoral candidates. Enough of their tripe ought to be enough.
The Austin League of Women Voters has scheduled three AISD candidate forums for this week, open to the public, sponsored and moderated by the LWV, and co-hosted by the Austin PTA. Forums should last about an hour. Questions are unknown to the candidates and have been composed by the LWV, following input from the public. League guidelines prohibit campaign materials in the room, and expressions of support or opposition from the audience.
• Thu., Oct. 9, 6:30pm at McCallum High School, 5600 Sunshine: Districts 1 and 4 (North)
• Tue., Oct. 14, 6:30pm at Crockett High School, 5601 Manchaca Rd.: Districts 6 and 7 (South)
• Thu., Oct. 16, 6:30pm at Martin Middle School, 1601 Haskell: At-Large Position 9
With the Oct. 1 start of a new city fiscal year, a number of new laws and regulations took effect, notably:
• Beginning Oct. 1, more commercial and multifamily properties are required to offer recycling as part of the next phase of the Universal Recycling Ordinance, adopted by the City Council in 2012. These include all commercial properties larger than 50,000 square feet and multifamily properties with more than 25 units. Austin Resource Recovery is holding a series of free Lunch & Learn sessions for property managers and business owners, each noon-1pm. Learn more and register online at www.austinrecycles.com.
Wed., Oct. 15, Iron Cactus, 10001 Stonelake
Tue., Oct. 21, Tres Amigos Restaurant, 7535 U.S. 290
Wed., Oct. 22, Don Darios Restaurant, 8801 N. I-35
Wed., Oct. 29, County Line on the Lake, 5204 RR 2222
• There are several new and increased fees for Austin Center for Events permits: The Music & Entertainment Division will begin charging a new fee for sound impact evaluations: $200 for outdoor music venue permit applications, $160 for 24-Hour and Multi-Day permit applications, and $40 for street events that have outdoor amplified sound. And the Health Department has increased fees from $35/booth for events of two days or less, to $98/booth for 1-5 days, and from $90 to $145 for events of 6-14 days. Questions? Contact Music Program Manager Don Pitts, email@example.com, or the main office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Planning and Development Review Dept. will implement a 25% fee increase for certain commercial, residential, zoning, site plan, building plan, and permitting applications, plus new boat dock fees. They'll also begin collecting previously adopted fees for projects that fall under the "change out" program (water heaters, HVAC units, etc.).
Art in Public Places (AIPP), a program of the city of Austin's Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department, seeks to commission a professional artist, or artist team, to create artwork for the expansion of Austin Studios, which is owned by the Austin Film Society. Visual artists who live or work in the state of Texas are eligible to apply. The total budget for this project is $95,000. The application deadline is 5pm, Thursday, Oct. 30.
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