Council: And the Nominees Are ...
Council considers MoPac extension, and Zimmerman's nominees
City Council is having a busy public week, with a regular work session Tuesday, a budget forecast work session Wednesday, and today's (May 7) regular public meeting, which has its own full share of contentious issues. High-profile items include the CAMPO 2040 Plan, specifically a resolution (Item 26), sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, with four co-sponsors, asking that the proposed four-lane, high-toll addition to South MoPac – including a flyover at the connection to Cesar Chavez into Downtown – be revised downward, to its previously planned two-lane version. The proposal was the subject of a "Save It, Don't Pave It Rally" Saturday on the Crenshaw pedestrian bridge (with at least five Council members, and a whole slate of other public officials, on hand). At Tuesday's work session, it appeared the proposal had the necessary votes, although a couple of members were nervous about the expense of an "alternative" study requested in the resolution – Transportation Department head Robert Spillar suggested that could be compiled from existing information. Expect some speechifying, but not much opposition.
That might not be the case with another round of board and commission appointments. District 6 CM Don Zimmerman's named Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler for the Public Safety Commission, and can expect opposition from the Austin Police Association (see "Parsing Buehler for Public Safety," May 3) and others who object to Buehler's virulently anti-cop rhetoric. (There now may be another wrinkle: Buehler says he doesn't live within the city limits, and might need a Council waiver to serve at all.)
Also raising eyebrows are Zimmerman's nominees to the Commission for Women (his former D6 opponent, Mackenzie Kelly) and the Commission on Immigrant Affairs (Jaime Mendoza). Kelly's been a volunteer firefighter and a gubernatorial appointee to a committee on people with disabilities; she's also been criticized for her support of GamerGate – the online video-game activist group notorious for its harassment of its critics, especially women. Kelly told the Chronicle she intends to "use [her] experience in public safety, running a small business, and making policy recommendations to contribute as a member" of the commission.
Mendoza follows the disputed nomination of Rebecca Forest (who withdrew when it was clear Council wouldn't approve her), and may face his own opposition for inflammatory Facebook posts describing President Obama as a "piece of shit" and a "homo," whom Mendoza "prays would get Ebola," among other things. Asked if he thought such postings should be considered when Council reviews his candidacy, he said people should "put social posts aside and focus on the issues," and said his goal on Immigrant Affairs would be "to open the dialogue between all perspectives and political views to reach a compromise on how we treat visitors that have broken our laws." Of the rejected Forest nomination, he added, "I am offended that this process was hijacked by an opportunist Council member [D4's Greg Casar] that wants to politicize some views and not others." There are several other nominees, but most appear unremarkable. We'll learn today whether Council wants another appointment brouhaha, or will simply wince and go on – it's frankly difficult to find enough people willing to endure B&C service.
There's also a proposal (Item 27) to create an equity working group to address the budget process, plus public hearings on small-lot development rights and on secondary dwelling units (Items 38 & 39) that could draw public sparks. Another hearing (Item 44) will consider utility rate schedules for large commercial customers (i.e., the companies raising hell at the Lege); that too could take some fire.
It's Mental Health, Fair Housing, and Bike Month; Internal Audit(!), and Salvation Army Week, and the musical honoree is Kiko Villamizar, purveyor of "cosmic urban Latino" music: Expect La Remolacha: deep beets.