Public Notice: Strange Bedfellows

Regrettably, this is not an April Fools' story

Phone-banking for the Koch brothers (#tcot = Top Conservatives on Twitter)
Phone-banking for the Koch brothers (#tcot = Top Conservatives on Twitter)

The battle lines continue to harden on the May 7 election regarding transportation network companies. A week after the Travis County Democratic Party officially opposed the proposition, and "any corporation going around our duly elected representatives to write their own laws," the pro-ordinance folks took their swing, with an op-ed in the Statesman penned in support of Ridesharing Works for Austin by Travis County Repub­lic­an Party Vice Chair Matt Mackowiak, who's a frequent Fox News talking head and local second in command to recently elected wacko Robert Morrow. A little tone-deaf, you think? Not the public face you want to put on a campaign in a liberal stronghold like Austin, Texas? It gets weirder.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, the ultra-right lobbying foundation founded and funded by the Koch brothers, has taken up "ridesharing" as one of their wedge causes, perhaps figuring that if they can get gullible folks on board for this one ostensibly progressive libertarian cause, they can sway them on other core issues like doing away with health care, climate change legislation, public education, labor unions, and net neutrality. AFP–Texas' Austin Field Director Carrie Michelle Smith has been leading local efforts, recruiting volunteers and offering free food and drink for phone-bankers at Spider House.

It's an odd coalition indeed. But who knows? If the GOP can turn out its solid 35% of the vote (maybe more, on a low-turnout Saturday), combined with just enough aggrieved tech hipsters who don't really care what they're actually voting for, it could be a winning one.


Slow-Cooked Code

Like Texas barbecue, a new Land Devel­op­ment Code apparently can't be rushed. That's the best spin we can put on the fact that we're now looking at early 2017 before a draft of the city's new Land Development Code will first be released for public vetting. In the meantime, city staff is rolling out a series of four "code prescription papers," intended to give a general idea of the direction(s) the new code will take and get feedback on same. The first of these – "The Next Austin: Manage Our Growth, Keep Our Character" – is now available online, though there's a disturbing lack of specificity to the whole thing, almost three years into the process.

After reading it, you may be moved to join the discussion at the CodeNEXT Community Advisory Group Public Comment Meeting, Monday, April 4, 6-9pm, in the historic McKean-Eilers Building, 323 Congress. Or direct written comments to the city's online discussion forum. Or attend the next public event, a CodeNEXT Community Walk on Saturday, April 9, 9-11am, starting from Once Over Coffee Bar, 2009 S. First.

Future code prescription papers will address affordability, mobility, and the fiscal health of city planning decisions (look for these in May, July, and September, respectively). But judging from the content of the first volume, these will likely stay on the aspirational level, and there remains no timetable on when anyone outside of the Planning and Development Review Department might see any actual numbers or mapping. To stay on top of this and all things code, register for email updates at www.austintexas.gov/codenext.


April is Texas State Parks Month at Whole Earth Provision Co. Throughout April, Whole Earth will be handing out Texas State Park Guides at all nine Texas stores, and customers will be able to donate to the State Parks at checkout, and get state park gift cards and merch for doing so. And local park rangers will be in the stores dispensing information and visitor advice on Sunday, April 10, 2-4pm. The Parks system is the major beneficiary of Whole Earth's philanthropic efforts, including last month's Banff Film Festival.


The 59th annual Zilker Garden Festival, hosted by the Austin Area Garden Council, is the largest fundraising event for the Zilker Botanical Gardens. They'll have authors, speakers, demos, local food producers giving samples, craft beers, live music, a kids' area, a water-wise education area, and more. Zilker Botanical Gardens, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Sat.-Sun., April 2-3, 10am-5pm.


Austin Transportation: What's Next? I-35? Bikes? Rail? Gondolas?! Find out what State Senator Kirk Watson and Austin Mayor Steve Adler are thinking about what could be next for transportation in Austin. Moderated by Austin Monitor publisher Mike Kanin. Tue., April 5, 6:30pm, at North Door, 502 Brushy.


It's Kitten Season! The Austin Humane Society is gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year. This Saturday, April 2, they host their second annual Kitten Shower – a donation drive, where they hope to collect vital items to help them deal with an influx of kittens to come over the next few months, things such as food, carriers, gunny sacks, and strong twine. It's 1-3pm at AHS, 124 W. Anderson.


The City's Cultural Arts Division is now taking applications online from nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists for cultural funding through several programs. See www.austintexas.gov/department/cultural-funding for details.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Ridesharing Works for Austin, CodeNEXT, TNCs, Robert Morrow, Matt Mackowiak

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