Public Notice: Sunrise, Moonset
Darkness at midday, bright lights at night
The solar eclipse is this coming Monday, Aug. 21; here in Austin it begins at 11:41am and ends at 2:39pm, with the maximum coverage (65%) at 1:10pm. So, find a place to be, watch safely (I'm trusting the NASA scientists' recommendations at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety), and enjoy.
Of course, we're a few hundred miles from the direct path of the eclipse. Closer to the center, preparations are being made. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, a group called "Kentuckians for Coal" has organized to protest the eclipse in Hopkinsville, Ky., which is "globally recognized to be the epicenter of the eclipse." Due to that distinction, KFC expects "busloads of Amish from Pennsylvania and rumored Arab royalty," to cause traffic jams, a run on available food and gasoline, and "an invasion of prostitutes" to this corner of southwestern Kentucky. Primarily, though, KFC stands against the eclipse as a symbol of "economic development initiatives aimed at lessening America's dependence on coal." They welcome "all like-minded patriots," and are "grateful for the support of our esteemed president Donald J. Trump and the great Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell."
It is rumored that those two will not be appearing arm-in-arm together at the Hopkinsville rally (or elsewhere), but for those of you who may be contemplating the trip to the epicenter, KFC helpfully suggests some sign slogans, including:
Boycott the eclipse!
Climate change is a hoax!
You can't always depend on the sun!
Coal was good enough for my forefathers, it's good enough for me!
What's next? Global warming?
That's what she said!
and of course,
And on the flip side … River Hills Neighborhood Association, a small community between West Lake Hills and Bee Cave, has been formally designated a Dark Sky Friendly Development of Distinction by the International Dark-Sky Association – one of only three such designations in the state. Ironically, in the same week as the award is announced, a site plan application is pending at the city for what the NA calls "a sportsplex with elevated sports lights atop the highest hill in River Hills. … In essence, because of the unique topography of these foothills, it will become a virtual lighthouse." So, you know, good news/bad news on the light pollution front. In the meantime, you could drive out to River Hills some moonless night and see what the fuss is about while you can: The next new moon is this Monday (same day as the eclipse), but if I'm reading the charts right, the moon is going down early most of this month anyway.
Public discussion of CodeNEXT is on something of a back burner at the moment, while everyone waits for the Version 2.0 release next month. But in the meantime, it's starting to dawn of folks how compressed the time frame is going to be for commission and public vetting of a complex document that's expected to be a near-complete rewrite of the largely discarded first draft. Toward the end of this Tuesday's Zoning and Platting Commission meeting, commissioners had a short discussion on timing, and sounded nearly panicked as they realized how little they had. Chair Jolene Kiolbassa noted that in the schedule published earlier that day, "there is no real space for public hearings in there, and I believe that we should have public hearings on the second draft. Exactly where in all of our joint meetings, and handling our [regular] business, are we going to be able to do public hearings?" She proposed trying to hold meetings "in the field" around the city, but fellow Commissioner Betsy Greenberg didn't see time for even that: "Between the second draft and the third draft, it's like 10 weeks. And so the comment deadline – which might be our deadline for a recommendation – might be five weeks, maybe six weeks. And I don't see how we can do field hearings, in addition to all the hearings here … I mean, the whole schedule is really a challenge, when I look at it."
Indeed. As it stands, ZAP has just two joint meetings with the Planning Commission scheduled for the six-week vetting period that will be trying to re-create the five-month public process that attended the first draft.
Minister of drunkenness: That may not be what they're calling it, but it could happen. The directors of the Austin-Travis County Sobriety Center are looking for "the first ever Executive Director of a new center to tackle binge drinking and public intoxication on the streets of Austin." The center is due to open next year at 12th and Sabine, one of just a few such facilities in the nation providing "frontline aid and support to publicly intoxicated individuals who need to sober up." See more info at www.ralphandersen.com. Application closing date is Sept. 5.
If that sounds too stressful, how about giving the city advice on walking, or riding a bike? The city is trying to fill vacancies on both the Pedestrian Advisory Council and Bicycle Advisory Council; apply by this Sunday, Aug. 20, at www.austintexas.gov/department/pedestrian-advisory-council or www.austintexas.gov/department/bicycle-advisory-council.