The Austin Chronicle

Public Notice: Drunkenness, Affordability, and the Big Lie

By Nick Barbaro, October 7, 2022, News

Walt Smith. OMG. I know I led with him two weeks ago, but the hits just keep on coming. This week it's the release of the Texas Department of Transportation accident report from his April 28, 2021, DWI crash, showing that what he dismisses as a minor traffic accident in fact involved running a red light, coming out of a small street onto Lake Austin Boulevard in West Austin, and T-boning a delivery truck hard enough to turn it on its side. See that report here, and read more in our "Election Ticker." Plus there's a video of him urinating in public, outside a Dripping Springs bar, then wobbling to his car and driving away this past New Year's Eve, while the other DWI case was still pending. And yet, as a Republican in a district he helped controversially gerrymander last year, he's almost certain to be reelected to another four-year term. He doesn't even have a Democratic opponent.

That's where Susan Cook comes in: She kicked off her campaign this past week, running as an independent, Smith's only opponent on the ballot. She's hoping to pick up a share of the GOP vote – Smith only won 56% in his primary – and keep Democrats as well, who have plenty of reason to oust Smith for his policies as well as his ethics. Cook says she's always seen the County Court as a nonpartisan body. Yet she'd oppose the controversial road projects that Smith has been pushing for the area around Wimberley (see "Hays County Moves to Bridge the SH 45 Gap Amid Political Firestorm"), and she'd likely side with the Dems in issues of criminal justice as well (see my column from two weeks ago, or our cover story from four weeks ago, or a number of other pieces we've run about the screwed-up criminal justice system in San Marcos and Hays County). See more about her campaign at

City Council meets this coming Thursday, Oct. 13, with the Statesman PUD, aka 305 S. Congress, yet again being the biggest item on the agenda, and yet again the sticking points appear to be parkland and affordable housing, and yet again the "housing first" advocates are the ones coming out hard against more parkland and especially on-site affordable housing. The new wrinkle from Endeavor, the putative developer of the tract, is that they now have control of a nearby property at 422 W. Riverside, where they could offer 70 units affordable at 80% MFI, instead of the 55 they were proposing at the Congress site. To put this offer in context, that's 5% of the total proposed units instead of 4%, but it's still well below the 10% that was in the PUD ordinance when it passed on first reading, let alone the 20% target that's in the city's own Waterfront Vision Plan. (And for further context, "affordable at 80% MFI" is hardly welfare. That's a studio apartment at $1,368 per month, or a two-­bedroom for $1,952 per month for a family of four making around $78,000 per year. For anyone making less than that, apply elsewhere.)

Council Member Chito Vela is already enthusiastically on board with the 5% number, The Austin Bulldog reports that CM Pio Renteria is "comfortable with the 70 units at 422," and Mayor Steve Adler likely is as well. So that leaves the usual suspects – the "anti-housing no-growthers," primarily CMs Kathie Tovo, Alison Alter, and Leslie Pool – arguing for crumbs while everyone tries to figure out why we're so far behind on affordable housing. (Plus there are folks who complain that all the parkland that's being "provided" is unbuildable anyway, being in the Critical Water Quality Zone and its setbacks. But nature doesn't have much of a constituency these days, so they get ignored.)

The Big Lie

I have nothing new to add here about how badly former President Apeshit has screwed this nation and its political discourse, but I'd like to get named in his lawsuit against CNN, largely over their use of the term "the big lie," so here's my bid: Donald Trump lies, has lied, and will no doubt continue to lie to his followers about the 2020 election results. He knows that what he's saying is untrue, yet he repeats it for personal gain. The whole narrative about the election being stolen is a BIG LIE. So sue me. Thanks.

The Punsters Live! That's this year's theme for the 45th annual O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championships this Saturday, Oct. 8, from 11am to 6pm outside at the city's Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River, while its traditional home at the O. Henry Museum in Brush Square is under renovation. Punniest of Show starts around noon; Punslingers runs 2:30-6pm, with music from the Jerrells before, an auction in between, and a used book sale as well. More info at

Voter registration deadline is this coming Tues­day, Oct. 11, to be eligible to vote on Nov. 8. Hie thee unto for info.

The 2022 Austin Green Awards has announced their keynote speaker, city Environmental Officer Katie Coyne. The sixth annual event is coming up on Wed., Oct. 26, at the Sunset Room, 310 E. Third. Get tickets and more info at

This story has been corrected from the original version: The bar where Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith urinated in public last New Years Eve was in Dripping Springs, not Wimberley, and the date he knocked over the delivery truck was April 28, 2021, not April 8.

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