Austin at Large: The Pigs Inside Our Python: Recent headlines confirm it: Austin takes a looooong time to digest what he swallows – News


I ran this column last week so Nick Barbaro could have more space to lay out the visions for Zilker Park that emerged from the city’s planning process to renew, or “rewilding,” its public marquee park. As literal greybeards, he and I have long memories for such things; the current Zilker Vision effort follows extensive public deliberations over the past few years on various elements within Zilker, including the Zilker Botanical Garden, the Greenbelt entrance that will become the gateway from the Violet Crown Trail, the Barton Springs Bathhouse, the Zilker Clubhouse, the cafe outside the swimming hole (and if it can sell beer), even the little train. And, of course, the main events that draw the most people to the park, ACL Fest and the holiday Trail of Lights. I have to imagine it’s been a minute since there’s been such an effort at Zilker, which is just a park; during the same period, the city also updated its comprehensive parks master plan, delivered a very ambitious vision for Walter E. Long Lake which is very far from being realized, continued the agreement with Oracle approved by the voters in November and worked out the details of his relationships with the support groups and conservancies that take over the management of some of the city’s busiest and most expensive parks along the creeks and lakes.

All of this is essentially happening under a cone of silence as far as the local media is concerned. We’ve grown accustomed to being a rare newsroom that really pays attention to those endless, real-time decision-making processes, rather than the end when sparks fly and blood is spilled in last-ditch disputes. . Back when Nick and I were both less bearded, we were the only outlet in town that attempted this depth of coverage of these stories; now we have KUT and the Austin Monitor and (sometimes) Community impact and even the everyday when he’s not falling back into his worst impulses to be ostensibly tough and Joe Rogan-esque and driven by gotcha. But the momentum remains: Austin continues to grow faster than anywhere else, thousands of citizens who vote and care about civic issues come and go from our city every year, people have lots of ideas and want to participate in shaping the city ​​on the fly, and our audience engagement processes are moving slowly, slowly, trying every trick in the book to avoid being captured by the usual interest groups and generally failing.

We’ve seen it all before

The reason why the the Chronicle a line to hoe is not that we are so much savvier than our fellow reporters about what is really important to our readers. It’s mainly that we have less turnover than other press organs, and therefore we remember things. As if I remembered the story of the South Central Waterfront just when the usual interest groups clung to it as another mess that they could publicly bash and be praised and funded for it. I had a similar feeling when we weighed the endorsements in this primary cycle in the two Travis County commissioner races, both of whose incumbents have held public office for most of our existence.

Which means I can remember if, as a member of city council, Brigid Shea opposed or supported tax incentive programs for large employers in the 1990s. She supported them, but with caveats, which is much the same as his current stance — a stance that helped fuel challenger Bob Libal’s campaign to oust him, with the county’s Tesla deal as an example.

For her part, Margaret Gómez is taking her second challenge from Del Valle ISD administrator Susanna Ledesma-Woody seriously enough to roll out some incredibly aggressive and sleazy campaign moves this week (falsely saying that Ledesma-Woody supporters had dropped out). the challenger used the wrong form to file its last financial report, and has now corrected it). Gómez is all for the Tesla deal and wants his opponent to suffer for being the only one voting against DVISD’s rollout of a similar package. These school district agreements in particular have been controversial statewide and have been the subject of harsh articles in major daily newspapers, and the Lege is trying to kill them, with groups like Central Texas Interfaith demanding that school districts just say no. This same debate was unfolding in Austin in 1995, the year Elon Musk began his doctorate. program at Stanford (he dropped out after two days). It was already complicated and nuanced. People have been trying to make corporate welfare a corner issue that has galvanized progressives and divided conservatives since I was a Texan (since 1998). We haven’t come to a satisfying stopping point yet, either for Austin or for Texas.

And we solved it before!

Another example of a pig yet to be digested by the python that is Austin’s public life made the news last week, when the overworked and understaffed Austin Water crew , which runs the city’s largest processing plant, has fought its way into another boil. water review, this one completely caused by human error and predicting the resignation of Greg Meszaros, the director of AW who is one of the few people I have met in a senior position in the industry public who, I believe, would really resign without asking in such a situation, as the right thing to do. He conceded to the Board that Ullrich’s West Lake Hills factory is “wobbly” at the moment, which should come as no surprise, given that it is the advanced age and nebulous state of Ullrich’s factories and of Davis who led the utility to move forward with plans for the Handcox Plant on Lake Travis, the former Water Treatment Plant 4. This plant will eventually be built to full design capacity and will replace Ullrich’s production with plenty of room to spare, drawing water directly from where the city paid the Lower Colorado River Authority $100 million (I saw the check!) in 1999, when Kirk Watson was mayor, for the water rights of Lake Travis for 100 years. This would have solved all our water problems.

Given that literally hundreds of thousands of people have moved to central Texas since these things made the news, let me inform you that they have been very, very, very controversial over the decades that it took to go from the planned WTP4 to the built Handcox, which right now only produces a third of what Ullrich does. This is almost entirely due to the efforts of the Save Our Springs Alliance, which was once led by Shea, to force the city to implement water conservation which it claimed through 2011 would eliminate the need for a new factory. Kathie Tovo, who is a mayoral candidate, first secured her job on the old council a decade ago by overturning the deciding vote to build Handcox, only to find she couldn’t actually stop her construction. This story doesn’t have to repeat itself over and over every time these things happen, but when today’s press covered BWN earlier this month, most of them knew nothing about this story. recent, and therefore it was never mentioned, and if we had all put the story in context, Greg Meszaros might not have had to fire himself.

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