Watson throws the NIMBYs a bone

The mayor names two reform opponents to the Planning Commission.

Watson throws the NIMBYs a bone
An underground walkway in Chișinău, Moldova. They offer a nice way to get across busy streets and a refuge from cold winter weather. They're often only accessible, however, via crumbling stairways that could be mistaken for Roman ruins.

I'm back! A little jet-lagged but back. I enjoyed my time in Chisinau, Bucharest and Brasov (and the Istanbul airport!) but I'm happy to be back.

RIP Texas Observer? The board of the 68-year-old progressive magazine (which I've contributed several articles to over the years) votes to close it down...temporarily? The 17 newsroom employees found out they'd be losing their jobs not from their employers but from the Texas Tribune, which broke the story.

Laura Hernandez Holmes, the local political operative who serves as the president of the Texas Democracy Foundation, which owns the Observer, is now saying that the foundation plans to take the publication into "hiatus" and is "committed to reinventing it."

I don't have much insight to add at this point but it's worth highlighting a couple things. First, this comes a year-and-a-half after a previous conflict between the board and the newsroom prompted a mass exodus of journalists. At the time the board seemed to dismiss the quitters as whiny, stubborn journalists unwilling to evolve. Yet, the guy the board hired to be the new editor-in-chief is now echoing his predecessors.

The staff has now sent a letter to the board proposing a way to save the organization.

A big new transportation department: A memo from interim Assistant City Manager for Mobility Robert Goode says that the following departments will be consolidated into one: Austin Transportation Dept, Public Works, the Corridor Office, and the Project Connect Office.

(Keep in mind, "Project Connect Office" means the city team working on coordination with Project Connect; this is not to be confused with the Austin Transit Partnership, the local government authority that oversees PC's implementation.)

This makes a lot of sense. Some of the existing silos are truly baffling. It's never made sense to me that even those dealing with high-level urban trails and sidewalks planning are housed in Public Works, rather than ATD.

The next step, of course, is better coordination with land use and zoning...

Watson wants another preservationist on Planning Commission: This genuinely surprises me. Mayor Kirk Watson has nominated Ann Denkler, a reliable anti-reform vote on the Zoning and Platting Commission for the past eight years, to serve on the Planning Commission. Here's how I described the views Denkler expressed at a ZAP meeting about the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan four years ago:

The density-skeptics on the commission said they didn't want to endorse language in the plan about increasing density within a 1/2 mile of transit corridors. Ann Denkler worried that that undermined Imagine Austin's call to protect "neighborhood character" ...

Denkler is more tactful than, say, Mary Ingle, in her opposition to change, but she usually finds a way to oppose it nevertheless, whether it's a lone ADU, a 275-unit apartment complex or a comprehensive overhaul of the land development code.