Just a few quick hits today as I travel back home ....
Final Frontier cuts ties with Austin Animal Center: Final Frontier, a local dog rescue nonprofit, announces that it will no longer take dogs from the city-run shelter, accusing it of failing to uphold the city's stated "no kill" goals.
For critics of the Austin Animal Center, this is another indication of its failure. However, many others, including those who work at the AAC, will likely view this is a blessing in disguise. They view Final Frontier as a group that puts the public safety at risk by rescuing and adopting out dogs that are too dangerous to be in the company of people.
In the coming weeks I plan to write at greater length about the turmoil at the city shelter and the fierce debate between two opposing camps in local animal welfare advocacy, both of which claim that the other is a threat to furry friends.
The local controversy is shaped by a number of unique local factors, but it is a symptom of a broader national debate among animal welfare groups over whether "no-kill" policies such as Austin's are actually humane.
Watson's DPS contradiction: At the end of the year, the Austin Monitor interviews every Council member about their accomplishments over the past year and priorities for the upcoming one. Mayor Kirk Watson says that his unilateral decision to partner with the Texas Department of Public Safety was a success:
Watson said the assistance from the state was needed because of APD’s staffing issues. He said he won’t pursue another restart of the partnership.
“Looking back on that, I don’t have any regret and I would do it again. If I were going to tweak it, in 20/20 hindsight, I think there may have been a little bit more time between the idea and talking to people and then putting the idea into play,” he said. “We really have a need in this town for more police. And the idea that there’s an opportunity to have more resources at no cost of the city put into play is meaningful.”
If he doesn't have any regrets, then why did he end the partnership? And why doesn't want to start it again? It's not like police staffing has since improved.
These two things are not alike: Mackenzie Kelly, Council's lone Republican, explains her vote against the HOME initiative:
“The city should take an all-hands-on-deck approach to helping ease the burden of individuals who are renting and trying to buy homes here in Austin because it is extremely expensive for someone to live here,” she said. “I understand that (the HOME initiative) is not all going to happen overnight. There’s no way that could happen. But I would like to see it slowed down to the point where people had their expectations managed.”
The effects of HOME are already going to be extremely limited and will only become visible very gradually.
Kelly's effort to promote the conversion of commercial properties to housing is appreciated (the existing commercial-to-residential density bonus was struck down by the most recent NIMBY lawsuit) and incentivizing developments to include public safety facilities on-site is cool too, although will probably be extremely rare. But I'd take her commitment to addressing the housing/homelessness crisis more seriously if she didn't regularly vote against funding for affordable housing projects. On Nov. 30, for instance, she voted against allocating funds that have already been approved by voters to 10 housing projects, without offering any explanation.