Good Enough for Government Shirk

Austin Diuspatches No. 167 Sep. 24, 2013

I knew my carping would pay off. A recruiter called the other week about a job at City Hall scrutinizing contracts and invoices so it doesn’t get ripped off.

However, I pointed out the city really needs someone to scrutinize the projects long before they get to the contract review stage. That’s where Austinites really get ripped off.[1] For example, several councilmen support spending $175,000 for a bronze sculpture at Auditorium Shores in honor of street bums who’ve died in Austin. Used to be the city spent money on such works to mark its successes, not its failures.[2]

Nevertheless, the City Council shocked even me when it voted Sep. 9 against raising taxes.[3] The councilmen must’ve been in the throes of a flu.

Similarly, the Aug. 30 Chronicle reports that the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, which sounds like a comic premise invented for Austin Dispatches but is run by the Austin Independent School District, has – as we might’ve guessed – become the locus of multiple debilitating catfights.[4]

Circuit of the Americas is suing to lower the $290 million property tax bill on its Formula One racetrack. Not to seem unsympathetic, but did the F1 people consider Travis County might not be the best place if they want to keep their tax burdens low?[5]

Similarly, the Sep. 6 Business Journal reports business leaders are backing an urban rail scheme – details to be determined – but are still taking the same flawed approach of using a government bond issue, i.e., sticking taxpayers with the bill for a project they’d finance themselves if it were any good.[6] In fact, the same issue carries an editorial that warns urban rail will fail just as it did in Portland, Ore., which inexplicably impresses a certain type of Austinite.[7]

The Texas Retailers Association dropped its lawsuit against the bag ban. That decision will haunt them when the City Council decides to impose yet another onerous regulation on business because it got away with the last one.[8]

Business Roundup

After 14 months, Dell shareholders OK’d founder Michael Dell’s buyout plan to take the company private and refocus it.[9]

Corporate raider Carl Icahn slunk away with a $70 million profit from his Dell stock, minus whatever he spent fighting Michael Dell’s buyout plan in the boardroom, the courtroom and the media (in wage terms, that’s about $31,250 an hour).[10] Icahn compared the Dell board to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since serious analysts regard Putin as formidable, even effective, the comparison isn’t what Icahn probably intended.[11]

Dell will offer shareholders $13.75 per share. It’s worth noting the current stock, versus the company’s peak stock price.[12] I remember during my first contract, everyone else checked at least hourly that price, which always seemed to be going down. However, I insisted on payment in cash.[13]

On the Town

Aug. 29: Judging by the women’s dresses at Dallas Nite Club, orange really is the new black.[14] Unless it’s some UT thing.

Sep. 7: One of my dance instructors held his birthday at a Mexican restaurant in Round Rock. He encouraged me to dance with the women there, but they were obliged to dance with their niñitos.

Sep. 14: Based on my meal, I concluded the doughnut-based menu at Gourdough’s Public House is too bland to bother with in the future.[15]

Sep. 21: The new Trader Joe’s in Rollingwood resembles a Sprout’s with wider aisles and fewer items.[16] The barnburner was fond of Trader Joe’s in Phoenix, which seemed to have more items then. I don’t foresee a change in my grocery-buying patterns.

Cultural Canapés

The September issue of Real magazine reports on the popularity of custom-made ice cubes at trendy Austin cocktail bars.[17] In other words, people with more money than sense are paying a markup for a frozen version of something retailers use to dilute drinks – and not just at bars. Once at dinner, I and my brother-in-law comically ranted about restaurant beverages that are mostly ice slush with a hint of beverage flavoring. “This I why I request no ice when I order iced tea,” I said.

“But then you’re not drinking iced tea,” Sis’ friend pointed out. “You’re drinking room-temperature tea. Why don’t you just ask for that then?”

“Because asking for room-temperature tea sounds ridiculous. And the servers won’t know what I’m talking about.”

“What do you do when you order coffee?”

“I don’t order coffee,” I said – true at the time. She groaned in exasperation.

The audio cassette tape, and particularly the mixtape, is experiencing a vinyl LP-like resurgence, claims the Chronicle.[18]

Neighborhood News

A police officer wounded someone who rammed his car into a cruiser on Neils Thompson Drive, in a section of town where before nothing ever happened.[19] On Sep. 14, I witnessed the aftermath of a smash-up at Gracy Farms Lane and Burnet Road.

Whole Foods plans to finally open its Domain store on Jan. 15, after numerous delays because of the economy.[20] A boutique opened at The Domain. A flooring store opened on Rutland Drive. A clothing resale store off MoPac Expressway closed.[21]

Home Archives


[1] King, Michael. “City Council: Here’s Your Budget!” AC 13 Sep. 2013: 22+.

[2] Coppola, Sarah. “Homeless Sculpture Draws Support.” AAS 28 Aug. 2013: A1+.

[3] King. “Of Caps and Handcuffs.” AC 13 Sep. 2013: 16+.

[4] Whittaker, Richard. “In the Name of Ann Richards.” AC 30 Aug. 2013: 20+.

[5] Maher, John. “F1 Track Sues to Lower Its Tax Bill.” AAS 5 Sep. 2013: B1+.

[6] Grattan, Robert. “On Track.” ABJ 6 Sep. 2013: 4-5.

[7] AD No. 105n69 (Feb. 27, 2008); Skaggs, Jim. “Urban Rail Failed in Portland and Austin Faces Same Fate.” ABJ 6 Sep. 2013: 31.

[8] AD No. 161 (March 12, 2013); Coppola. “Retailers Group Drops Lawsuit Over Bag Ban.” AAS 18 Sep. 2013: B2.

[9] Ladendorf, Kirk, and Brian Gaar. “Dell Shareholders Approve $24.9 Billion Buyout Deal.” AAS 13 Sep. 2013: A1+.

[10] Benoit, David. “Carl Icahn Looking at $70 Million Profit on Dell Investment.” Moneybeat 9 Sep. 2013 <>.

[11] Ladendorf. “Icahn Gives Up Fight for Dell.” AAS 10 Sep. 2013: A1+; Lucas, Edward. The New Cold War: The Future of Russia and the Threat to the West, rev. ed. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

[12] Calnan, Christopher. “What’s Next?” ABJ 2 Aug. 2013: 4-5; “Icahn Ends Dell Fight.” San Francisco Chronicle 10 Sep. 2013: D4.

[13] AD No. 17n5 (June 10, 2000).

[14] Maerz, Melissa. “Orange Is the New Black.” EW 19 Jul. 2013: 73.

[15] Broyles, Addie. “A360Blast: Openings, Closings and Coming Soon.” AAS 25 Oct. 2012: T8.

[16] AD No. 157n28 (Nov. 3, 2012); “Trader Joe’s, Co-Op Open.” AAS 21 Sep. 2013: B5.

[17] Janzen, Emma. “Austin’s New Ice Age.” Real Sep. 2013: 12-14.

[18] Stegall, Tim. “The Return of … the Cassette.” AC 30 Aug. 2013: 42-44.

[19] Plohetski, Tony. “Police Say Officer Shot Man Who Rammed Car.” AAS 1 Sep. 2013: B1.

[20] AD No. 159n53 (Dec. 25, 2012); Drake, Sarah. “Whole Foods at Domain? Soon.” ABJ 23 Aug. 2013: 7; Gaar. “Whole Foods’ Gateway Store Will Remain Open.” AAS 21 Aug. 2013: B7-8.

[21] “Impacts.” CIN Aug. 2013, Northwest Austin ed.: 6-7.