Austin Dispatches No. 241 Feb. 13, 2023

Feb. 1, icy weather felled countless trees, which in turn knocked out power lines for hundreds of thousands of residences and businesses, especially customers of Austin Energy.1 Even the power elite lacked power.2

Unfortunately, so did I. At about 8:45 that morning, just as I'd swallowed the last of my vitamins and supplements, and was about to begin the first of all the things I'd planned to do on the computer that day, the power ceased.

I called Austin Energy on my cell phone to report the outage. The woman who answered my call told me I could track the outage updates on a Web page.

"Thanks," I said. "But since my power's out, I can't use my computer." Also, my cell phone's basic. The Statesman reported that later that day the outage page crashed, "creating widespread panic about restoration times and reporting."3 Furthermore, Austin Water had to deny reports of a citywide boil water notice.4

For the next 10 hours, I avoided the worst of it by donning an overcoat, pacing about my unsatisfactory apartment, and cursing the people who run Travis County. Ice coated the apartment stairwells and streets, and anywhere I'd go for a hot lunch or distraction was closed in anticipation of the ice storm.5 Pioneer stock they ain't.

Frustratingly, the power briefly resumed twice that afternoon, for durations of five and 15 minutes, respectively, before an Austin Energy crew definitely restored power about 7 p.m. Fortunately, all I did in those brief resumptions was reset the ovens' digital clocks.

Other neighborhoods, even those occupied by the power elite, like Mayor Kirk Watson, or by generally well-to-do people, remained powerless longer, sometimes until Feb. 12. Now, the buzz of Austinites' discontent surpasses that of the chainsaws belatedly trimming trees.7 Incidentally, Austin Energy's 2011 decision to spend less trimming trees is a big factor in the power outages.8

By Feb. 3, even the establishment media had to concede that Austin officials had fucked up, and didn't even communicate with each other.9 Amazingly, none of those people called for wearing face diapers and lining up for injections of experimental drugs during the ordeal. After all, that's been their answer for everything the last three years. In fairness, electronic communications don't work so well when the electricity that powers them is out.

This ordeal closely follows Texas Monthly bestowing its annual Bum Steer award to the city, something that should sting Austin's power elite a bit harder.10 Early on, officials urged citizens not to remove tree limbs themselves, possibly because they fear citizens might use chainsaws to fix the bigger problems in Austin.

For years, Austin Energy's newsletters either virtual signal on matters irrelevant to its operation, or expound support of some shit fool notion at odds with best know practices of maintaining electric services.11 I'd have more confidence in the municipally owned utility if instead it proclaimed its willingness to waste every polar bear in the Arctic than see me go without power for a minute. (When the polar bears start paying my monthly bill, I'll give a shit about them.)

Until then, any time someone in the power elite opens his mouth about anything, the default rebuttal should be a reminder they can't even keep the lights on.

In matters of regular decline:

The Feb. 3 Chronicle reports the Austin Chamber of Commerce supports the Texas Transportation Department's proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through midtown, which, ironically, involves displacing, perhaps fatally, existing businesses along the frontage roads.12 The Chamber may be disappointed when it sends its next fundraising appeal.

A new survey of musicians shows they and music venues are moving from Central Austin, a trend exacerbated by the anti-pandemic lockdowns imposed by government officials. Of course, the people who dominate Austin's discourse react to this trend by advocating for more governmental regulation and subsidy, rather than looking to eliminate the tax-and-regulation climate harming the local once-thriving musical ecosystem.13

A Travis County Probate Court panel of commissioners ruled City Hall must pay $90 million to break a private company's lease at the airport's South Terminal so it can expand.14

Some jock from a small-town high school died violently in a sleazy strip mall hookah lounge near the City limits on Jan. 28.15

Bevo and Butt-heads

The Jan. 31 Statesman reports local school districts have gotten accustomed to federal pandemic relief money that's likely to run out next year.16 We've all suffered, school districts.

Surprisingly, the Feb. 7 Daily Texan cover story on the notion of the UT System endowment divesting itself of its oil and gas revenues reaches sensible conclusions sensibly. In short, UT has about 42 billion reasons total, and about 500 million to 2.1 billion reasons annually, not to heed churlish academic pinkos. Just because some Ivy League schools beat their breasts about something doesn't mean the rest of us have to follow along.17 However, if the UT System does decide to divest, I'll be happy to take those oil lands off its hands. I know how to put that revenue to better use than a bunch of grubby grad students.

Political Follies

Two of Austin's congressmen voted against a resolution denouncing socialism. Implicitly, they voted for socialism, thereby confirming they're the crypto-fellow travelers many of us suspected they were.18 Although anyone who's followed their utterances and voting records would already know that. For example, Greg Casar's grasping paw prints are all over the municipal policies immiserating Austinites for last eight years because nobody at City Hall had the brains to stand up to him.19

Business Roundup

An advertisement in the Feb. 10 Business Journal brandishes a maladroit slogan, "Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Are Exploding Across TX and the US."20 Given the continued problem with electric vehicle batteries doing just that, the company really should've picked a better verb.21

Cultural Canapés

British newspapers report John Cleese will reboot his "Fawlty Towers" sitcom, having overcome doubts he could top himself.22

On the Metro

Feb. 9: A drummer ratamacued and paradiddled on a trap kit on the streetscaped median at Duval Road and the MoPac Expressway southbound frontage road. The real news is that no one sicced the cops on him with a noise complaint, in the so-called "Live Music Capital of the World."

Feb. 11: Children frolicked at the new Round Rock Library.23 The building design makes better use of floor space to accommodate the library's collection than its Austin counterpart.24

Other Neighborhood News

KXAN-TV's traffic Web page reported a collision at MoPac and Parmer Lane on Jan. 27.

The Jan. 27 Business Journal reports a developer's plans to build residential towers in what's now the IBM parking lot at Burnet Road and Gault Lane.25 Three businesses have opened and one has closed.26

On Feb. 11, I found a penny in my apartment complex parking lot.


Home Archives


1 Anderson, Will. "Widespread Power Outages Stoke Austinites' Anger." ABJ 10 Feb. 2023: 3; Villalpando, Roberto. "Ice Storms Cut Power." AAS 2 Feb. 2023: 1A+.

2 Moreno-Lozano, Luz. "Watson: City's Response to Outages Unacceptable." AAS 4 Feb. 2023: 1A+; Osbourne, Heather. "How Families Survived a Week Without Power." AAS 11 Feb. 2023: 1A+.

3 Moreno-Lozano, and Tony Plohetski. "Austin Not Ready for Ice Storm That Has Placed 156,000 in the Dark." AAS 3 Feb. 2023: 4A.

4 Moreno-Lozano, "Watson: City's Response to Outages Unacceptable," op. cit.

5 Folio Management. "Winter Storm News." E-mail to tenants, 1 Feb. 2023; Seipp, Skye et al. " 'Stay Home and Off the Roads.' " AAS 1 Feb. 2023: 1A+; Villalpando. "Central Texas Braces for Fierce Winter Storm." AAS 31 Jan. 2023: 1A+.

6 Moreno-Lozano, op. cit.; Osbourne, op. cit.

7 AD No. 145n8 (Oct. 8, 2011).

8 "Austin Energy, Watson Failed to Communicate During Storm." AAS 3 Feb. 2023: 1A+; Moreno-Lozano. "City Manager Cronk Apologizes for Response to Ice Storm." AAS 8 Feb. 2023: 1A+; Moreno-Lozano and Plohetski. "Austin Not Ready for Ice Storm That Has Placed 156,000 in the Dark." AAS 3 Feb. 2023: 1A+.

9 "Keep Austin Steer'd!" TM Jan. 2023: 78-79; Wright, Lawrence. "No City Limits." NYR 13 Feb. 2023: 34-39.

10 AD No. 231n6 (Feb. 28, 2021).

11 Barbaro, Nick. "Do You Avoid Driving I-35?" AC 3 Feb. 2023: 6.

12 Swiatecki, Chad. "Five Takeaways From the New Austin Music Census." AC 3 Feb. 2023: 36.

13 Christen, Mike. "$90M Awarded in Spat Over Airport Expansion." ABJ 10 Feb. 2023: 3; Osbourne. "Austin to Pay $90M in Airport Dispute." AAS 9 Feb. 2023: 1A+.

14 Osborn, Claire. "Police Investigate Student's Fatal Shooting." AAS 3 Feb. 2023: 1B+.

15 Heath, Keri. "Loss of COVID-19 Money Could Hurt Schools." AAS 31 Jan. 2023: 1B+.

16 Greyson, Samantha. "Oil Feeds UT's Endowment, As Activists Push for Divestment ... but Is That Likely to Happen?" DT 7 Feb. 2023: 6-7.

17 "Local Reps Oppose Demouncing Socialism." Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News 9 Feb. 2023: A12.

18 AD No. 236n11 (June 20, 2022); Autullo, Ryan. "Casar Leaves Complex Legacy." 3 Feb. 2022: 1B+; Sanders, Austin. "New Year, New Rep." AC 30 Dec. 2022: 12+.

19 Trimbuilt Construction. Advertisement. ABJ 10 Feb. 2023: 16.

20 Barnett, Gregory J. Vehicle Battery Fires: Why They Happen and How They Happen. Warrendale, Pa.: SAE International, 2017.

21 "Basil's Back." Daily Telegraph 8 Feb. 2023: 1+.

22 "Grand Opening for Library on Saturday." RRL 25 Jan. 2023: 5A.

23 AD No. 200n36 (Nov. 6, 2017).

24 Baird, Cody. "What May Rise Next at The Domain?" ABJ 27 Jan. 2023: 4.

25 "Impacts." CIN Jan. 2023, Northwest Austin ed.: 6-7.