Although Laura Morrison ran for City Council as the Austin Neighborhoods Council candidate, I thought she'd at least try to avoid the appearance of cronyism. Surely she'd avoid stacking her appointments with the same old ANC activists but would mix in some fresh faces -- there are lots of people, I thought, who can be counted on to reliably toe the ANC line.
I was wrong.
At last Thursday's Council meeting, Morrison appointed Jeff Jack to the Board of Adjustment. (The BOA rules on variance requests.) I realize many neighborhood types have been complaining that the BOA has gotten too lax. But Jeff Jack? Jeff is a former ANC president, one of the members of the Waterfront Overlay Task Force, a founder of Save Town Lake, etc. He is Austin's activist-in-chief. How many hats can this guy wear?
It only takes two "Nays" votes to nix a variance. Bryan King is already a reliable "Nay." I understand Morrison's desire to put another reliable neighborhood type on the BOA, but surely Morrison could have found someone else willing to show up to BOA meetings to vote "No." (By the way, note the potential effect on restaurants seeking to switch to cocktail lounges to avoid the new noise ordinance restrictions.)
For the Planning Commission, she nominated Kathy Tovo, a former Bouldin Creek NA president and ANC regular. Why not simply nominate Danette Chimenti, Morrison's successor as ANC president? Perhaps she knew that Spelman intended to put Danette on the Planning Commission.
Especially galling is that Chris Ewen was not reappointed. Chris was a reliable advocate of reasonable density and new urbanist principles. With his departure and the appointment of Tovo and Chimenti, the Planning Commission is now firmly in ANC's control.
And then there is Morrison's appointment of long-time activist Mary Arnold to the Waterfront Planning Advisory Board. Katherine Gregor has already explained why this violates the ordinance's command that board members be drawn from the fields of urban design, environmental protection, architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, shoreline ecology, neighborhood conservation, civic art, and real property development.
Someone should just draw up a list of the dozen or so neighborhood representatives who seem to serve on every board and commission. When one is appointed, we can cross her off the list and move to the next name. When we get to the end of the list, we can simply return to the top of the list.
I thought Austin had a deeper pool of neighborhood activists.
Update -- more reactions:
Karl-Thomas Musselman at Burnt Orange Report.
Also, commenter Kevin Ludlow points to this list of citizens serving on more than one board or commission.