Have y’all seen the latest on the Robert E Lee Rd name change? I bet not because the COA has been maintaining radio silence while making their standard backroom deals. I figure that, after they’re done deciding what they’re gonna do, they’ll let us know. Have Texas open meetings violations taken place? Probably. I don’t know the law but these people seem to pretty much ignore legal technicalities unless someone calls them on it. Then they get their legal dept geared up to justify whatever it is they’ve done or want to do.
Ya think that might have something to do with why the state is always busting Austin’s balls? Like for instance with Kitchen’s cab company funded anti-Uber campaign where she made every driver out to be a rapist or something. It’s so easy to smear the powerless little guys while appearing to be the valiant savior! Well, mission accomplished I guess, if the mission was to make it harder for those without a law degree and a cush govt job to get by in Unaffordable Austin.
Sorry. I get on these tangents sometimes. Back to the topic at hand. It turns out that quite a bit has been going on. If you’ve seen the news, please tell me where it’s been reported. The principle of transparency in democracy dictates that we, the people, are an informed public. I personally haven’t seen or read anything in the media about the name change for months. Nobody has replied to my request for more info in this forum.
Remarkably, there has not been even one post related to the Robert E Lee name change on the Zilker listserv - you know, the one that is not affiliated with ZNA but just looks like it is. The one that some readers here have been banned from for … well, just because. I think I might try to post a variation of this over there just for grins. I’ll clean it up first. I bet they block it anyway. After all, why would people in the neighborhood need to know anything about an important issue affecting many people in the neighborhood? In the interest of civility, it’s better to keep the discussion to lost & found pets, etc.
I have some time right now, so I thought I would share an update to my personal saga. This chapter is rather long, so grab a beverage, get comfortable, and settle in for more intrigue as we enter the bizarre realm of city government. But first, you might want to note that there is a series on Fox News called Legends and Lies. Set your DVR for tomorrow’s episode because it’s supposed to be about Robert E Lee. It’s an hour, showing at 7:00pm and again at 10:00pm. I pretty much watch all history shows, and I read history - a lot.
Okay, let’s take a step back in time. Take my hand and we’ll experience the mysterious world of city govt together from when this name change idea really got rolling.
We all get frustrated by the city bureaucracy. I’ve wasted untold hours in it. But some have found a shortcut to getting things done. It’s a little risky but that’s true with anything worthwhile, right? Next time you have an issue that you would like addressed, why not consider vandalism? As shown by this example, it turns out, vandalism works!
August 13, 2017 - https://www.statesman.com/news/local/south-austin-robert-lee-road-signs-vandalized/oaZeLbmK4lOnwtY56DJNRO/
August 15, 2017 - Our City Council, always watchful for unlawful acts like destruction of public property that cost taxpayers while damaging the aesthetics of our beautiful city, were quick to swing into action. What could they do? The Monitor gave what was probably the most detailed report: https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2017/08/council-member-wants-officially-rename-robert-e-lee-road-take/
So, as we see, the best way to get these bureaucrats to take decisive action is thru the destruction of public property. If we learn nothing else, this is a worthwhile takeaway. But wait. There’s a stumbling block. Reading the report by Audrey McGlinchy, you may have noticed that there is a small matter of public input by those most affected by a street name change:
Once someone brings an application forward, the city mails support forms to all the property owners on that street. If less than 50 percent of the property owners agree with the change, the application goes no further.
Yesterday, I contacted McGlinchy and asked her to check with CM Kitchen about this because it seems it doesn’t quite work this way. At least, not in this case.
Some may recall that I saw thru the plot and reported in this forum that there appeared to be political skullduggery taking place. The obvious indicator to me was the choice for the new name. While I have been pursuing a deserved opportunity to participate in the process I learned of only by reading a post by a neighbor on the BHNA listserv, I’ve learned nothing to dispute this conjecture. In fact, it’s been reinforced time and again as I persist in my effort to be heard. Here’s the beginning of the most recent email I have received from Lauren Seyda (4/2/18):
You ask a lot of good questions in your email. First and foremost, attached is a property owner response form for you to complete and submit back to me. I will provide it as Council backup document with the other forms. I should have sent you this form initially, my apologies.
Cool. Only a couple months of presenting evidence in the form of legal property description, reference to plats, cajoling, begging, wasting hours researching and writing, and just general persistence in the face of mindless bureaucracy, and success! You too, can succeed. Just sacrifice your life. You only have one to give for your city, so make it count! Note “a lot of good questions.” These are questions that largely go unanswered. But one relates to what Lauren calls a “property owner response form.” The rest of her first paragraph addressed one issue as follows:
You make a sound point in regards to calling it a “support” form; the name of this document can change and I will make the change on street name change cases moving forward; it is simply procedural and was named as it is when my predecessor managed the street name change program.
Well, ya gotta take small victories where you can get em in these parts. Note that bureaucrats are never responsible, and they’ll let you know that. See, the form that was sent out to 289 recipients asked for them to return it in Support of the name change. It was not worded like a vote. Here’s the way I presented it to her:
…why is the heading Street Name Change Property Owner Support Form? The implication is that support for the change is sought. That was the first thing I noticed when I saw it. I thought is was biased in favor of the change. Why doesn’t this notification just say something neutral like Proposed Street Name Change Property Owner Notification?
The wording is intended to elicit support ONLY. If you are opposed, the implication is that you need not return the form. One gets the impression that not returning the form is the easy way to vote against it. In fact, my neighbor, who did receive it initially, thought exactly that. Then, if you don’t like the idea that the street will renamed for a bureaucrat based on her being a black female instead of for someone famous and courageous, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t run the risk of having social justice warriors label your comments as having racist overtones, like Stan Ostrum did to me to justify kicking me off the BHNA listserv.
So now I can finally express my opinion on the official Form as a “backup document,” whatever that means. I think it might mean a non-voting opinion or something. A couple months of back & forth with Lauren might tell me what it means exactly. Probably not worth it. I haven’t done it yet. One reason is that it turns out the votes don’t matter anyway. That’s right. Those of you who thought you were participating in a democratic process of some sort, the joke’s on you.
See, despite the intentionally(?) misleading wording, the vote of those who returned the form was 45-20 against the name change. Of those who actually own property on Robert E Lee, the vote was 28-12 against the name change. Oh, and BTW, the person who started this thread, as well as most of the other recipients of the Support form, received it “in error.” I’m not making this up. I have it in writing. And the result of all this charade is the City Council will decide anyway. Did anyone see the notice of the public hearing? I thought I was paying attention but I seem to have missed it. Lauren says it’s April 26.
But wait - There’s more. I got a surprise phone call on Thursday, March 29. It was none other than our favorite local Social Justice Warrior (SJW). This is the person who submitted an application for street name change to honor a person, place, institution, group, entity or event, per city code 14-5-4(7). Specifically, she wrote:
It is prudent to honor a person that is more aligned with the City’s values of diversity and inclusion and the Imagine Austin Vision of valuing and respecting all of its people.
There is so much wrong with this, I could write 20 pages on it. But I’ll spare readers that and just touch on a couple things. First, of the valid reasons for a street name change in the city code, this is the only one she could remotely invoke. Second, it doesn’t really even qualify under that reason because her wording belies the real reason for the change, as if we don’t already know. What does “more aligned with the City’s values” mean? Does CM Kitchen, by virtue of her office, determine city values? This name sure doesn’t reflect my values. Apparently, it doesn’t reflect the majority of respondents to the support form values either.
But what is going on here in essence is not the honoring of someone. It is the dishonoring of Robert E Lee. That’s not one of the acceptable reasons for a street name change. Honoring and dishonoring are not the same thing. Actually they’re antonyms. But in CM Kitchen’s and her City Council’s SJW world, honoring and dishonoring are interchangeable. For political purposes of course, in the quest for Diversity, Inclusion and all the altruistic things SJWs fight for. They will turn any word on its head for their noble cause!
And BTW, the first thing it says on the application form she submitted is this: Agreement of at least 50% of the property owners abutting the subject street must be obtained in order to place request on Council’s agenda. (Bold emphasis on the original form.) Ann cut off our conversation because she said she had to go to a meeting, but she said she was going to call me back by Tuesday, April 3. Since I was taken by surprise by her call, I wasn’t really ready for her anyway. I was happy she called and I was looking forward to her return call when I would be able to ask her questions about stuff like her rationale and why Council had scheduled a public hearing without the majority of affected property owners’ support. But she did not follow thru on her promise to call me back. This post is one result of her failure to do so.
One thing that really threw me off when she called was the first thing she said: “This is not my initiative.” She repeated that a couple times during our short conversation. Were y’all ready for that? I’m still processing it. Looking back, Greg Casar (D4) is the one who first came out strongly in favor of vandalism, er street name change. Hmmm…Maybe Casar is behind the vandalism. Not outside the realm of possibility. But he thought the street should be renamed for Frederick Douglass.
So, there must be someone else involved. I had already figured Kitchen didn’t come up with this new name on her own. Looking thru the likely suspects, Ora Houston (D1) takes top spot because she’s a black female. BTW, she’s also the one who pushed so hard for ridiculous capital view corridors. Stunt tower development along the east side of I-35 for the stupidest reason imaginable. I suggested it was Houston. Ann neither confirmed nor denied that it was another brilliant Ora Houston idea. Politicians are so good at obfuscation to straightforward questions.
But, at an August 15 work session, a cabal comprised of Mayor Alder and CMs Casar, Alter, Pool, Tovo and Flanagan agreed to try to pull this off. No Ora Houston but my guess is she’s hiding behind the curtain while the others lap up their White Guilt soup. Are work sessions open to the public? Has there been an open meeting violation while these so-called public servants plot to go against affected constituent interests? I don’t know. I just know that the street name change code is very vague and these politicians appear to be taking advantage of that to the max.
So, a result of that work session was proudly announced by CM Kitchen in a September 20 press release entitled “Time to Rename Robert E. Lee Road.” This is an excerpt:
The naming of local streets is an important symbol of the values that we hold, and the recent escalation of overtly hateful rhetoric and actions demands that it’s time we change the names of streets and leave behind the discriminatory legacy that we still struggle with today.
Map of Barton Springs, 1935
In the late 1920s and 1930s, when the City of Austin transformed the ranch land sold to it by Andrew Zilker into a space for public recreation, Robert E Lee Road was the name of the original road circling the Barton Springs Playground and Pool. This name emphasized the deliberate segregation of City facilities as established by the 1928 City Plan.
Fast forward to my discovery of the Support form mailing and my exclusion from the recipient list. In response to my opposition to the name change on the BHNA listserv, Mary Ann Neely, Democrat Precinct Chair, posted CM Kitchen’s claim to the listserv and expressed her support for her Democrat comrade. Let’s not forget that Lee and nearly all Confederates were Democrats. Same party with the exact same views - dividing people based on race - that’s Diversity.
I had seen old maps of Austin but I had never seen one showing Robert E Lee circling Barton Springs. I searched for this map. No luck. I requested documentation to back up both the implicit claim that the street was named to support Barton Springs segregation and that the street had ever circled Barton Springs. I asked for the source of the map section shown in Kitchen’s press release.
The result of my request for documentary proof was no reply and expulsion from the BHNA listserv. While I can no longer see posts to that listserv, others have told me that no further discussion has taken place on the topic. They wouldn’t go so far as to fabricate a map, would they? I collect maps. I have thousands of them. As I’ve stated previously, the best map I’ve found of the old road is from the 1940 census (too big to upload but I posted it earlier).
Back to Kitchen’s press release, another important point:
…by initiating the public process from Council, the application fee and the infrastructure costs of the change is not put on the requesting individual.
That’s right. It doesn’t cost CM Kitchen to do this. It costs taxpayers. And believe me, it is not cheap. Anyone who tried to do this on their own would be out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just to submit the application. They’ve got incompetent staff working on this. Look at the mailing for an small example of the inefficiency and waste. Heck, it cost $700 just to replace the 4 vandalized signs. That doesn’t include the big one on BSR.
This last excerpt brings us up to date:
…if there is not unanimous approval by all of the property owners abutting the street, then a public hearing will be held. At the end of the entire process, the renaming of the street will then come to Council for a vote.
So, according to the city code, they don’t have a valid reason for the name change. They apparently sent more Support forms in error than correctly. (There’s more to this and I’m still learning.) They excluded some who should have received the form. I’m not alone in that. They worded the mailing in a way that discourages opposition. They misled stakeholders into believing there was a democratic process underway when in fact, the process only gives stakeholders an advisory vote. They may have fabricated a map to justify dishonoring Robert E Lee. They met in a work session to devise a plan of action. They came up with a name that nobody on any of the many social media sites where alternatives were discussed ever suggested. And most disturbingly, they showed their plan to me when they threw me off one of their organizing and fundraising platforms on the bogus grounds of racist overtones.
What could possibly be wrong with all that?
Let’s see. I wonder who might show up at the public hearing. Do you think we might be treated to a series of hateful SJWs decrying white privilege, telling us how rotten Lee was, lecturing us on the horrors of slavery, invoking white guilt and just generally stirring up a lot of divisive feelings among folks who these wise city fathers say should just get along? I wouldn’t be surprised. How many people who oppose this name change do think will want to speak up when they open themselves up to charges of racist overtones? Do I want to speak my mind in public, maybe as shown on TV, and risk vandals taking action on my property because it works? My views may be in the majority but at a public hearing, somehow I think not.