WOOTEN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
Minutes of 14 March 2011
President Joy Roberts called the March 2011 meeting, held in the Redeemer Lutheran Church cafeteria, to order at 7:03 PM. She noted that there wasn’t a printed agenda – but we had several guest speakers that would start our meeting.
APD Region 2 NW (Adam) District Representative Billy Simoneaux
The first speaker was our new Austin Police Department District Representative, Billy Simoneaux Billy.Simoneaux@ci.austin.tx.us. He explained that DRs served as liaisons between the police department and the community, visiting neighborhood association meetings and handling such things as neighbor disputes, abandoned or junk vehicles, code enforcement violations, school safety, neighborhood watch and other crime prevention trainings. He spoke about the current “Train the Trainer” http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/police/downloads/neighborhood_watch_train_the_trainer_flyer.pdf sessions at 6:30 PM on the second Tuesday of each month, currently held at Pok-e-Jo’s near the Lamplight Village police station. Two of the three parts of the current ongoing program have been held, though it doesn’t matter where in the training sessions a newcomer starts. This program is teaching people from neighborhoods how to establish their own neighborhood watches. Both President Roberts and Marilyn Rogers have attended sessions; Roberts also attended Laura di Carlo’s neighborhood watch training in Allandale. Roberts stressed that the area under a “block captain” didn’t have to be large; that any size area could comprise a watch block. It is important to involve as many households in the neighborhood as possible. She secured several large maps of our neighborhood to use in plotting our watch signs, “watch blocks,” neighborhood meeting signs, newsletter distribution routes, etc.
APD Community Liaison Konnie Weller
Konnie Weller was our second visiting speaker. She is the APD Community Liaison in charge of Asian outreach. She is fluent in Vietnamese, and noted that one-half of Austin’s Asian population is Vietnamese. There are nine Community Liaisons at present, each having somewhat different charges, including some that work with the Hispanic community. The Community Liaisons are not police officers, but, like DRs, serve as links between the community and the police. They may work with Home Owner Associations or other groups in the neighborhood (civic, religious, etc.); having bicultural and bilingual representatives is particularly useful in reaching individuals who may not be comfortable dealing directly with the police. Both Simoneaux and Weller confirmed that there isn’t a Yahoo group for our police sector. However, there is a Citizen Observer link http://citizenobserver.com/cov6/app/index.html that allows citizens to stay in touch with police information (local crimes and criminals) in a real-time manner. They also noted that Crime Viewer was a tool to use to track crime in the neighborhood. Useful links can be reached through the Austin Police Department website, http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/police/default.htm (the DRs can be linked from here) or the Austin Police Association website http://www.austinpolice.com.
Kristi Stillwell of Safe Routes to School Austin
The next guest speaker was Kristi Stillwell of Safe Routes to School Austin, a grant program under TxDOT aimed at increasing the safety of children walking or biking to school, http://www.cityofaustin.org/health/saferoutes/default.htm. She said that only 10-13% of children walk to school; less than 1% bike to school. Children who live more than 2 miles from school are bussed. A corollary is that about 33% of children are overweight. This grant program has been working with Wooten Elementary School for two years, and has established two organized groups of walkers, one going to Wooten from Wooten Park Drive on Friday at 7:00 AM and one going to Wooten from Gault at Dale on Wednesday at 7:00 AM. Each group has adult supervision, and they have lots of blinky lights and reflective tape and clothing. She has had to get dumpsters moved off the sidewalks, as well as have a fallen light pole replaced, so that the walkers could stay on the sidewalks and not be forced into the traffic on the street. She said that folks who were up early in the morning were encouraged to drink their coffee on their front porches to be “safe eyes on the street” for youngsters walking to school. Parents feel that their children are more secure with other adults keeping an eye on things. Ms. Stillwell hopes that, when her grant period with Wooten is over (one more year remains), the program will continue to be supported by parents and neighbors, encouraging children to get healthier by walking safely to school.
President Roberts noted that people don’t pay proper attention to pedestrian crosswalks where pedestrians have the right-of-way. Ms. Stillwell said that she had managed to get a nearby traffic walk light lengthened so that children were not rushed to get across the street. A neighbor noted that the commuter rail crossing gates at the Wooten Drive pedestrian crossing were only horizontal to the ground about 6 seconds before the rail car breezed through at a goodly speed, certainly not safe for the children that cross there. Another neighbor thought we needed to bring the apartment dwellers in that area into our group, especially if we could get notices printed and distributed in Spanish. Ms. Stillwell said that we should work with the apartment managers, who could see to it that flyers were placed on apartment doors. A bilingual teacher from Brentwood Elementary, Melinda Bilich, offered to translate our missives.
Betsy Thaggard has put a folder up on the Wooten NA website to hold pictures of graffiti found in the neighborhood. APD encourages folks to take a picture of the graffiti and send it to them so that there is a chance to identify the signs and possibly the perpetrators. After documenting the graffiti, it is important to get it covered or removed so that the “artists” don’t get recognition. APD has a number to call for a graffiti removal team [512-854-4125 – from APD website]. Detective Bartles is the graffiti abatement guru. Images can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; use the address/zip of the graffiti as the subject line. The inbox can take large images (the default in most people’s phones and camera phones), and Det. Bartles actually appreciates them large in case they need to zoom in or enhance the image to see details.
It’s My Park Day
President Roberts noted that we had a successful day working in Wooten Park on March 5. A number of neighborhood folks, as well as Wooten Elementary parents and children, participated in improving the park. Christine Primomo (sp?), affiliated with Americorps, had secured a $250 gift card from Lowes to buy material to use for a path from the parking area to the community garden; she brought in her boyfriend and other Americorps volunteers to work on the path. An effort was made to build it to be accessible for many of those with disabilities. Work is ongoing in the community garden. [The Facebook page for the group is Wooten Elementary Nature Play Garden.] Roberts would like for the association to initiate a yearly park improvement project. Michelle Smith with Texas Action for Healthy Kids is still involved with the Wooten garden. A windmill will be going into the area, but needs some engineering and additional connections (and money) to make it safe and truly functional.
Discussion and Announcements
* Community News gatherer Marilyn Rogers reminded us that three seats were up for election on the City Council this spring. April 14 is the last day for registering to vote for the May 14 election. [One can register at the Voter Registration Office at 5501 Airport Blvd, or complete a voter registration form online at http://www.traviscountytax.org/pdfs/VoterRegistrationApplicationForm.pdf, then print and mail it to the Travis County Voter Registration Office at PO Box 1748, Austin, 78767-1748.] May 2 through May 10 is the early voting period. She added that the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods is hosting a candidates’ forum at Lanier High School on April 26. [The forum will be in the cafeteria, from 7:00-8:30. Doors will open at 6:30.] It was later noted that anyone registering to vote online needed to bring a picture ID to the polls.
* On April 9 there will be an e-waste recycling event at UT, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, in Lot 53 at ca. 2922 San Jacinto. [The event is put on by UT students in association with Goodwill and the Dell Reconnect Program to collect electronic waste from the community, reusing what can be reused and disposing of the rest properly.
Items accepted are computers, DVD/VCR players, cables and wires, fax machines, MP3 players, cell phones, scanners, printers, copiers, and gently used televisions.
Items not accepted include non-computer plastics, hazardous materials, University property, ferrous materials, paper or wood, refrigerators, and household appliances.
http://www.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=212769477425492637690.00049dec3bf90e9970d8f&t=h&ll=30.290705,-97.735984&spn=0.003695,0.003562&z=18 Because this map link extends beyond a single line, you may need to patch it into your browser’s address line.]
* Steve Rogers indicated that there would be a Wooten Neighborhood Plan Contact Team meeting next Monday (21 March) to discuss some general items. No land use changes were proposed. Topics in mind at this time: 1) reporting on a conversation with a developer hoping to further divide neighborhood duplexes into four-plexes, 2) a report on the meeting regarding the sale of the Allandale Hotel & Condominiums property, 3) reporting on the legality of short-term rental of residential property, and 4) a discussion on holding the WNPCT election this coming September.
* It was mentioned that the Lacks property had been sold to the developer [Peter Barlin] who was responsible for purchasing Penn Field on South Congress, as well as other Austin properties.
* The used car lot at Anderson and Burrell had been cited by Code Enforcement as an illegal junk yard, violating its zoning. Multiple calls had been made on this property.
Treasurer Opie Gonzalez stated that the bank balance at the beginning of January was $2,072.40. Petty cash remained the same, $16.27. There were deposits totaling $180.00 ($5.00 from dues, $175.00 for advertisements in the newsletter). A check for $192.00 covered expenses at Champion Printing for the last newsletter. This brought the bank balance to $2,060.40 at the beginning of February. We had $125.00 in newsletter ads in February and $10 in dues, bringing our March starting balance to $2,195.40. There has been one $5.00 deposit for dues so far in March; no checks have been written. The balance at the time of the meeting was $2,200.40. We talked at the January meeting about keeping a $1000 buffer in the account to stave off bank fees. Treasurer Gonzalez thinks it would be prudent to bump the buffer up to $1,500, in case the bank decides to raise the minimum no-fee amount. A member suggested that Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union had a low-cost account that we might use. There was some discussion about not-so-nice comments on the Yahoo group, with a question of whether or not all of those expressing anger/angst were WNA members (not a criteria for being in the Yahoo group). The discussion then turned back to money matters, with some members wanting to divest the association of some of its surplus bank balance. There will be a call for suggestions on projects that WNA might fund. It was noted that, should Wooten Elementary be the chosen recipient, the money should be specifically directed toward the goal the association was supporting.
[As a reminder, Wooten Neighborhood Association is a 501(c)(4) organization that is exempt from federal income tax, the state franchise tax, and the state sales tax (for taxable items purchased that relate to the purpose of the organization). We can lobby, and we can engage in political campaign activity, so long as it is consistent with our purpose and is not our primary activity. Donations to WNA are not deductible, as our 501(c)(4) status is not that of a public entity (a subset of a local government).]
After this discussion, Marilyn Rogers moved to approve the minutes as previously distributed (announced on the listserv and placed on the WNA website); Janie Riley seconded the motion. The minutes were approved.
* Several members reported that shopping carts from Walmart, etc., in Northcross were showing up around the neighborhood. Store managers have been alerted to this, though no action to corral the carts seems to have occurred yet. Members discussed several possible options. We should check with Allandale, Crestview, and North Shoal Creek NA’s to see if the incidence of abandoned carts has escalated in their areas, and ask if have they come up with a solution.
* Joshua Merritt reminded us that there is now a Wooten group on Meetup.com. The plan is to have an informal meeting such as a picnic once a month in the park, something that would help to promote park use and community awareness.
*Wooten resident Brad Jackson told of his dustup with the Toyota dealership on Research over bright lights beaming into Wooten neighbors’ yards in violation of local code. Code Enforcement has cited Toyota on this violation of unshielded lights, and Toyota management is refusing to cooperate, forcing the city to take them to court. Their defense seems to be that the lights were in place before this particular code issue was written, so they are grandfathered and don’t have to follow code.
A motion was made by Betsy Thaggard to adjourn the meeting; it was seconded by Janie Riley. The meeting was adjourned about 8:15 PM.
The next WNA meeting is scheduled for 9 May 2011 at 7:00 PM.