Wooten Neighborhood Association
Minutes from the September 10, 2013 meeting
President Joshua Merritt called the meeting to order at 7:04 pm. He introduced Officer Joe Hebbe, our District Representative with the Austin Police Department. He has 20 years of experience with the police department and has lived in Austin since 1971. Officer Hebbe told us about some of the things he does as our District Representative: gets feedback from neighbors and lets his officers know about concerns, including information on “non-priority” issues, makes weekly contact with community leaders (if they request this), and spends time here. In our area, the biggest issue is theft, but outside of this, there is nothing out of the ordinary. In the past year from January 1- September 9, there were 55 vehicle burglaries and 44 residential burglaries in our area. In the past 30 days, there were 6 vehicle burglaries and 3 residential burglaries in the our area. He reminded us to be vigilant, watch, make police reports, and help neighbors. He underscored that it does not bother APD to call 911.
Officer Hebbe then took questions from the WNA members. Jeff asked about the transients who live under the 183 bridge. Officer Hebbe said that unless they are violating a law, such as getting in the roadway or actually sleeping (camping), then they cannot be arrested. If neighbors call every so often, the police can make a clean sweep under 183 bridge. Adam Turner said that this will not solve the problem of the homeless under 183 bridge. Officer Hebbe told him to talk to City Council. He reminded us that homeless people have rights, and that he would not take someone to jail for the petty crime of stealing a shopping cart. Adam Turner asked what we should propose to city council. Officer Hebbe said that here in North Austin they spread out and are not as densely populated as they are in downtown Austin. He reminded us that this is not the only place in Austin where homeless people live.
A manager of the La Reunion Co-op on 7910 Gault Street asked about a particular homeless man who has been flashing people at the co-op and then running away. The police have identified this person but nothing has been done. Residents have filed police reports, and there is a warrant out for the individual’s arrest. Recently, this man vandalized a car belonging to one of the residents. Office Hebbe asked the Co-op management to call him, so that he could deal with this issue. The Co-Op management gave a description of the man: he is a short, bald, African-American man named Mike who was born in 1965. Officer Hebbe asked the Co-op management to continue following up on police reports and to make a call every time that they see him if there is a warrant out for his arrest. President Merritt encouraged them to post his photo on the Wooten Facebook site. The Co-op management said they have also had issues with illegal dumping of construction and landscaping materials in their dumpster. Officer Hebbe said that a surveillance camera or license plate number would help to identify the person.
Burton Anderson asked about Neighborhood Watch. He had been leading the group for our entire neighborhood, but no longer has time for that responsibility. Officer Hebbe suggested that we divide the area into smaller sections. He said that we could have a Neighborhood Watch representative from each smaller section of the neighborhood. He said that active watch groups can be highly effective at preventing crime and catching criminals.
Officer Hebbe mentioned some ways that we can maintain contact with the police. Anyone can register for the “Citizen Observer” in which you receive real-time information about police reports in your zip code. You can sign up for this on the Austin Police Department website. Also, Office Hebbe uses email (can be accessed from the APD website) and his desk phone: (512)-974-4289.
Steve Rogers told Officer Hebbe about a letter that he had received from a woman who used to be active in WNA. She lives on Putnam near Burnet Middle School. She has had trouble with kids leaving school and then creating mischief: throwing trash in yards, messing with mailboxes, throwing rocks at houses. She had contacted former district representative, Officer Roberts, and he suggested increasing neighborhood patrols. She is uncomfortable with that. Steve volunteers at the school and will address the concern with administration there. Officer Hebbe said that he would look into this. It is possible that just a few individuals might be causing the majority of the mischief. Betsy Thaggard lives on Ohlen and sees this too. She has called the school, and they tell her to call the police. She has been unsure about when to call the school and when to call the police. Officer Hebbe asked if the students were a hazard to themselves or to cars in the area. If yes, then call the police. He said that it doesn’t hurt to call and make a report.
Officer Hebbe said that dogs are the best deterrent against burglary. Ninety-nine percent of time that home alarm system go off, the alarm is false, so they are not a priority for the police.
Jeff asked if police make regular patrols in the area or if they mostly come to our area because they have been dispatched in response to a 911 call. Officer Hebbe said that in the Northwest region, there are 2 officers per district, but the officers don’t have to stay in that area. If something happens in another area, they will leave. This ADAM district is the largest in the city, but it is not as densely populated as some areas. He reminded us that if we make calls, we will see officers more often.
A neighbor asked if there is a maximum number of renters that can live in one house. Steve Rogers suggested he call city code compliance. Officer Hebbe suggested he call 411.
President Merritt thanked Officer Hebbe for his time, and thanked new members for attending the meeting. He reminded us that you don’t have to be a homeowner to join WNA. Anyone who lives in the neighborhood can become a member.
Chris Gregory made a motion to approve the minutes from the July WNA meeting. David Tomlinson seconded the motion, and all members approved.
Marilyn Rogers made the Treasurer’s Report. We have a current balance of $1315 with 2 new membership dues pending.
Laura Lomas Tomlinson gave an update on the Wooten Park. She and JoAnne Clem Garrett are pursuing a couple of grants for the park. They have gotten new park benches, and the city will be planting 100-200 5-gallon trees. The tentative date for the tree-planting is November 9, and we will need a lot of help from volunteers. She has been in touch with staff at Wooten Elementary in order to coordinate parent outreach for volunteers. Victor Engel asked if there was a lay-out for the tree planting. Laura passed around a sketch of the design. Adam Turner asked if Laura had notified the Crestview and North Shoal Creek neighborhoods about the tree planting. Betsy Thaggard said that she would design a flier for door-to-door distribution. She also suggested that we notify the Friends of Brentwood Park group. Laura is pursuing another grant to purchase new water fountains for the park. She needs a commercial plumber to list on the grant and would like any suggestions. Also, she is planning to include landscaping around the Wooten Park sign in the grant.
The Co-op Management made a couple of announcements. They have applied for a grant to be one of 100 nonprofits in the city to get Google Fiber for the next 10 years. They will be meeting next Wednesday at 8:00 pm in the meeting room at the co-op to discuss this. They will post a notice about the meeting on the WNA yahoo listserv and the WNA Facebook page. The La Reunion Co-op is a low-income affordable housing community. They are a sister to the Sasona Co-op. They have 20 or 21 units, and their mission is affordable housing and community living. There will be some availability in November, so if you are interested, visit www.lareunioncoop.org . In order to sign a lease, you are required to attend 2 meetings first. Also, every Sunday at 6:00 pm, the co-op hosts a neighborhood potluck followed by a 7:00 co-op meeting. They will be fundraising to fix up the building and improve the safety of the area.
Adam Turner told us that the Wooten Neighborhood Planning Contact Team will be having their annual elections next Monday at Mi Casa restaurant at 7 pm. They will be in need of some new officers. Steve Rogers asked if the meeting room at the co-op might be available for small neighborhood meetings. The co-op management said that there is a small meeting room available for community meetings.
Victor Engel said that the fee for the www.wootenna.com website is due on September 24. The cost is $10.87 for 1 year, $21 for 2 years, or $52.35 for 5 years. Steve Rogers made a motion to approve the payment of $52.35 to maintain our website for the next 5 years. Patty Colligan seconded the motion. All members approved the motion.
A neighbor announced that there will be a meeting on Saturday about the new Voter ID laws. Your name has to be substantially similar on both your voter ID and your photo ID. You can go to the Secretary of State website and make sure that your name on voter registration matches your name on the your photo ID. At a recent election in Galveston, 500 of 1700 people had to complete additional forms at the polling site in order to vote. Voters should be prepared for longer lines because one-third of voters are expected to have to fill out additional paperwork. Judge Sam McGlamary agreed that this a big problem. People should not be using nicknames when registering to vote.
President Merritt announced about a letter he received from a local resident, Doll Yancey, who is a Proactive Redemption Facilitator. She takes in lost pets and tries to find their owners. Currently, she has a chihuahua and a Min Pin and has mailed Joshua photos of the animals. President Merritt asked if anyone would be willing to scan the photos to post to the WNA yahoo listserv and WNA Facebook page. Patty Colligan volunteered to do this.
President Merritt announced that we would be holding our annual officer elections. Steve Rogers explained that he, Betsy Thaggard, and Chris Gregory were members of the nominating committee who contacted paying WNA members to inform them of the election. From their phone calls and emails, they were not able to get a full slate of officers. However, they did get the following nominees: Chris Gregory- President, Marilyn Rogers- Vice President, Sarah Gregory- Treasurer. Marissa Latta then volunteered to run for Secretary. Steve Rogers made a motion to accept the slate of officers. Victor Engel and Opie Gonzalez seconded the motion. All members approved.
Betsy Thaggard asked any interested neighbors to volunteer for newsletter delivery.
Joshua Merritt asked neighbors to collect Boxtops for Education and turn them into Wooten Elementary School. Every year, the school collects $300-400 from the box tops.
Carolyn Spock mentioned that Redeemer Lutheran collects Campbell soup labels.
Adam Turner made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:08 pm. Chris Gregory seconded the motion, and all members approved.