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Dawson Neighborhood

Police

Torchy’s Tacos Burglarized

Pic: Joey Rangel Ramirez

Officers responding to a burglar alarm observed broken glass, movement inside, and then saw a man run from the scene and jump over a fence. Shortly afterward, APD apprehended Joey Rangel Ramirez, 32, who had been released from prison only days before – serving time for a burglary charge.

Update: As initially reported, the suspect was seen in the “office area” and the Torchy’s address wasn’t specified. Further news clarifies that the break-in was actually at Torchy’s trailer location, 1311 S. 1st St, and not the larger restaurant & office at 2809 S. 1st & El Paso.

Ramirez was cut and bleeding, and wearing a torn shirt which matched material caught on the fence. He also matched the suspect clearly seen on Torchy’s security video. Ramirez denied burglarizing the restaurant, saying he ran because he simply wanted to avoid the police.

Charges filed against Ramirez on July 14 were later dropped due to “insufficient arrest affidavit”, but new charges were filed on Friday, July 29. He was not in custody as of Friday afternoon.

We hope APD have the situation straightened out in due time, and the burglar is brought to justice. Torchy’s mascot Hot Stuff had no comment, but we think it’s pretty clear that one should never cross a little devil, even if he is wearing a diaper!

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APD Bust Huge Illegal Party

Spotcrime Website

A group of young renters in Dawson Neighborhood have been holding epic parties featuring live, amplified music and crowds in the hundreds for the last four years. On Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day, they held what was to be their 4th annual SXSW party. Their facebook page showed almost 220 promising to attend, with over 120 interested. Neighbors determined that they had no permits for amplified music, crowds larger than 49 attendees, or waivers to have such a party within 100 feet of homes in their residential neighborhood. (more…)

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Dawson Honors APD Chief Slain in 1928

88 years ago, on October 9, 1928, Austin Police Chief James Littlepage was shot by a mass murderer he was pursuing for killing two women on Elizabeth Street. Littlepage died of two shotgun blasts. The killer continued on to Newton Street where he killed once more, and then committed suicide before he could be apprehended.

Today, The Austin Police Officer Memorial Project placed a gray granite marker at Trinity Abundant Life Church, 412 Cumberland Road, near the spot where he died. Please view the touching dedication ceremony below:

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Editorial: Sally Hernandez For Sheriff

Jovita Pardo, Campaign Mgr

Hi Neighbors!

My name is Jovita, and I live on Coleman St. in Dawson Neighborhood. I hope you will join me in voting for Sally Hernandez for Sheriff this primary season. Early voting is already underway in your area!

Sally has over 34 years experience in law enforcement. She began her career as a night dispatcher because she had a special-needs child she cared for during the day. Later, she worked her way up to the position of Chief of Investigations in the Travis County District Attorney’s office – and won an award as Outstanding Investigator in Texas. Sally got into law enforcement because of need, but grew to love her profession, and sought to improve it along the way. (more…)

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Front & Side Yard Parking 2016

Some folks may be surprised to see this topic come up so early this year, but it bears repeating (heh).

The fact is, the City of Austin Planning & Zoning Department recently sent out it’s mid-October, annual reminder about neighborhoods applying to “opt-in” to an ordinance forbidding parking in the front & side yards of residences. This letter goes to Plan Contact Teams or Neighborhood Associations who are in areas which have not opted-in. Our neighborhood usually becomes aware of this issue in December or February, when Dawson Neighborhood Association pipes up about it in the Neighborhood Newsletter.

Frankly, it has been pushed by aspirant figures within our Plan Contact Team as an annual, mandatory vote which the City requires us to take until we have finally agreed to opt in.

However, nothing is further from the truth!

What is it?

The effect of this ordinance has been described in a surprising variety of ways, but here is the simplest way to look at it:

Muni Code 12-5-29 – see also: Front Yard Parking

It is already illegal to park in your front or side yard, and opting-in to the ordinance changes the enforcement of this from the Austin Code Compliance/Enforcement Department to the Austin Police Department. That’s about it.

Maureen Meridith

“Basically, people cannot park on an unpaved surface according to the Transportation Manual […] whether the ordinance has been adopted or not. For areas that have not adopted the Restricted Front and Side Yard Parking Ordinance, when you call 3-1-1 to report a violation, Code Enforcement will investigate/cite. For areas that have adopted the RFYP Ord., Austin Police Department will come out to investigate/cite. I honestly don’t know if CE or APD have different response times.” -Maureen Meridith Jan 5, 2015

But, this is much less favorable for neighbors. Code Compliance will reach out to violators and give them time to correct the issue, and Police can do so also, but Police are almost certainly expected to simply issue a ticket. There is a “grandfathering” clause for folks who have long used legacy unpaved/dirt/gravel spaces adjacent to their homes instead of paved driveways, but APD cannot check on your status before citing you. If your neighbor reports you, you stand to lose a day of work and go to court to straighten it out. Here’s how Police Liaison Robert Barboza explained it to us:

APD Robert Barboza

“Front /side yard parking is normally complaint driven. In other words you call it in and we will do it. There have been times that I will take it upon myself to deal with this type issue before a receive a complaint. We try to get volunteer compliance before issuing citations. In reference driveway. I do not determine if a driveway is grandfathered. I would think since this is an older neighborhood gravel driveway would be grandfathered in. But, like it said I am not the person who would make that call.” – APD Liaison Officer Robert Barboza, Feb 11, 2015

Click for City’s full RPM Map

What is the Process?

The City Planning & Development Review Dept. maintains the Restricted Parking Map. Currently, about half of the neighborhoods in the South Side have opted-in. Momentum for this ordinance is gone, and there were no additions in 2014, and only 2 in 2015, elsewhere in Austin. Dawson Neighborhood has voted against opting-in each of the last six or more years, usually unanimously.

In my thinking, the neighbors have spoken, and should not be bothered with this vote any further!

Should the citizens of a neighborhood ask their Plan Contact Team (or Neighborhood Association, if there is no PCT) to conduct a vote about opting-in, and this vote passes, the PCT/NA fills out an application which is sent to the City Council. The Council will almost certainly vote to accept it, and then that Neighborhood Plan zone will be added to the Restricted Parking Map. APD will then be empowered to ticket instead of Code Compliance. If a neighborhood changes it’s mind, it must wait 3 years before applying for removal. The City Council may reject the application for removal.

The Push To Pave

Another issue which arises from the City’s interest in pushing for the Restricted Parking Map, is that they might use this as a means to make people pave their driveways. I guess this is good for paving companies. Dawson Neighborhood has a LOT of older homes which still use dirt or gravel parking spaces. A paved driveway is a property improvement, and so must also be added to your property description. This could raise the assessed value of your home, raising your taxes. The City’s Municipal Code says parking will not be allowed: (C) “except in a driveway or paved parking space depicted on an approved site plan.” This language gives the City the power to decide what qualifies as a “driveway”, and technically, even to ticket you for parking in an undocumented paved driveway! To me, these things all suggest a plan to eventually abolish unpaved driveways and get all driveways paved and added to the property description, for tax purposes. This whole element is a matter of personal interpretation, and is not an attempt at FUD or misinformation. The city ignores my questions about this, and fans of the ban only reply with personal attacks instead of sober counter-debate. I find that telling.

“Driveways made out of compacted gravel, cinder, crushed stone and even dirt are typically found in older areas of the City that were built before cement or asphalt pavement was required, and have been grandfathered in. However, expanding a pre-existing driveway or new parking area made out of gravel, cinder or dirt is NOT permitted. In addition, all new curb cuts must lead to a paved driveway. Again, new driveways or parking areas made out of cinder, crushed gravel, dirt, or rock are not permitted.” – FAQ

DNPCT Misinformation

DNPCT have described opting-in as a panacea of all of our problems. DNPCT Chair Pete Davis claims that objections to opting-in can only be based on misinformation. He claims it will protect property values and quell disputes between neighbors!! In contrast to this boast, one of our neighbors who speaks out in favor of it each year, makes clear that he wishes to use it to punish his next-door neighbor who MAKES TOO MUCH NOISE when he works on his vehicle beside the driveway. That’s a misuse of the parking ordinance! But worse than that, is the specious claim that the City requires us to vote on this annually until we accept it. In fact, while the October reminder letter, and a February deadline to apply have an annual aspect, participation is absolutely optional. The City makes no such order that we take the matter up at all. Yet, moments after Pete Davis was vocally corrected at the last Feb meeting, he continued to insist that (audio link) “we bring this to a vote, as requested by the City…

The falsehood possibly hinges on language from the old reminder Letter, which has been re-written this year. This phrase on the old reminder letter could be read out of context: “If your neighborhood is within an adopted planning area and has an established contact team, the application must be submitted by the city-recognized contact team.” In fact, Chair (Vice Chair last year) Pete Davis read that very excerpt out loud to support his position. However, it takes some ingenuity to mis-read it like he does. In reality, the phrase only says WHO should submit the application, should we wish to, and certainly not that we MUST. It has been re-worded now by the Senior Planner following correspondence from us this Spring.

Maureen Meridith

“You are correct in questioning this because, like you said, our process is to accept the applications during the month of February. It’s up to the neighborhoods to decide if they want to have the ordinance adopted for their area or not.”

 

“If people are reading the letter in a way that seems to them that the City is requiring them to submit an application, then I will rewrite the letter to make it clearer that the intent is to inform them of the application period, but it’s not a requirement that they submit an application.” – Maureen Meredith, Senior Planner, City of Austin – Planning & Development Review Dept., Feb 9 & 12, 2015.

Unfortunately, the new reminder letter contains language similar enough to the old letter that it can be misread the same way. Sadly, Maureen has been resistant to understanding this. Maureen Meredith and Pete Davis are thought to be friends, and it is interesting to note that Pete’s City of Austin job as LEED and Sustainability Project Manager at City of Austin obviously puts him and Maureen in a collaborative position. Probably, both of their offices are in the same building at 505 Barton Springs Road.

Unambiguously Misleading

The falsehood about mandatory annual voting has been unambiguously published in the Neighborhood Newsletter too. Here are exact quotes which Carol Gibbs doggedly refers to as mere “personal beliefs”.

Carol Gibbs

“…none of us is going to write to the Dawson Neighborhood Plan Contact Team or the DNA Newsletter Editor regarding how you believe they are going to interpret the newly revised “RFYP” cover letter and the application process.” – Carol Gibbs, Neighborhood Advisor, City of Austin – Planning & Zoning Department, Oct 30 2015.

Apr 2009 Newsletter, “…City requires we vote to opt in or out of Restricted Side/Front Yard Parking Ordinance,…”

Feb 2011 Newsletter, “The City of Austin asks neighborhoods that have not approved this ordinance to vote annually to decide whether or not to adopt these parking restrictions.”

Feb 2012 Newsletter, “Each year the City of Austin asks neighborhoods to vote whether or not to adopt this ordinance that prohibits a person from parking a motor vehicle in the front or side yard…”

Feb 2012 Minutes, “New Business: a. The annual vote to decide whether to adopt a city ordinance to prohibit front/side yard parking took place. Members unanimously voted to continue the policy of not enforcing a front/side yard parking ordinance for the Dawson Neighborhood.”

Feb 2013 Newsletter, “3. New Business a. Front Yard Parking, annual vote per COA (see p.2)”

It’s also been very aggressively misrepresented to the point that you’d think it was about something else entirely:

Feb 2015 Newsletter, “Front Yard Parking Vote – At the February Meeting we will be voting once again on front yard parking. This is a city ordinance to legitimize parking areas in our front yards, but does not require construction of driveways. Each neighborhood votes to adopt or not and to date Dawson has voted it down every year, although recently some Dawson residents have been frustrated by un-neighborly parking” – DNPCT Chair Peter Davis

Never Popular

The vote has always failed to pass, usually unanimously or by a wide margin:

Apr 2009 Minutes, “Motion to opt in defeated unanimously.”

Feb 2010 Minutes, “New Business 2. Front & Side Yard Parking Ordinance (prohibiting parking in these areas): Vote: Yes = 0, No = 13, Abstain = 0, Motion fails.”

Feb 2011 Minutes, “New Business: (b) The DNPT voted unanimously to opt out of a city ordinance that would ban parking in front and side yards.”

Feb 2015 Minutes, “Results of the Front Yard Parking ordinance vote announced: 9 in favor, 13 against, with 2 abstentions and 2 blanks. Ordinance not adopted by the DNPCT.”

The Ordinance Is But A Weapon

This ban would make our on-street parking problem worse in some areas. It could force some neighbors to apply with the Planning Commission for permitting and contract a private company for paving services, and then register this property improvement with the city. This documented improvement could raise their taxes. But to us, this is about culture more than taxes.

Friends, use of this ordinance will just result in escalated ill-will between neighbors. This ordinance is little other than a weapon for one neighbor to use against another. It subtracts from our freedom of choice as a community, and interest in passing it makes an un-neighborly statement. It simply doesn’t fit into the culture of our laid-back Dawson Neighborhood. Our neighborhood has numerous members parking peacefully beside their houses, or cars parked side-by-side on bare patches. We do not have auto junkyards or other parking-related eyesores, aside from our on-street crowding. Our neighborhood does not need these restrictive covenants to keep everything looking neat and pat! That would be the death of much of Dawson’s charm.

DNPCT should not reach for the role of a Home Owner’s Association!

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NNO 2015 Picnic Highlights

Vanderlinden

Pardo

Our unofficial National Night Out Picnic in Gillis Park was a qualified success! Honestly, not a lot of people were able to come, but when you consider how much was accomplished with just 7 days lead time, we couldn’t be happier.  Besides, there was a game on TV that night, and Austin City Limits has partied everyone out. This year’s hard working co-ordinators were Jovita Pardo and Chad Vanderlinden. Chad is an 11-year resident of Dawson, and Jovita grew up here, choosing to return and settle here again after college.

Harris

Two Adult Kickball Leagues were scheduled to use the park Tuesday Night, and we worked out separate areas for our events with them. Our thanks go out to Mike Harris of WAKA and Dave Nelson with Austin SSC. Manuel Soza of Park Maintenance opened the bathrooms for us.

Sheffield

Mike Sheffield of Austin Police Community Liaison Corp came by to donate some extra t-shirts and promotional items left over from the City’s NNO Kick-Off on Saturday. He explained that all donations taken in by them at Austin NNO events are spent on holding future Austin NNO events. They also pay for the membership with National Association of Town Watch, the sponsors of NNO, which is transferable to local groups when you register under Austin NNO. Groups must be a NATW member to compete for NNO National Awards. Local groups can register with both NATW, or Austin NNO if they choose. If we register with Austin NNO before the deadline of September 11, they will provide us with a package of promotional materials bought from NATW with the previous year’s donations.

Barboza

Region 4 Police Liaison Officer Robert Barboza came in full uniform to meet with us, between other NNO events already on his schedule. Barboza is looking top notch after recovering from shoulder surgery. He has attended numerous Dawson Neighborhood Meetings, and we’ve found him to be extremely accessible when we need his help.

Neighbors brought hamburgers, weiners, Cokes, water, chips and hummus. The icing on the top was donated by one of our favorite local franchises. Pizza Patrón at 533 W. Oltorf St. supplied 5 medium pizzas which the picnickers gobbled up! Thanks to Pizza Patrón Regional Director Yesica Cardosa, we never ran out of food, and really, who doesn’t love pizza?

From here, we continue to seek neighbors interested in forming a committee to organize a major NNO Block Party October 4th, 2016. Whether you would like to volunteer or just want to be on the mailing list to follow the committee’s work, please send an email to NNO-join@nulldawsonneighborhood.org. Meetings will be in or very close to Dawson, probably at Austin Habitat for Humanity’s Board Room, the South Austin Neighborhood Center, and Twin Oaks Branch Public Library.

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Dawson National Night Out 2015 Picnic

Give Neighborhood Crime and Drugs A Going Away Party!

 

Turn your porch light on, lock the door, and come on down to meet your neighbors at Gillis Park this Tuesday, October 6th 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10!

This is a spur-of-the-moment group picnic in observance of National Night Out. Volunteers are invited to sign up to form a committee to plan and carry out a major Official NNO block party October 4th 2016!

This committee also seeks to form neighborhood watches, with the Austin Police Department providing a 1-hour workshop on being observant and staying safe!

APD and other local dignitaries have been invited to attend, but due to short notice, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed. Also, this year’s City of Austin National Night Out Kick-Off Event will take place at Mueller Airport Lake on Saturday, October 3, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information about National Night Out visit www.nnoaustin.org.

National Night Out is a production of the National Association of Town Watch. They also sponsor a wonderful program called Project 365. It’s an initiative for neighborhood groups to identify and improve or resolve crime problems in our community within a year’s time-frame. Neighbors of Dawson would like to launch NATW’s programs here to address our own local trouble spots.

The address is 2508 Durwood Street. Look for the “Dawson Neighborhood” signs. Please bring your own food and chairs and plan for few plates of extra food to share. The park is alcohol-free and glassware is not allowed. There is a burn ban in effect, so bring only propane grills. A good idea would be to precook your burgers and weiners and heat them up again on site. We’ll share our camping stove.

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Prison Escape on Dawson’s Border

Many of us have looked with curiosity at the grim institutional complex across the street from Autozone on Congress and Chase Bank on Long Bow Lane. This is the Gardner Betts Juvenile Center, and despite the lovely name, this is not a community rec center, a career facility or a public school. It’s a prison for children who are put to profitable labor as part of their sentence.

Today, one of the inmates, 17-year old Edwin Argumendo, briefly escaped by scaling a 12-15 foot fence and fleeing down Long Bow to Sherwood. He was working on a construction project on-site as part of a vocational program for inmates.

A woman living on Sherwood reported a prowler in her backyard at 8 PM, just as he was discovered missing back at the prison. This was about a block away. Argumedo saw authorities approaching and ran, but was eventually caught behind Amco Hotel, about 8-9 blocks away, along the IH-35 Frontage Road.

The question remains unanswered, and indeed, unasked, about why Argumedo fled in the first place. We know that abuse is rampant in the Texas juvenile justice system. One reason for that could be the systemic indifference of our authorities and citizens to this situation. It seems reasonable to ask Argumedo what made a life on the lam more attractive than free room and board, with vocational training, at one of our County’s finest established institutions of social care and repair.

More information is on KXAN’s website.

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Charges Made In HEB Slashing

The APD have charged a suspect in the mugging and throat slashing of a woman in the H-E-B parking lot on May 20.

The victim was loading groceries where she was parked, on the far west side of the lot, at 1:30 AM. She was approached by the suspect, who first demanded a ride. The victim refused, and the suspect then attacked her for her purse. The suspect slashed the woman’s throat and fled on foot. The purse was found several blocks away.

Bennett

Three days later, a known violent offender named Edward Roy Bennett was arrested for violating his parole. His parole officer reported that he had defeated his ankle monitor and had not reported to his transitional living center.

While in custody, APD matched Bennett’s palm print with one found on the victim’s property. Bennett has now also been charged with Attempted Capital Murder for his role in the incident. Bond was set for one million dollars.

Harris

We express our sincere thanks to APD, the H-E-B security guard on duty that morning, and send our best wishes to the victim for a speedy recovery.

Thanks also go to our neighbor Marty Harris, for bringing this development to our attention! We rely on watchful and benevolent folks like him to help keep our neighborhood safe.

 UPDATE Nov 19: Victim Speaks of her Recovery.

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Woman Mugged at Dawson Neighborhood HEB

An unidentified South Austin woman is recovering at Breckinridge Hospital after being mugged in the west side of the parking lot of the 2400 S.Congress Ave HEB in Dawson Neighborhood. She was attacked from behind at around 1:30 AM while loading her groceries into her truck, and her throat was slashed. She may owe her life to the quick-thinking HEB security guard who put pressure on her wound while waiting for the ambulance.

The assailant is still at large, and no witnesses have been identified. Police have found the victim’s purse and have examined video footage for more information. They say a lot of evidence has been collected, and have confidence they will identify the suspect.

“Sometimes people like to park away from other vehicles, but at this time of night I would encourage people to park where there are other people coming and going; other shoppers and employees have a better eye on what’s going on,” said Sgt. Don Doyle with the Austin Police Department. –KVUE.com

 UPDATE Nov 19: Victim Speaks of her Recovery.

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