Clennon, Stiehm spar over Conversations with the CouncilPublished 6:22am Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Old arguments blossomed anew at the Austin City Council meeting Monday night as Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm and former Austin City Council Member Marian Clennon grew heated more than once over city issues.
Stiehm, Clennon and Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority Commissioner Marilyn Prenosil argued at one point over the city’s decision to switch its Conversations with the Council meetings to before public meetings. Stiehm and Clennon both left the city’s conference room, where the meeting took place, at various points out of frustration.
“They’re just here to be negative,” Stiehm said after the meetings.
Clennon asked why council members switched times from every third Saturday a month, as she would no longer be able to attend meetings. She accused the council of switching times for their own convenience rather than for Austin residents.
“Obviously nobody showed up,” she said. “You had people showing up on Saturdays.”
Attendance at Conversations with the Council has varied in recent months from three people including Clennon and Prenosil, to more than a dozen residents.
Prenosil also took the city to task over its efforts to hold property owners accountable for houses in disrepair. She argued the city zoning department hadn’t done enough to inspect and follow through on property penalties.
“It seems to me over the past 10 years that property values have gone in the toilet,” Prenosil told the council. “The city needs to be cleaned up.”
Council members argued property owners often comply with the latest complaints lodged against them, but some owners continuously fail to maintain their properties.
“There are certain living situations people have,” Council Member Jeremy Carolan said. Carolan, a real estate broker, said he was a “property rights guy.”
Stiehm told Clennon and Prenosil they only showed up to meetings to be negative without offering solutions and said the council had worked on enforcing city ordinances concerning dilapidated properties for the past several months.
“Do you want an answer, or do you only want the answer that you want?” Stiehm said to Clennon at one point. “If you don’t like the answer you just get up and walk out.”
Clennon told the mayor she had the right to do so shortly before walking out of the meeting.
She later questioned why the council hadn’t discussed a proposal from the Austin Fire Department to allow children to ride in fire engines during its upcoming open house during the council’s public meeting. Clennon said she was shocked to see the proposal and argued against it.
“There’s a huge liability on this,” she told the council.
Commander Brian Lovik told the council several fire department employees came up with the idea and submitted the proposal to the city for the open house, which will take place Oct. 9.