Barbara Jordan Celebration, Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee and more

Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 30, 2014

CHARITY: People of good will gather to toast the Trinity Center. The Barbara Jordan Celebration elicited the evident faith, hope and charity from a hundred or so guests to benefit St. David’s Episcopal Church’s ministries for the homeless. Led by the radiant Irit Umani, the Trinity Center daily unites staff members, volunteers and neighbors to complement the work of Caritas of Austin, Salvation Army, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, Mobile Loaves and Fishes and the Ending Community Homeless Coalition. The Pat Hazel Awards, named for the late priest, law professor and advocate for the homeless, went to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for providing Sunday Trinity Streets services and Tuesday showers for women, as well as to Dom Incollingo, longtime volunteer. (Nice to catch up briefly with the beneficent Diane Holloway, Ben Sargent, Catherine Robb and Michael McGill.)

SCHOOL: The costumes! The jokes! The spelling! Austin’s Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee is still a total blast. Teams of three contestants represent various Austin entities, including the Austin American-Statesman. They dress in goofy outfits and bring along excitable cheering squads to the Topfer Theater spell-off. The proceeds, including $250 team “saves,” all benefit the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Zach Theatre director Dave Steakley and Statesman publisher Susie Ellwood judged the contest, although Ellwood abstained when the newspaper’s team was judged. It won the prize for its cheer squad. State Sen. Kirk Watson quipped left and right as the emcee. He was joined by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo during the fundraising session. Top prize for spelling the word “salmagundi” went to the Dell team, while Adlucent earned the runner-up honors. A joint crew from Kirkus Reviews and Texas Book Festival took home the costume prize for its “Old Man and the Bee” theme. Austin Babtist Women provided the priceless drag entertainment. (Go next year. You won’t regret it.)

CITY: Work continues on vision for downtown Austin’s South Shore. From Shonda Novak and Sarah Coppola’s story in the Statesman: “Lady Bird Lake’s south-central shore is a mix of old office buildings and poorly designed streets, but it could be a lively hub of retail, housing, transit and great public spaces, Austin city planner Alan Holt says. For that reason, a large group of urban planners and Austin residents got together over the weekend to imagine what the area — 97 acres that runs roughly from South First Street to Joe’s Crab Shack — could look like. Their work wrapped up Monday. City planners will turn the ideas into a “vision framework” that they’ll present to the City Council soon. Then, they’ll write a 20-year land-use plan for the area that could include new development rules and incentives. Two big hurdles: The city owns very little land in the 97 acres and has no money set aside to carry out ideas in the plan. The area is special not just because it abuts the lake, but because it is close to downtown and a future urban rail line, Holt said.” http://shar.es/Sbv2v (Planning is the first step.)

TRANSIT: City outlines potential tax bit for urban rail. From Ben Wear’s story in the Statesman: “The city of Austin’s urban rail plan, and a potential side dish of road projects now under consideration, could be financed without hurting the city’s stellar bond rating, staff money managers told the Austin City Council on Tuesday. But those plans would come with a property tax hit. Elaine Hart, the city’s chief financial officer, laid out a series of tax scenarios for a potential November bond election. The city could sell as much as $965 million in bonds for transportation over the next six years if voters are willing to add 6 cents to the city’s current property tax of roughly 50 cents for every $100 of taxable value. By 2020 — design and construction would take several years so all the bonds wouldn’t be needed immediately — the added annual tax tab on a $200,000 home would be $153, a 15 percent increase over the current bill. The analysis assumed that such a home’s taxable value would have appreciated to $255,000 by 2020, Hart said. A 3-cent increase in the tax rate would raise $440 million, Hart said, costing the owner of that typical $200,000 home about $77 a year.” http://shar.es/SbuqI (Good to know the costs up front.)

FOOD: Whole Foods cheese maven Cathy Strange. From Addie Broyles’ story in the Statesman: “Cathy Strange carries knives. They may not protect her in a dark alley, but she has to check them when she flies — which she does, a lot. Strange’s knives probe and slice and core and break cheese all over the world. Strange spends much of her life in pursuit of cheese as an internationally respected cheese judge and the global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Market. She travels about half the time, talking about cheese, working with cheese-makers and identifying stock for Whole Foods cheese cases. She judges, on average, three cheese competitions a year. At the World Championship in March in Madison, Wis., she judged three categories: rindless blue, matured Gouda and flavored aged goat. For the rindless blue judging, she was paired with a judge from Spain. Together, they faced a roster of 42 cheeses. They had four hours. When Strange tastes a cheese, she starts with her eyes. Does it have any unusual colors? How does the texture look — creamy? Chalky? Next comes the nose. “85 percent of your taste is actually through your smell,” she says. Any off aromatics? She considers what she perceives via sight and smell, then she puts it in her mouth.” http://shar.es/SbuIa (My main food vice.)

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