On August 1, 1957, the weekly meeting of the City Council of Austin, Texas took place in the Council Chamber of City Hall. On the agenda: urban renewal and land use resolutions; construction contracts for gas mains, concrete culverts, and street paving; various building permits; and questions about the extent of the fire protection districts. The meeting lasted six hours and twenty minutes, with very likely a break for lunch.
Which item led off the morning, seemingly most pressing in everyone’s mind? After an invocation by Mr. B. R. Reynolds of the Y.M.C.A., and approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, the August 1st minutes read:
“MR. GILBERT SMITH, and a delegation, appeared before the Council stating the area up the lake was infested with flies and mosquitoes, had lots of moss and green scum, and asked that something be done right away, and suggested lowering the lake to get rid of the weeds. The Mayor stated that the council had promised that if the weed cutter did not do the job, that the lake would be lowered at a suitable time. The City Manager gave a report on the weed cutter operations stating operations had been slowed down by six weeks by the rises in the river; that the mower did do a good job; and that if another mower or additional men were added, and it did not do the complete job, he would recommend lowering the lake a very few feet.
“Mr. ED GRIMMER stated if the weed cutter operated eight hours a day, instead of about three, the problem would be solved, and he did not want the lake lowered. Mr. TOM BRADFIELD asked that the lake be lowered at a satisfactory time. The Mayor stated that the cutter should be operated ten hours a day at this time of the year, and he asked that a daily report be [made] on its operation. After much discussion, the matter was turned over to the City Manager.”
How times stay the same. Anyone who has ever attended a city council meeting has experienced the turmoil of a fiercely debated local issue which ends up unresolved. The qualities of the best City Managers through time have probably been similar to those of cat-herders.
Image Credit: Neal Douglass/The Portal to Texas History, UNT Libraries