Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mayor – Austin Chronicle Profiles

steve aus chron(Community Matters) Nice write ups on the four candidates, two serious ones at this point. One more on Saturday. A Jew, a Mexican and an African American – each from middle class backgrounds, first in families to attend college, each successful in their careers, each committed to giving back.

Steve’s interview good – authentic, relaxed and candid.

Mike Matinez did a good job too – of course spinning his eight years on the job. The one spin I can’t abide is he now calls for accountability while Mike martinez aus chronhe doggedly defended White Construction/JW Marriott while they were flaunting the terms of their City of Austin subsidy (a la fee waivers), refusing to pay required fair worker wages. I’m glad he’s come around. 

Todd Phelps and Randall Stephens interviewed too.

Sheryl Cole has’t officially declared (she will Saturday) so not included in this round of Austin Chronicle profiles.

Lyft, Uber, Sharing Economy

lyft(Community Matters) Tensions are stretched & there’s no holding back the sharing economy. I’m sympathetic with my friends who abide by the rules & regulations, and the ground has shifted inalterably. I see it for the better. We’ve got to find a way for the two worlds to coexist.

As peer to peer businesses allow anyone to become a retailer, sharing sites let individuals become a taxi service, boutique hotel, a bed & breakfast or a car-hire at any time with low transaction costs. Yes there are some risks and consumers are willing to accept these. Peer to peer sites and those who use them monitor & rank quality & safety. While there can be shortcomings, there certainly can be from existing rules & regulations as well. Especially in Austin’s taxi industry, intentions to limit competition (whether by the companies or drivers) went too far and have backfired. It’s too late to put this genie back in the bottle. Let’s focus on how we transition into this new world and find the mutual wins – citizens’ interests should rule.

Lyft launches in Austin. Uber & Sidecar will do so too. Airbnb, Homeaway and many others are or soon will be providing individuals real sharing economy benefits.


Government for the People

(Community Matters) The audacity of overreaching regulators – “In June, 28 CBC members sent a letter to the Department of Labor, urging it to reconsider a rule requiring retirement account managers and investment advisers to act in their clients’ best interests.” – How The Congressional Black Caucus Went To War With Itself Over Wall Street

Narendra Modi’s Victory, India’s Best Chance at Prosperity

modi 2(Community Matters) a Modi success in reforming and igniting India’s economy would reform history and reshape how our world works – the potential for 3 economic superpowers, finally In the Economist: 

THE most important change in the world over the past 30 years has been the rise of China. The increase in its average annual GDP per head from around $300 to $6,750 over the period has not just brought previously unimagined prosperity to hundreds of millions of people, but has also remade the world economy and geopolitics.

India’s GDP per head was the same as China’s three decades ago. It is now less than a quarter of the size.

Mr Modi, by contrast [to previous president, Mr Singh, a Gandhi family retainer], has huge authority, both within his party and in the country. The BJP’s victory owes something to good organisation but most to its leader’s appeal. Not since Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 has India had such a powerful personality in charge.

Mr Modi has an outright majority—282 of the 543 elected seats in Parliament’s lower house. . . . [and] a mandate for economic reform. 


(Community Matters) Interesting to reread this 2009 Vanity Fairs article on Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., & the New York Times in light of today’s results. The VF was more about Sulzberger but foresaw the Times in bankruptcy – because mostly of devastatingly bad billions invested in stock repurchase and secondary business priorities over journalistic.

NYT stock

And, since, the stock price has increased from $6.49 to $14.93 (a 26% annual return as opposed to 20% for the Dow). hmm, yet net income continues to shrink despite mostly flat revenues. 1Q14 ad revenues up and dividends reinstituted. Though, pessimism about stickiness of ad revenue increases and growth in digital platform.

Debt to equity has improved considerably from 3.9x to 2x – thanks in great part to divestitures ( group ($300mm) and equity stake in Fenway Sports Group ($30mm)) – though still high & risky for a declining industry. Cash from operations continues to decline – from 153mm in 2010 to $35mm in 2013.  The company did repay Carlos Slim’s $250mm 2009 loan a couple of years ago. Reports that Mr. Slim will exercise his warrants ($6.36 exercise price) to increase equity from 8% to 17%. Will be enlightening and foretelling to see if he takes his gain or holds.



Romans in Mexico City

(Community Matters) Andrew Roman and I flew down to meet my & Steven’s godson Will Roman. Will’s been touring Mexico in his jeep for the last six weeks – crisscrossing the entire country.

10354677_10102114060662577_3139595419766844759_nrefreshments at San Angel Inn after touring Trosky’s and Krida Kahlo’s houses. Found & reengaged my old guide/driver Jesus Maldonado who drove me & Steven (& my parents, and Margaret & James Michael) regularly back in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Frugal Innovator

(Community Matters) ” . . . its ability to turn firms around deftly, execute strategies economically and overcome obstacles nimbly suggests that a better description of its strength would be ‘frugal innovation.'” Lenovo in Economist

Amanda Chiampi & Jason Laufenberg

(Community Matters) We hosted an engagement party for Amanda & Jason last night – we adore these two.


Ruby (a la Amy & Palo) & Izzy (Mary & Jason) are pretty cute too. 


1466117_10202905680016386_3281085871072175571_n(Community Matters) Unfortunately, the return home was a little eventful. For no discernable reason, my back went out while we were waiting at the airport. By the time we departed, I could barely walk. I needed a wheel chair to get off the airplane and to the car. Spent Thursday on telephone with one doctor and in with two others for treatments. It’s some weird flareup which happens once a year or so. Better now but promised to limit stays on my feet during the next week. ughhh

New York

(CommunityMatters) quick trip to NY, accompanying Steven on business. Dinner with Luke Hayes on arrival, then with Rob Oppegard, Suzanne Tick, Emily Keeton & Noah Gillespie. Spent a lot of time at the Judd Foundation with Richard Griggs (two tours, one with Steve) and lunch with Richard discussing Judd Foundation, its mission and future. Totally blown away by the place – highly recommend a tour when next in New York.

Donald Judd purchased 101 Spring Street in 1968: it’s a 5-story cast-iron building designed by Nicholas Whyted, built in 1870. First floor gallery space, second floor dining and kitchen, 3rd floor studio, 4th floor “formal” living space and 5th floor bedroom. Extraordinary light, simplicity and beauty. Inspired. (sorry, not allowed to post pics)

Our first stay at the Standard Hotel – enjoyed it and the Meatpacking District.


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Ds Lose Senate in Nov if Don’t Turn Around Narrative of Healthcare Reform

(Community Matters) Spend $400 million to tell the story, change the narrative. Ds have got to turn the perception on healthcare reform or we lose the Senate in November. This isn’t a national poll but a poll of likely voters in competitive races. Immigration reform, pay equity and gun reform very distant seconds. Spend $400 million changing the story.

Playbook: POLITICO’S FIRST ’14 POLL – “POLITICO poll shows mounting danger for Dems,” by Alexander Burns: “In the [68] congressional districts and [16] states where the 2014 elections will actually be decided, likely voters said they would prefer to vote for a Republican over a Democrat by 7 points, 41 percent to 34 percent. … Both Obama’s job approval and the partisan ballot matchup are markedly more negative for Democrats in this poll than other national surveys – a reflection of the political reality that the midterm campaign is being fought on turf that is more challenging for Democrats than the nation as a whole.

“The poll reveals that voters – even in the more conservative midterm states like Georgia and Arkansas, and tossup House districts in states such as Illinois, West Virginia and California – still lean in a liberal direction on several issues Democrats have championed this year, including immigration reform, pay equity for men and women and background checks for gun purchasers.

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(Community Matters) wow – loving this artist, Hozier (f/k/a Andrew Hozier-Byrne). Heard him live (?) on KUT yesterday. Means he must be in Austin – wow, where’s he playing? 

so me: “I fall in love just a little or little bit everyday with someone new.”

check out this NY Magazine interview – Q&A: Irish Musician Hozier on Gay Rights, Sexuality, & Good Hair