Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Austin Mayor Will Wynn 'Takes on Traffic.'

When truck stopped traffic, Austin mayor "spewed a fog of profanity"

Wynn says he was angry at interruption of morning rush-hour

November 27, 2007

By Tony Plohetski
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

When he saw a construction truck blocking traffic on West Fifth Street one morning last month, Austin Mayor Will Wynn walked to the site, told the work crews who he was — and then let loose.

According to Wynn and tapes from a call to the city's 311 non-emergency number that were released Monday, the mayor told the construction workers at the Monarch apartments site that they had better be obeying city ordinances, have proper work permits and be insured.

He also ordered the project's superintendent not to let the driver of the truck leave until Austin police officers showed up.

"I spewed a fog of profanity that is still floating down Shoal Creek someplace," Wynn said. "I'm sorry if my language offended (the construction workers') sensibilities."

In a call to 311, the construction superintendent described Wynn as "threatening."

Wynn, who has pushed for more housing downtown, said he was upset because "thousands" of motorists were inconvenienced by the Oct. 11 incident at Fifth and West Avenue.

The mayor said he was returning from taking his daughters to school when he encountered the backup but eventually maneuvered through traffic to park at his home in the Austin City Lofts, across from the 29-story Monarch.

He started on foot toward City Hall but stopped at the construction site for about five minutes for the impromptu meeting.

During the City Council meeting that day, Wynn, who has proposed a rail system that would serve downtown to ease traffic congestion, also apologized to drivers who were stuck in traffic and said he would propose an ordinance that would limit the hours that large trucks could enter parts of downtown, particularly during rush hour.

"Had that truck driver waited, perhaps 45 minutes, simply pulled onto West Avenue, cooled his heels for an hour at most, the bulk of traffic would have been dispersed," Wynn said during the meeting.

The driver of the truck could not be reached for comment Monday. The construction site's superintendent declined to comment.

It was unclear how long the truck was blocking traffic or what it was hauling.

The superintendent was identified in a police report only as Tim.

According to the audiotape, he told the 311 operator that he "had an incident with none other than Mayor Will Wynn himself."

"He took exception with us backing a truck on our site and had quite a few words for me," the superintendent said. "And he told me not to let this truck driver leave until the police showed up."

The call-taker transferred him to a 911 dispatcher, who told the superintendent that she saw no record of anyone else calling police.

"Ma'am, could you please send an officer over here so I can tell him my story and I can let this truck driver go?" he asked. "The mayor of Austin told me not to let him go until I talked to a policeman."

The Austin Police Department also received complaints about blocked traffic on Fifth Street that were phoned directly to Chief Art Acevedo's office, but it was unclear from audiotapes and written reports who placed those calls.

Wynn said he had an aide get in touch with police.

Officers eventually showed up and warned the driver that he would be cited if he blocked traffic again.

Wynn said he decided not to propose an ordinance after officials told him that current city laws apply to motorists who block traffic.

tplohetski@statesman.com; 445-3605

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman: www.statesman.com

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