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Massive turnout criticizes Longhorn Pipeline’s Environmental Assessment

Tuesday, January 11, 2000 by

An environmental cause can still bring out hordes of citizens in Austin, and last night's gathering may have been the biggest in recent Austin history, far outstripping the number who attended the infamous all-night hearing over the Barton Creek Planned Unit Development. This time the perceived threat was from the Longhorn Partners Pipeline that would pump petroleum products 700 miles from Houston refineries to serve El Paso, posing not a slow deterioration of water quality but a possible sudden explosion and fire with catastrophic effects, as well as possible permanent damage to the Edwards Aquifer and both public and private drinking water supplies.

The overall Environmental Assessment (EA) for the pipeline provides a Finding of No Significant Impact. That means when the substantial mitigation elements are taken into account, no significant impacts to the human environment will result from the operation of the pipeline. Nearly 9,000 people live within 1,250 feet of the 20-mile segment of the pipeline that crosses South Austin, while 42,000 people do so in Harris County, the document states. The pipeline would start up with a capacity to transport about 72,000 barrels per day and would increase that to full capacity of 225,000 barrels per day by around 2009, according to the 1,400-page draft EA that people came to complain about.

While this outpouring of public sentiment didn't take all night, it did stretch six and a half hours, adjourning at 12:35 a.m. this morning with only a few people still in the seats at spacious Palmer Auditorium. The television cameras had packed it up hours earlier and not a dozen people were left to hear the final 35 minutes that began at midnight, with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of Pipeline Safety, and Radian International and its subconsultants wearily providing answers to some of the questions that had been posed in writing by last night's crowd.

After the meeting adjourned, Rob Lawrence, chief of planning and coordination for the EPA's Region 6 Office in Dallas, told In Fact Daily he didn't know when a decision would be made regarding the pipeline project. "It depends on how long it takes to consider comments. We also have to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And we've got a lot of questions," Lawrence said. As reported by In Fact Daily, Oct. 29, Lawrence previously said the EPA and DOT may arrive at one of three decisions:

• Stand pat–The preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact stands and there's no amendment necessary.

• Revise plan– The preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact stands but it needs to be revised or enhanced, for example to provide more mitigation.

• Order EIS–Enough information has come to light that an Environmental Impact Statement would need to be done.

Eighty-four people voiced their concerns about the impact of the pipeline project and not one of them supported it. In addition, all but one of the elected officials who spoke also opposed it, including U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, Mayor Kirk Watson, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, and Council Members Willie Lewis, Bill Spelman and Daryl Slusher. ( Council Member Beverly Griffith was on hand but did not speak.) The lone elected official to support the project was U.S. Representative Gene Green, D-Houston. "There are those of us who feel the pipeline can be built and operated safely," Green said.

Many people expressed strong distaste for the full-page ad in yesterday's Austin American-Statesman, placed by Longhorn Partners Pipeline, which said, in part, that Austin could lose the safety improvements that Longhorn has agreed to if an EIS is ordered. "So if the opponents win, Austin loses!" the ad stated.

Mayor Watson, noting that threat, said, "Don't put the people of Austin, Texas, in a Catch 22, to say if you have questions or oppose something, you lose…Don't say you will jerk the rug out from under citizens if they ask questions." Watson said the city believes data in the EA would support a finding of significant impact.

Congressman Doggett said, "My message is very direct. Put this pipeline somewhere else," a comment that elicited yells, whistles and sustained applause from the crowd, many of them rising to their feet to cheer. "We believe there is a very serious and unnecessary threat posed to the community." Doggett went on to say that during the 50 years of proposed operation a spill is a virtual certainty. Doggett said the federal government has the responsibility to prevent hazards, the responsibility to require corrective measures, and was directed to look at alternative routes, "not just the little bit you did."

Senator Barrientos spoke not to the crowd but to the EPA and DOT officials up on the stage. He said, "I recognize there are moneyed interests in favor of and in opposition to this pipeline but the No. 1 priority should be the health and safety of the people."

Council Member Slusher said democracy was at stake. "Don't get thousands of people involved in an issue like this and then tell them there's nothing government can do for them. That's how to lose faith in government." He criticized both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George Bush–now busy on the campaign trail to be the next president–for failing to weigh in on the pipeline issue. "Let's get them talking about this situation and see what they can do."

Council Member Lewis followed up on that idea, saying the American people will ask of Bush, "If he's not going to protect people in his own city, how's he going to protect us?"

Council Member Spelman urged taking Longhorn up on its threat to run crude oil through the pipeline if the EPA and DOT decide that an EIS is required. "I don't know if this is a bogus threat or not, but you'll be safer with crude," he said.

Sunset Valley Mayor Terry Cowan noted that the EA failed to even mention his city but the imminent threat to its water supply had caused Sunset Valley to provide a notice of intent to sue to federal officials over the pipeline. "Our intent is to sue if it goes forward," Cowan said. "I'm here to tell y'all it ain't over."

City officials in the Watershed Protection, Water and Wastewater and Fire departments hammered defects in the EA, saying the risk of a spill was unacceptably high and may have been underestimated; the consequences of a spill might result in killing all the endangered Barton Springs Salamanders; Fire Department concerns had not be incorporated into the EA; and a spill in the Highland Lakes would jeopardize the water supply for the entire City of Austin because if the substance MTBE, which is to be transported in the pipeline, enters the raw water supply, it would shut down the water distribution system because the city's equipment could not remove MTBE. It would take five years and $250 million to $350 million to construct such equipment.

Craig Smith, vice chair of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, said the EA did not address how to protect the Edwards Aquifer, which is the sole source of drinking water for more than 45,000 people, and overlooked public water supplies. "A contingency plan is required to replace the water supply but nothing requires them to carry out the plan," Smith said.

Two Democrats vying for the District 48 state representative's post being given up by Sherri Greenberg opposed the pipeline. Ann Kitchen said state regulations were too lax. "I do not trust that mitigation will happen or work, and the risks we're being asked to take are unacceptable," she said. Mandy Dealey said the only way to have safety is to move the pipeline to the alternative northern route, "where it would affect fewer people and be built with 21st century technology."

Highlights of other comments

A number of expert witnesses brought in by litigants opposing the pipeline testified as to the ill effects: Cynthia Lopez of the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, said, "I have reviewed a lot of Environmental Assessments and in my expert opinion this ranks as one of the poorest." She faulted the lack of quantitative analysis and the reliance on data supplied by the former and proposed pipeline operators, which is subject to bias.

Royce Deever, an engineer who retired from Exxon after 33 years, said the pipeline was inspected in 1995 and found, "About 5,000 pipe joints contained indications of one or more metal-loss areas or mechanical damage. Only 4 percent of those pipe joints were excavated and inspected to obtain actual measurement to determine the actual severity of these areas and need to repair the pipe. How many of these corroded or damaged pipe joints are near schools, populated areas, rivers, and other critical water resources?" He said the refusal of pipeline companies in Kaufman County, Texas, and Bellingham, Wash., to excavate resulted in the death of five young people.

Engineer Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering said the study was flawed and underestimates the risks. She said the probability of spills was one in four in any given year, and one in eight each year on the 7.4 miles of pipeline that could affect the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. "We need an EIS," she said.

Robert Rackleff of Tallahassee, Florida, president of the National Pipeline Reform Coalition, named several "fatal flaws" in the pipeline and said, "Pipelines are virtually unregulated in this country."

Ordinary citizens came from far and near to voice their opposition last night. John Watson of Johnson City said Blanco County was one of the few counties to be designated as a priority groundwater management county. "We know what others will learn," he said. "Water is more precious than gasoline."

Raul Alvarez, environmental justice director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, a volunteer with PODER (People Organized to Defend the Earth and her Resources), and a candidate to succeed Place 2 Council Member Gus Garcia, said residents of East Austin were aware of the damage that refined petroleum products can do, because of the fuel tanks that were removed from the area. "Underground water is contaminated with the same toxic chemicals that would threaten the Edwards Aquifer if this project moves forward," he said.

Bill Bunch, general counsel for the Save Our Springs Alliance, said the project was suspect because lobbyists such as Ben Barnes had been hired to grease the skids. "The question is whether Longhorn Partners, some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, can purchase the right to pollute Central Texas," he said.

Several board members of the Save Barton Creek Association weighed in against the project, including President Jon Beall, Shudde Fath and Louise Morell. Fath said, "Anyone with experience in technology has to believe in Murphy's Law," giving as examples Three Mile Island, site of nuclear contamination, and the Exxon Valdez, which spilled oil in Alaska. She said the explosion and fire in Bellingham, Wash., had killed three children when it erupted in a fireball "a mile in diameter." Yet the corridor studied in the Longhorn Pipeline EA was only 1,250 feet.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, opposed the project and said Texas ranks first in toxic chemicals released into the community and into the water.

Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, focused on the high risk of contamination through release of MTBE, a "dangerous additive." He said Texas makes about 75 percent of the MTBE in the nation and its danger lies in the fact it is water soluble. "One significant leak from the Longhorn Pipeline with MTBE would be catastrophic to wildlife and the aquifer," he said.

Former Council Member Brigid Shea, spokeswoman for the PIPE Coalition, noted that the Longhorn Pipeline had 19 major spills between 1975 and 1995, the year it was shut down. "We are asking anyone who's an elected official to join with us and demand this pipeline be rerouted," Shea said.

Sparky Anderson, state program director for Clean Water Action, said the pipeline would push the level of MTBE in raw water beyond the allowable state limits. "The pipeline needs to be rerouted out of here," he said.

Bill Russell and Julie Jenkins of the Texas Cave Management Association opposed the pipeline. "We're not going to let them trash what we worked so hard for," Jenkins said.

Karin Ascot, conservation chair of the Sierra Club's Austin area group, was aghast over Longhorn Pipeline's newspaper advertisement. "But after I read it I thought maybe it's a good thing because it shows their true colors. They say if they don't get what they want they will take away the protective measures already agreed to. This is nothing short of blackmail," she said.

Even a Bowie High School student gave a fire-and-brimstone speech that roused the crowd. Jason Dent said crude oil is not more dangerous than the products to be pumped through the pipeline. "They're lying," he said. "Look at the faces in this room. Is this not a significant impact? These people," he concluded, "not their money."

Susan Mestier of the Barton Springs neighborhood said the EA was done only because of lawsuits. "After all that we didn't get an environmental impact statement, we got an economic impact statement."

Perhaps the most telling comment for Austinites was made by Bob Davis of Radian when answering a series of written questions after midnight. One question was, "How will the pipeline improve the quality of life for Austin?" Davis answered, "There are no direct benefits to Austin."

Resolutions opposing the pipeline project have been approved by Bastrop County Commissioners Court, Blanco County Commissioners Court, and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District.

Last night's public meeting was the fifth and final such gathering. Other meetings were held in Houston, Bastrop, Fredericksburg and El Paso.

Don Martin, spokesman for Longhorn Partners Pipeline, issued a written statement regarding the meeting. "We came here tonight specifically to listen to the local concerns, and we have heard them. Longhorn Pipeline is committed to working with the EPA and Office of Pipeline Safety to ensure that this pipeline is the safest in America. We have listened closely to the comments from the City of Austin experts as well as the public, and we look forward to working to address these concerns as we move forward in this process."

Rainey Street condo project rejected by Board of Adjustment

Smart Growth project loses, will return next month

Smart Growth bit the dust last night–at least temporarily–as the Board of Adjustment failed to muster the four votes needed to grant height and setback variances for the Rainey Street Condominium Project. The board voted 3-1 in favor of granting three variances requested by developer Gordon Dunaway for the condo project near Town Lake. Voting in favor of the variances were Chair Herman Thun and Members Frank Fuentes and Wanda Penn. Vice Chair Betty Edgemond voted no, but did not comment on her reasons. Member Barbara Aybar was absent and Dorothy Richter, an alternate member, entered the meeting after the public hearing and did not vote on the matter.

Under Board of Adjustment rules, the matter is automatically continued for one meeting because the full board was not present. So the variances, one of which relates to the 120-foot height of the building, and the others related to setbacks, will be reconsidered in February. Attorney Jerry Harris of Brown McCarroll & Oaks Hartline and consultant Sarah Crocker, who represent Dunaway, said they would try again next month. However, they do not know Edgemond's objections to the 81-unit project.

Rainey Street resident John Umphress, husband of former Council Member Brigid Shea, said he and his neighbors support the project and the variances. "It fits with the neighborhood," he said.

Tomas Salas, planning and development manager for the Mexican American Cultural Center, said his organization had worked with Dunaway and believe the condos will be "a great project for the neighborhood."

Rose Marie Sauer and Holland Brown, both residents of the Towers of Town Lake, said they and other residents of their building object to the project. Brown said the proposed height would reduce views from the Towers building and reduce property values.

Fuentes made the motion to grant the variances. Thun said the fact that the City Council granted DMU (Downtown Mixed Use) zoning showed that the 120-foot height was anticipated.

Dunaway told In Fact Daily he is planning on moving to Austin. Asked where he would live, Dunaway said he wants to live in the project, but may have to buy a house elsewhere, perhaps in Tarrytown. Dunaway said he has between 25 and 30 reservations for the units, with the smallest 1,300 square feet and the largest 6,000 square feet.

Raul Alvarez bids to succeed Gus Garcia on Austin City Council

Backing of environmental groups and East Austin community boosts chances

Raul Alvarez represents a new breed of Hispanic political candidates for Austin, a young man with a good education and deep experience in both community work and the environmental movement. He is but one of the people who will be working to win the Place 2 seat on the City Council being given up by Gus Garcia.

Born and raised just a spit from the Mexican border, in 1985 Alvarez graduated at the top of his high school class in tiny Rio Grande City, winning a full scholarship to prestigious Stanford University, where he majored in industrial engineering. He came to Austin in 1991 for a master's degree in community and regional planning from the University of Texas. While intellectual, Alvarez is not pointy headed about it. He has a history of deep involvement in community grass-roots programs.

At age 33, Alvarez, if elected, would become the youngest Hispanic ever to sit on the Austin City Council. John Treviño Jr. was 36 when he broke the barrier to become the first Hispanic elected to the council in 1975. (Treviño had lost a race two years earlier to Lowell Lebermann.) Robert Barnstone was 39 when he stepped onto the dais. Gus Garcia was 57. "More power to him," Treviño says of Alvarez's candidacy. He says too many politicians lack the necessary passion for politics today. "You need young folks to grab it by the horns and make the community better," Treviño says.

Alvarez claims he worked to empower less advantaged people in the community even before he came to Austin. While at Stanford, he tutored elementary students, taught English to adults and worked with senior citizens, he says. In East Austin, as a volunteer with PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources) since 1992 and a board member, Alvarez led three neighborhood transportation plans that have produced much needed sidewalks, bus stops, bus shelters, and intersection improvements for better safety and quality of life in the Gardens, Montopolis and Johnston High School areas. He led transportation planning for the Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan approved by the City Council. He also claims experience working with youth on issues such as teen pregnancy. Alvarez served as an environmental representative on a City Council Task Force negotiating development regulations, as well as he Mayor's Mobility Task Force formed to help solve the growing crisis in traffic.

As a PODER board member he has the full support of Executive Director Susana Almanza, one of the two paid employees on the PODER staff. "He's put his expertise to the benefit of the community," Almanza says, reeling off a list of specific safety improvements put in East Austin neighborhoods resulting from his initiative. She says that Alvarez has put in hundreds of hours of volunteer work with PODER and linked neighborhood efforts with the University of Texas to bring students to do such things as traffic counts and make reports to the community. Almanza says Alvarez also works with her to write grant applications that bring in money to sustain the organization, which does not take funds from governments or private companies. "He's a blessing to us. He's a blessing to the community," Almanza says. "He's advocated for all of us," she adds. "He could be making big bucks but instead he's working for the community."

"I'm supporting him all the way," says Sabino "Pio" Rentaria, chair of the United East Austin Coalition, a group that works to preserve neighborhoods and the environment in areas negatively affected by industrial zoning in East Austin. Rentaria praises Alvarez' work in the Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan and for being able to work with different factions. "He's very knowledgeable," Rentaria says. "He's young and energetic. We like the way he works and thinks."

Karen Akins, executive director of the Trans Texas Alliance, a nonprofit group working on transportation issues, backs Alvarez, who is a board member of her organization. "I've known him for years, working on child safety and neighborhood issues," Akins says. "He worked with PODER and put together a basic document so that people could advocate for themselves." She praises Alvarez for having a "great air of civility." "He reminds me of Gus (Garcia) because he can get respect for the way he does things, and for staying above the political fray…I'm just thrilled he's running for council."

As environmental justice director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter for the past year–not to mention four years of work before that as a legal assistant at one of the state's premier environmental law firms, Henry Lowerre Johnson & Frederick–Alvarez packs powerful appeal for mainstream environmental groups.

"I'm supporting him," says former Council Member Brigid Shea, who was founding director of the Save Our Springs Coalition (forerunner to the Save Our Springs Alliance), which won passage of the Save Our Springs Ordinance in 1992. "He has tremendous integrity," she says. "He's young but I don't know anyone else on the council or in the community who's done the community work he's done."

"I think he's running for the right reasons," says George Cofer, programs manager for the Save Barton Creek Association. "I was looking for somebody who would be a champion for East Austin. He will advocate for equity issues." Cofer adds, "A lot of East Austin political folks have baggage about which clique they were part of. I'm glad he's not part of that."

Gavino Fernandez Jr., coordinator for El Concilio, a coalition of eight Mexican-American neighborhoods, says his group would prefer former County Commissioner Marcos de Leon, if he runs, or alternatively Rafael Quintanilla, who supported de Leon on the Commissioners Court. (Quintanilla, an attorney and board member of Austin Community College since he was appointed in May 1997, filed his treasurer's statement yesterday and says he will run.) Former State Senator Hector Uribe is also a possibility, although he says he has no plans to run and may defer to Quintanilla or Manuel Zuniga. (Zuniga said last week he would definitely run but told In Fact Daily yesterday that he had given his word if Quintanilla runs he will not run, and so will withdraw.) Bobbie Enriquez, former executive assistant to Gus Garcia, placed fourth in the five-way race for Place 5 in 1997 that was ultimately won by Bill Spelman. She's reluctant to step into the ring again. "I'm getting a lot of pressure to run but I'm still undecided," she tells In Fact Daily.

Fernandez says, "We will support a native son or daughter before we will entertain any person not from this area, an Austinite." Of Alvarez, Fernandez says, "His lack of experience in public policy compared to other front-runners doesn't help him either." He says Alvarez was "a welcome resource" in the community for the work he's done through PODER, "but that's not the criteria to use for a candidate to represent our agenda. He is being subsidized by the environmental community and we'll end up with another Gus Garcia–and that's what we don't want."

Alvarez's campaign consultant is Todd Main, who heads Texas Campaign for the Environment. Main guided the winning council campaigns of both Beverly Griffith and Willie Lewis. In addition, Blizzard Fawal & Associates are on board. Mike Blizzard was campaign manager for Bill Spelman's win over Manuel Zuniga in 1997 and was field director for Daryl Slusher's victory over Jeff Hart in 1996. Fawal is president of the Save Our Springs Political Action Committee. This team makes for a high probability of endorsements by environmental groups and hordes of volunteers.

Alvarez's campaign manager is Matt Watson, legislative aide to State Representative Glen Maxey, D-Austin. Watson met Alvarez during the session when working on issues such as air pollution emitted by grandfathered power plants. "Alvarez will expand the focus and make sure that eastside and southside environmental justice gets more attention," Watson says. "He's got a work ethic. He gets up early and works till late. You have to have that to get through a council campaign and to serve on the council." Watson adds, "He's got the smarts and he's got experience on the ground. I think he'd be a great council member."

Where does Alvarez stand on the key political issues?

The new candidate states his positions

While Raul Alvarez seems to be electable because of the support he's attracting, an important part of his campaign will be the stands he takes on issues. The following is a list of issues and his positions, which were edited for brevity:

Self introduction: "What I would bring is a community based perspective on how to deal with growth problems, environmental problems with water quality and air quality, and traffic and neighborhood issues," says Alvarez. "These are issues I've worked on for several years that will resonate with voters."

His vision: He would continue to pursue Smart Growth policies with emphasis on balancing economics, environment and social equity, and continue to try to build a vibrant downtown. "Part of that is creating land-use policies that will achieve that and a balanced transportation system that is multi-modal and gives good access to jobs and recreation. The final part to that is looking at how to accomplish those goals to make sure the community has a strong voice in the decisions that are being made."

Key issues: "I want to strengthen the neighborhood planning program for meaningful community participation. When we have neighborhood plans in place the council (must) work very hard to implement the spirit and letter of what's in those plans." Alvarez also says, "I want to have strong proposals to provide more opportunities for young people."

Strengths: "The community focus that has characterized my work, because that allows me to bring that perspective to the council and achieve more community based solutions."

Weaknesses: "My lack of familiarity with the political process, not having been involved in the electoral side of politics."

Obstacles to election: "Raising the amount of money needed."

Campaign finance: Alvarez says he voted for the November 1997 measure put on the ballot by the petition of Austinites for a Little Less Corruption, which brought about $100 limits on campaign contributions and other restrictions. He says he plans to live abide by these limitations.

Fair Campaign Contract: Alvarez says he will sign the contract that would limit his fund-raising to $75,000 in the general election.

Fund-raising goal: "About $75,000, the maximum." Alvarez's first fund-raiser was at the environmental law firm Henry Lowerre Johnson & Frederick where he had worked four years. He said that brought in "several thousand dollars."

Women's right to choose: Though a Catholic, Alvarez says if elected he would vote to provide continued funding for women's reproductive health services. "I'm very much supportive of a woman's right to choose. I would actually want to make sure those programs are more effective, because teen pregnancies are a big problem."

Political preference: Alvarez voted in the Democratic Party primaries of 1994, 1996 and 1998. "I tend to affiliate myself more with the Democratic Party, not that I agree with all their positions, or that they are doing enough on certain issues."

Voter registration: Alvarez first registered to vote in Travis County in 1991. He says he voted for all 12 bond propositions in November 1998. He did not cast a ballot in the May 1998 bond election, in which voters approved three propositions, including $65 million to buy land for protection of water quality.

Holly Power Plant: Should the council have kept its promise to shut down two units in December 1998? "Given the projected shortfall in terms of power there wasn't much of a choice the city had…It points to a lack of follow through by the city." He says the city should keep its promise to close the plant entirely by the end of 2005. "There's 30 power plants being constructed and there will be plenty of power, but we certainly don't want people to go without power."

Mueller Airport redevelopment: He wants mixed-use, transit-oriented development with lots of residential units, including reasonably priced units.

Preventing nonattainment: To prevent designating Austin's air quality not in compliance with the Clean Air Act, Alvarez would push for cleaner burning gasoline; a reduction in vehicle miles traveled by providing transportation alternatives in a multi-modal system and working with major employers for staggered work hours and car pooling; and a reduction in stationary source emissions. "This entails a lot of different jurisdictions coming together to look at these issues."

Light rail: "I support light rail in general. It's a mode of transportation that is essential if the city is to deal with traffic problems…As we develop the system we have to be real sensitive on how rail, and rail stations, impact neighborhoods."

Full-time council member: If elected, Alvarez says he would be a full-time council member and leave his position with the Sierra Club.

LCRA water line to Dripping Springs: "I am sensitive that allowing and providing infrastructure–water, wastewater and roads–to the urban fringe, particularly over the aquifer, is a problem because it potentially will spur (development). So I tend to say I would not be supportive of that, but I don't know all the specifics."

Single-member districts: "I'm generally supportive…because I believe it provides for fair representation and accountability.

Sunshine Project for Police Accountability: "I'm generally supportive of what the Sunshine Project is proposing in open records and open government."

Civilian oversight of police: "I support public oversight."

Capital Metro: "I think there's a lot of work the agency needs to do in restoring trust of the public but it seems they're headed in the right direction."

If on Capital Metro board: "(I would want) to be actively involved in the implementation of the rail system so there is sensitivity to neighborhood concerns."

Neighborhood planning: "I was very encouraged when they announced they were going to move forward in a more comprehensive way in neighborhood planning around the city."

Smart Growth incentives: "I believe that in order to accomplish the goals of having more development in the central city that one of the tools for accomplishing that is to have an inducement for development incentives. I support that in theory and looking at where the money comes from."

Gotham condo project: "I would have voted against it."

Longhorn pipeline: "I would be supportive of a more comprehensive study in the form of an EIS ( Environmental Impact Statement). I don't think the impacts on neighborhoods and the impacts on drinking water have been adequately represented."

East Austin: "The quality of infrastructure is not what it should be. I would like a comprehensive analysis of the infrastructure so people who live here can have something comparable to what everyone else has. The other side is what development should look like, particularly along rail corridors…There needs to be sensitivity to what impact development will have on surrounding neighborhoods. This brings into play all the problems with industrial development."

Closing statement: "I think having someone like myself on the council will bring a community perspective so that the community is actively involved in decision-making."

Zuniga backtracking…The City Council races are beginning to slowly shape up. Manuel Zuniga, who strongly stated last week that he would run for the Place 2 seat being vacated by Gus Garcia, is bowing out in favor of Rafael Quintanilla (see story on Raul Alvarez above). Zuniga said he had assumed Quintanilla would not run because of his delay in making a decision. "I feel for the Hispanic community to come up with a candidate that has a prayer against the SOS candidate, there can only be one true candidate that is of the community," Zuniga says. Of SOS, Zuniga says, "They're great. They deserve political power they have because they vote, but the other side is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We deserve a voice."… New candidate… Bill Spelman said last night he's still undecided about whether to run for a second term. Meanwhile he's drawn a challenger in Chip Howe, a clinical coordinator for brain-injured adults with the Mary Lee Foundation Rehabilitation Center. He's a single father of a 22-year-old son who graduated from West Lake High School. Howe says he moved into Austin about five years ago, after his son graduated. "Austin is in need of progressive change," says Howe, who says he holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas and a master's in child psychology from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio. He said he will not hire a political consultant. "I want to hear from the people of Austin, not some political consultant." Key issues: "We need to save our neighborhoods as a nice place to live…We need to save that eclectic aspect; it's turning into a division of haves and have-nots." Howe's treasurer is CPA Barbara Aybar, a member of the Board of Adjustment… Lewis running again…Incumbent Place 6 Council Member Willie Lewis is going to run for a second term. "I've got to," he said. "I'm $15,000 in debt from the first election." Lewis' treasurer is Hilbert Maldonado.

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