Monday, February 14, 2000 by

Bill Spelman not expected to seek reelection to City Council

Downtown developer Will Wynn expected to run for Spelman's seat

After months of speculation, Council Member Bill Spelman is expected to announce this morning his decision not to run for reelection to the Austin City Council. Spelman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, confirmed that he would make an announcement today, but would not comment further. However, political insiders, all of whom requested anonymity, said they believe Spelman would not be running.

Spelman has served without pay since his election in 1997 because a provision in the state Constitution prohibits a state employee from receiving a second state paycheck. A proposed constitutional amendment to change that provision failed last November. Political consultant Mike Blizzard, who was Spelman's campaign manager three years ago, said he currently is working for Place 6 Council Member Willie Lewis and Place 2 candidate Raul Alvarez. Blizzard said that he currently has no Place 5 candidate, adding that he and Spelman have not talked in several weeks.

Will Bozeman, president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC), said, "Obviously if he (Spelman) were going to mount a campaign, he would have engaged some folks" for the race.

Many of those who repeated rumors of Spelman's decision not to run, also said that Will Wynn, a downtown developer and immediate past chair of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA), would be announcing his candidacy either today or tomorrow. Wynn's biggest project that's on the drawing board publicly is Congress at 4th, a 27-story office tower with 495,000 square feet, which he's doing with partner Tom Stacy. Wynn did not return a phone call from In Fact Daily.

Clare Barry, a neighborhood activist who has served on a number of committees and commissions, as well as the Austin Neighborhoods Council, said she is strongly considering a run for Spelman's Place 5 seat. Barry is an architectural intern for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and is working at getting her architect's license. Barry said she would ask TxDOT for a leave of absence if she decides to seek the council position. She said she would be making her decision within a day or two.

Wynn, owner of CIVITAS Investments, has already gotten commitments of support from a number of environmentalists and business leaders, sources said. He is credited with helping bring together warring elements of the environmental and business communities. Wynn was instrumental in giving the DAA's Chair Emeritus Downtown Impact Award to the Save Our Springs Alliance last month.

Bozeman said many people were surprised by Spelman's decision. "Both environmental and neighborhood folks have had their quibbles with (Spelman), but he's served well," Bozeman said. The ANC leader said Spelman's expected decision had caused a lot of people to consider the race over the weekend. Neighborhood activists Jeff Jacks and Chris Riley have been mentioned as possible candidates, but said they would not run for the seat.

Two other people previously indicated they would be candidates for the Place 5 seat. One is bicycling activist Amy Babich, who's well known for her frequent letters published in the Austin Chronicle. The other is Stephen "Twig" Meeks, a formerly homeless man who once worked with House the Homeless Inc. Both Babich and Meeks intended to run for City Council in 1999 but neither one got on the ballot.

Also intending to run for council this year is Paul "Chip" Howe, although he has not yet indicated which place on the council he will seek. Howe is a clinical coordinator for brain-injured adults with the Mary Lee Foundation Rehabilitation Center.

Garcia urges East Austin neighbors to take the long view on warehouse

City doesn't have resources to convert property to residential use

While the Planning Commission didn't get to the substance of zoning and conditional-use permit for the Brown Distributing Co. warehouse last Tuesday ( In Fact Daily Feb. 9) and postponed the case till Feb. 29 (its next meeting date), Council Member Gus Garcia wants to lower expectations of East Austin neighbors who want the property zoned for residential uses.

Garcia tells In Fact Daily the model he's advocating for the property at 411 Chicon St. is that of the Mexican-American Cultural Center (MACC). The city bought the property for use as a storage area for the Public Works and Transportation Department. Eventually, the city was able to move the storage after voters approved funds for constructing the MACC on the site.

"We're not going to be able to do everything the neighbors want now," Garcia says. "The city doesn't have the capacity. But taking the first step has a lot of value. This site is close to the Pan American Recreation Center and Zavala Elementary. This can become a focal point for a lot of community activity." A vast improvement will be made if the city buys the property, Garcia says, through removal of light industrial zoning and removal of the razor wire that guards the facility.

The change to East Austin to turn it back to its pre-1924 condition–before the imposition of horrible rules–will take time," Garcia says. "We can buy the building and amortize it over 20 years. We will own it, pay the debt, and be free and clear. We can then plan for redevelopment and have clear title," he says. Meanwhile, Garcia says, the community will have a "great asset." He says, "The city will put some community rooms there big enough for 50-60 people."

The city paid $100,000 in nonrefundable earnest money for the purchase of the warehouse property and is also paying $25,000 a month for a lease but is not using the property. The total purchase price for the property is $2.6 million. The Planning Commission last week voted to recommend that $1.515 million be appropriated to help with the purchase but specifically did not recommend tying that money to the facility's use to house the Building Services Division, as recommended by city staff. The other $985,000 for the purchase was to come from voter-approved bond money designated for the Building Services Division–money that would have to be found elsewhere if the facility were not be used for that purpose.

Although the Planning Commission delayed action on zoning and the conditional use permit last Tuesday, the matter is on the City Council's agenda for this Thursday, Feb. 17. Garcia's executive assistant, Paul Saldaña, says the case was put on a fast track with dual notification for action by both the Planning Commission and City Council, and the council may vote on first reading this week.

Hays water line… Hays County Judge Jim Powers told In Fact Daily he and Mayor Kirk Watson have twice discussed the proposed settlement agreement between developer Gary Bradley and the City of Austin, but Powers said he is still concerned about what the deal will mean for his county. In particular, Powers said, he wants to know if the proposal might put a damper on a planned water line the Lower Colorado River Authority wants to build to Dripping Springs. Bradley has requested Austin's water and sewer service for more than 3,000 acres in southwest Travis and northern Hays County. Powers said he intends to convene a meeting to include the mayors of Niederwald, Dripping Springs, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, Bear Creek, Hays City and Wood Creek to discuss the settlement… City of Wimberley?… Citizens for a Better Wimberley is getting ready to submit a petition to Hays County to hold an incorporation election this May. Steve Klepfer is chairman of the group…Former City Council Member Bob Binder is organizing a group to support a Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain. Binder's press release indicates the group is nonpartisan and includes Democrats and Independents. "We are not anti-Bush, we are pro-McCain. We want our government to be the way it should be." For more info, call 282-9420 or send e-mail to mccainaustin@bigfoot.com… Gore in Austin… Vice President Al Gore opened state headquarters for Gore 2000 at 2015 S. I-35, Suite 201. For more info, call 441-6773 or visit www.algore2000.com… Talking mass transit… Capital Metro has meetings slated for bus and light rail discussions. On Tuesday, Feb. 15, it's 6-8 p.m. at the Conley-Guerrero Center, 808 Nile. On Wednesday, Feb. 16, it's noon at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, 3rd Floor conference room. On Thursday, Feb. 17, it's 6-8 p.m. at Milwood Library, 12500 Amherst. For more info, call 474-1200 or visit www.capmetro.org… AHA appointees… Mayor Kirk Watson recently appointed two members of the Austin Housing Authority: Charles "Chuck" Bailey is an attorney and former executive assistant to Lt. Governor Bob Bullock. Carl Ritchie, an attorney with Mayor Day Caldwell & Keeton, was reappointed… Alvarez fund-raiser…Place 2 City Council candidate Raul Alvarez will be holding a fund-raiser Friday, Feb. 18, at the Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th St. Eat from the buffet and meet the candidate from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Then the music kicks in, with Conjunto Aztlan and Karison (Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz). Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For more info, call 478-7969 or send e-mail to voteraul@texas.net.

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