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City unveils draft agreement to settle wars with Gary Bradley

Friday, February 4, 2000 by

Would end lawsuits, annex land, and provide water and wastewater service

City staff Thursday unveiled a 46-page draft agreement between the city, Gary Bradley, and other entities that will end lawsuits between the city and Bradley and ensure city water and wastewater service, along with limited-purpose annexation to a broad swath of land in northern Hays County and southwest Travis County. In a letter to Casey Dobson of Scott Douglas & McConnico, the city's lawyers, Bradley says if that final document is substantially the same as the draft, he is prepared to sign a final agreement before March 9, the day City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal.

In a preamble to remarks by city staff, Mayor Kirk Watson said, "This is a fight that cannot be ended by lawsuits. This is a fight that cannot be ended by protests." If the city is able to reach an agreement with Bradley, "the city will have seized a historic opportunity to stop the endless fighting," which has taken 15 years, millions of dollars, and endless hours of time by Austin City Council s, staff and members of the public, Watson said.

City Attorney Andy Martin said the agreement is not just between the city and Bradley, but between the community and Bradley interests. The agreement would settle lawsuits, annex land and set development regulations. Martin said, "The fundamentals can't be altered," but he thought each side would accept "any reasonable improvements" suggested during the public comment process. That process involves several hearings at council, as well as hearings and input from the Environmental Board, Planning Commission and the Water and Wastewater Commission, he said.

Martin outlined land use and zoning restrictions for the Spillar Ranch, Pfluger Tract, Edwards Crossing and other tracts that make up more than 3,000 acres covered by the agreement. "We have agreed to agree on a provision that will prevent a major employer from locating on this site," Martin said. In addition, Bradley and Bradley interests have agreed not to seek or pursue an extension of MoPac Expressway to serve the property, he said.

Martin said the agreement, along with exhibits–which were not available Thursday–will be posted on the Internet, as soon as possible. He said speakers would be available to address various groups on the proposal and the public information office will be handling arrangements for speakers.

Robin Rather, chair of Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA), was on hand for the presentation. Rather said she had just received the draft and would be meeting next week with members of the SOSA committee set up to study the proposal. "I don't know if this deal is good enough," Rather said, "but it looks like several of our goals have been met." Rather said she had spent a great deal of time at the Legislature trying to combat House Bill 1704–the bill which allows developers to ignore new development regulations under "grandfather" rules.

Rather said it appeared the negotiators had done an excellent job in keeping impervious cover to SOS limits on much of the property. She said also that she was happy to see "significant anti-sprawl components" in the agreement as well.

Rather provided SOSA's preliminary recommendations, which were written before release of the draft proposal. Among those recommendations is a stipulation that Bradley agrees "that this arrangement effectively ends all his business activities in the ( Edwards) Aquifer" and that he agrees "never to attempt to influence the boundaries of the recharge or contributing zones anywhere in the Edwards Aquifer region." The document also asks that a hotel and golf resort be eliminated unless its water demands can be vastly reduced. SOSA also wants a $100 million reserve fund or bond in case the "deal falls apart due to Legislature or lawsuits later."

New single-member district plan draws council objections, queries

Mayor and council not ready to get behind recommendations yet

Austin City Council members praised the work of the Charter Revision Committee during yesterday's meeting, but their questions and comments showed a lack of enthusiasm for the proposal to convert the at-large election system to single-member districts. Barbara Hankins, chair of the committee, said the group recommends that the mayor be elected at large to a four-year term, with 10 council members elected from neighborhood districts to three-year terms. Hankins said the group believed it best to give the mayor four years so that the mayoral election would coincide with a different set of district elections each time there was a mayoral election.

Although the committee heard, "Let's get away from the race issue," Hankins said, "we cannot ignore the fact that Austin is still subject to the (federal) Voting Rights Act." In response to a question from Council Member Gus Garcia, Hankins said, "We were told it would take 12 districts to guarantee an African-American council member…However, we have a certain amount of faith that the voters will elect qualified people." The group voted to recommend 12 districts in November, but switched to a 10-member recommendation after committee member and attorney Fred Lewis, executive director of Campaigns for People, said he was getting negative feedback from citizens. (See In Fact Daily Dec. 22, 1999.) A compromise was struck, however, to recommend that the number of districts be increased to 12 when the city population increases by 25,000 more than the population determined by the federal census of 2000.

Hankins told the council the committee was recommending that the city put the question of single-member districts on the May ballot. She said it would not be possible to draw district lines until after the city receives a report on the 2000 Census. (That data would not be available before early 2001.) Hankins pointed to the fact that no council elections are scheduled for 2001, so the first election under the new system could not occur until 2002.

Mayor Kirk Watson asked Hankins if there would be a problem putting the question on the November 2000 ballot, so as not to preclude public consideration of other charter amendment issues this year. Hankins said a November election would also work. The committee also recommended that the council appoint an independent commission to draw the initial district boundaries and at each decennial census or other times redistricting is required, such as after large annexations.

Watson told In Fact Daily that he supports single-member districts because that system offers greater diversity and is better for long-term city planning. Also, because of restrictions on campaign spending, he said, candidates need to be able to knock on a large percentage of doors in their districts. The mayor said he would have to study the current proposal further before deciding whether to take a leadership role in promoting the idea to voters.

Hankins said every member of the committee was surprised at the alienation they found in every part of the city. During the five public hearings, Hankins said, she repeatedly heard comments such as, "'Nobody listens to us. Nobody cares about our part of the city.' We were all astounded. It's not just in East Austin or the fringes." Hankins said she thought the negative attitudes could be ascribed to the city's rapid growth. In response to a question from Council Member Daryl Slusher, Hankins said a total of about 100 people attended the committee's public hearings.

Council Member Beverly Griffith asked Hankins if the group had considered recommending an affirmation election after the districts have been drawn. Hankins said she would not recommend the second election because it might mean the city would have to continue to have elections each time the districts are redrawn.

Griffith told In Fact Daily, "What I see is a loss of influence for citizens, not a gain. Austin is a 'feeler' city–especially with this council. We have empathy for needs, whosesover they are, and I'm not sure we would get that again."

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman expressed discomfort with giving the mayor a four-year term. She said she was concerned that such a system would mean, "the city manager would almost have to look solely to the mayor for the big picture." Hankins said, "We don't think that inherently the mayor becomes any stronger," under the group's proposal.

Goodman told In Fact Daily she has always supported single-member districts. This time, she said, the council "should put some effort into two or three well-reasoned choices." Goodman said she was concerned about a ward system developing in Austin, with an insufficient number of council members paying attention to the city as a whole. She said one choice might be to have the mayor and mayor pro tem both elected at large.

Griffith said she was also concerned about a waste of funds because of ward-style politics. She said at one point when San Antonio needed three new branch libraries, the city had to build ten, because each member had to show his constituents that they were getting their fair share. Griffith pointed to the fact that the voters have turned down single-member districts four times. She also said the City of Austin has the lowest property tax rate of the state's five largest cities. She said she wants people to ask themselves whether the proposed change would cause a tax increase. "How important is it to your budget?" Griffith said a tax increase drives the cost of living higher in terms of house payments, grocery bills, and every other area. She also said she thought her constituents would not want to buy a pig in a poke. "People are telling me they want to see the deal (districts). People are telling me they want to be able to call the numbers" at city hall and get a receptive ear, she said. The committee worked hard, came up with sincere recommendations and should be heard respectfully, Griffith, "but in the end the voters will decide." Clearly, Griffith isn't expecting the proposal to pass.

Council Member Willie Lewis draws new challenger with powerful backers

Dailey is articulate, attractive, and has chance for well-funded campaign

In Fact Daily confirmed late last night that Council Member Willie Lewis now has a third challenger to his reelection bid in the form of Linda Dailey, a registered nurse who works in cardiology at Seton Medical Center. Austin police officer Danny Thomas and insurance agent Nelson Linder have previously been reported as candidates by the Austin American-Statesman. Dailey says the primary issues in her campaign will be healthcare, transportation and education.

This will be Dailey's second campaign. She ran in 1999, one of many challengers who bounced off the windshield of Council Member Beverly Griffith's reelection vehicle. Griffith turned back eight challengers without a runoff, setting a record in the process. Dailey placed middle of the pack with a fifth-place showing with 1,552 votes. Griffith steamrollered the field with 17,085 votes.

In the 1999 race, Dailey raised only about $2,800. But her fortunes have changed. Dailey says she has talked to Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, the former Dallas Cowboys football star who was going to run but found out he couldn't because of his felony conviction. Dailey says Henderson will support her candidacy, which she only considered after Henderson announced he would bow out. "He's still interested in the political process and will work for the candidate of his choice in this election," Dailey said. "How lucky for me."

In addition to Henderson, Dailey will probably get the backing of former Council Member Eric Mitchell, who contributed to Dailey's initial race. Mitchell has a strong motive to help Dailey: he was unseated by Lewis in a hard fought 1997 campaign, earning Mitchell the unwanted historical footnote of being the first incumbent minority council member to lose a reelection bid in Austin. Mitchell's fiery farewell speech pulled no punches, telling Austin voters, "You want a house nigger, and you got one." (See In Fact No. 96, June 1997.)

This time out Dailey will have the luxury of employing a political consultant. Bill Carlon's last involvement in an Austin City Council race that we can remember was with Waller Burns' campaign of 1996. (The eccentric millionaire refused to take political contributions and poured $107,000 of his own money into the race in which ultimately Beverly Griffith bested Rick Wheeler in a runoff.) Another political consultant told In Fact Daily that Eric Mitchell was recently spotted in a downtown coffee shop with Carlon, leading to speculation that Mitchell is out for payback for Lewis.

One big piece of ammunition in that payback would be the sexual harassment complaint that Lewis faced in the summer of 1998, and later exposed by an Oct. 1, 1998, in a copyrighted story in The Capitol Times newspaper. The story quoted an assistant city attorney as saying the complaint had been resolved to the complaining employee's satisfaction. In light of the overwhelming focus on sexual harassment due to the foibles of President Bill Clinton, Lewis is vulnerable if the issue is played up in this campaign. Noting that Lewis has recently changed his hairstyle, keeping his hair combed back instead of the natural curly look he wore until recently, Dailey said the incumbent might be called "Slick Willie."

"I can't say I'm going to focus on that issue," Dailey says. "Others know it happened and are not happy about it. The public will want to know more in a campaign race. Sex harassment is very serious, especially in light of what we've seen the last few years. Are we going to want to continue that at the local level?" Dailey stressed that she had not investigated the matter and did not know if it was true. "I don't like to leap to conclusions."

Dailey said, "I hope we're able to run a clean campaign and focus on the issues and put things hateful or divisive behind me, but others will want to know."

Dailey plans to announce her campaign at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, in front of City Hall, 124 W. 8th St.

City settles Austin Airmotive condemnation for $2.825 million

Company retains right to lease 13.75 acres at airport

The City Council voted 5-0 yesterday with Council Member Beverly Griffith off the dais and Council Member Bill Spelman just arriving to approve a settlement in City of Austin v. Austin Airmotive Ltd., et al.

Assistant City Attorney David Petersen said the lawsuit arose from the condemnation of hangars that Austin Airmotive had leased at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The condemnation stemmed from the Federal Aviation Administration's determination the hangars would be in the way of landing radar systems. Special Commissioners heard the condemnation case last September and awarded Austin Airmotive $2.94 million, Petersen said. Both sides appealed. Under the agreed settlement, the city will pay $2.825 million for the company's interest in the lease and hangars. "The parties felt it would be better to settle than risk a trial," Petersen tells In Fact Daily.

The company's original lease was for seven years and thereafter either the city or the company would have been able to furnish three years' notice for cancellation, amounting to a minimum of 10 years. This arrangement had been set up because they hangars were immediately east of the passenger terminal building and in the path of future terminal expansion. Because of the plans for future expansion, the company had the right to lease 13.75 acres elsewhere on the airport to build a maintenance hangar. Under the terms of the settlement the company continues to have the right to lease the 13.75 acres if executed by Jan. 1, 2004, Petersen said.

Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus picks candidates for March primary

Two Democratic challengers backed over incumbents Medrano and Mercer

As usual, the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus endorsed only Democrats at its Feb. 2 Political Caucus and candidates forum for those running in the March 14 primary elections. "Although several candidates in the Republican Party Primary sought the endorsement of the ALGPC, none received the required 60 percent of the vote of the members required for an endorsement," says a written statement issued by the group. "Candidates endorsed by the ALGPC will receive the support of Caucus members and the support of the ALGPC's Political Action Committee."

Candidates endorsed by ALGPC who have an opponent in the Democratic Party Primary are: Dawnna Dukes, incumbent state representative for District 50; Ann Kitchen for state representative District 48; Bruce Elfant, incumbent constable for Precinct 5; Maria L. Canchola for constable Precinct 4 (over incumbent Rocky Medrano); Flynn Lee for constable Precinct 1 (over incumbent Luke Mercer Sr.); Gisela Triana, incumbent, County Court at Law No. 5; and Scott Jenkins for 53rd District Court.

New appointments to city boards and commissions

The City Council yesterday appointed the following new members to city boards and commissions:

Airport Advisory Board: Troy Kimmel Jr. Child Care Council: Clem Clarke, Dan Garcia and Althea Huston

Commission on Immigrant Affairs: Irma Prado

Electric Utility Commission: Joseph A. Martinez

Federally Qualified Health Center Board: William A. Thames

Green Building Task Force: Michael Myers

MBE/WBE Advisory Committee: Jose Vera

Urban Transportation Commission: Michael Dahmus and Marc Rodriquez.

Correction…Yesterday's In Fact Daily story on the Lower Colorado River Authority's Environmental Impact Statement incorrectly identified Sheri Kuhl as the hired mediator running the stakeholder meeting. Wrong. Kuhl is the agency's supervisor of environmental programs and community services. The mediator is Juli Fellows… Watson's new group… Mayor Kirk Watson strikes back. Watson tells In Fact Daily that in response to Linda Curtis' formation of the political action committee RAKET, ( Reformers Appalled at Kirk's Ethical Transgressions)( In Fact Daily Jan. 27) he has formed his own group called HAHA, which stands for Help Abolish Horrible Acronyms… Hyde Park North…Attorney Richard Suttle of Armbrust Brown & Davis represents Hyde Park Baptist Church (HPBC). In Fact Daily reported Jan. 28 the fire fight going on over the parking garage the church wants to build in the historic neighborhood. It looks now as if Suttle is going to be fighting a war on two fronts simultaneously. He said HPBC's planned new facility at the Quarry site in North Austin has recently gotten the approval of the Texas Department of Transportation for access to MoPac Expressway's frontage roads. As reported in a profile of Suttle by In Fact Daily Aug. 9, 1999, Suttle sees the MoPac access as a way to relieve neighbors' concerns about traffic, from the other entrance to the site off Spotted Horse Drive… Hugs and kisses…It was hard to miss the big welcoming sign that the Lower Colorado River Authority put up at the entrance to its driveway yesterday to welcome the Austin City Council, which held its first meeting at the agency's Hancock Building yesterday. But just for insurance, at the beginning of the council meeting, Missy Mandell got up to make it official. She said General Manager Joe Beal would have done the honors except he was at an employee's funeral. "We're partners in the electric system," Mandell said, referring to the Fayette Power Project. "We think this (council meeting at LCRA) is another step in moving us closer together."

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