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Some council candidates in runoff election will divvy up a cool $58,000

Friday, May 5, 2000 by

Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund provides shot in the arm to candidates

If Danny Thomas manages to get in a runoff with incumbent Council Member Willie Lewis in Place 6, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson may need to dip into those lottery winnings again. The reason is that Lewis would likely get a wad of cash from the city for having complied with the campaign contract to limit contributions and expenditures in the general election. His opponent, Danny Thomas, did not sign the contract.

Each qualifying candidate in a runoff election shall receive an equal distribution of the available funds in the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund. The balance in the fund right now is $58,000, says City Clerk Shirley Brown. The fund is financed primarily by the annual registration fees paid by people who lobby the city and filing fees paid by mayoral and council candidates.

As provided by City Code 2-9-34, the city clerk must review the contribution and expenditure reports filed by candidates 30 days before and eight days before the election to verify compliance with the contract.

Dena Reed of the city clerk's office says contracts were signed by the following council candidates:

• Place 2– Raul Alvarez, Montgomery Lee "Monty" Markland and Rafael Quintanilla.

• Place 5– Amy Babich, Clare Barry, Linda Curtis and Chip Howe. However, Reed says Barry's form was not filed until March 23–a day late–and therefore Barry will not be eligible for funds in the runoff.

• Place 6– Willie Lewis.

Assuming our predictions about the elections (In Fact Daily May 4) come true, Lewis would win without a runoff, Alvarez and Quintanilla would make the runoff in Place 2, and Barry would face Will Wynn in the Place 5 runoff. In that scenario, Alvarez and Quintanilla would split the $58,000 two ways, or $29,000 apiece. Barry, who raised only $14,000 for the general election, was truly a day late and a dollar short in missing the filing deadline. She would need a flood of donations in the runoff to give her a fighting chance against Wynn's deep pockets. He raised nearly $36,000 in contributions and poured $45,000 of his own money into the general election.

Lewis and Bill Spelman each got more than $18,000 from the Fair Campaign Fund in the 1997 council runoff elections, and each went on to win their races by wide margins. Lewis unseated incumbent Eric Mitchell in Place 6 and Spelman defeated Manuel Zuniga in Place 5 to take the seat left vacant when Gus Garcia moved to Place 2.

Negotiations proceeding on zoning compromise for Bennett Tract

Planning Commission hearing continued to May 9

Only five members of the Planning Commission were available to hear the staff presentation and public comments on the Bennett Tract Tuesday night. Chair Art Navarro announced early in the meeting that he had a conflict of interest because he is a member of the Guadalupe Neighborhood Association, which generally favors rolling back zoning. Commissioners Susana Almanza, Betty Baker and Gwen Webb were absent and Commissioner Ben Heimsath arrived after 8 p.m. Navarro tabled the item until Heimsath arrived.

Representatives of the African-American and Hispanic communities who live in the 11th and 12th street area said the two groups are near a compromise on rezoning of the Neighborhood Conservation Combining District (NCCD). The Planning Commission hearing was continued to May 9. Tracy Watson, director of special projects and development resolution, has been mediating between the parties, according to a spokesman in the Development Review and Inspection Department. Father Bill Elliott of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, confirmed to In Fact Daily that negotiations were ongoing Thursday, but said he could not disclose any details. The City Council directed staff to present the rollback ordinance to council no later than May 11.

The tract, which is generally bounded by I-35, East 11th Street, East 9th Street, and San Marcos Street, was supposed to become a mall under an NCCD in 1991. (See In Fact Daily March 13.) Since the mall was never built, a restrictive covenant in the deed states that the property owners cannot object to a zoning rollback.

Carol Barrett, principal planner in charge of the city's neighborhood planning section, said her staff started working on the Central East Austin Neighborhood Plan in February. The boundaries of that plan are somewhat larger than the NCCD boundaries. She said her staff has not been involved in the negotiations, but, "Whatever the council decides will go into the neighborhood plan."

Police mum about poll results but confident of Thomas victory

Main purpose of poll to get information to negotiate with city

The Austin Police Association (APA) has been getting a report card on the performance of both the Austin Police Department (APD) and the candidates backed by the Austin Police Political Action Committee (AP PAC). "We did commission a poll about a whole bunch of different issues," says AP PAC President Sean Mannix. He said the poll conducted by Opinion Analysts addressed the upcoming elections, citizen oversight of the APD, and views on the APD's approval rating. A poll of this nature would typically cost about $8,000 to $10,000.

Mannix said one of questions asked if the council election were held today which candidate would you vote for? The object, he said, was "to see just how our candidates look to the general public." Mannix said he had not yet seen the results of the poll. The bulk of the information gleaned from the survey will be used in the ongoing Meet and Confer contract negotiations with the city, he said.

AP PAC did not support Council Member Beverly Griffith in 1999, though she won reelection without a runoff, and this year it picked Senior Police Officer Danny Thomas over incumbent Council Member Willie Lewis. Mannix seemed glad of it, saying, "I think Willie Lewis is going into self-destruct mode," referring to the Lewis campaign having filed criminal complaints on independent expenditures and Lewis' comments to the Austin American-Statesman that attacked Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson for those expenditures. "That opened the door for Henderson to talk about Lewis' (alleged) sexual harassment," Mannix said.

APA President Mike Sheffield said of the Place 6 contest, "I'm hoping for an outright win," for Thomas over Lewis.

Richard Arellano

Executive assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman

"This is not my life," declared Richard Arellano, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman's executive assistant, as he gets ready to depart from city service. With only one week to go, Arellano, 35, talked to In Fact Daily about his life away from City Hall. He said his seven-year-old son, Mason, who was severely injured in an auto-pedestrian collision at the age of two months, is the most important thing in his life. After Mason, Arellano said, music is his most deeply consuming interest.

Arellano, whose instrument is the guitar, said he plays "three to four gigs a month" with singer-songwriter Aaron Calhou n, at places like Flipnotics and Green Mesquite. The group will be doing a web cast from the Saxon Pub at the end of the month, he said. The Saxon Pub reports the group is scheduled to perform at 8:45 p.m. on May 31.

But the best-dressed man about the City Council chambers is still going to be involved in politics. Arellano has accepted a job at getheard.org, which he describes as "the public outlet and face of a 501(c)(3) a not-for-profit corporation that will have the same name." Arellano said the web site is the brainchild of Jason Feldman of FG Squared and Sam Goodner of Catapult Systems Corp.

Arellano said, "During the first 360 Summit, Sam and Jason and Larry Warshaw," former aide to Mayor Kirk Watson, "talked a lot about what high-tech could do" to participate in the life of the city. The trio decided they could "use the Internet to build community. They made a commitment to create a web site that would begin to offer tools to build community, (by) increasing people's sense of inclusion in the political process," he said. Arellano said it is the hope of those involved that getheard.org will be a way to use the Internet "as an interactive mass medium, where the wall between the message sender and the receiver can be broken down."

"This has enormous potential for a democratic society that requires mass media to get the message out. We hope the site will utilize the fact that the Internet has every single significant characteristic of the media that preceded it and the added benefit of immediacy," Arellano said. The site can be kept fresh with minimal maintenance, and older portions could be kept available, like In Fact Daily's Archives, as a record of what had happened with the evolution of the site, he said.

Arellano predicted, "Within the next five years, the distinctions between TV and computer will be obliterated."

Arellano said getheard.org might go into partnership with other sites, such as hire.com, where Warshaw works. Watson, former Save Our Springs Alliance Chair Robin Rather, and Lee Walker, chair of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board, are on getheard.org's advisory board, he said.

Arellano said he has been talking to Jim Walker of the Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition about how the new web site might get involved in helping neighborhood activists communicate concerns about zoning applications and other matters to the city.

Arellano said the web site will not be able to do everything at once, but will be built in stages. His goal, he said, is for the site, "to become a permanent part of the landscape," that will "develop real tools to help constituents develop relationships with office holders that are hard to develop in a mass society." He said what's coming will be "a unique mass medium never seen before." The Internet has the potential to engage people "like talk radio–the Internet is that exponentially."

Arellano said he would only have good things to say May 11, the day of his last council meeting as an aide. "This is the finest City Council that Austin has ever had–and I really mean that. They've done a great job," he said. As for his boss, Arellano said, "I'll never forget her giving me that opportunity. I've learned a lot. She didn't know me from Adam. I owe her a debt for life."

Goodman said, "I'm just really glad (Richard) decided to take the opportunity, to be my aide. He has a real deep, to-the-core belief in good government and fairness, listening to all sides of a question and deciding what's fair." She said she will be naming a new executive assistant early next week.

So long Saldaña… Paul Saldaña, executive assistant to retiring City Council Member Gus Garcia, has accepted a job with WIN, a telecommunications company that recently won the right to compete with Southwestern Bell and Time Warner to provide telephone and cable TV service to the Austin area… Barry parties too…Supporters of Clare Barry, who hopes to succeed City Council Member Bill Spelman in Place 5, will gather at Waterloo Brewing Co., 4th and Guadalupe, Saturday night. Campaign spokesperson Melissa Miller said partygoers should meet on the roof after polls close at 7 p.m. (See Wednesday's Whispers for locations of other parties.)… It's not love…The City of Austin was one of thousands of governmental entities and businesses struck yesterday by the I Love You Virus. E-mail to and from city employees was stuck in computer limbo for much of the day. We didn't hear any of them saying they were happy about it, but we suspect some would just as soon not receive their tonnage for a day.

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