Sections

About Us

 
Make a Donation
Fully-Local • Non-Partisan • Public-Service Journalism
 

Showdown at CAMPO tonight on east vs. west alignment of SH 130

Monday, June 12, 2000 by

Road advocates and environmentalists expected in large numbers

The Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) has urged its members to flock to tonight's meeting of the CAMPO ( Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) Policy Advisory Committee, which is scheduled to consider the area's 2025 transportation plan, including funding for State Highway 130. RECA President Pete Winstead wrote to the group's membership in a Friday e-mail, "I urge you to attend this critical meeting and show your support for SH 130 without regard for a specific alignment. SH 130 can be the beginning of the mobility solution for Austin, and the Real Estate Council of Austin should be there in force to help ensure that it happens." Winstead is also chairman of the Texas Turnpike Authority that would build SH 130.

Road warriors like Winstead have expressed fears that the Texas Department of Transportation would choose not to build the highway if not given a free rein in choosing the alignment. Neighborhoods that would be affected by a western alignment have long expressed their opposition.

Travis County Precinct 2 Commissioner Karen Sonleitner said that on Monday night she would introduce a motion to ask for the eastern alignment only. However, Sonleitner said she did not attempt to pass such a motion at last week's CAMPO executive committee meeting, as previously reported by In Fact Daily. "Timing is everything. I was not going to waste time trying to win in the executive committee," Sonleitner said.

The commissioner said she understands that RECA leadership is asking its members to declare themselves in favor of SH 130 without regard to the alignment. Sonleitner said there are 400 people in Round Rock and "several rooms full of people saying east, east, east." She said the RECA leadership has good intentions but they don't have to deal with the problems that eastside residents will face when the highway is built. "You only have to go out and visit. It's a no-brainer. Take a look at what's going on–on the ground."

Dick Kallerman, transportation chair for the Austin Sierra Club, reacted to Winstead's e-mail with one of his own to rally environmentalists. "Eastern alignment advocates and those opposed to SH 130 altogether will hopefully outnumber the 'roads anywhere' gang. We will certainly prevail in the quality of our arguments."

Anti-camping ordinance amended to satisfy ruling on unconstitutionality

Homeless advocates want camping ban repealed

The City Council last Thursday approved on first reading amendments to the city's much-maligned anti-camping ordinance, but still did not satisfy homeless advocates like Richard Troxell, president of House the Homeless Inc.

Council changed the ordinance in light of last month's ruling by Travis County Magistrate Jim Coronado, who said parts of the law are unconstitutional. Coronado ruled that a person sleeping in a public place cannot be arrested for camping. The law, Coronado said, does not provide any standard for a police officer to determine whether a person is actually camping or merely taking a nap.

The council voted unanimously to strike a section of the law that criminalizes sleeping in a public place. In addition, at the instigation of Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, the section outlawing use of tents and vehicles for sleeping was stricken. The section now prohibits "using any tents or shelter or structure or vehicle as a living accommodation" in a public area (emphasis added to show new language).

Council Member Willie Lewis tried to add an amendment that would have deleted a section making it unlawful to "carry on cooking activities" in a public place. Such language is too vague, Lewis said, and could be interpreted to outlaw having a cookout. "I think we need specific language," that clearly defines the problem, Lewis said.

Watson said, "That's why I suggested that we fix what we could fix on first reading and then get the specific language (for other changes) on second and third reading."

In addressing the council Thursday, Troxell quoted from a 1963 letter from Martin Luther King Jr., who was then in jail in Selma, Alabama. King wrote, "An unjust law is a humane law that is not rooted in natural law. All segregation statutes are unjust." Troxell said, "An unjust law is a code enacted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting. There are some instances when a law is unjust in its application. It is not beyond the recognition of the council that this law cannot be fixed. It demands that police find (individuals) culpable, subject to interpretation by every individual officer. It is an unjust law." Troxell said he would support a revised and constitutionally written ordinance, "when there is a fair living wage."

Political activist Ricky Bird said, "I think if you all look at this law as it was enacted, you would find that what you basically do with this law is you outlaw homeless people. I think this law was passed at the recommendation of APD ( Austin Police Department to deal with) 300 to 400 drunks. But what it did was to outlaw 3,000 to 4,000 people who are homeless. OK–you're homeless–so where do you stay? Some of the homeless people are certainly obnoxious–some of them need help. Some need serious help.

"The police officer has to read the intent of the participant. I'm not smart enough to read the intent. In spite of this law, there are people who would normally be called pests. This law has not eliminated these people. Do away with this law," Bird said.

Goodman, who has a record of opposing the camping ban, said, "I'm in this really curious position of offering an amendment and voting for an ordinance I don't believe in, in an effort to find" a solution.

Judge Ken Vitucci, who was on duty at Austin's Municipal Court on Sunday, said he had not seen anyone in jail for violating the camping ban yesterday. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that anyone is now in jail charged with such an offense at this time.

Troxell told In Fact Daily on Sunday, "The changes were really nothing more than a substantiation of what Judge Coronado had already ruled. The police department was asking the City Council to catch up to current events. Jackie Goodman saw it as an opportunity to extend the language as it applied to sleeping to apply to the section on cars. Because we often have women that make their last-ditch effort. They've lost everything due to divorce, or whatever. They leave Dallas or Houston, load the kids up and come to Austin. And then go through that downward spiral process. We have people that are ticketed under the no-camping ordinance. Cars are impounded. Child Protective Services become involved and the children are taken away. And it's all because of that ordinance. So Jackie tried to amend it to cover that."

Troxell said the purpose of postponing rewording the ordinance is to give the city and the Downtown Austin Alliance time to craft "a punitive weapon against the homeless–which is what this is–that would stand Constitutional muster."

Transportation status… Mayor Kirk Watson will deliver a State of the City Transportation report today at noon at the Shoreline Grill, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. In his speech before business and community leaders in the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Area Research Organization and Vision 2010, the mayor will outline what is being done now as well as upcoming mobility initiatives to help keep Austin moving. For more info, call the mayor's chief of staff, Kristen Vassallo, at 499-2250… Democrats sign up…That's what Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Herb Evans and Precinct 5 Constable Bruce Elfant are going to try to make happen. They have set a goal of registering 10,000 Democrats in Precinct 5. A kickoff meeting will be held Tuesday, June 13, 5:30-7 p.m. in the AFL-CIO Hall at 11th and Lavaca to present targeting and strategy, swear in deputy registrars and establish registration working groups. The discussion will be led by David Butts, Mike Hemer, Mark McCulloch and others. For more info, call 477-7500… Patriotic homeless…Vendors for the Austin Homeless Advocate newspaper will fly flags and hawk the newspaper in celebration of Flag Day, Wednesday, June 14, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 6th and Brazos. For more info, call Richard Troxell, president of House the Homeless Inc., at 796-4366… How's the economy?…The Real Estate Council of Austin titled its Wednesday, June 14, luncheon topic, Up, Up and Away. Guest speaker Angelos Angelou of Angelou Economic Advisors Inc. will be the guest speaker for the meeting, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel. To RSVP call 320-4151… More green power… There's a new energy dot-com company in Austin. Green Mountain Energy sells electricity from renewable resources, including solar and wind-generated power, to customers in states that have deregulated markets–California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Customers of Austin Energy can participate in the green energy market by signing up for GreenChoice. Green Mountain's web site says, "We are a fast-paced rapidly growing company moving from Vermont to Austin, TX with many new positions." Sam Wyly, chairman of the board of Green Mountain, founded University Computing in the 1960s and is the founder and chairman of the board of Sterling Software.

Join Your Friends and Neighbors

We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?

Back to Top