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Griffith, Alvarez, Thomas want parks, housing

Monday, July 31, 2000 by

Bonds to be considered along with money for roads

Griffith says equity, environment, economy need attention too

Council Member Beverly Griffith plans to broaden Thursday’s City Council discussion on a proposed November bond election for road and street improvements to include bonds for parkland, open space and housing. She has enlisted Council Members Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas as co-sponsors of agenda items to add public hearings and consideration of the parks and housing items to Mayor Kirk Watson’s proposal for $150 million in transportation bonds. A memo from Watson was quoted in Saturday’s Austin American-Statesman suggesting that $93 million in bonds be used to match state road money.

Griffith said Sunday that she and her colleagues had asked City Attorney Andy Martin to add items to Thursday’s agenda so that the Council could hold public hearings on the additional items this week and again Aug. 17, if necessary. Watson had already scheduled public hearings for both dates to consider street and road bond money. Whatever the Council decides, the new proposals would go alongside Capital Metro’s proposed $919.6 million for light rail.

“The purpose (for adding those items to the agenda) being to broaden the discussion,” Griffith said. “Quality of life, economy, equity, environment– those are the watchwords that have been guiding our discussions for quite some time now–and it seems appropriate to talk about all three of them when we’re going to have a bond election. But we’re going to have to talk fast. Really fast,” to get ready for a November election.

Friends and supporters of Dorothy Turner, chair of the Black Citizens Task Force, will ask once again this week that Rosewood Avenue be renamed Dorothy Turner Boulevard. Thomas has scheduled the item for consideration on this week’s crowded agenda. Turner has been quite ill and her friends are anxious to see the Council honor one of East Austin’s staunchest advocates.

The last time the issue came up, Turner’s foe, Council Member Willie Lewis, sat on the council. He presented more than 100 names of citizens opposing the name change. However, 52 of 58 speakers on the subject signed up in favor of the name change. As reported by In Fact No. 159, the renaming of Rosewood Avenue for Turner was unanimously disapproved by the City Council on Aug. 27, 1998, with Griffith absent.

Thomas also has placed an item on Thursday’s agenda that would direct the City Manager to take steps to disburse $182,620 to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over police conduct at the 1995 Valentine’s Day party on Cedar Avenue. Any change in the terms of the settlement will take lawyers, and probably an executive session.

In addition, Thomas wants to increase money for City Council interns so that each office can hire a full-time intern, or possibly two part-time interns. Currently, only $11,500 is appropriated for each intern and is counted as half-time.

Two members of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District Board (BSEACD) expressed dissatisfaction Sunday with comments General Manager Stovy Bowlin made in last Friday’s In Fact Daily concerning district plans to build enhancement recharge dams along Onion Creek. Bowlin said, “One of the proposals that we're making is to study a variation of the Driftwood reservoir as a multi-purpose project — flood mitigation, surface water and recharge enhancement. There's an Onion Creek flood study under way that plays right into this project."

Bowlin said the Sky Ranch, recently purchased by the City of Austin for water quality preservation, would make a good location for such a dam.

Board President Craig Smith said, “The board has not discussed this. We are not ready, or capable,” of funding significant capital improvement projects such as those Bowlin discussed.” Board member Jack Goodman said, “It’s going to take a lot of study. Who knows?” Goodman said he would not favor enhancement for any new development.

Board member Jim Camp said he was embarrassed for the district because Bowlin was evidently making plans to use the City of Austin’s conservation property without even talking to the city about the idea. Camp referred a reporter to Nico Hauwert, senior hydrogeologist for the district, for comments on recharge proposals.

“We haven’t even gone and formally talked to them about it,” Hauwert said, adding that he saw a Murfee Engineering Co. map of a dam on Sky Ranch about six months ago. He said Murfee Engineering also built the bridge and dam on Escarpment.

Bowlin said last week. “The bridge over Slaughter Creek on Escarpment Boulevard acts as a recharge project, so it’s a combination bridge/recharge dam.”

Hauwert denied that the bridge at Escarpment and Slaughter acts as a recharge enhancement structure.

“I’ve gone out and taken measurements there and we don’t measure any losses,” meaning that no water goes into a recharge feature. “It’s just basically a dam that holds water over the recharge zone.”

Hauwert explained, “We have these meters that meter the flow along the creek. We can measure from point to point. In addition, we can go out there when the creek is barely flowing…and you can see the same amount flowing into it as what’s flowing past it. So it’s not like recharging.

“But part of the problem too is they’re building homes there (at Circle C) all alongside there. So if you ever did want to do recharge enhancement…you’d be getting stormwater runoff from Circle C homes, which would have pesticides and nutrients in the water. That wouldn’t be the best source of water for the recharge. And that’s another problem with the proposed Driftwood dam. We haven’t even begun doing a feasibility study. So, it’s way early for the district to embrace the idea of putting a dam there, because we just really have scratched the surface. The same people who are proposing it are at Murfee Engineering. Their interest is not recharge enhancement. Their interest is to find a water source for new development that can come into that area there.”

Hauwert said next week the district and the City of Austin would begin a dye-tracing study for Sky Ranch. “Until we do that and other studies that need to be done, it’s premature for us to say we endorse the idea of a dam at that site.” Expect to hear more on this story later this week.

( See In Fact Daily June 9, July 21 and July 28, 2000).

Planning to plan…Joe Martinez, a member of the city’s Electric Utility Commission and a tireless volunteer in Council Member Raul Alvarez’ campaign, has applied for appointment to the Planning Commission. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, a former member of the commission, said she has been favorably impressed with Martinez, who played a key role in creation of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan. Commissioners Susana Almanza and Ben Heimsath are hoping for re-appointment. They were both appointed by consensus in 1998. Mayor Kirk Watson will have a new appointment, since his appointee, Chair Art Navarro, has not applied for re-appointment. Appointments may happen this week, but with the crowded agenda, it’s possible appointments will be not be made until Aug. 17, the date of the next council meeting… About that 290 water line…Jack Goodman of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board wants to make sure those wells in Sunset Canyon are really as low as some homeowners have claimed. Goodman directed the district’s senior hydrogeologist to start testing those wells this week. Goodman said he, Board President Craig Smith, Jon Beall and Shudde Fath of the Save Barton Creek Association, and attorney Wayne Gronquist have scheduled a meeting with two members of the LCRA board to discuss the situation next week… Wimberley votes early…Total voters for Wednesday through Friday for the Village of Wimberley’ s first city council election: 169. That’s a pretty good pace, considering the small number of voters. Poll watchers think that means there will be a higher turnout for this election than there was for the incorporation vote. Early voting ends Aug.8. Election Day is Aug. 12.

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