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City Council approves only

Tuesday, August 22, 2000 by

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman gave Mayor Kirk Watson the fifth vote he needed Monday to put $150 million in road bonds on the November ballot. Goodman also provided the even more important fourth vote for Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s plan to offer voters the chance to allocate $13.4 million for land acquisition.

The Austin Museum of Art returned the bond money to the city because private fundraising efforts were so successful. But Council Members Beverly Griffith and Danny Thomas could not muster the fourth vote they needed to ask voters for funds for parks maintenance and development, housing, and additional greenspace. Council Member Raul Alvarez voted with them, but had already withdrawn his sponsorship of the housing bonds in favor of a plan to provide $3 million a year from the city’s general fund for “equity contributions to affordable housing projects.” Goodman abstained on Griffith’s parks proposal.

There was no argument over the road bonds, but Griffith and Thomas abstained, as they did last week. With Goodman voting for the road proposition, that item passed on both second and third reading. However, Griffith refused to vote for Slusher’s motion, saying the amount was too low, while Thomas abstained. Council Member Will Wynn, who said last week that 10 days is insufficient time to decide bonding priorities for the next 10 years, said he could not support Slusher’s proposal for that same reason. So, another Council meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday. If Slusher’s proposal receives four votes again on Wednesday, the Council will consider it again at Thursday’s meeting. If there are five yes votes, the item need not be raised again.

Slusher also proposed that the city delay the salamander breeding facility for one year and transfer those funds to Colony Park for immediate construction of recreational amenities. Colony Park is one of the projects Griffith and Thomas were seeking to fund through their parks initiative. However, that item could not be handled at Monday’s meeting because it was not on the agenda.

The meeting, which was punctuated by lengthy speeches and parliamentary maneuvering, lasted three hours.

Slusher, who has been close to Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, said, “I’m concerned that people don’t realize we’re talking about (funding for bonds for) 2005-2009.” He said if Griffith’s proposals were approved, he feared citizens would believe that money would be available immediately… and I think it’s really unfortunate the level of discord that it has reached. I’ve spent the weekend on the phone. One real prominent leader of SOS told me the city hasn’t done diddly squat for Barton Springs. I did an analysis of the 1998 GO bonds ( general obligation) and… East Austin received 57 percent of the money. “Clearly there are unmet needs, especially the area east of 183, but I think the city has made a significant expense in East Austin… the government can't do it all.”

“And I would say the same is true of the aquifer and Barton Springs. We’ve done more than diddly squat and even been criticized for doing that much. The same person who said we haven’t done anything has said ‘don’t do that agreement (with Gary Bradley) even though people are bringing projects up to 95 percent (compliance with) SOS. The argument was don’t approve because the high tech sector will come in and buy that land. Now, if the city doesn’t put up $40 million for open space, that’s a travesty and we’re turning our backs on Barton Springs. I can't base my vote on such logical inconsistencies.”

Wynn explained, “ My no vote on these line items is not about my priorities, but it is about not having a broad discussion. (The 1998 bond election)… was broad based. The committee spent months and months on it.” However, he said, the very fact that the committee spent so much time and effort and yet failed to foresee the need the city now feels for affordable housing means even that process was not perfect.

“We now hear and feel a crescendo (of demand) for housing.” After only two years, he said, “our priorities have changed.” So, regarding funding bonds for the years 2005-2011, “frankly, I think our citizens should have that discussion in 2004.”

Griffith argued at length for her favorite subject, parks. She said parks supporters are not worried about how many years it will take to complete the process, only that the city make a commitment. "The folks that I have talked to who are particularly interested in taking the long view are conservation leaders and youth sports leaders. They want to see the commitment..andif it takes a while, it does." She said she would be willing to revise her figures, but she had no takers, except for what Slusher offered.

Goodman, who spent last week at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, said, “Having watched you safely from afar this past week,” (laughter) “some contradictions came up when I watched the tapes. Some folks didn’t understand that the rail is a very, very green proposition.” Goodman said she wasn’t expecting fellow council members to come up with such large numbers and she, like Wynn, was troubled by “trying to lock up the use of funds for the far future.”

Although she said she supports funds for housing wholeheartedly, she thought Alvarez’ plan to provide funding sooner was preferable to the bond route. Then Goodman began her own list of priorities that might be included in any citizens’ bond wish list, starting with libraries. “I think we should put them all out there,” she said. “We need to be thinking of those things that come up, like the Triangle and the Friesenhahn tract.”

Following the meeting, Watson said he anticipates the passage of Alvarez’ housing fund proposal at the Council’s Aug. 31 meeting.

The mayor also said the city could hold another bond election next year if that is what the public wants. He said right now the tax rate—46.5 cents per $100 valuation is the lowest it has been in a decade and Austin has the lowest tax rate in the state. Because Austin is growing so rapidly the city may want to look at the whole question of taxes and bonding capacity next year, he said.

More than a full house…Mayor Kirk Watson and his wife, Liz, hosted a crowd of 400-500 people in their West Austin home last night to raise funds for House of Representatives candidate Ann Kitchen. Standing in his front yard and shaking hands with departing guests, Watson said it was the largest political fundraiser his home has hosted so far. Watson told an enthusiastic crowd that election of Kitchen is essential because of her background in health issues and her commitment to reproductive choice. Kitchen said Democrats should not be complacent, warning that her Republican opponent, Jill Warren, may have half a million dollars to spend on the race. The crowd included numerous officeholders, judges and candidates… Lawmen endorse Key and Byrne… Travis County Sheriffs Officers Association has endorsed Judge Karrie Key and Darlene Byrne, both Democratic judicial candidates in the November election. Key is running against Judge Julie Kocurek and Byrne hopes to replace Judge Ernest Garcia.. Thomas hosts Town Hall Meeting… City Council Member Danny Thomas plans to hold quarterly meetings with eastside residents. The first of those meetings is set for tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Metropolitan AME Church, 1101 E. 10th Street. Those attending can hear presentations on the Chestnut Neighborhood Plan, which is scheduled to go back to the City Council on Thursday for a zoning hearing, as well as information on affordable housing and economic development. Former Council Member Eric Mitchell is on the agenda to report on efforts to rename Rosewood Avenue Dorothy Turner Boulevard. Former Council Member Charles Urdy is set to speak on 11th and 12th Street revitalization… The future’s so bright… The National Society of Hispanic MBA’s has chosen the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GAHCC) as winner of this year’s Brillante Award in the non-profit category. GAHCC sponsors Hispanic Austin Leadership, an eight-month program to encourage leadership within the Hispanic community and help participants understand local and state issues affecting the community… Water wasters cited..The City of Austin has released a list of four apartment complexes and nine businesses that received citations for violating Stage 2 water conservation regulations. Among those cited were Wells Fargo Bank on Bee Caves Road and Temple-Inland Co., at 1300 S. Mo Pac…

© 2000 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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