Monday, August 21, 2000 by

City Council under pressure to add

The pressure on Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman to vote for a bond package that garnered only three votes at last week’s City Council meeting has been intense. Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance (SOSA), sent an email to the SOSA mailing list urging all to contact Goodman by phone or email in support of parks, greeenspace and housing bonds. Goodman, who attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, was absent from last week’s contentious and lengthy Council meeting.

Bunch’s email reads a little like a news story:

150 VOICE SUPPORT FOR BALANCED BONDS, BUT COUNCIL SPLIT ON PACKAGE

“Goodman can cast deciding vote on ballot for November’s city bond election. This means Jackie Goodman, who will be returning to town this weekend, can cast the deciding vote in a specially called City Council meeting this coming Monday.” He also wrote, “If you know Ms. Goodman personally, please call her at home today, Sunday or early tomorrow morning.”

The Council is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. today to continue wrangling over bond issues. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Goodman will vote in favor of the road bonds. Last week, Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Members Daryl Slusher, Will Wynn and Raul Alvarez gave their blessing to $150 million for road bonds. Council Members Beverly Griffith and Danny Thomas abstained. Goodman could give the road bonds a fifth vote. Any bond proposition that receives five votes, rather than just four, can be placed on the ballot without another meeting. However, the city has posted a meeting notice for Wednesday at 9 a.m. also. Griffith said the item is also posted on Thursday’s regular council agenda.

Bonds for parks, greenspace and housing assistance could not advance last week on a vote of 3-3. Council Members Griffith, Thomas and Alvarez voted in favor of the parks and greenspace bonds. On Sunday, Goodman said she would be willing to vote for “something that is responsible.” She said another Council Member was “trying to work out something,” but Goodman was uncertain of what would be before the Council on Monday.

Goodman said she had heard that one of the three who wanted to approve parks and housing bonds had accused his colleagues of being “picky.” She said she believed that as a public official it is her duty to be “accountable,” and would not brand anyone who wanted each project described in detail as “picky.” Goodman said it is important to remember that money for the bonds being voted on now will not be spent before 2004. “ I don’t think this particular ballot is the only opportunity we’ll have to address equity and open space,” she concluded.

Griffith, on the other hand, is dedicated to the idea that this year’s bond propositions should reflect equity, environment and economy. She also argues that by committing $150 million to roads, $55 million to parks, $40 million to green space and $25 million to housing, the city will still have $142 million for other things. After the 1998 bond election, she said, the city had $107 million left over, so comparisons to that election should be favorable.

Griffith said, “We’ve got $412 million for next cycle. You take $150 million for roads, commit $15 million a year for 10 years. Parks would get $55 million, including $10 million for neighborhood parks and $10 million for renovation of existing facilities. Then there’s $40 million for open space for conservation, focusing on but not limited to Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer, but open to whatever is the most important to do.” She suggested $25 million for housing, which includes assistance to those who are pulling themselves “out of a down cycle.” For example: $5 million for those in assisted living; $5 million for women and children needing transitional housing and $10 million for families who need assistance for residential downpayments.

Griffith said even if there are not enough votes to approve the greenspace, parks and housing items on Monday, “theoretically, you could have another vote on Wednesday and it could survive with four votes. It’s also posted for Thursday.” Last week, the word about Council chambers was that Wednesday was the absolute deadline. However, Griffith said the ballot language does not have to arrive at the printer until Friday morning. It could be a long week.

Terry Irion, an attorney representing the Bradfield Family Partnership on its trek through the city approval process, has sent a blistering letter to members of the city’s Planning Commission. The commission last week postponed making a decision on two variances to city codes, one relating to water quality ponds and another to a proposed wastewater irrigation system. (See In Fact Daily, Aug. 16, 2000)

The commission generally postpones hearings on variances until the Environmental Board has taken a position on the case. The Environmental Board voted on July 27 to recommend approval of the water quality ponds, but postponed action on the other matter because city staff had objected to the wastewater permit at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.

Irion points out in his letter that his client had received a waiver from Alice Glasco, director of the Development Review and Inspection Department, from the requirement that the Environmental Board first make a recommendation. Irion said the Planning Commission compounded the error of the Environmental Board and treated his client unfairly. In addition, Les Tull, manager of water quality for the Watershed Protection Department, told the commission that staff had reached an agreement with the Bradfield tract’s owners on the irrigation system. The commission put the matter off until Sept. 12, so that the Environmental Board could act on it first—presumably on Sept. 6, the date of the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting.

Irion says that staff began discussions with his client about acquiring “the subject property (at MoPac and Loop 360) for greenbelt/parkland on May 18, 2000…While applicant remains willing to discuss the sale of its property to the city for any public purpose…the applicant has made clear it will not do so at the expense of any delay in the processing of its site development permit.”

He says, “The atmosphere at (last week’s) Planning Commission hearing was charged with rumors about a possible 4-way ‘deal’ between the City of Austin, Gary Bradley, Save Barton Creek Association and the Bradfield Family Partnership. This proposal was headline news in the Austin American Statesman …Applicant has had no contact with Mr. Bradley…Rumors damaging to the property rights of the Bradfield Family Partnership are fueled by the regulatory delays the staff, Planning Commission and Environmental Board have allowed to occur over the past months.”

In concluding the letter, Irion insists on a “fair, unbiased and timely” consideration of his client’s site plan requests, but does not request that the Planning Commission take any specific action—such as scheduling his client’s case for an earlier date. Copies of the letter were sent to the City Council, Environmental Board members and City Attorney Andy Martin.

Found in the men’s room…A poll done by a well-known Austin firm says more than 58 percent of Austin voters would be likely to vote for Capital Metro’s Light Rail proposal if they were asked to do so now. At the same time, about 68 percent would say yes to road bonds, and a surprisingly strong 72 percent would vote for parks bonds and housing bonds. In the same poll, 66 percent said they would vote for money for more greenspace and 81 percent said adding those to the rail bond ballot would not harm Light Rail’s chances of success…. Speaking of polls…Democratic pollsters around town were smiling Sunday for the first time in years, on the news of Presidential hopeful Al Gore’s big “bounce” from the convention… Neighbors meeting…The Mueller Neighborhood Coalition will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church, 1600 block of E. 38 1/2 St. at Maplewood Rd… Democratic legislative nominee Ann Kitchen’s party at the home of Mayor Kirk Watson, 2301 Woodlawn, starts at 5:30 p.m. tonight. The Urban Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet at 5: 30 p.m. today at Waller Center, 625 E. 10th St., Room 104. The Arts Commission plans to meet today at 6:30 p.m. at the Parks and Recreation Department Board Room, 200 S. Lamar… Million mouse campaign finds home… Campaigns for People is leading the first organized, nonpartisan campaign to encourage campaign reform in Texas. Everyone’s invited for the grand opening of the group’s volunteer headquarters today from 5-7 p.m. at 1904 Guadalupe (in the basement of the Bank One building) The group seeks to involve citizens concerned about the influence of money in Texas politics.To learn more call 708-0888, or visit the group's web site at http://www.hadenough.net…

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

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