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Longhorn lobbyist gave Frederick

Friday, November 3, 2000 by

Tickets to presidential fundraiser

PIPE Coalition fuming over Frederick-Barnes friendship

David Frederick, field supervisor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Austin office, attended a party for President Bill Clinton on June 19 at the invitation of a lobbyist for the Longhorn Partners Pipeline. Ken Martin, editor of The Good Life Magazine, broke the story in this month’s edition. Frederick says he got clearance from his superiors to attend the fundraiser. Nevertheless, pipeline opponents are aghast that Frederick would take tickets from Longhorn lobbyist Ben Barnes.

Martin writes, “Both Frederick and Barnes confirmed that Frederick and his wife attended the $1,000 per person event at Roy Spence’s home at Barnes’ invitation . . . Asked who (paid) for his invitation, Frederick said, ‘I haven’t got a clue if anybody did.’ He said, ‘I got an invitation in the mail and a phone call from Ben (Barnes)—he was out of town—saying ‘If you would like to attend this, the tickets are in the mail.’”

Barnes, a heavy-duty fund-raiser for the Democratic Party, said the tickets were “comped,” but other people familiar with the Spence fund-raiser doubt that is true because the Secret Service wanted a small crowd. Any free tickets would have diminished the fund-raising, the story says. Frederick explains that he and Barnes have been friends since being introduced by former County Commissioner Margaret Moore about two years ago.

Barnes, a former lieutenant governor with ties to those in power in Texas, as well as in Washington, D.C., serves as lobbyist for Longhorn Partners and a number of other major corporations.

Longhorn’s 50-year-old pipeline runs from Houston to El Paso, crossing the Barton Springs portion of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. Frederick has given his blessing to the pipeline, provided Longhorn implements some safeguards—though he stopped short of re-routing of the pipeline. As the chief of the agency that enforces the Endangered Species Act, Frederick could have insisted that the pipeline take another route. Many environmentalists have argued, and Frederick agrees, that a catastrophic gasoline spill is the chief threat to the Barton Springs salamander.

Jeff Heckler of the PIPE Coalition, which opposes the pipeline, says, “We think there’s a problem there. (Frederick) has only known him for two years—which is, coincidentally, how long Ben has been working on this pipeline issue. If Dave (Frederick) thinks Ben is some kind of great friend, he’s delusional. It’s not like they run in the same circles. So I don’t think it passes the smell test at all. And I think it’s really appalling that he doesn’t see anything wrong with that (accepting gifts from Barnes.) Particularly when he was in a position to do something about this pipeline early on.”

“If they are such good friends,” Heckler says, “why hasn’t Frederick recused himself from any decision-making authority on this project? You can’t have it both ways.” For more details, visit http://www.goodlifemag.com

Even though Frederick has approved Longhorn’s mitigation measures, the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet decided whether to allow the project to proceed. On Thursday, the PIPE Coalition urged members to call Greg Cooke, head of the EPA office in Dallas, to urge him to disallow the pipeline. According to the Coalition, Congressman Gene Green of Houston was circulating a letter on the floor of the House calling for Cooke to be fired. Green, who receives large contributions from the oil industry, was said to be angry at Cooke for not giving the pipeline his approval.

Heckler told In Fact Daily another member of Congress alerted his office to the letter. He said, “The EPA is under the gun” to approve the pipeline by the end of the day November 6—the day before the election. Stay tuned.

Booster says DART has spurred

Development in downtown Dallas

AIA Symposium offers look at rail experiences

The first landmark many people see as they drive into downtown Dallas is the red-and-white Sears Roebuck and Co. warehouse complex. Large and historic, the well-known landmark has been empty for years and was expected to be empty for years to come. Then light rail arrived.

Today, Matthews Southwest has purchased the Sears warehouse and promises to pump more than $200 million into the single largest vacant industrial space in the city. South Side on Lamar will offer 455 loft apartments, entertainment facilities, offices and retail space, as well as a hotel. Developer Kent Collins of Post Properties points to light rail as a catalyst for the multi-million dollar project.

“People looked at the building and said, ‘How are you doing to redevelop that?’” said Collins, who addressed a light rail symposium hosted by the Austin chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) last night. “Before light rail, it was just far enough away from downtown to be too far to walk and too close to drive. If you wanted to get to your office downtown, you had to get in your car and drive a mile into town. Now that it has a rail stop, you can get on the rail and go right into the office.”

Collins’ Post Properties is developing the Austin’s former Poleyard site for upscale apartments downtown. But before Collins joined Post, the native Austinite was a planner in Dallas' downtown business alliance, working to redevelop three of the main corridors in the city’s center. Collins saw the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system under construction and is sold on its benefits to that community.

"I got to see on a daily basis the good and the bad of the issues that revolved around construction," Collins said. "I also got to see what kind of planning can be done to make it work, and what happened after light rail opened downtown. You would have a hard time finding a business owner or a property owner or a major employer anywhere close to downtown Dallas who is not incredibly sold on what DART has done to invigorate the central city."

Critics of light rail, who also spoke at last night's forum, have called Austin's light rail proposal nothing more than "trolley folly." Reclaim Our Allocated Dollars (ROAD) says the light rail line will not relieve traffic congestion and that projected ridership figures for the line are inflated. They say light rail will funnel tax dollars away from critical road improvements in the area and damage local neighborhoods with denser development.

The 21-mile starter line for Austin's light rail system will include a projected 30 stops. Light rail supporter Donna Carter, an architect working on area station design, said the design of those 30 stations could encourage or discourage development in each individual neighborhood.

"The real issue with station area design is that it's a community process, broken up by neighborhood," Carter said. "It doesn't change a community. The community has the opportunity to change itself around the light rail line and really mold the light rail to its liking."

In some areas, a neighborhood will want a lower profile to protect against encroachment, Carter said. In other areas, development can be encouraged and nurtured by station design. Yes, the platform must be a certain length to accommodate the trains, said Carter. Beyond that, anything can happen. Landscaping, building materials and signs can match the character of the community.

Collins said his experience with DART echoed Carter’s assessment. One of the greatest fears of neighborhoods in Dallas was the encroachment of commercial development. Most found those fears to be unfounded, said Collins. Development happened where it was encouraged, he said. In neighborhoods like the M Street area—which Collins compared to Rosewood or Hyde Park—the stops replaced the Central Expressway without creating denser development.

"The neighborhood thought there would be real pressure to have high-density development," Collins said. “Instead, what's happened is that property values in the M Street area have really gone up. It's a very desirable place to live because you can walk to the end of your block and get on the train and be downtown in 15 minutes rather than fight traffic on the Central Expressway."

Collins also credits rail in a number of other key development projects in the city, such as the conversion of the Southland Center into a new 1,900-room Adam's Mark Hotel and the $30 million renovation of the 40-story Bryan Tower near the Pearl Station. Blockbuster Entertainment cited the DART line as one of the key selling points in its relocation of 1,000 workers to corporate headquarters downtown.

Critics from Texas Public Policy Foundation wrote in a recent report on Austin's light rail proposal, however, that most development around light rail lines has been subsidized by taxpayers through tax abatements and direct subsidies, rather than as a natural outgrowth of market forces. The foundation questions a recent report that suggested the rail line has spurred more than $800 million in private development. Office vacancies are still high in downtown Dallas –at roughly 27 percent—and are much higher than either downtown Austin or Houston.

Two West End restaurants did go out of business during the construction of DART, but Collins attributed the loss to poor business rather than rail construction. “Construction is never a wonderful experience, but it's never as bad as people think it will be,” Collins said.

Collins said he’s a rail advocate, but that Post Properties does not own property along the Dallas light rail line and has thus not benefited directly from its addition to the area.

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

Food design . . . Teams are already gearing up for CANstruction 2000, the design and build competition being held Saturday at One Congress Plaza. A number of local architectural firms and organizations have committed teams to build the most outlandish creations from canned and boxed foods, as a benefit for the Capital Area Food Bank. Everyone is welcome at the awards ceremony, scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday. The exhibit can be seen through Nov. 10 in the Lower Level Gallery at One Congress Plaza (111 Congress Ave.). For more information, contact Pamela Ramsey at 345-5538 . . . Carlito’s angels . . . Council Member Raul Alvarez surprised and amused City Hall employees Tuesday by wearing a bathrobe and slippers to the office. His staff wore “Charlie’s Angels” attire. Alvarez prefers to call them Carlito’s Angels . . . Sierra Club opposes road bonds . . . The Austin Regional Group of the Sierra Club is urging members to vote in favor of light rail and Prop. 2, which allocates about $13 million for open space acquisition. The group says members should vote no on the city’s $150 million for highway projects, intersection improvements and bicycle and pedestrian projects. In addition, the group opposes allowing the city to lease 400 acres of park land for a golf course and hotel complex . . . Vandals strike. . . The city announced yesterday that vandalism of a manhole had caused about one million gallons of wastewater to spill into Dry Creek near its intersection with FM 2222. Lake Austin residents are advised to limit contact with the water and wash their hands if any contact occurs.

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

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