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Council agrees to additional

Monday, March 5, 2001 by

Funds for Music Network

Goodman helping AMN look for new home

The City Council last week approved adding $390,000 to funding for the Austin Music Network channel (AMN) to ensure its continued operation through the end of this fiscal year.

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman led discussion of the item, taking the American-Statesman to task for the newspaper’s editorial entitled, “Austin Music Network: Money for Nothing.”

The editorial incorrectly stated that the city had signed a 3-year contract with Threadgill’s Restaurant owner Eddie Wilson in 1998. It also said the channel is not a symbol for Austin as “live music capital of the world”—but is instead a symbol of “a prodigal council unwilling to face the music and admit the network is an utter waste of taxpayer money.”

The contract with the K.Threadgill’s Foundation was actually inked last November when the foundation took over from Rick Melchior’ s company, Music Management Group. Goodman said the channel “is indeed a symbol and since (the editorial) was published in the paper, I’ve gotten an incredible number of calls from people saying they do watch the channel.” Goodman went on to say that the channel offers up and coming bands a chance for publicity, and her callers praised the improved quality of programming since Wilson’s group took over.

“A great deal of money comes into our (city) coffers from the live music scene. Not all of those (funds) are from big time musicians with big time contracts,” Goodman said.

Kevin Conner of the Austin Music Commission told the Council his group is very pleased with the changes at the station. “It was literally in shambles when they took it over,” he said, praising the work Threadgill’s and manager Woody Roberts have done.

Council Member Beverly Griffith offered an amendment to stipulate that new performance goals and standards be set. She said the station should have a designated amount of live music taping and be able to project its market share. In addition, she said future funding should come from specific enterprise funds. Griffith said she understands that it is not possible to find out exact market share for access channels, but that it is possible to spot check for additional information on the number of viewers.

During the discussion, Council Member Daryl Slusher said he would be curious to find out the market share for Channel 6 broadcasts of Council meetings. City Manager Jesus Garza said, “We would be cancelled.”

The management contract for AMN will be up for renewal in September. The total contract amount, including the latest increase, is $1,773,000.

Goodman is also working behind the scenes to help find a new home for the network. She likes the idea of moving AMN to an empty hangar at the Mueller Airport, as she told the commission charged with the oversight of redeveloping the city’s former municipal airport.

The Austin Film Society already has made its home in one hangar at Mueller Airport. AMN could end up residing next door. It is currently housed in temporary buildings on the parking lot of Wilson’s restaurant on North Lamar. “Running a music network from Threadgill’s has not been good for the music network or for Eddie’s restaurant. It’s not an ideal arrangement,” says Goodman aide Jerry Rusthoven. “We’d like to find a place where we can move the temporary buildings and let them get out of each other’s way.”

A hangar at Mueller Airport makes sense for a couple of reasons, Rusthoven said. First, it would be located very close to the city’s municipal channel where AMN’s tapes are stored. And second, the municipal channel’s building is already wired with the infrastructure necessary to tie back into the cable system.

The goal would be to move the temporary buildings adjacent to the municipal channel, then into the large wooden aircraft hangar next door. Efforts currently are underway to declare zone the hangar as historic. Rusthoven points out that the Mueller master plan does include the historic hangar and that it should be devoted to long-term civic or public use.

Chair Jim Walker of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Redevelopment Commission said the idea of the music network’s new home was floated at the last meeting and will be on the commission’s agenda on March 20. “We didn’t have it posted for discussion that night so I think it would be premature for me to speculate on whether it will have support,” Walker said. “All I can say is it’s another idea for a long-term use at Mueller, and I’m glad these things are coming before the commission before the city decides to take any action.”

Rusthoven speculated that even the hangar may only be an interim home for AMN,. The City Council has discussed the idea of a community media center to house the city’s municipal channel and other similar services. “Of course, that’s many, many years down the road,” Rusthoven said. “Right now, we’re concerned about getting the music network out of the Threadgill’s parking lot as cheaply as possible, and this is one idea that we’re considering.”

Ratliff offers opinions

At RECA luncheon

Comments on illegal immigrants spark response

Light rail critic Gerald Daugherty did not hesitate to take a swing at Capital Metro during the Real Estate Council of Austin’ s luncheon with Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff on Friday.

Daugherty, who led the fight against light rail in Austin, asked Ratliff whether public agencies such as Cap Metro should be entitled to their own lobbyists. Daugherty told Ratliff that when he wants to talk to lawmakers about bills he is continually faced with “six-figure lobbyists that are being paid for out of the public coffers.” Daugherty asked for Ratliff’s opinion.

“First, let me tell you from one legislator’s viewpoint that I know who the paid people are and I know who the citizens are,” Ratliff ( R-Mount Pleasant) said. “The thing about the paid ones is, we don’t know whether they really believe what they’re saying or not.”

Lobbyists may argue well for their cause, Ratliff said, but if John Q Citizen sends a letter—a real letter, not one that has been photocopied or scripted by an association—“it’s going to mean a lot more to me than a paid lobbyist.” After a slight pause, Ratliff quipped, “All my PAC money is going to dry up, having said that.” The comment brought a chuckle from the room.

In some of his other comments, Ratliff chided Congressional Democrats who criticized Bush’s tax cut plan by pointing to a budget shortfall in Texas. Ratliff said there was no budget shortfall in Texas, simply a need to set budget priorities for this biennium’s revenues.

Ratliff went on to say that it was the federal government that had failed Texas by not protecting its border, which has led to a flood of illegal immigrants using the state’s hospitals and schools at taxpayer expense. He also criticized a lack of state highway funding considering the number of trucks NAFTA had added to Texas. About 80 percent of NAFTA cargo enters the U.S. through Texas, Ratliff said.

On Sunday, Molly Beth Malcolm, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, criticized Ratliff’s remarks in the Dallas Morning News. Malcolm told the Associated Press she was “frankly stunned” by Ratliff’s comments. She likened the statements to former California Gov. Pete Wilson’ s criticism of undocumented immigrants during the 1990s. “It was morally reprehensible then and is morally reprehensible now,” she said.

Ratliff, who took questions from a packed luncheon audience at the Four Seasons, told guests he was open to legislation that would give school districts more latitude in choosing the starting date for the scholastic year. Current law stipulates that schools can start no later than Sept. 1. A proposed bill would shift requirements to prevent schools from starting before Aug. 21. School districts in the state typically begin classes in the first or second week of August to make sure the fall semester ends before winter break.

Ratliff, who helped rewrite the education code in 1995, said he is a strong believer in giving school districts the right to handle day-to-day decisions such as calendar issues. He added, however, that he understands the dilemma of parents, and that of the state’s tourism industry, and he is trying to remain open-minded about the issue. “I think we might be able to get to a compromise,” Ratliff said.

Asked to contrast the political styles of George W. Bush and Rick Perry, Ratliff said they were similar in many ways. From his experience, both were open-minded, inclusive and non-dictatorial. Ratliff said he sees Perry adopting Bush’s methodology, which is to pick four or five important issues to champion and allow his lieutenants in the House and Senate take care of the rest.

It was always Bush’s style to delegate authority and “unless the wheels were coming off, he wouldn’t interfere,” Ratliff said. He added that his assumptions were likely to be tested. “We haven’t gotten to the heavy lifting yet.”

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gray Panthers Gala . . . Former State Senators Babe Schwartz and Chet Brooks are among the fabled political storytellers who should amuse those attending Wednesday’s annual fundraiser for the Gray Panthers. The party will be at the Doubletree Hotel, 15th and Lavaca, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For more information call 458-3738 . . . More honor for Hizzoner . . . Mayor Kirk Watson has been selected as Texas' Person of Vision 2001. He will be honored at a roast at the Austin Marriott on March 28. Prevent Blindness Texas is the sponsor . . . Council Appointments . . . Anita Benavides Mennucci was appointed to the Commission for Women. Simone Talma was appointed to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs. Elmore DuFour and Richard McCown were appointed to the Austin Community Education Consortium. The appointments were all made at last Thursday’s Council meeting.

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