Tuesday, August 14, 2001 by

Mayor to announce he'll run

For Attorney General today

As predicted, Mayor Kirk Watson will be resigning to run for Texas Attorney General. Although widely expected to have a press conference today, Watson has decided to have one-on-one conversations with members of the media instead. Margaret Justus, press secretary for the Watson campaign, said the mayor would be speaking with various members of the media throughout the day. The energetic Watson plans to get up early, since he has an appointment for a phone interview with KLBJ radio at 6:30 a.m.

In a press release issued early Tuesday, Watson seemed to be setting up an argument with Cornyn over redistricting. “The law is not Republican, the law is not Democrat, the law is not urban or rural. The law is not about who gave the biggest campaign contribution in the last election cycle,” Watson said. Cornyn’s plan for redistricting in the House of Representatives, which heavily favors Republicans, was adopted by the Legislative Redistricting Board over the objections of House Speaker Pete Laney. Laney, a Democrat, filed a dissent, saying Cornyn’s plan discriminates against minorities. The Texas Farm Bureau has also criticized Cornyn’s plan as being unfair to rural areas. The Dallas Morning News and newspapers in the Golden Triangle have reported that the Attorney General is ducking questions about the redistricting plan.

Justus, who has no connections to Watson’s mayoral office, said he would have a formal press conference in November, after his successor is elected. November 6 is the first day available for an election to fill Watson’s unexpired term. If he wins next year’s Democratic primary, Watson will face the current attorney general, Republican John Cornyn. Former City Council Member Gus Garcia has told close friends that he will run for mayor, but he did not return phone calls from In Fact Daily Monday. However, he is expected to announce his candidacy this week also. Council Member Beverly Griffith has been discussing city issues with a wide variety of friends and business leaders also. She is in Colorado this week, but is expected back in Austin this weekend. She is Garcia’s most likely opponent, since Council Members Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman have both indicated that they would not run if Garcia chose to do so. Robin Rather, former chair of the Save Our Springs Alliance, has adopted a baby and has decided not to run for mayor at this time either.

If Griffith were to run for mayor, her seat on the Council would become vacant. Her executive assistant, Jeff Jack, might then become a candidate for that position. It is unclear who else might want to serve on the Council at this time.

Reagan advertising wins latest

Round at Sign Review Board

Fate of competing billboard permits still in doubt

Reagan National Advertising finally won a round in its battle against smaller sign companies at the Sign Review Board last night. The board voted 5-2 to grant Reagan’s appeal of the city’s decision not to allow the giant company to repair four billboards on property at two different locations. However, the decision did not clear up continuing confusion over which company has superior rights to locate and maintain its signs.

Last month the same board voted to allow Reagan’s competitors, Acme and Capitol Outdoor Advertising, to erect replacement signs at the same locations. John Joseph Jr., representing Reagan, told the board, “We’re requesting that you issue our repair permits . . . and keep all the permits issued in suspension until a court has ruled,” on which sign company has the right to locate the signs on property on Ben White Blvd and Cole St. Even though Reagan removed the signs within a few days of making the application, Joseph argued that the permit to repair the signs “represents the only way we can put our sign back up.” He said Reagan made the application to protect its legal rights.

Sarah Crocker, representing Acme Signs, said, “The only litigation on this particular tract (on Cole St.) was filed by my client—for which he got a temporary injunction.” The litigation does not involve city permits, however. The case, which is over a permit from the Texas Department of Transportation, is set to go to trial in October, she said.

Crocker said Reagan’s lease expired at the end of April. “They have no lease at this time and no right to be on this property.” David Merritt, the agent for the property owners, the Vanderhoof Family Trust, said he accompanied an Acme representative to file for the replacement sign and that his clients oppose the repair permits.

Joseph argued that under the lease agreements Reagan could go onto the property and repair the signs at any time. The fact that Reagan took down the signs and removed the concrete under them did not negate Reagan’s rights—at the time the application was filed—to seek the repair permit. He also said the property owners treated his client unfairly by failing to notify Reagan that they intended to bring in another sign company.

Frank Fuentes, the board member who has most consistently sided with Reagan in the ongoing dispute, made the motion to grant Reagan the repair permit. Bruce Shelton seconded the motion.

Chair Herman Thun said there was “no evidence either way,” that the landowner was required to notify the sign owner of the landowner’s intentions at the end of the lease. Vice Chair Betty Edgemond said, “I have a problem with the billboard being taken down when there was something to repair. You don’t just take it down . . . you (repair the sign) on the spot—and this is what we’re supposed to be making a decision on.”

Fuentes reiterated that the filing of the repair permit application was a way of preserving Reagan’s property rights. Only Thun and Edgemond voted against Fuentes’ motion. However, after the vote there was still confusion about who now has a right to put up signs. Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry said, “What has happened is they (Reagan) appealed the denial of their permit—and by the action tonight you have granted the appeal. So their permit is alive and well . . . there are now two permits for two signs on that piece of property. There’s a permit for repair and a permit for a replacement sign.”

The vote was identical on the cases involving Capitol Outdoor Advertising. Either Acme or Capitol Outdoor can appeal the decision to the City Council. Reagan had first requested a City Council appeal of the other companies’ replacement permits, but dropped those appeals. (See In Fact DailyJuly 10, July 23, June 19, April 19 and May 11, 2001).

Save Barton Creek

Considers new issue

Equity and environment go together, some say

Members of the Save Barton Creek Association want to get information on how they can take up the issue of social equity while still maintaining their environmental focus. The group heard a presentation from Scott Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman last night on what the Community Action Network is doing to promote equity. “We’re not asking people to change the causes they believe in,” said Johnson. “They’re interconnected.”

For SBCA, that connection could come in the form of limiting development in environmentally sensitive areas by promoting affordable housing within the Desired Development Zone. “As an organization, we’ve always had an environmental focus. There’s no reason to change that,” said Vice President Craig Smith. “There is no lack of other issues on which we might focus.”

An SBCA committee will also study the possibility of joining the Community Action Network. CAN Executive Director Fred Butler will undoubtedly be requested to make a presentation at an SBCA meeting in the next few weeks.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Almanza planning Africa trip . . . PODER leader Susana Almanza will be attending the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa beginning August 31. The United States government is threatening to boycott the U.N sponsored conference because of concerns that it could adopt documents containing language that might be offensive to Israel. The WCAR’s website is www.unhchr.ch/html/racism/racism.htm. . . Another look at Sand Beach . . . The Parks and Recreation Board tonight gets a chance to weigh in on the request from Lumbermen’s Investment Corporation for permission to build a 180-foot building on the edge of Town Lake. The Planning Commission sent the matter to the Parks and Recreation Board two weeks ago (see In Fact Daily, August 1, 2001). Although the item is not posted for an official public hearing, the board does have an agenda section reserved for citizen communications. The board meets at 6:30pm at 200 S. Lamar Blvd. . . . No Planning Commission. . . The Planning Commission is taking the week off. Current commissioners have only two more weeks to serve unless they are appointed to the new Planning Commission or the Zoning and Platting Commission . . . Not everyone likes bond proposals . . . Several environmental organizations, including Clean Water Action, the Save Our Springs Alliance and the Texas Community Project have written to Travis County Commissioners urging them to reduce the proposed bond package to the $80 million figure originally given to the citizens’ bond committee. In addition, these groups say that the cost of right-of-way for Texas 130 is too high and many of the proposed roads would create more sprawl. Those hoping to slow down the train have urged their supporters to send emails, call and fax the commissioners. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the matter today, but are more likely to devote a work session to the bonds on Friday . . . Congratulations! . . Writer and web master Rob D’Amico and his wife, Rebecca, are the proud new parents of baby Alex, born Friday after 35 hours of labor. All are well.

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