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Mitchell fails to attend

Wednesday, October 17, 2001 by

His own announcement

Stand-ins include Nelson Linder, Marcos DeLeon

About a dozen supporters of former City Council Member Eric Mitchell were joined by nearly as many reporters on the steps of City Hall Tuesday evening for Mitchell’s mayoral campaign announcement—only Mitchell was unable to attend. Instead, Nelson Linder of the NAACP and former Travis County Commissioner Marcos De Leon took the opportunity to complain about the current slate of candidates and praise Mitchell.

Mitchell was prevented from attending the announcement, Linder said, because of an illness in the family. But while Linder indicated Mitchell had essentially been “drafted” to run by community activists, he said the former Council member would be running “absolutely, without a doubt, enthusiastically.”

Linder, De Leon and other supporters said their concerns were not being addressed by the other candidates in the race, which was why they “drafted” Mitchell. “This city has a reputation as being a progressive city,” Linder said. “But is it really? This campaign . . . will show there are many elements around this city that want change, that want more development in East Austin, that want more community-based service in northwest Austin and south Austin,” Linder said. He cited the cost of living, the economy and racism as issues that were not part of the current discussion. De Leon agreed with Linder that addressing the cost-of-living issues should be a priority.

“The same-old, same-old are coming back into office . . . it’s time to take a stand, because we’re getting pushed out for other folks to be moving in,” he said, referring to the gentrification of some East Austin neighborhoods. “We have a situation in Austin called Smart Growth. We know what it is; it’s Smart removal growth. It’s to remove us from our community.” While De Leon said he didn’t always agree with Mitchell’s stand on issues, he praised his character. “He shoots straight. He’s honest with you.” De Leon is part of the El Concilio political organization, which has had numerous disputes with Mayoral frontrunner Gus Garcia over the years.

Although he spent three years on the Council and has made some appearances before that body since leaving office, Austinites may remember Mitchell for his 1997 election-night tirade against the man who beat him, Willie Lewis, and others. ( See In Fact No. 96 – June 4, 1997. ) Linder said he hoped voters would take Mitchell’s entire record into account when deciding how to cast their ballots. “On that particular night, that was a very small part of the Eric Mitchell that we know,” Linder said. “His record speaks for itself.”

According to supporters, Mitchell will begin attending candidate forums “as soon as possible.” Although they were unable to say if Mitchell would be at the forum sponsored by the Metropolitan Breakfast Club this morning. Their regular meeting is at 7am at the University of Texas Club at DKR Memorial Stadium.

Commissioners move toward

County control over waste siting

State law gives counties more regulatory powers

Travis County Commissioners Tuesday got a first look at the county’s plans for a solid waste siting ordinance, which will be posted for a public hearing on Oct. 30.

The ordinance is not in draft form yet, but Chief Environmental Officer John Kuhl presented an outline of the county’s intentions to commissioners yesterday. The proposed ordinance, Kuhl said, likely will be modeled on the ordinance commissioners approved earlier this month to expel solid waste facilities from the floodplain, now allowed under new state law. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 3, 2001.)

Kuhl presented a map of the county that outlined areas that should be excluded from solid waste siting. Issues for land exclusion included safety concerns, endangered species, unstable land and wetland areas. A five-mile radius around the airport would be off limits to avoid hazards caused by birds. Almost three-quarters of the county—and all of western Travis County—would be excluded from future facility sitings. The only remaining acceptable land would be on the fringes of Precincts 1 and 4.

Kuhl says need for the ordinance was triggered by two factors: a new state law giving the county broader authority over the regulation of land use and recent waste facility permit applications county commissioners considered undesirable.

Commissioner Ron Davis praised the staff’s efforts, saying he had heard from many community leaders who were adversely affected by siting of solid waste facilities next to existing subdivisions. He called the ordinance “a positive direction.”

Former County Commissioner David Samuelson, representing the Black Land Prairie Concerned Citizens, praised the efforts of county commissioners to limit sitings. He said his group would have a full assessment of the ordinance at the public hearing.

“We will have an official presentation to give you,” Samuelson said. “I’m here to commend you on moving forward with this and thank you for your efforts on Item 11.”

Item 11 was a letter of formal opposition to the Captex Sludge application. Travis County drafted a letter last week, signed by County Judge Sam Biscoe, which asked the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to reconsider a permit on the project.

Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols told commissioners the county could approach the solid waste facility siting issue from two directions. One, which he labeled a zoning option, would be to identify areas of the county where solid waste sites could be located. The other would be to draft criteria for setting specified distances from landmarks such as rivers, lakes, parks, schools or churches that facilities could be built. By following the former, the ordinance would likely incorporate a map closely resembling the one presented by Kuhl.

The county’s approach to solid waste facilities, Commissioner Karen Sonleitner noted, was similar to the one taken on sexually-oriented businesses. What made the ordinance defensible in court, Sonleitner said, was that it did not rule out all applications. It just limited the number of places where such facilities could be located.

Commissioners also approved a contract for the removal of feral hogs from the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. The County won’t pay money to the trapper. Instead, the county will allow him to capture the hogs and sell them to the highest bidder. Kuhl labeled the hogs plowing of roots as highly destructive to the land, although he didn’t state how many feral hogs are on the property. There’s an old saying, Kuhl told the court—a sow has six to 12 piglets, and 24 will survive.

Austin Energy ready to add

More watts to Green Choice

Utility's renewable program rated lowest-priced in nation

Austin Energy is planning to provide an additional 25 megawatts of wind-generated power for its Green Choice program. Roger Duncan, the utility’s vice president for conservation, renewables and environmental policy, told the Resource Management Commission (RMC) last night, “We are selecting two proposals for the short list. The highest evaluated proposal is from Cielo Wind Power LLC.” Duncan said Cielo would be operating an estimated 20 wind turbines for Austin Energy’s use at Miller Ranch, about 50 miles southeast of Lubbock. Addition of those turbines “will bring our total wind capacity to 111 megawatts,” he said. The staff recommended American Electric Power (AEP) as a backup contractor for the wind energy.

On Nov. 1, the City Council will be asked to approve a contract for up to $22.9 million over 10 years with one of the companies. Duncan said it is time for Austin Energy to purchase more renewable energy because the Green Choice program is doing so well, with more than 50 percent of current supplies sold.

Duncan also reported that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently issued a report ranking green pricing programs around the country. At this time, he said, consumers in 29 states can sign up for renewable power, mostly wind and methane-produced energy. Austin Energy’s Green Choice program was rated first in premium charges, being the lowest-price program available. The utility took second place in the category of new renewable resources. However, Duncan said NREL agrees that Austin Energy will move into first place when all the resources currently in the pipeline begin operating.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Land sale OK’d by commission . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission voted unanimously last night to approve the sale of three parcels of Proposition 2 Water Quality Lands. The City Council asked the commission to consider the matter after a complaint from Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, that the matter had not been through the public input process. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 1, 2001.) City real estate specialist Junie Plummer explained that all three tracts would be subject to conservation easements and would help repay the $5 million borrowed from the Water & Wastewater Utility’s budget for other purchases . . . Bond amount changes . . . County Commissioners approved new bond election material at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting. The total cost of the bond proposal—minus Frate Barker Road—is just under $185 million. The impact on the average homestead would be an extra $35 in 2204, up to $37 in Fiscal Year 2008. YES! Travis County Bonds Committee, the bond booster group put together by a coalition of business and civic organizations, is holding a press conference to explain the ballot propositions today at 1:30pm at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, 111 Congress, 8th Floor Conference Room . . . Candidate’s life . . . Mayoral candidate Gus Garcia has a busy schedule, beginning this morning at 8:30am as featured speaker for the Metropolitan Breakfast Club at the University Club. We assume you know where it is if you are a member. We’re not sure what he’s doing for lunch, but he’s scheduled to appear at the East Cesar Chavez Candidate Forum at Martin Middle School at 7pm and at the UT Democrat’s Endorsement Meeting at the UTC Bldg. 4.102 at 8pm. Austin Interfaith is hosting a Candidate Accountability Session at Ebenezer Baptist Church Thursday night from 7- 8:30pm. We’re not sure who might show up at these events besides Garcia, but the Interfaith meetings are not known to be much fun for anyone, especially elected officials, and usually involve a lot of accusations of racism . . . No comment for now . . . Members of the Zoning and Platting Commission heard from staff of the Neighborhood Zoning and Planning Department, as well as from Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry, last night on changes the City Council may make to the ordinance governing jurisdiction of their commission and the Planning Commission. Though several commissioners were clearly concerned about the proposal, the item was not posted for action. Commissioners asked for more information and apparently will be formulating their responses to the proposal over the next week, when the item will reappear on the ZAP agenda.

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