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Travis County slows down

Thursday, November 8, 2001 by

New landfill siting ordinance

Committee to report in one month

The protests from waste management companies over a proposed landfill-siting ordinance were enough for County Judge Sam Biscoe Tuesday to call for a working committee on the topic.

County Commissioners took an executive session to discuss it and then unanimously agreed to call for the committee, which will have a month to mediate the issue.

Waste management companies have listed a number of concerns about the proposed ordinance, intended to confine solid waste sites to specific parts of the county. The National Solid Waste Management Association outlined those concerns in a letter to the Commissioners Court:

• The ordinance could limit expanding existing landfills and limit future landfill capacity • Its language does not differentiate between illegal “rogue” sites and those that comply with current regulations • The siting criteria is considered vague and a “moving target” • It contains variance provisions the industry considers unworkable Commissioner Ron Davis wanted to make sure the time frame on the working group was limited to only a month and that county staff could participate in the discussions. Biscoe wants to restrict the group to nine members and asked county commissioners to present him with nominees by Friday. Those nominees are likely to fall into the categories of neighborhood groups, waste management companies and local environmentalists. Commissioner Todd Baxter added that not all neighborhood groups—nor all waste management companies—have the same expectations or opinions on the issue. He recommended that the working group be expanded, if necessary, to incorporate all viewpoints on the issue.

Biscoe also agreed to consult with Executive Director Joe Gieselman of Transportation and Natural Resources, Assistant County Attorney Tom Nuckols and Environmental Officer John Kuhl to draft a mission statement for the working group. If the working group agrees that the ordinance only needs fine-tuning, the work could be completed before the end of the calendar year, Biscoe told the court.

In the meantime, the court is encouraging county departments to stay in touch with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to keep on top of landfill applications while the revised version of the ordinance is being crafted.

Military leave slots created

Travis County has created an initial 25 Military Leave slots for those reservists employed by the county who are being called up for active duty. The Travis County Sheriff’s Department currently has eight reserve officers called up to active duty and another seven officers awaiting orders. Reservists will be shifted to those Military Leave slots and replacements will be hired to take their places during their tours of duty.

The Sheriff’s Department predicts that up to 60 employees eventually could be called up for military service. Biscoe asked the county’s human resources management department to craft a policy statement on the issue, which must address, among other things, whether an enlistee’s family retains their medical benefits while the reservist is on the unpaid leave.

South Congress group vows

To continue to fight light rail

Previous defeat of rail was by slim margin

South Austin merchants gathered at Guero’s on South Congress to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the defeat of Capitol Metro’s light rail proposal, but the focus of the gathering quickly turned to strategy for the next battle over rapid transit.

With Mayor-elect Gus Garcia using his election-night victory speech to remind supporters of his endorsement of light rail, opponents are gearing up for another campaign. Gerald Daugherty, who helped organize opposition last year as founder of the group ROAD, told South Congress business owners to start early. “You don’t need to wait 60 days before this thing happens to put ‘no light rail’ signs in your window,” Daugherty said. “You need to put ‘No Light Rail’ in your window tomorrow.” He also predicted another massive fundraising effort from light-rail supporters and urged South Austin residents to reach out to their counterparts on the north side for assistance. “Their (supporters) are going to go north . . . I think what they’re going to do is bypass the Wooten and Crestview neighborhoods, thinking if they do that, they’re going to get those people to support them or at least sit on their hands,” Daugherty said. “We won this thing by 1,956 votes out of 260,000. I will tell you, if they turn 1,956 votes around on the north end, the south end will be the recipient of getting light rail shoved down your throat.”

In order to get a jump-start on any campaign, Robert Lippincott of Guero’s has helped form Save South Congress to collect donations from area merchants. Lippincott is frustrated that the light-rail proposal, which was narrowly defeated last year, could come up for another vote as early as 2002. “In this so-called World Series of light rail, David is going to have to beat Goliath every game,” he said.

Many of the South Congress business owners at the gathering voiced concerns about the impact construction of a light-rail line would have on their bottom line. Cliff Martinez with Ben White Florist said his business would suffer during the extended construction. “We were there when they re-did South Congress, we don’t need any more of that. That hurt bad enough,” he said. “They’re going after this with a vengeance. I think they can smell blood, because it was close . . . we’re going to have to fight just as hard as they are.”.

Aquifer District board looks

At precinct map changes

By Beth Nelson

With a few water conservation board members displaying “I Voted Today” stickers on their chests, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) Board of Directors Tuesday delved into another of the United State’s founding principals—one person, one vote.

At Tuesday’s meeting in the district’s Manchaca office, board members discussed redrawing the lines that divide the district into five voting precincts. Legal representation from the Austin law firm of Bickerstaff Heath Smiley Pollan Kever & McDaniel helped the four board members negotiate the quagmire of voting law.

The US Constitution requires governing bodies to redraw their voting precincts according to population after every census, unless there is no change—unlikely after the latest boom.

According to figures compiled by the law firm, all precincts but Precinct 1 saw a large fluctuation of population and need to be redrawn. Any variance (+ or -) of 10 percent or more from an ideal size is flagged for adjustment. The ideal size is determined by averaging between the two larger precincts (4 and 5), and among the three smaller precincts.

The breakdown:

Precinct 1 – Jim Camp Precinct size after 2000 census: 12,177 Percent variance from ideal size: *7.94 Precinct size using Plan 1: 11,159 Percent variance from ideal size: -1.24 * Precinct 1 lines will change to accommodate other adjacent precincts, not because it isn’t within the allowable limit.

Precinct 2 – Don Turner Precinct size after 2000 census: 8,586 Percent variance from ideal size: -23.89 Precinct size using Plan 1: 11,251 Percent variance from ideal size: -0.42

Precinct 3 – Bill Welch Precinct size after 2000 census: 13,080 Percent variance from ideal size: 15.95 Precinct size using Plan 1: 11,487 Percent variance from ideal size: 1.66

Ideal size used for precincts 1,2 and 3: 11,299

Precinct 4 – Jack Goodman Precinct size after 2000 census: 61,685 Percent variance from ideal size: -16.79 Precinct size using Plan 1: 71,257 Percent variance from ideal size: -3.85

Precinct 5 – Craig Smith Precinct size after 2000 census: 86,584 Percent variance from ideal size: 16.79 Precinct size using Plan 1: 76,958 Percent variance from ideal size: 3.85

Ideal size used for precincts 4,5: 74,108

Legal representatives have already outlined an initial plan (Plan 1) for the board and community to consider. “We try and to start with just one plan to get the public involved,” said attorney Bill Dugat.

The changes seemed to have little effect on the different board members. All seemed, at least on the surface, satisfied with this initial plan. That may change in the next couple of weeks, though, as board members get more of a grasp on the particulars. For instance, board members may find that they’ve lost a large section of support by implementing this first plan.

“On the first pass over, I think you did an excellent job,” said Camp. He added that he wanted to make sure that the community would have full access to this plan and any others through the BSEACD website.

Citizens can write up their own plan for redrawing district lines by 5p.m. on November 26. A public hearing and meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on December 6.

Did you miss this week's news ? See top of page. Click on the day you want to see.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Saying good-bye . . . Today is the final meeting as Mayor for Kirk Watson. Expect an appropriate sendoff from Council Members and staff around 5:30pm, and a suitably early end to business for one of Austin’s all-time favorite sons. Watson will, of course be present for the canvassing of votes at 1:30pm Friday and will welcome guests to Mayor-elect Gus Garcia’s swearing-in ceremony at 2pm . . . Also moving on. . . Watson’s chief of staff, Kristen Vassallo, will be following her boss to the campaign for Texas Attorney General. Jason Maurer, special events coordinator for Watson, is joining Assistant City Manager Roger Chan’ s staff as executive assistant. Chan’s current executive assistant, Rosie Truelove, has accepted a job as Assistant to the City Manager. She will be taking over from Kathy Donellan, who is becoming Budget Manager in the city’s budget office . . . It’s always campaign season in Austin . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Daryl Slusher are hosting a signature-gathering party at Threadgill’s World Headquarters, 301 W Riverside Dr, at 5pm Friday. Both are trying to comply with a City Charter provision that prevents incumbents from running for third term without a petition signed by about 18,000 voters. Council Member Beverly Griffith, who is also looking at a third term, is in the same boat, but has not started her petition drive. She may be relying on the fact that state law almost always overrules city charters and state law only requires a small fraction of the number required by the charter, in this case 178 signatures. The matter is the subject of an opinion request at the Texas Secretary of State’s Office . . . Budget pow-wow set for Tuesday . . . City Manager Jesus Garza and department heads are scheduled to meet in retreat Tuesday to talk about budget cuts. One scenario to be considered—and implemented—is an across-the-board cut of five percent for all departments. A second, more painful scenario is a possible cut of 12.5 percent, which would involve eliminating whole programs, or at least putting them into cold storage for the foreseeable future. All of this of course, is the result of lower sales tax revenues and increased costs due to security alerts and general awareness of possible terrorism directed against the city . . . Hyde Park postponement request . . . Members of the Hyde Park neighborhood planning team have asked for another postponement on the third reading of their neighborhood plan’s zoning. The problem, they say, is that the city’s legal department had not finished the 30-page ordinance by midday yesterday.

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