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Majority mum on making her job permanent The City Council voted unanimously—but with little fanfare—to appoint Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell to the post of acting City Manager designee yesterday, as had been anticipated. Futrell, 47, will take over the position on May 1, on the departure of City Manager Jesus Garza.

Friday, February 1, 2002 by

Council Member Daryl Slusher made the motion to appoint Futrell, saying, “The way this is posted (on the agenda), it makes Ms. Futrell the acting City Manager, but I would be willing to make her the City Manager today. I cannot think of anyone who is better qualified and better positioned to do this job. I have never seen a situation in which it made more sense to hire from within. She’s held positions at a number of levels and has been Assistant City Manager over just about every department in the city.”

Indeed, Futrell’s story is a little like Cinderella’s, minus the wicked stepmother. She began as an entry level clerk in the city-county health department, with a job paid through the State of Texas. That was 23 years ago, Futrell notes. She stayed with the health department and rose through the ranks, picking up a degree in business administration along the way. From there, she moved to the Audit Department, working as an auditor in both performance and financial areas. During her time there, Futrell attended graduate school and completed a Masters of Business Administration.

In 1992, then Assistant City Manager Byron Marshall picked her to be his assistant. The following year, City Manager Camille Barnett asked Futrell to be her assistant. Barnett lost her job a few months later, but City Manager Jesus Garza kept Futrell and gave her additional duties. She became Garza’s chief of staff, with what she terms “a handful of departments” reporting directly to her, as if she were an Assistant City Manager. She was given that title in 1997. In 1999, Garza promoted her to Deputy City Manager.

Slusher described Futrell as a “hands-on manager.” He described how she once had herself strapped into a bed in an ambulance to experience every type of speed hump in the city because she was concerned about the pain that emergency patients might suffer as a result of the traffic calming device. After that experiment, she made sure that new speed humps were of the flatter variety.

“I know there’s some sentiment for a national search or a local search. I won’t be voting for either of those,” Slusher said. If such a move won a majority of votes, however, Slusher said he would “in good faith interview those candidates. But I really think we should get a permanent City Manager as soon as possible.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she agreed with Slusher’s comments. Garcia said he met Futrell when he came to the City Council in 1991 when Futrell “was an Assistant City Auditor. She impressed me then and she impresses me now.” He said any time the Council desires, an agenda item can appear to make Futrell the permanent City Manager. What that means, practically, is Slusher and Goodman could make that move as soon as they have two more votes. Maybe their colleagues want to make sure the incumbents—who along with Council Member Beverly Griffith are in a tough battle to collect enough signatures to run for re-election—will be in office after May.

Vote on controversial contract postponed for one week

After months of negotiation, a decision on amending the lease with Seton Healthcare Network governing Brackenridge Hospital is being put off for at least one more week. The Council decided by a vote of 6-1 to delay consideration of the lease amendment when it became apparent that Seton representatives would oppose suggested changes from Council Member Beverly Griffith. The one vote against delay came from Mayor Gus Garcia, who had proposed a resolution that met with approval from Seton’s representatives.

Griffith asked for changes to certain medical and financial provisions, even though city staff had already worked out the bulk of the lease amendment. She asked that language be added allowing emergency contraception—specifically, the “morning after pill,” to be administered at the “hospital-within-a-hospital” on Brackenridge’s fifth floor. While the discussion at Wednesday’s Council work session focused on the availability of that medication to sexual assault victims, the scope of Thursday’s discussion was expanded to include all women. A key point of contention was the current availability of that medication at Brackenridge, since Griffith’s language called for the city to provide “emergency contraception . . . at the New Hospital, as it had been available at Brackenridge Hospital.” Members of the women’s health-care coalition that have been active in the debate told Council members they had been informed that the morning after pill had been available at Seton.

But Garcia, after questioning Seton representatives, drew a different conclusion. “You are not providing the morning-after pill under the old agreement,” Garcia said, “and if someone were to provide it under the new agreement . . . that is something you can’t live with?” Seton’s Interim President and CEO, Patricia Hayes, said they could not.

Seton is affiliated with the Catholic Church and is bound to follow church doctrines prohibiting contraception and drastically limiting the cases in which a doctor can terminate a pregnancy. Since the “morning after” pill can in certain cases act as an abortifacient, Seton will not be allowed to dispense them under the new Ethical and Religious Directives adopted last year by the church. In addition, Seton cannot maintain a significant relationship with any facility that does offer them. “The issue relates to abortions and abortifacients that are outside the parameter of the current contract, and when those things occur they have a radical impact on what it is Seton can do in relation to the fifth floor from the outside,” Hayes said.

Assistant City Manager Betty Dunkerley and City Manager Jesus Garza sought to reassure Council members that women seeking emergency contraception would still have access to the medication. It will continue to be available at other city health clinics, as well as from private physicians. “We work hard on trying to get folks not to come to the emergency room for primary care services,” Garza said. “We have a clinic system that we fund handsomely . . . and that’s where we would want those individuals to present themselves so that we can provide them the medical care that we need because that’s the most effective way to do it.”

Griffith’s proposal also called for deletion of language relating to abortion. She wanted to remove a sentence specifically allowing Seton to terminate a portion of the lease called the “Ancillary Services Agreement” if the city provided abortions within the new hospital-within-a-hospital. But Hayes indicated that Seton could not agree to that clause because of the Ethical and Religious Directives against abortion. “If this sentence is stricken, it would not be possible for Seton to sign the agreement,” Hayes said. “Because the nature of the ancillary services, Seton would not be able to continue to provide those services because abortions were performed.”

Both Griffith and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman expressed frustration that the Ethical and Religious Directives could have an impact on the procedures of the fifth floor. “Who’s in control of the new hospital? Why should it matter at all, to Seton?” Goodman asked. “It’s our hospital; it’s our building; the hospital-within-a-hospital is a separate facility.”

While contraception still appears to be a sticking point, Griffith did see some progress in her effort to ensure access to some of Seton’s financial records. She had specifically requested the “right to access, examine, analyze and verify Brackenridge’s records . . . pertinent to the execution of this Lease Agreement.” Seton representatives originally balked at the extent of access that language would grant, but city Finance Director John Stephens was able to craft language during the meeting that would provide some of the access requested by Griffith. “That encourages me about the other things we were not in agreement on,” Griffith said. “It’s certainly in the public interest that we work it out. There are a few things that we can’t compromise on, and a few things they can’t compromise on. That’s going to be the challenge this week . . . to get those ‘deal breakers’ in line.”

After two and a half hours of discussion, Goodman told fellow Council members she wasn’t prepared to vote on the proposed lease agreement. “I don’t think these amendments could or should put anything in jeopardy,” Goodman said. “My position is not to kill this deal because I frankly see no alternative viable for the city at this time.” She called for a thorough review of Griffith’s proposed language over the next week. “It may be that legal from both parties needs to look at the language very carefully and what impact it would have for these amendments to be accepted into the lease,” she said.

Hayes expressed concern over any delay on the grounds that Seton was under pressure to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives, but the Council decided to postpone the vote on the lease amendment until next week.

Battle will continue in court

The City Council last night gave final approval to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, including the Hyde Park Baptist Church in the neighborhood conservation combining district (NCCD), over the church’s strenuous objections. The measure was approved on an emergency basis, putting the ordinance into effect immediately to prevent Hyde Park Baptist from filing additional site plans to preserve rights it may have had prior to approval of the plan. The vote was 6-1, with Council Member Danny Thomas voting against the plan and associated zoning. Six votes were necessary to approve the both the NCCD measure and the zoning because the church had a valid petition against both.

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman added a provision that would allow zoning on certain church properties to be changed if both sides can agree on an alternative. Her amendment would not have the parties meeting during the next 30 days.

Attorney Richard Suttle, who has represented the church throughout the protracted battles between the institution and the neighborhood, said, “Never before has the Council ignored a church, as it has Hyde Park Baptist.” He told the Council he hoped they would “not put any party in the position of being able to claim winner take all. Because it’s not going to be the end. Whatever you do tonight, it’s not going to be the end.”

The church and the neighborhood have been battling for more than 10 years over the future of both. Suttle said the Council should treat Hyde Park Baptist has well as it has certain developers that the city decided should be kept inside the city rather than in the suburbs. But Council members had clearly decided the issue should be decided in favor of the neighborhood.

At 11:15pm last night, neighborhood leader Susan Moffat was writing thank you notes to the six Council members. “I can’t tell you how happy I am. This is how neighborhood planning should work. It should be applied evenly across the board. I am just so thrilled to see ours finally adopted.”

The church has already sued the city over what development regulations should be applied to an extension of the church’s parking garage. Moffat said Hyde Park Baptist has asked for summary judgment and that the matter would be heard in federal court on Feb. 21. The Council adjoiurned at 12:33am today.

Heavy artillery . . . The Austin Firefighters Political Action Committee will be asking folks to show support for them and three incumbent Council members who are seeking signatures to get on the ballot for re-election in May. Firefighters PAC spokesman Mike Martinez says, “These Council members have been protecting Austin firefighters at City Hall while we protect the citizens and visitors of Austin.” They will be collecting signatures at Book People and at polling locations for the AISD Bond Election on Saturday. Don’t forget that election—it’s for money to do mold abatement. Firefighters plan to give away bumper stickers also . . . The lesson from Oppel. . . In case your subscription to the Statesman has expired or you simply failed to read the editorial pages this week, editor Rich Oppel is leaning heavily on Williamson County to stop doing business with consultant Pete Peters. But some other consultants think Peters’ involvement with fundraising for the county’s pro-bond PAC and consulting with the PAC and the road manager is pretty much the way business is done. As one put it, “Pete Peters’ mistake was that he pissed off a guy who buys ink by the barrel.” So, the lesson in this is, don’t mention the editor’s name in any of your invoices, especially if you only prepared other folks to talk to the man as opposed to meeting with him yourself . . . Good job for Maxey . . . Retiring State Rep. Glen Maxey has started a new job with Good Company Associates. Maxey, an expert on health care and human services issues, has started a new division in the legislative lobbying firm headed by Bob King. Maxey said he will be really happy concentrating on “people issues,” for the company . . . Music task force appointments . . . The City Council appointed the following to the new Austin Music Task Force yesterday: Kevin Conner, Brad First, Jon Hockenyos, Peyton Wimmer, Wendy Morgan, Casey Monahan, Jim Butler, Teresa Ferguson, Pamela Hart and Isidoro Lopez. The Council is still two short of its goal of a 12-member committee to make recommendations on how the city can help out the industry, which generates 11,000 jobs in Austin. A study done by the city showed that the industry brings in $616 million in city revenue and $11 million in tax revenues . . . Frozen jobs . . . It’s no surprise that city budget cutbacks have led to city hiring freeze. Budget Director Rudy Garza estimates that 12 percent of the city’s work force, or 323 “civilian” positions, are now frozen . . . All about Barton Springs . . . Colin Clark and Bill Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance will be the guest speakers at the Public Affairs Forum of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin on Sunday at 11:15am . . . Forget the mail, the checks are here . . . Mayor Gus Garcia will be handing out the first checks to victims of November’s floods at a press conference with the federal Small Business Administration at 10:30am today. State and county officials, as well as local members of Congress, will be on hand at the SBA Disaster Loan Workshop at 624 Pleasant Valley Road North . . . Auditor gets raise . . . City Auditor Steve Morgan, whose salary has been a little below the rates paid to other department heads, got a healthy raise yesterday and a vote of confidence from the Council. Morgan’s job pits him against those other department directors on a regular basis, since his auditors frequently find that things could be done better or more economically throughout the city. His new salary was set at $95,000, up from $90,500.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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