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Candidate Aldridge comes out

Wednesday, March 6, 2002 by

Swinging against Slusher, others

Candidate may file complaint against PAC

Attorney Vincent Aldridge filed documents with the City Clerk Tuesday designating his campaign treasurer for City Council Place 1, a seat now held by Council Member Daryl Slusher. Aldridge, a member of the Zoning and Platting Commission, told In Fact Daily he is considering whether to file a complaint with the Ethics Commission against former Mayor Bruce Todd and/or the Committee for Voter Choice, a political action committee trying to bring in signatures to assist Slusher and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman. Both must collect more than 18,000 in order to maintain their Council seats unless they switch with another member of the Council.

Slusher has said that he will not be a candidate if he does not have enough signatures and Council Member Beverly Griffith—who started her efforts earlier—has more than the number required. However, she has not filed her signatures and probably will wait until the other two campaigns file theirs.

Jack Kirfman, who is managing the signature-collection campaign for both Slusher and Goodman, told In Fact Daily that Slusher has 14,500 and Goodman about 2,000 less than that. “We are absolutely not in contact with Bruce Todd or his organization and have no idea what they’re doing or how it’s going. I know what he said in the paper that he was going to do—but that’s all.”

Aldridge said Slusher and Goodman are “crying like spoiled kids. They are not willing to play by the rules. Now there’s a PAC trying to circumvent the rules to get them on the ballot.” In addition, he said he believes that the issue of single-member districts has come up at this time in order to aid the incumbents and the power structure they represent. “Every deal that gets cut in this city benefits an exclusive group.” Although Council members may not benefit directly from their votes, Aldridge believes that their friends are benefiting. Former Mayor Kirk Watson drove the city “into decline—to be turned over to the next regime. Will Wynn is a part of that and has a desire to be Mayor.” He said Mayor Gus Garcia is simply a pawn.

Contacted about the allegations, Todd said, “The list (of conspirators) seems terribly incomplete without including the black helicopter folks. I would feel a lot more important,” if they had been included. “I haven’t a clue who this guy is and if he thinks there’s a conspiracy, it’s completely in his own mind. Ours is a completely independent effort in compliance with all state and local laws.”

Aldridge is vehemently against single-member districts, saying such an arrangement would only benefit the status quo. He said it would take too large a number of districts to insure the election of an African-American. He believes the ten member plan would result in “half a black person and one Hispanic . . . It’s an insult. I don’t care if (Council members) are Asian, purple or blue—if they’re human; if they went through the democratic process.”

Aldridge was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from

Ole Miss with a degree in broadcast journalism in 1987. He was immediately commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Army, a position he held for two years. Upon leaving the army, he attended the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston. Aldridge said he came to Austin in 1995 to study and take the bar exam. Aldridge was appointed to the Zoning and Platting Commission last summer by Council Member Danny Thomas. His campaign treasurer is Jimmie Brown, a lawyer who shares his eastside office.

The candidate said he doesn’t have any high profile supporters. “I don’t care if I win. I want to talk about the issues that really affect the masses of people.” Although persons of color may bear the greatest burden, he said, everyone in the community suffers when city resources are misdirected. Aldridge can be reached at 482-8040.

Both want to lower density from ROMA plan

With the vote to decide a master developer only a month away, the question of whether either candidate will be willing to meet the mandates of ROMA’s Mueller Plan is no longer much of an issue.

As the Mueller Implementation Commission learned last night and an evaluation team is likely to learn today, both Mueller Redevelopment Team (MRT) and Catellus Corp. are willing to toe the line on ROMA’s lofty goals, albeit with modifications from both teams. Both developers have pledged to fervently follow the mantra of pedestrian-friendly transit-oriented mixed-use development. And both swore last night they wanted plenty of local input in the process.

It might be too early to tell how their plans differ, but the battle may come down to this: a homegrown team whose members have pumped $500 million into the Austin economy and know the lay of the land versus a California-based land development group with a proven track record on big-ticket urban redevelopment projects.

Mueller Redevelopment Team, spearheaded by long-time Austin developer Dick Rathgeber, is made up of DR Horton, the parent company of Milburn Homes, Cousins Properties, JPI, and Cencor Urban. Presenter Terry Mitchell stressed each company’s individual financial strength and commitment to the Austin market. Then he threw in his consultant Peter Calthorpe, one of the fathers of New Urbanism and a leader on the redevelopment of the former Stapleton Airport in Denver. Calthorpe talked theory. Mitchell stressed commitment, such as Cencor Urban’s ability to work out a compromise on the Triangle property.

“We only want what’s best for our city,” Mitchell of Milburn Homes told the commission at the end of his presentation. “If we’re not the best developer of this project, don’t select us. As citizens of Austin, we would expect nothing less.”

CEO Nelson Rising of San Francisco-based Catellus used his company’s Mission Bay project as the touchstone for his presentation, relating many of his points to the high-density project on the San Francisco Bay. He used the project in examples of how Catellus had built community consensus, brokered public-private partnerships to provide affordable housing and worked to handle transit issues.

Even after the meeting, the Mueller grapevine was buzzing via e-mail about the need to remain vigilant, since both MRT and Catellus vary from the ROMA plan. Both Catellus and MRT suggested lesser density to meet market demands, which would cut the residential units on the property back from 4,090 units to 3,000 units on both plans. Both developers prefer to shift retail to the perimeter of the property for higher visibility. Rising told commissioners that density was based on what he thought the market could bear through both the up and down times of economic cycles.

Catellus wants to shift retail away from the town center and is suggesting a more transit-oriented hub. The first phase would be heavily retail near Interstate 35 and 51st Street, intended to “jump start” the project, Rising said. The plan also relies more heavily on flexible R&D space than the ROMA plan envisioned. Catellus’ plans would roll out in six phases over the next 12 to 15 years.

MRT has promised a satellite biomedical campus for the University of Texas on 80 acres of the site, which consultant Jim Adams of ROMA pointed out would have to be analyzed carefully because it would remove a significant portion of the property from the local tax rolls. MRT would move the town center to Interstate 35 and 51st Street, giving it a more regional feel. While Mitchell admitted the team had not put a project together as a group, all the principals know each other well.

Last night was just a warm-up for Catellus and MRT. Today will be “evaluation day” for the developers before a 15-member team from the city. Mueller Implementation Commission Chair Jim Walker and Commissioner Donna Carter will sit in on the presentations and ask questions, although neither will be allowed to vote. The commission is expected to vote on its own master developer preference this month.

Some funding to come from homeland defense budget

Travis County Commissioners signed off on a letter yesterday intended to assure the state the county has taken steps to address deficiencies cited by the jail commission.

The jail’s annual inspection is slated for March 18. In the meantime,

Sheriff Margo Frasier will spend both time and resources to address eight deficient areas cited in a remedial order issued by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). A letter of response from Travis County—signed by both Frasier and County Judge Sam Biscoe—will be delivered to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards today.

Commissioners reviewed the letter, drafted by members of Frasier’s staff, after a grueling afternoon executive session. In the letter, Frasier outlined steps both small—repairing the sinks in the inmate dayrooms—and large—making sure a 1-to-48 guard-to-prisoner ratio is met at all times in the Travis County Jail and Criminal Justice Center.

The overtime budget alone to meet additional needs in the department is $1 million this year, Major David Balagia told commissioners in a presentation yesterday. State-mandated ratios also will require the county to hire another 10 correctional officers.

In the last two weeks, more than 200 inmates were moved out of overcrowded cells to meet state standards. The county’s plan will also include setting aside an additional six jail cells in the county jail facility next door for the overflow of inmates waiting for magistration.

Commissioners also agreed to transfer $73,000 out of the county’s Homeland Defense Fund to pay for the replacement of plumbing parts and showerheads to stabilize jail water temperature and pressure.

Chief Deputy Dan Richards could not guarantee that TCJS would lift the remedial order on Travis County. Otherwise long-term needs, Frasier told commissioners last week, would mean the elimination of temporary jail beds. In the meantime, Commissioner Ron Davis said he was disturbed the remediation did not come with a price tag.

“We have some ills we are going to have to remedy here,” Davis said. “I’m trying to look at the effectiveness and efficiency of how we spend our money in Travis County, and I don’t have a lot of information.”

Frasier said representatives of Travis County are expected to appear before the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in April to provide answers on how the department will address long-term needs.

Friday

Stratus talks and Circle C demands neighborhood planning . . . Representatives of Stratus Properties have been discussing plans for Circle C with a group of environmentalists for many months. Now CEO Beau Armstrong has begun negotiations with Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell, and is hopeful that Stratus can reach agreements with the city on how to develop the remainder of Circle C. The environmentalists have also collected input from the various neighborhood associations along the FM 1826 corridor and incorporated those ideas into their recommendations. Meanwhile, the Circle C Homeowners Association, which in the past supported Stratus, has done a complete about-face. Jim O’Reilly, president of the group, sent a letter to the Mayor and Council requesting that approval of the Bear Lake PUD be postponed until after Circle C has gone through the neighborhood planning process. According to the letter, the homeowners association intends “to immediately commence the Neighborhood Planning Process for all unzoned areas” of Circle C. The Council has heard demands from neighborhoods closer to downtown recently that their areas be moved to the head of the planning list. The planning process takes many months and the PUD zoning—with no deviations from the SOS ordinance—is scheduled for Council consideration on March 21. However, another postponement is possible. Armstrong acknowledged, “It’s hard to make any predictions.” . . . Travis County is a step closer to the North Rural Community Center and Clinic . . . Commissioners agreed yesterday to approach a landowner with an offer of $636,000 on an unspecified piece of land. NAICIP is the broker on the property. Commissioners put off a real estate decision on the West Rural Community Center and Clinic for another week. Real Estate Manager Pat Ford in the Facilities Management Department says construction on both facilities should be underway by summer . . . Early voting turnout apparently depends on party affiliation . . . County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says voter totals for the Democratic primary rival the elections of two and four years ago. The turnout for Republicans, on the other hand, has been very low, running at a third of the rate shown in the last presidential race. Then again, fewer Republican incumbents are being challenged. Early voting ends Friday . . . Flying barbeque bearers head to DC . . . The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce is sending 33 people to Washington, D.C. today to “educate Congressional leaders and federal agencies about Central Texas transportation and business investment needs that drive our regional economic prosperity,” according to Mark Hazelwood, chamber president and CEO . . . More about those signatures . . . Council Members Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman are having a countdown rally from 5:30 to 7:30pm today at Threadgill’s South . They are hoping to bring in all the outstanding petitions that supporters may still have left in their houses, cars, etc. They are also hoping to sign up volunteers to gather signatures at polling places during next Tuesday’s Primary Election. For more information, call 462-0896 . . . Zoning and Platting Commission on consent . . . The ZAP Commission whipped through its short agenda before 7pm last night. Only one item caused any argument and was settled by the addition of 10-foot hedge . . . We are taking next week off . . . In Fact Daily will be published on Monday only next week. We hope you understand our need to take a short break and rest up for what could be a very hectic—however short—campaign season.

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

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