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Clean Campaigns raises more than $24,000

Tuesday, April 30, 2002 by

The Clean Campaigns organization, sponsor of Proposition 1, brought in more than $24,000 during the most recent reporting period, March 26-April 24. Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) supplied $15,800 to the effort to bring public-financing of City Council campaigns to Austin.

Craig McDonald, executive director of TPJ told In Fact Daily that his organization would “match local contributions that the (Prop. 1) campaign committee raises.” He said, “In the past I have gotten . . . grants from traditional foundations, but most of my money comes from donations from people around the state.” Most of the other contributions to the Clean Campaigns group were of the $100 or less variety. But the Solidago Foundation of Northampton, MA, contributed $5,000.

The group contributes to several left-leaning foundations and causes, and also helped fund the Clean Election effort in Massachusetts. Voters in that state approved a similar public funding measure. However, the Massachusetts state legislature has refused to fund it, citing a budget deficit projected to be $2 billion next year. The proposition’s supporters say the state now owes the candidate fund $23 million, according to the Associated Press. Clean Election’s supporters won a court battle, giving them authority to seize state property and auction it off to finance the campaign fund. Solidago Foundation has drawn the ire of pro-business groups across the country. See http://www.consumerfreedom.com/activistcash/donor_detail.cfm?DONOR_ID=482

Solidago does not seem to have its own web site, but is mentioned in numerous others.

Meanwhile, Austin’s voters seem unaware of the election. As of this time during the early voting period two years ago, more than 6,000 Austinites had cast their ballots. The total turnout that year was considered dismal—at about 9 percent. However, the figure for this year is even worse, with only 4,393 Austinites having voted as of Sunday night. If the trend continues, all of the eight ballot propositions—including how we elect our City Council and how it is financed—could be determined by less than seven percent of the electorate. Mayor Gus Garcia heard the numbers Monday and decided to have a press conference on Thursday to urge people to vote.

Click here to see the ballot. It's in PDF format.

More about the Channel 6 candidate forum

Candidates for Austin City Council will be getting plenty of free TV time before the election as local cable Channel 6 replays a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the city’s Ethics Review Commission. All of the candidates attended the forum, which was divided into three segments for the Place 1, Place 3 and Place 4 races.

The rules for the forum set out by the League of Women Voters specifically requested that candidates refrain from personal attacks, and for the most part they complied. Place 3 candidate Linda Curtis avoided mentioning incumbent Council Member Jackie Goodman by name, but did make her feelings clear. “Without naming any names, I believe the incumbent is a good woman who’s done a lot for Austin,” Curtis said. “I also believe she is not up to the task of fighting special interests that I believe are ruining the city. I can smell a special interest deal a mile away.” Curtis, however, was not restricted from naming the names of other figures she would like to see tossed out of city hall. “The City Attorney’s Office, in particular John Steiner, is out of control,” Curtis said, referring to the Assistant City Attorney who has advised the Council on charter-related matters including validation of petition signatures. “The City Attorney advised the City Clerk to play ‘hanky panky’ with the petitions filed by certain incumbents, which resulted in placing my opponent on the ballot.”

In the Place 1 race, candidate Vincent Aldridge also brought up the issue of his opponent’s eligibility to be on the ballot. (See In Fact Daily, April 29, 2002) He described a “storm cloud” developing over the city and called for Slusher to be removed from the race. “I don’t expect you to vote for me, but I am the most qualified candidate,” Aldridge said. Aldridge, an attorney who serves on the Zoning and Platting Commission, has raised no money and lists no campaign expenditures in reports filed last week with the City Clerk’s office.

All four of the candidates in Place 4 agreed on the need for less secrecy in city government, but had differing opinions on the best way to fund indigent health care. Several of the candidates called for a version of a hospital district to spread the burden for indigent care beyond the borders of the City of Austin. Eddie “Green” Bradford, Betty Dunkerley and Brewster McCracken all indicated support for either a hospital or health-care financing district. Incumbent Council Member Beverly Griffith took a different position, pointing out that the creation of a hospital district would be difficult. She suggested other alternatives that would not require action from the Texas Legislature. “Instead of creating another taxing district, what EMS has done is contract with some of the other smaller entities and they pay their cost of service,” Griffith said. That way you don’t have to go to the legislature and get approval.”

Voters will have several opportunities before the May 4th election to study the candidates’ responses to a variety of questions including budget priorities, neighborhood planning and downtown development. The forum will be run several times on Channel 6 between broadcasts of other meetings. Early voting ends today.

Board members say employees are happy with new boss

Fred Gilliam, confirmed yesterday as the General Manager and President of Capital Metro, will guide decisions for the transit agency in coming months on both budget issues and a light rail vote.

Yesterday, board members heaped praise on Gilliam, who only four years ago was passed over for Capital Metro’s top job. Council Member Beverly Griffith lauded him for both his technical expertise and as a “quick study of the landscape.” Fred Harless of Mayor Pro Tem of Lago Vista called him a “people person” who had the interest of employees at heart. Gilliam is a man who has the respect of transit leaders nationwide, said John Trevino, who went to Washington with him for a recent conference.

Council Member Daryl Slusher told his colleagues that Gilliam’s skills precluded the need for a national search. A national search, back in 1998, led the agency to hire recently departed General Manager Karen Rae. Slusher praised Gilliam for the progress Gilliam had made since he rejoined the transit agency late last year—first as deputy general manager and then as interim manager.

Board members pointed to Gilliam’s rapport with employees as one of his strengths. Gilliam’s “Breaking Bread with Fred” drew 70 employees last month. He’s brought back the monthly employee newsletter and created an action program for employee recognition. Gilliam also has added a hotline to discuss Capital Metro product and service information. And he’s already opened the door to new negotiations with the City of Austin and a number of local chambers.

Gilliam will be faced almost immediately with significant decisions about the agency. Only last week, a Capital Metro subcommittee was given the news that sales tax revenues were down 13.3 percent last month. It’s the third drop in revenues the agency has endured in recent months. Capital Metro staff will bring a reforecast of both revenues and expenditures to the board in May. Department heads have already been asked to cut budgets by five percent.

“My hope is that the sales tax will rebound,” Gilliam said. “At this point, we have not done anything to reduce services. We have looked at productive versus non-productive routes and reallocating services.”

Chairman Lee Walker said there is no question Capital Metro is dealing with scarce resources and it will be the job of the board to prioritize projects in the coming months. Walker has been one of the biggest proponents of the regional visioning plan, a study of future transportation alternatives.

The Capital Metro board expects to see “good data” on light rail by the first of July, Walker said. That data, he said, should include the scope of the system, where stops will be and how other transit options will mesh with the light rail system. This will be more research and more information than what voters had during the first referendum, Walker said.

The board and voters—not the general manager—will make the decision on light rail, Gilliam noted. It will be his job to implement that decision. Gilliam has twice before flirted with light rail—implementing a streetcar system in New Orleans and a light rail trolley system in downtown Memphis. The Memphis system required more than 75 community meetings.

Gilliam’s career includes stints with transit agencies in Memphis, Tulsa and New Orleans before he took a job as chief operating officer of Metro in Houston. He managed day-to-day operations for the Houston transit agency. Metro has a $600 million budget and employs 4,000 people. After Gilliam was passed over for the top job at Metro, he moved on to serve as executive vice president for Chance Coach of Wichita, Kansas. Chance is a bus and trolley manufacturer.

Gilliam will be paid $125,000 a year, compared to Rae’s $116,500. Rae remains on a yearlong retainer with the agency, serving as a legislative consultant. Other terms of his contract are similar to Rae’s. He could earn up to a $20,000 performance bonus and a bonus for longevity up to $3,500. Under the contract terms, he will be given a month of vacation. A car also will be provided.

Last day for Early Voting . . . The roving polls will be at the following locations today: Lamar Senior Activity Center, 2874 Shoal Crest Ave., South Austin Senior Activity Center, 3911 Manchaca Road, Conley-Guererro Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St., and the Manor City Hall in Manor. If you are downtown, the easiest permanent location to reach is the Travis County Courthouse or the Austin Recreation Center, 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd. The downtown locations will be open from 7am to 7pm. The mobile locations are generally from 10am to 3pm. Election Day is Saturday . . . Want to work Saturday? . . . City Clerk Shirley Brown says she still needs about 50 people to work at the polls on Saturday. The pay is not much, but you’ll have plenty of time to read between voters. Training takes about an hour, she said . . . Live music announcement . . . Mayor Gus Garcia will hold a press conference at the Zilker soccer fields on Lou Neff Road at 10:30am today to talk about the relationship between the City of Austin, live music and Austin City Limits . . . Zoning and Platting Commission tonight . . . The stalwart souls who make decisions about subdivisions and zoning recommendations every week will be hard at work again tonight. First, there is the continuation of last week’s appeal from a stop work order. (See In Fact Daily, April 24, 2002,) Then, the neighbors of Kingfisher Creek subdivision will once more battle would-be developers of an apartment complex on St. Elmo Road. Neighbors are protesting the administrative waiver to balance of tract. And that’s only the first two cases. . . Attorneys fees become a burden . . . Linda Curtis, the candidate who sued her incumbent opponent, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, reported on her latest C&E that she owes attorney Ann del Llano $5,670. Curtis indicated on the report that “initial payments for the expenditure will be made by the campaign, with any remaining balance paid from personal funds.” Curtis did dismiss the lawsuit against Goodman after the Texas Supreme Court refused her request for a writ of mandamus. However, Goodman still owes her lawyers more than $5,000 also. Under the current campaign finance provisions, which were put on the ballot with assistance from the Linda Curtis petition team, candidates may not collect funds after Election Day. So, both could end up with a weighty personal debt as a result of the litigation. The Clean Campaigns proposal, however, says funds for litigation expenses may still be collected after Election Day—so long as the contribution limits are not violated.

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