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Garcia casts deciding vote, with Griffith out of town

Friday, April 12, 2002 by

The City Council last night rejected the single-member district map they had approved on first reading only on Wednesday. That means voters will go to the polls May 4 and vote only on the 8-2-1 concept. The vote came after a lengthy discussion which included Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s attempt to convince colleagues to go along with a new map that he and his aide, Tina Bui, had drawn. That map was an attempt to give Central and South Austin voters better representation, Slusher explained.

Council Member Danny Thomas made a motion to approve Option A, the map presented by City Demographer Ryan Robinson about 10 days ago. Council Member Raul Alvarez seconded the motion, although he said Slusher’s map had its good points. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she could not support either Option A or Slusher’s map, but might be happy with some combination of the two. Council Member Will Wynn joined Alvarez and Thomas in voting for the option. Slusher joined Goodman in voting no. Finally, Mayor Gus Garcia said he would join the no votes, noting that the public would not have time to see the maps or comment before early voting begins next Wednesday.

Assistant City Attorney John Steiner had already warned the Council that there was not enough time to tweak either Option A or Slusher’s map before the special meeting scheduled for Friday. A new map would have required five votes to be approved on all three readings, and Garcia could see that such a vote was unlikely. Council Member Beverly Griffith left at mid-afternoon to accept an award at Texas A&M University. She had already told In Fact Daily that she would not vote in favor of Option A.

Following the vote, Slusher said he was satisfied with waiting until city staff and the Council work out the details to ensure better representation for everyone in the city. Slusher says they will continue working on maps, adding “If the (concept) passes we’d have to have (a map) into the Department of Justice during the summer, before the 2003 elections.”

Futrell confirmed as new city manager

Yesterday’s City Council meeting was as close to a love fest as we can recall for Austin’s seven Council members. First, the Council unanimously selected Catellus Development Corporation to lead the redevelopment of the Robert Mueller airport site. Following that action, the Council unanimously praised Toby Futrell, who has been City Manager in all but title for the last few months. They approved her new salary of $188,115, plus benefits and signed off on her selection with no hint of reservation. She will officially become the city’s 22nd city manager on May 1, which is the day that outgoing City Manager Jesus Garza officially retires and joins the LCRA.

Nelson Rising, chairman and CEO of Catellus, told the Council his company was attracted to Austin because of “its rare combination of quality of life and growth potential.” Rising later told In Fact Daily Austin has achieved that combination “because it’s been a sophisticated city as to how it deals with planning.” Rising stressed Catellus Development’s commitment to the principles of New Urbanism, which he said are embodied in the ROMA master plan for Mueller’s redevelopment. He also promised that he personally would be spending a lot of time here.

What the Council approved was a resolution authorizing Futrell to negotiate and execute an exclusive negotiation agreement with the San Francisco-based company. There has been little doubt since Monday, when the staff-scored matrix became public, that the national development company, which claims a portfolio of more than $3 billion in real estate assets, would be selected. The only other group in the running, Austin-based Mueller Redevelopment Team Ltd., was completely overshadowed by the financial power and design experience of Catellus. The Council was long on praise and short on questions, probably because Futrell, Sue Edwards, director of Redevelopment Services and city Purchasing Officer Sue Brubaker spent a lot of time earlier in the week talking to Council members and their aides about the recommendation.

But Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman asked, “What the process is going to be for negotiations?”

Edwards explained that the city would first “just enter into the exclusive negotiation agreement,” which would lay out the terms and conditions for negotiations . . . We will in a series of meetings be talking about what the partnership might look like, what the possibilities for financing can be . . . looking at the lease and sale of property,” and addressing areas such as affordable housing, the process for ensuring participation of minority and women subcontractors.

Edwards said negotiators would be developing a formal process for bringing questions to the Mueller Redevelopment Commission (RMMA) and other stakeholders whenever changes to the plan need to be made. “Those terms and conditions we would put in writing . . . we would be bringing those back to the Council.”

Goodman replied, “I’m hoping that Council will get to know a little bit sooner rather than later what the terms are that are being discussed.”

Edwards assured her that she and other staff members would like to schedule one-on-one meetings with Council members since certain items would not be appropriate for work sessions. Other areas, she said, could be discussed in executive session. She concluded, “This is such a huge deal, we would want to have the input and guidance from each of you as we go along.” In addition, she said the city would be hiring outside counsel and continuing to work with financial consultants who can give advice on various matters, such as sale vs. lease options.

Goodman said she wanted to make sure that the Mueller master plan is treated as “a fairly absolute kind of governance, not merely advisory.” She added that she was “very much in favor of going forward with the process.”

Council Member Beverly Griffith, who made the motion to approve the resolution, wanted to express “how fortunate I feel that we have a top flight national league group in Catellus,” that has a “commitment to our community values.” Council Member Raul Alvarez seconded the motion and every member of the Council expressed approval of the company.

Following the vote, Rising wanted to talk about his enthusiasm for Austin and the similarities between Austin and cities his company has worked with in California. (See In Fact Daily, April 9, 2002.) Like those cities, he said, there is a growing population in Austin that is attracted to New Urbanism design, where the single-passenger vehicle is not the only mode of transportation.

Catellus will face challenges here, Rising said, as it would in any project of this scale. The key, he said, is flexibility and the “intelligent phasing” of different parts of the project. Every community has up cycles and down cycles, he explained. But not every segment of the real estate community will experience a down cycle at the same time. The important thing is to have the flexibility to build what is in demand when the time is right, putting off construction of the types of products that are not in demand.

At its Mission Bay project in San Francisco, Rising said, Catellus had entitlements for both office space and a biotech campus. Because biotech is a hot area, while office space is not, Catellus is building the 43-acre University of California-San Francisco biotech campus first. The main building of the campus is close to completion. As noted in our earlier story, biotechnology will dominate most of the office space on the property. So, the major challenge for Catellus and the city will be how to implement the ROMA plan, keep the public consensus, and make money for both the company and the city.

Rising is not only the CEO of Catellus, he is also Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank for the 12th District. He said that is a volunteer job, but obviously an important one. The different boards across the country make recommendations to Federal Open Market Committee about what the discount rates for banks should be. Pete Winstead of Winstead Sechrest & Minnick was introduced as part of the Catellus team.

She takes on big job at tough time

Mayor Gus Garcia and Council Member Daryl Slusher shared the honors yesterday in making the motion to confirm as permanent City Manager. Council Member Beverly Griffith provided the second. Several praised departing city manager Jesus Garza, for his work and improvement in city management since he took over the job five years ago.

Slusher said, “She’s coming in to be city manager at a very tough time.” He noted that while city revenues are going down, demands for city services are increasing. “I’m certain that Toby Futrell is up to the job. One reason is that she’s worked her way up through the city government. She knows virtually every aspect of the city government. Another reason is that she really cares about the average citizen.” When she receives a valid complaint from a citizen, Slusher said, she is likely to have a plan “by the end of the day” of how to fix the problem.

Council Member Raul Alvarez echoed the positive remarks of his colleagues, noting that a national search could not have found a better city manager than Toby Futrell. He cited her knowledge of Austin and its way of doing business as well as her management style in supporting her appointment.

Griffith said, “We are most fortunate to have someone of the intellect, sensitivity and management style—the whole package that we need . . . We need to move forward with Toby Futrell.”

In addition to her salary of $188,215, Futrell will receive a $7,200 allowance, plus $900 for cell phone calls and $8,000 in deferred compensation, plus tax benefits and $200,000 in life insurance. All Council Member Will Wynn said was, “After hearing the salary figures, I trust the city manager is buying tonight.” A blushing Futrell nodded her head.

Council Member Danny Thomas said although he had been in favor of a national search, he changed his mind after working with Futrell as interim City Manager. He cited Futrell’s commitment to city employees, in particular her commitment to continued diversity amongst those employees, as reasons he could now support her.

After Mayor Garcia praised Futrell, saying that the Council was making the right decision, the Council voted unanimously to make her job permanent. The audience, largely made up of city employees, and the Council gave Futrell a standing ovation. With the microphone in hand, Futrell said, “I don’t think I’ll end with anything but that. Thank you very much.”

First of three public hearings draws little attention

Despite strong feelings on both sides of the city’s proposed lawn parking ordinance, the bulk of those speaking at last night’s Council meeting were in favor of seeing it approved. The ordinance would prohibit motorized vehicles from being parked on the front or side yard of a residential property and carry a $40 fine if violated.

Representatives from several neighborhood associations called for the Council to help “clean up” their neighborhoods, while others worried about community policing. “What if someone had a bad day and they were looking to blow off some steam and they were using you to do it?” asked Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman.

Each neighborhood association will have the option of opting in or out of the ordinance. Linda Dailey, executive assistant to Council Member Danny Thomas, says so far only two neighborhoods have said they wish to opt out.

There will be two more public hearings over the next two weeks before the Council makes a decision on the ordinance. Assistant City Attorney Deborah Thomas explained that neighborhoods would need to ask the City Council to approve additions to the ordinance when they decide to opt in.

Such a small town . . . Yesterday we noted that Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s headquarters is at 92 Red River and his HQ opening is tonight. The campaign is leasing the building from Perry Lorenz, whose wife Sheridan, is Kirk Mitchell’ s sister. Mitchell, of course, is challenging Slusher for the Place 1 Council seat. Lorenz said he has supported Slusher since the first time he ran, and continues to do so. The Landmark Corporation is leasing 93 Red River, across the street from Slusher’s HQ, to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman’s campaign. “We thought we had better be in separate buildings with different landlords or Linda (Curtis) might sue us,” quipped Alfred Stanley, Goodman’s finance manager and campaign consultant . . . Garden Festival this weekend . . . Visit the Zilker Garden Festival from 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday to learn all about earth-friendly landscaping activities from city experts. You might learn about some of the following: raising plants that are well-adapted to Austin’s climate, needing less water and fewer pesticides; appropriate turf varieties, compost and Dillo Dirt to recycle waste products while providing nutrients; and shade trees that reduce energy needs. It’s all scheduled for the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road . . . More about trees . . . The Urban Heat Island Mitigation Effort is conducting a survey of trees in the city’s Central Business District this Saturday and April 20. To help with the project, call 974-3230 . . . Arts Festival this weekend too . . . Formerly known as the Fiesta at Laguna Gloria, the festival will be at 5th and Guadalupe, on the blocks surrounding Republic Square Park, beginning at 11am Saturday. Motorists on 5th Street, pick another route. The event is offering parking at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, with a shuttle service to the festival. Bicyclists are being offered a secured bike corral at 3rd and Guadalupe . . . Also this weekend . . . The Lance Armstrong Foundation Ride for the Roses Weekend starts tonight with a concert at Auditorium Shores. Sponsored by the Hard Rock Café, the concert features Stone Temple Pilots, Cake, Crystal Method and Patrice Pike. On Saturday, the city is expecting thousands of athletes and spectators to flood the Town Lake area, beginning at 8am, for the 5K Fun Run and the AMD Kids CARE Ride. Information available at http://www.laf.org . . . In Fact Daily off Monday . . . In Fact Daily will not be published next Monday in order to allow the editor to rest on her birthday. We will return on Tuesday, April 16. . . More birthdays . . . If you see Place 1 candidate Jennifer Gale today, wish her a happy birthday. We also want to wish Toye Goodson, an assistant to Council Member Beverly Griffith, a happy birthday on Saturday. . . No speakers for Bear Lake PUD annexation . . . Although the zoning requested for Stratus Properties’ Bear Lake PUD has drawn a lot of interest, to say the least, no one showed up at Thursday’s City Council meeting to support or object to bringing the proposed PUD property into the city. Two more hearings are scheduled before the Council takes a vote on the annexation . . . Barton Springs road closures . . . Construction crews started eliminating the turn lane on Barton Springs Road from Josephine to the Zilker Bridge yesterday. Elimination of the entire middle lane is expected to be done in four phases over the next two weeks. Traffic will then be moved to the north part of Barton Springs Road to facilitate construction of a raised median along that section of the road. The city anticipates that the entire project will be completed later this year.

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

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