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Stick handily defeats Richardson

Wednesday, April 10, 2002 by

Late Tuesday, 36-year-old Jack Stick had won the Republican primary for District 50 by 70 percent of the vote. Stick, in his first race for public office, defeated Bob Richardson, 56, for the new district in northern Travis County. Both men are attorneys.

Stick said, “Assuming all goes well (in the November election), we’re going to have to address Robin Hood school financing, figure out a way to build roads better and more efficiently . . . figure out a way to make sure that students are educated properly . . . health care for the elderly, prescriptions for the elderly.” Stick noted that his opponent outspent him five to one. “We got our message across and you know that the message resounded with the voters.” Richardson had previously served three terms in the House. Jim Sylvester is the Democratic nominee for the district, but the Republican has the decided edge.

In the Democratic runoff for House of Representatives District 51, Eddie Rodriguez defeated opponent Lulu Flores by 117 votes. Rodriguez, who has served as an assistant to retiring State Rep. Glen Maxey, won with 51.25 percent of the vote. Rodriguez had a total 2,385 votes to 2,268 for Flores.

Rodriguez said his primary focus will be equity. “You’ve got to get the schools in East Austin equal to the schools in the rest of the county. There’s a lot of work on the ( Longhorn) pipeline to be done. I’m not stopping that fight at all. That’s something I want to go full steam ahead on.” As for winning the runoff, Rodriguez said, “I have a great sense of relief and a lot of pride about what we were able to do.” Flores was not available for comment. Rodriguez will face opponents from the Green Party and the Libertarian Party in the fall, but Republicans did not field a candidate in this race.

Walker, Carter will endorse Catellus' selection

Two members of the RMMA Plan Implementation Advisory Commission who served as ad hoc members of the city’s master developer evaluation team said last night they intend to endorse the choice of Catellus Development Corp. at Thursday’s City Council meeting. Chair Jim Walker and Commissioner Donna Carter are the only members of the commission who were privy to financial information on Catellus and the rival Mueller Redevelopment Team and they said they will back Catellus as master developer for the former airport site. The commission as a whole, however, decided they could not make a recommendation on which developer the city should choose.

On the other hand, commissioners made it clear they did not want to delay the city in the process for picking that developer.

So, the letter to the Council the commission approved at last night’s meeting had one simple message: We don’t have enough financial information to make a recommendation on a master developer. But please go ahead with the process and pick one without our help.

The financial picture behind each plan—or lack thereof—clearly remained an issue with commissioners, since their limited information was derived exclusively from the presentations they attended in early March. Commissioners said they had a difficult time making a recommendation because the bottom-line financial impact of the developers’ plans is still unknown. And, as Walker admitted, those numbers are likely to remain unclear until negotiations are completed between city and developer. Waiting a month for more information from both teams would not produce any more certainty, Walker said.

“If you have to give them more time for more information, we’re going to be back here in a month with no more information,” said Walker, adding that a lack of financials should not stop the process. “It doesn’t invalidate everything that has already happened. I think we get into a whole pot of trouble with that having nothing to do with the developer.”

With Catellus the probable winner in the competition for master developer, the commissioners’ nagging concern remains just how the commission will be involved in the lengthy contract negotiations between the city and the developer. As Walker said and others agreed, the contract negotiations are where “the rubber meets the road.” Planner Dave Kreider, who advises the commission with Planner Pam Hefner, assured the commission it would have a role in negotiations, as much as could be allowed.

“You’re an advisory committee, and to the degree we can involve you, we have involved you,” Kreider told the commissioners at last night’s meeting. “That’s just the way the process works.”

Carter said it was unclear in her mind when, and under what circumstances, the implementation commission would offer input. To that end, the implementation commission has appointed a subcommittee of Commissioners Matt Harris, Matt Moore and Walker to hash out preferences on when the commissioners should be involved in the process.

Moore said it might be wiser to make sure as many obstacles as possible are removed from meeting the goals of the ROMA. If the commission knows that public transportation is a goal of the plan—and no public transportation plan exists for the area—then it would be wise to put efforts behind that goal.

Hefner pointed out that ROMA, too, would be on board for the contract negotiation process. The city intends to extend the contact with consultant Jim Adams to continue the plan’s implementation.

The Council will be taking up the issue of selecting the master developer at 2:15pm Thursday, so that Council Member Beverly Griffith can depart for Bryan-College Station to receive an award (see Whispers).

Former Council Member Lewis favors plan

The City Council will devote today’s work session to discussion and possible action on the single-member district map they promised would accompany the 8-2-1 mixed system item on the May 4 Charter ballot. It may be difficult for the Council to make a decision on the map, however, since voters are apparently either unconcerned or unaware that such an item will be confronting them in less than a month.

Six people showed up last night to view the proposed district map at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex Theater. A third of those were election workers who went in just to pick up copies of the maps and statistics and left. (See In Fact Daily, April 9, 2002, for previous report on hearings.)

Former Council Member Willie Lewis was among those present. He said, “Knowing what I know about this city, it’s time to have the districts.” He added, “Everyone else, ACC and AISD have districts. Why couldn’t it work for the city?” He said he sees this as a way to address criticism the Council faced when it annexed parts of Northwest Austin and Circle C. People in those areas argued there was no one sitting on the dais representing their area or interests. Lewis said, “Sooner or later they are going to have to make a change. You get too many e-mails and don’t get to do a lot of things that you should be doing.” He said the districts would help Council Members focus on their area.

Despite low turnout at the meetings, Lewis said he thinks the Council will adopt the map and that voters will vote for the proposition.

However, this is the sixth time in thirty years Austin voters will have been asked if they wish to approve single-member districts.

Assistant City Attorney John Steiner and City Demographer Ryan Robinson will present what public commentary they have to the Council at today’s work session. Steiner added that they are “desperate to get input.” They have only received about twenty comments so far—from phone calls, e-mails, comment cards and spoken remarks combined. He said they have a defensible map that follows Department of Justice guidelines. The only tweaking they plan to do will be to compensate for precinct splits and move some borders to coincide with county precincts and state representative lines.

When the city sent out a Notice of Special Called Meeting of the City Council for 1pm Friday, it stated the topic as “Public Hearing and Possible Action.” Later yesterday, the city sent notice that the initial posting was in error, and the meeting was rescheduled for 1:45pm. If the City Council cannot come to agreement Thursday on what map, if any, they wish to put before voters for the single-member district Charter Amendment, they will have a chance to meet again on Friday. ( See index page for link to map)

Frasier, Biscoe to address Jail Standards Commission today

County Commissioners yesterday approved a $757,000 budget amendment intended to address both overtime and new positions in the Sheriff’s Department.

Bill Derryberry, senior planning and budget analyst for the county, called the measure a way to “stop the bleeding.” Short by more than three-dozen staff positions, Sheriff Margo Frasier anticipated spending $2.6 million for overtime hours this fiscal year, about $800,000 more than the budget allows. More than 75 percent of that overtime went to staffing the county’s correctional facilities.

The budget amendment came only a day before Frasier and County Judge Sam Biscoe are expected to address the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The commission wants to hear from Travis County this morning on what remedial measures the county has taken to address noted deficiencies at the jail.

Hiring 15 additional Security Coordinators and 12 new Correctional Officers will cost almost as much as overtime this year, Derryberry said after yesterday’s court meeting—about $984,000. Overtime would cost the county about $1.3 million, so Derryberry expects the county to save more than $300,000 next year with the new positions.

Commissioners gave their blessing to the budget transfer, but warned Frasier they wanted to better feedback earlier on overtime issues.

“If you see it developing that we need to add more personnel rather than overtime, I would prefer to know about it sooner rather than later,” Commissioner Margaret Moore told Frasier. Commissioner Margaret Gomez echoed Moore’s concerns.

Texas A&M recognizing Griffith . . . The Texas A&M Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Science is presenting Council Member Beverly Griffith with the Terry Hershey Award for her environmental service this Thursday evening. Griffith is receiving the honor in recognition of her work as chair of the Austin Parks Board, founder of the Austin Parks Foundation, and leadership on conservation issues on the City Council, as well as service on the national advisory council to the Trust for Public Lands. She will be leaving the Council meeting early in order to accept the award . . . Forum for RECA and Chamber of Commerce members . . . The Real Estate Council of Austin, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are inviting their members to a City Council candidate forum next Tuesday at 11:30am at the Four Seasons Hotel. Members must reserve their seats by Thursday, since they are expecting a big crowd . . . Planning Commission to discuss Seaholm Master Plan . . . The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the addition of the Seaholm Master Plan to the Town Lake Comprehensive Plan at tonight’s meeting. The panel is also set to discuss single-member districts, rather belatedly . . . Dunkerley announces campaign parties . . . Betty Dunkerley, who retired from the city and immediately began her campaign to replace Council Member Beverly Griffith, is having two fundraisers this week. The Place 4 challenger will be at Hill’s Café, 4700 S. Congress from 5:30 to 7:30pm tonight and at Las Manitas Café, 211 Congress from 5:30 to 7:30pm Friday. Dunkerley also announced that the Circle C Political Action Committee has endorsed her. To learn more about her views, visit . . . Land purchase tentatively approved for clinic . . . Travis County Commissioners have approved $650,000 toward a piece of land for the West Rural Community Center and Clinic. Commissioner Margaret Moore said the offer is contingent upon proper infrastructure to the site. She also asked that Planning and Budget Operations bring back a proposal on how to fund construction of the clinic . . . Still fuming over jail verdict . . . Travis County will appeal the $2.8 million verdict a federal jury handed down in February over construction delays at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center. County Commissioners authorized the appeal yesterday after a two-hour executive session. Construction manager Fluor Daniel blamed the county for delays. Judge Sam Biscoe said the appeal would not preclude the county from agreeing to a settlement.

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

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