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RECA hears an earful

Friday, October 11, 2002 by

From County candidates

Daugherty says tax liens unimportant since he paid bills

Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) members played host yesterday to a somewhat lively—but never really rude—debate between Republicans and Democrats running for seats on the Travis County Commissioners Court. Incumbent Democrats in four of the five seats face Republican opponents, all of whom stressed more road building coupled with fiscal restraint.

The RECA forum forced candidates to adopt a rapid-fire style of speaking or risk delivering only part of their message. Most of the combative conversations took place during the “ask your opponent a question” feature.

Pct. 3 challenger Gerald Daugherty has stressed his background as a successful businessman. Citing his statements, Commissioner Margaret Moore asked Daugherty “Why, on 19 separate occasions, (did) the federal and state government . . . file liens on your property? . . . Is this the kind of fiscally prudent management the county needs?”

Daugherty replied, “There have been times when I was not able to take care of tax obligations, (but) I owe no dollars to date. Everything that is owed is paid for.” He said he was “proud I was able to stay afloat” during hard times. State records show that those hard times extended from Jan. 19, 1988, when the State of Texas first filed a lien on his property for non-payment of taxes, through Jan. 23, 1995. The Internal Revenue Service filed three liens against Daugherty personally, four against his business Sportsplex, Inc., and two against the Dugout, a limited partnership formed by Daugherty and Roberta Crenshaw. The State of Texas filed a lien against GD Concessions, Inc. in 1995 and nine liens against either the Dugout or Sportsplex, Inc. Sportsplex forfeited its charter on Feb. 13, 1996, according to records of the Secretary of State and the Comptroller’s Office. The Secretary of State’s records show the filing as a “tax forfeiture.”

A spokesperson for the Comptroller’s Office said information on filing of franchise tax reports is public, but whether or not an entity has actually paid its franchise taxes is confidential. Another entity for which Daugherty is a registered agent, South Austin Sports Center Inc., forfeited its charter in 2000 for failure to file franchise tax reports, according to the Comptroller’s Office.

Following the forum, Daugherty reiterated that he had paid all taxes owed. He said GD Concessions would be going out of business after the election. He explained that he had recently sold the final eight acres owned by the business on Pleasant Valley Road, which operated as the Pleasant Valley Sportsplex.

When it was his turn to ask a question, Daugherty asked Moore whether she would be willing to go to the Legislature to discuss reallocation of Capital Metro’s sales tax money, so that half of the one-penny tax could be used for other things. Moore’s response: “I’m perfectly willing to have that discussion with our legislative delegation.” Later Moore said that since much of Pct. 3 is outside of the transit company’s service and taxation area, Capital Metro should not be such a major concern for the commissioner from western Travis County. Daugherty is well known for his opposition to Capital Metro and support of more roads.

When asked by the panel moderator, Dick Ellis, to name her top three priorities, Pct. 2 candidate Sheri Perry Gallo replied, “Roads, roads, roads.” She also said the county needs to encourage employers to stagger work hours and promote telecommuting to reduce congestion. Gallo criticized her opponent for cost overruns on the downtown jail and raising taxes. Commissioner Karen Sonleitner asked Gallo whether she would have voted, as Sonleitner did, to increase the county tax rate to pay for the road bonds. Gallo responded that the county had added too many other things to the budget, including cost overruns, blaming those things for the tax increase.

Republican Bob Honts, a former County Commissioner, has consistently attacked County Judge Sam Biscoe for not having built enough roads during his four years at the helm. Honts also accused his opponent of consistently raising taxes without the justification of huge population growth. But Honts was on the receiving end of criticism from the Biscoe campaign—both verbal and written. The judge said Travis County’s budget grew 264.5 percent while Honts was in office, between 1975 and 1986, but the budget had only grown by 125.2 percent during his tenure, 1989 through 2002.

One clarification was necessary at the end of the forum. Daugherty said he had been endorsed by RECA, but Kirk Rudy, the organization’s president, said RECA has not endorsed any candidates. After the meeting, Rudy said the RECA Good Government Political Action Committee had given Daugherty a contribution, so his confusion was understandable. The PAC has also made contributions to Biscoe, Sonleitner and Gallo. Gallo is a member of RECA.

City should hook into state plan, says Sustainability Officer

Austin City Council Member Daryl Slusher wants the city to speed up its ozone prevention efforts. The Council approved a resolution authorizing staff to work out an agreement with the five counties and eleven other cities that have expressed interest in the Early Action Compact. That mechanism would allow regional cooperation to limit the production of ozone without the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially declaring Austin to be in violation of the eight-hour ozone standard, which subjects the area to federally mandated air quality restrictions.

Getting final authorization to form an EPA- and state-recognized group is expected to take 17 months. “This is an example of the federal government moving extremely slowly,” said Slusher. “I’ve always believed in local control and local action as much as possible.” Other cities faced with the task of reducing ozone, which is created from chemicals found in automobile exhaust, have tried a variety of strategies. These include requiring tougher emissions testing for vehicles, modifying gasoline pumps to recapture vapors and limiting when certain types of heavy equipment can be used. Waiting for the creation of a regional entity or a mandate from the EPA, Slusher said, was wasting valuable time. “We can tell just by breathing that the air’s not as clean as it should be,” Slusher said.

Mayor Gus Garcia agreed with Slusher that the city should move as quickly as possible on pollution reduction efforts. “We’re not doing this to avoid being designated as non-attainment,” Garcia said. “We’re doing this to protect the health of the people in this area.” And while Slusher called on the federal government to promote the development of alternative fuels, Garcia pointed to the need to improve cars currently on the road. “These automobiles that are spewing out blue smoke . . . they pollute 50 times as much as a regularly-tuned automobile. There ought to be a way to report those cars to somebody,” he said.

The Clean Air Force is already working with local businesses to get them to reduce their emissions of the chemicals that create ozone ( http://www.cleanairpartnerstx.org/join.html). And the City of Austin’s Sustainability Officer, Fred Blood, said there would be some benefits in waiting for recognition from the EPA before passing any city ordinances designed to reduce air pollution. The biggest factor, said Blood, was access to federal and state funding for those efforts. That could play a major role in any program to tighten emission standards for vehicle inspections. “There are a few different programs that are available through the state,” said Blood. “I’m hoping that in the next Legislature, they can add a few more, since they’re all set up for the one-hour ozone standard. But for the program to work, it’s got to be accepted by the state. If we want to do our own plan we can, but the cost of implementing and enforcing it will fall entirely on the City of Austin. It’s better if we can find a state plan that we can hook on to, so they help us absorb those costs.”

Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday.

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

Happy Birthday to Council Member Danny Thomas . . . He’s celebrating this weekend. And a belated Happy Birthday to the Mayor’s Chief Aide, Paul Saldaña, whose birthday was Thursday . . . City Council approves Villas again . . . The City Council, which agonized through three readings of the Villas on Guadalupe case earlier this year (see In Fact Daily, April 5, 2002) approved a corrective ordinance for the project last night on a vote of 5-2. Council Members Raul Alvarez and Jackie Goodman opposed the change. They voted against the project the last time it came up, along with then-Council Member Beverly Griffith. Attorney Rachel Rawlins, representing the North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA), argued that the developers can have the 150 units that the Council told them they could have—but given the density rules of the Land Development Code, those units would have to be efficiencies. Rawlins and NUNA officers said if the units were to be denser than what had originally been approved the project should go through the whole zoning process again. Richard Suttle, attorney for the Villas on Guadalupe, said that it was never the developers’ intention to build efficiencies. They planned to build a mix of units with different bedroom configurations, Suttle said . . . Appointed . . . Mayor Gus Garcia appointed David Anderson to the Environmental Board. Ramon Alvarez has resigned, according to mayoral assistant Adam Smith. Anderson is a project engineer with KBR, Inc. Council Member Raul Alvarez reappointed Bruce Wilson to the Construction Advisory Board and Robert Schmidt to the Electrical Board . . . Call in the lawyers . . . The Police Oversight Citizen Review Panel announced yesterday that the death of Sophia King should be turned over to an independent attorney for further investigation. Chief of Staff Michael McDonald told In Fact Daily that several law firms were selected to conduct such investigations during the police meet and confer process. One of those will be selected to look into the King death, he said . . . More participants needed . . . Envision Central Texas took off with a bang. More Austinites wanted into the process than could be accommodated. However, there are not nearly as many signed up for workshops in Bastrop, Georgetown, Dripping Springs, the Travis County Exposition Center, Toney Burger Activity Center or in Lockhart. The registration date has been extended for these workshops. To register, call Dianne Miller at 916-6037 or email dmiller@envisioncentraltexas.org . . . Off with their signs! . . . Neighborhood Planning and Zoning staff will help volunteers with the “Great City Sign-off” tomorrow. The effort to remove “bandit” signs placed inside the city right-of-way or stapled to utility poles begins at 8am in Palm Park. While most of those signs are for work at home or quick weight loss schemes, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman noted that some are for yard sales or lost pets. At her request, the Council is asking staff to draft an amendment to the sign ordinance allowing those types of signs, as long as they’re taken down within two weeks. “The whole idea is to make the quality of life better in the neighborhood,” Goodman said. “If you can’t interact as a community for a neighborly thing, you’ve taken away some of what makes the neighborhood a place for people to be.”

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

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