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The city’s current cultural arts program should be abandoned and replaced with a private non-profit cultural arts council, consultants told the City Council yesterday.

Thursday, December 12, 2002 by

The city hired Dabney & Associates to evaluate the city’s current cultural arts funding program. A team of consultants, led by Lucille Dabney, told Council members at yesterday’s work session that the current structure for support of the arts in Austin is constrained and the services provided by that program are flawed and unresponsive. They also said that resources are inadequate and communication is ineffective.

Dabney and her colleagues, Marion McCollam and Eduardo Diaz, did not point fingers. Instead, the team told Council members that the city had simply outgrown its Parks Department-based program that had relied almost solely on volatile bed tax revenues for financial support. While some cultural art programs had started out as offshoots of Parks and Recreation Department programs, no successful programs had remained tied to a Parks Department, Dabney said.

The team made a number of recommendations, based on meetings with leading art agencies and comparisons with “best practices” across the country:

• Rewrite the 1986 city policy on cultural arts support to provide broader integration of cultural arts into other city priorities and programs. Goals would include addressing issues of equity, providing regional opportunities and clarifying the role of local arts programs in the city’s goals for economic growth.

• Transition current services to an independent non-profit full-service local arts agency in the private sector over the next two years. The focus would be to build strategic partnerships, assess the current cultural arts goals for the community and initiate an economic impact study. The goal, McCollam said, would be a “private model with public standing,” recognized by the city.

• Reconstitute the arts boards, asking all commissioners to resign from the current boards. New appointees would reflect a broader expertise, with diverse representation.

• Focus more effort on grants in the private sector for funding the arts council.

The consultants offered to continue to work with the Council on implementing the recommendations. Diaz offered to serve as interim director of an arts council for six to nine months if the City Council chooses to move to an outside agency for cultural arts support. Diaz spent 10 years serving on the San Antonio Arts Council.

Council members expressed support for the thoroughness of the consultants’ assessment, but doubts lingered about how the city could fund such a transition in these tough economic times. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said she appreciated their “crisp and logical” approach. City Manager Toby Futrell will place the recommendations, if not the expenditures that follow them, on the City Council’s January 9 agenda.

The City Council will select a Construction Manager-At-Risk today for the $48 million City Hall project, with the goal of dedicating the new building in the summer or fall of 2004. Staff is recommending Hensel Phelps Construction of Austin, which has done work here for CSC and Applied Materials. (See In Fact Daily, March 30, 2000.) The action taken today will authorize staff to begin negotiations with the chosen firm, but the city would be free to open talks with one of the other finalists if staff members are unable to reach a deal with the first choice by mid-January.

This is the first city project to use a Construction Manager-At-Risk, which allows the city to select a prime contractor based on qualifications and experience, not just the lowest bid on the project. The CMR agrees to the maximum cost and timeline for the project—set by city staff—and serves as a manager to maintain project quality and cost-effectiveness. The method also gives the CMR more flexibility on trade subcontractors, which should give greater opportunity to women- and minority-owned businesses.

The choice to use the CMR method has slowed construction on the project. As Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman noted, the CSC buildings on either side have already been built and many people are beginning to question when the new City Hall will be finished—even those who aren’t exactly enamored with the design. “I would like to walk into that building before my term is up,” said Goodman, who spearheaded the effort to get public feedback on the City Hall design. “The anticipation is great by everybody, and when we went to the manager-at-risk . . . those who really supported our doing this also said they believed it was more than possible to get very close to the original estimated completion date.”

City Manager Toby Futrell reminded Council members that the city has made progress on the City Hall project. The $6.3 million underground parking facility was virtually complete by August. Futrell added that the city understood the benefits and drawbacks of using the CMR method and intended to shave the timeframe down in every way possible.

The CMR concept was approved by the City Council in August. (See In Fact Daily, Aug. 30, 2002.) The city issued a Request for Qualifications, and then the five finalists submitted bid proposals for their fees and profit margins. The firms also had to agree to comply with MBE/WBE goals on the project.

ABIA can meet expected Demand over next 20 years

Planners say city should look at more parking

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is in good shape to handle the expected increase in traffic over the next 20 years, according to the new long-range master plan completed by airport officials and the outside consulting firm P&D Aviation. The plan, required by federal authorities, examines several different growth scenarios and examines how they would spur demand for new facilities at the airport. ABIA handled 7.2 million passengers during the 2001 calendar year, and planners calculate that number could range between 11 million and 18.4 million passengers per year by the year 2020.

Consultants with P&D Aviation say ABIA has sufficient runway capacity to handle that growth. In fact, the existing runways should be able to accommodate demand for the next 30 to 35 years. However, if growth in airport traffic reaches the maximum levels anticipated by the study, ABIA would need an additional terminal. The current terminal could be expanded, but only to handle about 13.2 million passengers per year. If traffic should exceed that level, the consultant recommends building a new terminal on the south side of the airport's property, beginning with 11 new gates and allowing for expansion as traffic at the airport increases.

Planners are also urging the city to take a look at the long-range parking needs at ABIA. “Ground access and parking facilities are key elements in any airport operation,” said Lou Garber with P&D Aviation. “In many airports they could pose critical constraints . . . on the ability to process passengers.” While the airport currently has 10,320 parking spaces on-site, Garber said, under the high-growth scenario it would need 27,700 spaces. While there are several off-site, privately owned parking lots, Garber said the city should not rely on them to meet the airport’s needs. “For a responsible planning purpose, we should be looking at providing spaces on-site for all of the parking requirements,” he said. The P&D report also urges that the city make accommodations for a possible light-rail line and develop a consolidated rental-car facility at the airport..

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

City hiring a few good men (and a woman) . . . A tentative list of lobbyists to assist the city in navigating its ship through what could be an extremely stormy Legislative session has been circulating amongst Council offices. There is only one new name on the list of nine professionals, and he’s done work for the city in the past. Dick Brown worked for the Texas Municipal League for a number of years, then quit in 1994. He lobbied for the City of Austin in 1995 but has not done so since then. Brown found that the city’s interests conflicted with those of other clients, which include Stratus Properties. Brown joins Susan Rocha, Carl Richie, Reggie Bashur, Richard Hamner, Gordon and Robert Johnson, Carl Parker and Randy Erben as those likely to be chosen today. The total amount to be paid to all is $628,000. The city also has a multi-year contract with the firm of Adams and Zottarelli . . . New ZAP Commissioner possible today . . . Council Member Daryl Slusher has been looking for an appointee to the Zoning and Platting Commission who would look out for neighborhood and environmental interests. He met with South River City Citizens’ president Clarke Hammond yesterday and may announce Hammond’s selection today. The commission does not function properly without a full complement of members and Chair Betty Baker has requested that the position be filled soon . . . Neighborhood plan ordinance . . . The Council will be considering how to best amend the ordinance governing neighborhood plans to allow those plans to be amended. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has pushed this item and hopes to steer it through the Council today . . . More about bicycles from Thomas . . . Council Member Danny Thomas has put a resolution on the agenda to direct staff to study safety improvements for pedestrian and bicyclists on I-35 from the intersection of US 183 to Cesar Chavez and on US 183 from Payton Gin Road to SH71. The item is sure to bring bicycle activist Tommy Eden back to the City Council to say once again that all streets should be safe for bikes. Thomas’ resolution is co-sponsored by Council Members Raul Alvarez and Betty Dunkerley . . . New judge to be named . . . Since Community Court Judge Elisabeth Earle is moving up to County Court at Law #7, the Council must find a new judge to take her place. The item is on today’s agenda. Earle will be sworn in to her new job on Jan. 3 as Judge Brenda Kennedy becomes a district judge . . . Sound . . . Last week only a handful of citizens signed up to speak about the proposed changes to the amplified sound ordinance. The same regulation is scheduled for a 6pm hearing today, but it is the only matter set at that time. Today’s meeting is the final one for 2002. The next meeting is January 9, 2003 . . . SOS Party tonight . . . The Save Our Springs Alliance is holding a fundraiser from 6:30 to 11:30pm tonight at La Zona Rosa. Hot Club of Cowtown as well as Oceanic and Bill Oliver & Friends will provide entertainment. There will be a silent auction at the fundraiser.

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

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