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Resident describes homeowners board election battle

Friday, March 7, 2003 by

Residents of Circle C asked the City Council yesterday not to authorize a construction contract for the extension of Escarpment Boulevard from where it currently dead-ends to a junction with SH 45. The road’s opponents knew they had an uphill battle since the construction was part of the Circle C annexation plan and part of the city’s 2000 agreement with developer Gary Bradley and the Circle C Homeowners Association. The Save Our Springs Alliance also opposed the road extension for environmental reasons.

Attorney and Circle C resident Bill Gammon explained that the road’s opponents did not come forward sooner because “the board of directors of Circle C has made a concerted effort not to let us know about (the extension) . . . The board of directors does not represent the homeowners in Circle C. We have been dealing with some people who don’t represent us and have intentionally left us in the dark.” Gammon asked that the matter be postponed until March 27, the day after the homeowners association meeting and election. He explained that area residents have fielded a candidate to run against Gary Bradley’s former partner, Steve Bartlett. After the election, he said, the association’s board may reflect the residents’ desire to prevent extension of Escarpment.

Gammon also read from a letter by Carl Kernodle, who is running against Bartlett. Kernodle said neighbors oppose the Escarpment extension because it would open the neighborhood to crime and “will increase traffic flow on a currently speed-challenged boulevard.” He said the extension would not benefit residents. “As a taxpayer, I question whom this connection serves,” Kernodle wrote.

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman made a motion to allow negotiation of the contract, but to postpone execution until March 27. She also asked to defer a funding item until the matter was resolved. Assistant City Manager Lisa Gordon said the staff would recommend approval of authorization to execute the agreement, but the contract would not be executed until after Council had a chance to review it on March 20. Peter Reick, director of Public Works, said the item required approval yesterday so the contractor could begin work by March 31, the deadline set by previous agreement. Goodman was clearly unhappy with the staff’s response, saying that information on such difficult decisions should be given to the Council so that a few weeks postponement would not jeopardize city plans.

Council Member Daryl Slusher said he was concerned that failure to act on the contract could endanger the validity of the agreement with Bradley. He agreed with Goodman, however, that the matter should have been on the Council agenda sooner. “I don’t like for things to come to us with a deadline of now.” On advice of their attorneys, the Council went into executive session to hear legal arguments before making a decision.

Goodman reiterated her motion, but Slusher made a substitute motion to authorize execution of the agreement as well as the funding for the 1200 foot extension. Gordon said the staff would not execute the contract until after the March 20 meeting, at which time they will provide additional information so that the Council can consider further action.

Slusher’s motion was approved 6-1, with Goodman in dissent. Gammon said he would work with staff members during the interim and thanked the Council for considering the neighbors’ wishes.

Businessman opposes new anti-smoking proposal

Businessman Brad Meltzer kicked off his mayoral campaign last night with promises to fix potholes, cut the red tape for development and not raise taxes. Meltzer, owner of the Benihana Restaurant and several apartment complexes, said he has personally experienced the difficulties that small business people face in attempting to renovate buildings in the city.

Meltzer said in rehabilitating the roof, electrical wiring and plumbing in one unit of his rental housing, he was required to get “many different permits” from various inspectors, who came at their convenience, not his. He also complained that a number of other restaurant owners had sold their businesses in Austin and moved to the suburbs because of the difficulty of conducting business here.

In addition, the restaurateur took issue with Mayor Gus Garcia’s proposal to ban smoking in all restaurants and bars, as well as most other public places, in Austin. Meltzer said he has a no smoking policy in his restaurant, but that the new ordinance would put more of a burden on businesspeople “at a very unfortunate time,” given the current economic situation. It is that situation—the city’s $80 million shortfall—that motivated him to enter the race, he said.

Since Meltzer promised not to raise taxes, and also indicated that police, fire and emergency services could not be cut, In Fact Daily asked which programs he planned to eliminate. The candidate declined to mention any specific cuts he would make. He said he would only have one vote among seven but would work with other members of the Council to balance the budget.

Between fifty and one hundred citizens came to the Broken Spoke to cheer Meltzer Thursday night. None of the usual City Council lobbyists, activists or politicos appeared to be present.

No action taken by Council

The court formed to handle nuisance and quality-of-life offenses downtown could soon expand its boundaries to cover the parts of east Austin and Guadalupe Street near UT. The Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) was designed to relieve the caseload of other courts by dealing with Class C misdemeanors such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct and aggressive panhandling. Many of the defendants who go before the court are transient and have alcohol or substance abuse problems. Defendants are frequently ordered to perform community service and offered a variety of rehabilitation services including drug and alcohol treatment programs, mental health services and job training.

Court Administrator Greg Toomey told members of the City Council on Thursday that the court was prepared to expand its jurisdiction beyond downtown without expanding its budget. “East Austin and the Drag share many of the same core problems that the DACC is currently addressing,” he said. “We feel we are now configured to accomplish this with existing resources. The expansion has been an expressed priority of the East Austin Community Associations.”

Like other community courts in cities across the country, Toomey said Austin’s community court has had a positive impact on the quality of life downtown. But part of that has meant some repeat offenders are finding ways to get around the court’s jurisdiction, which is a phenomenon that other community courts have also experienced. “There are a number of people who have become very knowledgeable of what our current jurisdiction is, and then they and some of the problems and neighborhood concerns have bled over into these adjacent areas,” said Toomey. “This will address that.”

Council members did not vote on the proposed expansion of the court’s boundaries, but did seem receptive to the idea. “I would like to see this come back to us to see the court expand in this manner,” said Council Member Daryl Slusher.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,

Friday.

Yesterday’s zoning cases . . . The City Council approved on first reading a change in the Four Points Centre PUD to allow for different uses than originally approved. Manager Greg Guernsey reported that the applicant and representative of the River Place Home Owners Association had reached an agreement on the zoning, but the group still wished to reiterate concerns about traffic in the area. The requested changes, said Alice Glasco, director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, do not impact traffic projections for the area . . . Application withdrawn . . . An Oak Hill property owner withdrew her application to change zoning on her property from SF-1 to SF-3 during a contested hearing on the matter Thursday. Rathna Reddy was facing a negative recommendation from city staff and a valid petition with 50 percent of surrounding property owners in opposition. The Zoning and Platting Commission had declined to make a recommendation on the case . . . Saltillo district redevelopment approved . . . The City Council gave its blessing to Capital Metro’s project in the East 4th and 5th Street corridor. George Adams of the Planning, Transportation and Sustainability Department told the Council they would be able to appoint seven of the thirteen members of the community advisory group for the planning process . . . Peace vigil Saturday . . . The American Friends Service Committee and Austin Peace Action are sponsoring a peace vigil Saturday from 7 to 8 pm at Wooldridge Square, 9th and Guadalupe. The event is planned in observance of International Women’s Day. Participants are asked to dress in white and bring a white candle . . . Journalist to speak . . . Dr. Robert Jensen of the UT Journalism Department will be the guest speaker at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover on Sunday at 11:30am. The forum is entitled, “How U.S. Journalism Works (or Doesn’t)” . . . Brackenridge Board Members quit . . . This week the Brackenridge Hospital Oversight Council lost two more members. D’Ann Friedholm and Dr. Jim Brand both announced their resignations, leaving the board with four vacancies and only one member. According to a memo from Chief of Staff Michael McDonald, “They felt the authority of the Board is so minimal that it wasn’t worth their time serving because they don’t play a true oversight role” . . . Alcohol hearing postponed . . . The Council postponed a hearing on sales of alcohol at the site of the former Shamrock Station on South Lamar near Fulmore Middle School last night. The applicant will meet with neighborhood residents.

© 2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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