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Meltzer tops spending; Wynn is top fund-raiser among Mayoral candidates

Tuesday, April 29, 2003 by

Of the four men who might be Austin’s next Mayor, conservative businessman Brad Meltzer has spent the most money—more than $249,000—to try to catch up with his better-known opponents, in particular Council Member Will Wynn. Wynn reports having raised $152,000 since last year and spent more than $153,000. Meltzer’s reports indicate that his race is primarily self-funded, with contributions of less than $13,000.

Both men are betting on television advertising to get their message to the voters. Wynn has bought between $65,000 and $70,000 on KXAN, News8 and KEYE, according to Mark Nathan, his campaign manager. He indicated that the campaign is likely to buy an additional $5,000 of ad time this week.

Meltzer’s campaign manager Carlos Espinosa said his campaign had spent a total of about $20,000 on TV advertising before this week. However, he added, “We’re probably going to do that much again for this week.” So far, those ads have run on News8, KEYE and Fox, he said.Meltzer has used direct mail also.

Max Nofziger, a former Council member and political consultant, has raised less than $9,000 and reports spending just under $8,400. The Marc Katz campaign supplied In Fact Daily with a copy of Katz’ most recent report, which has not yet reached the City Clerk’ s office. The report, which a campaign spokesman said was mailed, shows the deli owner raised $1,690 and spent $2,707 during the latest reporting period. Combined with his previous report, Katz has raised a total of $5,251 and spent $36,063. But he is still confident that he will be the one to face Wynn in a runoff.

In Fact Daily asked Katz last week if he planned to advertise his candidacy—as opposed to his restaurant—on television. He said no, adding that he was planning on a television buy for the runoff. Katz also said that he has suspended his famous “I gotta tell ya” ads for the 6th Street deli during the campaign. He is confident that his well known name will carry him into a runoff.

Nofziger, who ran for City Council several times with little funding before winning his first of three terms in office, feels confident too. Nofziger told In Fact Daily on Friday, “I’m beginning to feel a little groundswell of interest.” He noted that people have been distracted from local issues because of the war in Iraq, but now that the war has cooled off citizens are paying attention to the race.

Said Wynn’s campaign manager Mark Nathan, “We’re optimistic that we’ve run a strong campaign and we’re hopeful that the voters will respond accordingly.” In addition to TV, Wynn is using radio, direct mail, email and automated phone calls to get his supporters to the polls. Katz has employed direct mail and email, while Nofziger has used email and word-of-mouth. The city has posted election contribution and expenditure reports at: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/ce_2003.htm Yesterday In Fact Daily published comments from Mayoral candidates on how they would run the Mayor’s Office and Council meetings. To read their comments, click here: Monday's news.

Bars, nightclubs mounting strong campaign against proposal

Council Member Will Wynn on Monday clarified his position on the proposed ban on smoking in nearly all public places. The Council is set to take up the expansion of the city’s current no-smoking ordinance on May 8th. At a candidates’ forum last week in the Warehouse District, Marc Katz, Max Nofziger and Brad Meltzer all blasted the proposal, saying it was not appropriate to require businesses like nightclubs and bars to go smoke free. Wynn, while indicating he had “serious questions” about the proposal, was not fully committed to a no vote.

That changed on Monday, when Wynn announced his firm opposition to the measure. “First and foremost, I’m a non-smoker, and I do recognize the public health issues . . . particularly as it relates to second-hand smoke,” Wynn said. “But at this time I think we need to be taking meaningful steps to improve our local economy and I have serious reservations about what this may do, at least in the short term, to our existing small businesses . . . particularly those who serve up live music. So I will not be supporting the proposed expansion of the existing smoking ordinance.”

Wynn said it had been a difficult decision. As a current member of the City Council, he is likely the only mayoral candidate who will actually have to vote on the measure. In the past, Wynn said he had made efforts not to make up his mind about items facing the Council before hearing from the public. “I’ve tried very hard in my past three years on the Council to wait until all the public hearings have been heard and all the public testimony on any issue has been hashed out,” he said. The Council has already heard several hours of testimony about the pros and cons of the new ordinance. That information, combined with the intense public interest and strong feelings about the proposal on each side, prompted Wynn to announce his opposition before the vote. “I felt like I needed to let folks know what my position is,” he said. “The overarching priority for the next Mayor will need to be economic development and job creation. To me, job creation starts with job retention. I’m concerned that this proposed expansion will have a detrimental economic impact to hundreds of local jobs in clubs that we consider iconic. Business has been too tough for those small businesses lately for us to overlay this on them at this time.”

Council members will likely be getting an earful on the proposed revisions to the no-smoking rule. A coalition of business groups has launched a radio advertising campaign against expanding the ordinance to cover bars and nightclubs. The ad urges people concerned about the ordinance to contact the members of the council by calling the city’s main switchboard at 974-2000. The Austin Warehouse District Association, Sixth Street Community Association, Austin Billiard Parlor Association and keepaustinfree.com are funding the ads. An assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, who likely will oppose or try to amend the ordinance, said emails to the office are running 5-1 against the proposal..

Candidate wants Transportation Department grant

Mayoral candidate Brad Meltzer says the city should use grant funding from the US Department of Transportation to finish the Waller Creek Tunnel project. The idea, he says, came from the CEO of Capital Metro.

The city had sought funds from the US Army Corps of Engineers to supplement the $25 million approved by voters in 1998, but the Corps had indicated its cost participation would likely be “minimal” at best. The project is estimated to cost $45 million, much more than the amount voters approved in bond funding.

Meltzer says the answer is to use funds from a US Department of Transportation grant program designed to promote Transit Oriented Development, or TOD ( http://www.fta.dot.gov/library/planning/tod.html ). “We can start right now,” he said. “We have $25 million available to start development and construction, with the rest of the money coming from the federal government.” Meltzer cited Capital Metro CEO Fred Gilliam as the source of his inspiration. “Mr. Gilliam advised me that Capital Metro could obtain funds for the project, if the project could be shown to be a result of development and economic progress. The program will also have a transportation link, such as a major bus stop, only 1500 feet away . . . or even a water taxi.”

Representatives of Capital Metro say Gilliam did meet with Meltzer and discuss the grant program. They indicate he did not make any guarantees about the availability of federal funding.

The water taxi idea comes from Oklahoma City, which Meltzer says should serve as a model of a city that has revitalized its downtown. “Oklahoma City used federal funds to take a water problem and turn it into an attractive shopping, dining and entertainment area,” he said. Oklahoma City’s “Brickyard” district has become the town’s primary entertainment district. Voters approved funding through the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Projects election in December of 1993, with money going toward several items including a minor-league baseball park and the Bricktown Canal. The Oklahoma City Water Transportation System received $178,000 in federal grant funding from the Department of Transportation in the year 2000. As with most federal grant programs, funding is limited and while cities can apply for the funds, there is no guarantee they will be awarded to a project.

Voters taking advantage of opportunity . . . Travis County reported last night that 16,580 ballots have been cast, with one more day of early voting to go. The total is 2.99 percent of the registered voters in the city. Today is the final day to vote early. Mobile voting booths will be set up at Waller Creek Center, Town Lake Center and the Manor Independent School District Administrative Building . Those locations will only be open from 11am to 5pm, but the regular early vote locations will be open from 7am to 7pm . . . League of Women Voters/News 8 forum draws few spectators . . . Place 5 candidates comprised about a third of those present at Sunday night’s candidate forum put on by the League of Women Voters and News 8 Austin. The panel asked each candidate six different questions, but did not ask any of the candidates the same question, making it difficult to compare the candidates’ views. For those who have attended a number of forums already, the candidates offered little new information . . . Another errand for Saturday . . . While you’re out voting, if you wish to have a free skin cancer screening, local dermatologists and the Seton Healthcare Network are offering free screening Saturday from 8am to 2pm at two Seton locations: Brackenridge Hospital, 601 East 15th Street, Day Surgery, First Floor and Seton Lakeway, 1602 Lohman’s Crossing Road in Lakeway. No appointments are necessary and the screening is first come, first served. Free parking will be available at both sites. For more information about the screening, call 512-324-4444 and enter category 1205 . . . Election night news . . . Travis County is in charge of this year’s election and will be counting the ballots at the corner of 9th and Lavaca. Mary Fero, who is coordinating planning for the event, said there will be a two computers to access information as the ballots are being counted. Election results will also be provided on Channel 6 . . . Commissioners reappointed . . . The Council last week reappointed both Aletha Huston and Cynthia Sproul to the Child Care Council by consensus. Cynthia Ann Riley was appointed to the Community Development Commission. Mayor Gus Garcia reappointed Kevin Conner and Council Member Will Wynn reappointed David Glassco to the Music Commission . . . You too may serve . . . The city is looking for a few good men and women to fill specific slots on boards and commissions. These panels do important work in advising the Council and staff and informing the public about the various matters the city regulates. Boards and Commissions Coordinator Julia Lee tells In Fact Daily she is looking for citizens with expertise in transportation and public safety for the Bond Oversight Committee, which reviews the City Manager’s plans for issuance of bonds after projects are approved by voters. This group meets as needed, not on a regular basis. The Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals reviews decisions relating to interpretations of the two codes. The vacancies are for a person with experience in fire prevention and suppression and for an at-large member. They meet once a month, as needed. There are also openings on the Building and Standards Commission, the MBE/WBE Advisory Committee and the Medical Assistant Program and Rural Medical Assistance Program Joint Advisory Board. The latter is looking for a doctor, a MAP user and an at-large member. These boards each meet once a month. For more information, call Julia Lee at 974-2497 . . . LCRA update . . . Members of the Save Barton Creek Association got an update on the LCRA’s dealings with the Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation (CMWSC) Monday night. The LCRA is close to signing a contract to acquire some of the service area currently under CMWSC jurisdiction. The LCRA Board of Directors approved the transaction last December. SBCA members want to make sure that development in the area does not lead to over-pumping from the aquifer.

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