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Outcome of Place 5 race May depend on conservatives

Thursday, May 1, 2003 by

Or badly split Democrats could force runoff

Place 5 candidate Brewster McCracken has joked that he is a lot like his major opponent Margot Clarke. But there are differences and one of those is in fundraising. According to campaign finance reports, McCracken has so far raised $138,816—more than four times as much as his closest competition. Clarke’s contributions totaled $31,707 as of last week.

Both have strong support Democratic ties and both are targeting women voters. But lack of money means Clarke has purchased less air time. In addition to that, McCracken introduced himself to voters last year, so he started this year's race with somewhat higher name recognition.

Campaign manager Paula Nielson says Clarke has put a total of $20,000 into TV ads. That is the amount that Clarke loaned to the campaign, according to her contribution and expenditure reports. Her ads appear on KXAN, KVUE, News8 and a few cable shows that Nielson says appeal to women. McCracken and Clarke have put about the same amount into KXAN spots. Colleen Judd at the NBC station said McCracken had purchased $13,885 in air time and Clarke $12,000-$13,000 as of last week. Cathy Conley, spokesperson for the McCracken campaign, said his total television budget is $50,000.

Sarah Smith of KVUE told In Fact Daily that Clarke had bought less than $3,000 in air time, while McCracken’s buy was nearly $17,000. She said candidates “normally buy around news areas and that’s basically what both of them are doing as well.”

McCracken has spent $7, 242 in direct mail and a total of $1,460 advertising in La Prensa, The Villager and NOKOA. The campaign has managed to stay in the black. Campaign expenditures total $120,558. All three of the minority newspapers, as well as the Austin American-Statesman, have endorsed McCracken, while the Austin Chronicle has endorsed Clarke. She has so far spent $1,221 advertising in the Chronicle, with total expenditures amount to $45,967, according to the latest campaign finance report.

Hoffman said Clarke had also purchased less than a thousand dollars in ad time on Fox 7 and KEYE, which have lower ratings than the ABC and NBC stations. McCracken’s ads are easy to catch for those watching the news regularly, but Clarke’s less-frequent 30-second spot has politicos talking. Like McCracken’s, it features an Austin setting, but seems highly polished and understated at the same time. Liberal Austin icons Shudde Fath and Sarah Weddington speak to the camera in their own words. McCracken’s commercial includes Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb and his son Aaron, Planning Commission Chair Lydia Ortiz and her brother Daniel, as well as family friends and their children, McCracken’s wife, Mindy, and their dogs. But McCracken does all the talking. It is professionally done, but not causing a stir. However, McCracken’s latest mail piece, featuring former Gov. Ann Richards and a pro-choice message, could convince some undecideds. The mailing also features endorsements from Martha Cotera, Brigid Shea, Cecilia Crossley and Kimberly Frost, as well as a host of organizational endorsements. The list begins with Austin Firefighters and runs through most of the Democratic clubs, plus labor and gay organizations.

There are some conservative candidates in this race— Carl Tepper for example—as well as others who espouse many of the same values as Clarke and McCracken. But Republican Tepper has raised less than $7,200 and spent only $5341. Newcomer Scott Marks has impressed some of those who heard him in forums, but has not run a full-time campaign and has raised less than $3,000, while spending even less. So, the race between two decidedly Democratic contenders could well boil down to which of the two front-runners—the only visible candidates in this crowded race—is able to bring the more conservative voters to his or her way of thinking, and get those voters to the polls.

Residents worry about loss of neighborhood, code violations

The owners of a home at 1502 Koenig Lane have won approval from the City Council for a zoning change from SF-3 to NO-MU, despite complaints from neighbors about unauthorized uses at the home and a valid petition against any zoning other than NO (neighborhood office).

Agent Brad Greenblum had originally requested a zoning of LR for the site last year to allow a variety of office uses along with residential. The application was later amended to LO-MU. While the character of Koenig is changing, with an increasing amount of office uses on the busy street, staff opposed the LR request on the grounds that the immediately adjacent properties are still being used as single-family residences.

Neighbors complained to the City Council that the owner of the property was already allowing office use before receiving the necessary zoning. “This property has been illegally used for over a year,” said Don Leighton Burwell . “I live right behind there. I watch them come every morning at 9:00 with several cars, leave every night at 6:00 and nobody lives there.” Leighton Burwell told Council members he had requested the city’s Code Enforcement Department inspect the property, but that they were unable to develop sufficient evidence that the home was actually being used as a business in violation of the zoning.

While Council members admitted it was likely easier for neighbors to determine a pattern of use than for city inspectors, they stressed there were procedures that the Code Enforcement officers were required to follow. Council Member Will Wynn pushed for the addition of the “mixed use” component on what was viable for the area. “I think we certainly have had a track record, where we can, of having MU on virtually all commercial property where it’s on a corridor where it’s appropriate,” he said. The motion to approve NO-MU passed on a vote of 6-0, with Mayor Gus Garcia absent from the meeting.

Downtown Farmers’ Market opens Saturday . . . Republic Square will host the grand opening of the new farmers’ market, with ceremonies beginning at 7:30am, followed by a traditional farmers’ market bell-ringing to open the market at 8am. The market will be held every Saturday from 8am-Noon from May through November. For more information, visit http://www.austinfarmersmarket.org . . . Election night parties . . . Will Wynn’s party will be at Hill’s Café on South Congress beginning at 7:30pm. Marc Katz’ s party will be—where else?—at Katz’ Deli on West 6th Street. Brad Meltzer will be at Bismallah Restaurant, 6929 Airport Boulevard (Highland Village Mall, corner of Lamar and Airport) beginning at 6:30pm. The Max Nofziger campaign will be at Threadgill’ s on Barton Springs Road. Brewster McCracken will be at his campaign headquarters at 1802 Lavaca at 6:30pm and his main opponent, Margot Clarke, will be nearby at the Dog and Duck Pub, 406 W.17th Street, at 7pm. Council Member Raul Alvarez and friends will be at Jalisco Restaurant and Bar on Barton Springs Road beginning at 7pm. All of those parties will start around 7pm. Council Member Danny Thomas plans to celebrate at Hoover’s Cookin’, 2002 Manor Road, after the votes are counted . . . Fernandez finance report filed . . . Gavino Fernandez, the Eastside activist who is running against Council Member Raul Alvarez for Place 2, was a little late in filing his most recent report. He had previously reported collecting $850 in donations, but this report shows none—only a loan of $618.75 from Rosa Santis, owner of a restaurant at Shady Lane and East 7th Street . Santis asked the City Council for a change in zoning to CS-1 last year. That zoning would have allowed her to open a bar on the property along with the restaurant. Neighbors protested vigorously, but the zoning won preliminary approval, with Alvarez and Council Member Danny Thomas voting no. However, when the matter came back for a final reading in January, the zoning was changed to CS-CO so that liquor could be served in conjunction with the restaurant. That put more restrictions on Santis than she wanted, but Alvarez voted in favor of the change. (See In Fact Daily Nov. 12, 2002 ; Jan. 10, 2003. ) The loan from Santis is apparently interest-free, if the report is correct. That could cause some problems for Fernandez if anyone wanted to file a complaint against him . . . Redistricting targets Doggett . . . Local Democrats are up in arms over an apparent attempt to redistrict Congressman Lloyd Doggett out of Austin. A number of emails are circulating urging Democrats to attend hearings at the Capitol this weekend. Alfred Stanley, for example, urges friends to “make time to come by the Capitol Friday afternoon or Saturday morning (May 2 or 3) to protest and attempt to scuttle a heinous plan that would rob Travis County of its representation in Congress. He says, “Congressional District 10, the seat once held by Lyndon Johnson during the New Deal and Jake Pickle from the Sixties into the Nineties, would be divided and scattered, depriving Austin of its voice in Washington. No other major Texas city has been singled out for such treatment, but apparently we are special” . . . Nofziger on light rail . . . Voters might have gotten the impression over the past few weeks that Max Nofziger was against light rail, since he regularly mentions how he worked to defeat the proposal in 2000 that failed at the ballot box. But the Nofziger campaign says his transportation plan has room for light rail. “The Affordable Clean Air Transit plan (ACAT) includes money to continue planning for a light rail or monorail project while improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion at the same time,” Nofziger said. “Most importantly, ACAT is inherently flexible and can be used as the framework for regional transportation planning in the future” . . . Injunction hearing set . . . The lawsuit over Austin’s existing no-smoking ordinance will go to court before the end of the month. A judge will hear a request for a temporary injunction against the city on May 20th at 2pm. The VFW and the American Veterans Department of Texas are suing the city, claiming Austin has over-stepped its authority in its efforts to regulate smoking. The veterans groups benefit from bingo parlors, which currently allow smoking. Of course, Austin could have a new smoking ordinance prohibiting smoking in bingo parlors by the time of the hearing. The case is set for trial on July 14th at 9:00am . . . Final forum tonight . . . If you haven’t yet seen the candidates but still want to, the city’s Ethics Review Commission will be hosting a forum, along with Channel 6, beginning at 6pm this evening at the Conley-Guererro Center .

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

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