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Budget reductions mean fewer programs on Channel 6

Tuesday, September 30, 2003 by

Most commission meetings will no longer be televised

Channel 6, which has provided weekly live coverage of a number of important decision-making bodies, in addition to the City Council, has lost half of its six-person staff in the budget-cutting process. As a result, the city-owned station must eliminate a major portion of its coverage.

Michele Middlebrook-Gonzalez, who heads the city’s Public Information Office, says Channel 6 will no longer tape or broadcast meetings of the following city commissions:

• Sign Review Board and Board of Adjustment

• Environmental Board

• Historic Landmark Commission

• Water and Wastewater Commission

• Electric Utility Commission

• Resource Management Commission

• Austin Music Commission

• Human Rights Commission

• Telecommunications Commission.

Middlebrook-Gonzalez explains that the Public Information Office cut $500,000 from its budget, which fell from the FY2003 level of $1.8 million to $1.3 million for FY2004, which begins tomorrow. Eleven positions were eliminated, but seven employees are now working in other departments. Two were moved to Austin Energy, which is funding the city’s new call center, scheduled to begin operations in January or February, she said.

Channel 6 will continue to broadcast live proceedings of the Zoning and Platting Commission on Tuesday nights. Planning Commission meetings will also be aired, although some of those meetings may be taped. Planning Commission Chair Lydia Ortiz said the group plans to change its schedule to alternate with the ZAP in January. Neither commission is meeting this week. The Planning Commission has a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday. ZAP Chair Betty Baker was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the City Council and zoning-related commission meetings, Middlebrook-Gonzalez said the station would continue to air Council and City Manager news conferences, special-called Council meetings and public hearings, Council candidate forums, the Daryl Slusher Show and City Council subcommittees on MBE/WBE, Audit/Finance, Health Care and Telecommunications Infrastructure. Meetings of the Capital Metro Board of Directors and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) will be taped for later broadcast. In addition, Middlebrook-Gonzalez said, the Community Action Network Resource Council’s meetings would be broadcast on Channel 6, although the city is requesting coverage by Austin Independent School District to avoid city staff and camera resources being required. Proceedings of the Texas House of Representatives, which provides its own staff and equipment, will continue to air live also, she said. .

Sounding like a Democrat, Clark woos Austin

Sen. Edwards in town yesterday; Kerry on his way

Monday was a busy day for Austin Democrats as two contenders for their party’s presidential nomination made stops in Central Texas to recruit volunteers and gather financial support. North Carolina Senator John Edwards made a low-key appearance at the home of former Mayor Kirk Watson, while the newest candidate in the race, retired General Wesley Clark, spoke before a crowd of hundreds at Wooldridge Square Park downtown.

Retired Texas Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage and State Representative Richard Raymond joined Clark on stage, along with several other State Representatives who wanted to show their support. Clark spent much of his speech outlining his Democratic credentials. “I realized, when it came time to choose a party . . . I was pro-affirmative action, I was pro-choice, I was pro-education. I’m pro-health care,” Clark said. “I believe every American deserves the right to be covered by health care insurance. As I looked around the country, I realized I was either going to be the loneliest Republican in America or I was going to be a happy Democrat.” Clark stressed that while he was in the military, he strove to work with both Republican and Democratic administrations, but that he was able to reveal his stands on domestic issues only now since he has retired.

Although he had only been a candidate for 12 days at the time of his Austin appearance, Clark delivered a rousing speech, hitting on hot-button issues like the USA Patriot Act and the tactics of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that were guaranteed to generate a response from the crowd. “We’re asking for you and hundreds of thousands of people across this country to stand up for America, to stand up for our principles, to stand up for the right to heard, the right to speak out, the right to disagree and not be branded un-patriotic,” he said.

Clark also used his Austin appearance to chime in on one of the top national news items of the day. He called for an independent investigation into the leak of the name of a woman identified as a CIA operative. That woman’s husband, a former U.S. Ambassador, has been critical of some of President Bush’s claims regarding the danger posed by Iraq. Most of the other Democrats seeking their party’s nomination have issued similar calls for an outside investigation or independent counsel, including former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards.

Despite the infancy of his candidacy and his recent announcement as a Democrat, Clark proved to be especially popular with the mid-afternoon crowd at Wooldridge Square Park. After his speech, he spent time signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures with local supporters before traveling to Wichita Falls for another campaign stop.

Austin has been a prime destination for Democrats so far, with visits from Clark,. Edwards, Lieberman, Gephardt and multiple visits from. Dean. Later this week, Austin will get a visit from Kerry. Local Democrats are using the opportunity to decide which one of the ten seeking their party’s nomination to support. On Monday, City Council Member Brewster McCracken and Mayoral aide Janice Kinchion both joined Clark on stage. Although he had been photographed with Sen. Edwards earlier in the day, McCracken told In Fact Daily that he is definitely in the Clark camp. “I am very excited,” about Clark’s candidacy, he said. “I think he has the best prospect of restoring our position in the world and restoring the American economy . . . and also bringing in new blood to the process.”

McCracken described the campaigns of both Clark and Gov. Dean as “people-driven,” as opposed to those more traditional campaigns that are candidate or organization-driven. “This is driven by very different dynamics,” he said.

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Wal-Mart news . . . A member of the Zoning and Platting Commission said the ZAP is likely to have a special called meeting on October 8 to consider action on a zoning request from Wal-Mart. The store’s attorney, Richard Suttle, said he understands that the commission will meet next Wednesday at 8pm to make a decision on how to zone a 1.39-acre sliver of land at the intersection of I-35 and Ben White. Although the parent tract has been zoned LI for many years, he said, the small slice was left out and retains SF-3 zoning. The commission closed the public hearing on the matter on September 23, and must act within 14 days of doing so, he said . . . Wal-Mart at I-35 and Slaughter . . . Suttle said the ZAP task force looking at questions surrounding the zoning of that new superstore voted 5-0-2 to approve GR zoning with a number of Conditional Overlays. Suttle said the neighborhood representatives abstained because they had not met to discuss the matter with members of their neighborhood associations . . . Santos lauded . . . The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) presented Austin-based Santos Alliances with the 2003 ADA Champion Award, an honor reserved for those organizations that display outstanding support of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Frank Santos, CEO and President of Santos Alliances, recently accepted the award at the CTD’s 25th Annual Convention in Houston..

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