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Music network may move to ACTV within weeks

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 by

New plan to be aired at committee meeting today

If the City Council approves the deal, the Austin Music Network could join up with Community Access Television in early August, rather than on October 1, as previously planned. Louis Meyers, the network’s manager, said Tuesday that he and ACTV had agreed in principle for AMN to move as soon as a contract is approved. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman confirmed that the Council telecommunications committee would be considering the proposal at today’s meeting, which begins at 3:30pm. Goodman is chair of the Telecommunications Committee and has been the music network’s most constant supporter on the Council.

Meyers had been under the gun to produce a budget showing how he could keep the network afloat until October 1, when ACTV would take it over, combining music with arts and educational programming. He was supposed to present that budget in writing to City Manager Toby Futrell by 5pm yesterday. However, he said that was no longer necessary because of the new proposal.

Meyers was enthusiastic about the changes he foresees for the network once it is under ACTV’s umbrella. He said the response around the city has made him realize what a great combination the station can present when it is reformatted as EATV. He said he has already talked to the University of Texas, which has agreed to do a local news hour every evening and that McCallum High School would be willing to produce a high school show for the fledging channel. The arts, music and educational programming will run on Channel 16, he said, adding that those programs would also be broadcast simultaneously on Channel 15 until Austin Music Partners is ready to begin its programs. Meyers explained that Channel 15 “can’t go dark.”

Goodman said she needed to hear the details of the ACTV proposal as well as “a slight modification” to be presented at the meeting today. She indicated that the change would relate to which channel Austin Music Partners could have. The city would transfer responsibility for broadcasting the music network to ACTV along with the $15,000 still to be paid on the contract with Meyers, she said. In addition, she said Time Warner and Grande Communications must agree to the changes.

Futrell said, “I had a chance to talk to the ACTV board and it may be a win/win situation. I think Louis and ACTV have put a lot of time and energy into this. We’re really just standing by . . . we’ll see what Telecomm has to say.”

Meyers, who has been dealing with a severe budget crisis, said he no longer has any full-time employees and has not paid himself since the end of March. Even the change to ACTV will not mean an immediate remedy for all of AMN’s budget problems, he said, since the network will not receive assistance from Austin Music Partners until the private company has signed its contract with the city.

Planning Commission picks task force plan

With some minor changes the commission followed its sister commission's recommendations

The Planning Commission added its commentary to the proposed historic preservation ordinance last night, supporting most of the recommendations of the Historic Preservation Task Force.

As Assistant City Attorney Marty Terry told the commission, the Planning Commission’s ideas would provide one view that will be catalogued in a growing document for City Council consideration. She said an ordinance was being prepared from the task force recommendations, with an accompanying document to show which groups supported each part of the proposed ordinance. The staff has also prepared ordinance alternatives. On Monday night, the Zoning and Platting Commission adopted the task force recommendations in their entirety. (See In Fact Daily, July 27, 2004.)

The commission followed its own Codes and Ordinances Subcommittee recommendation, with one minor exception. Chair Chris Riley recused himself from the discussion and consideration of the ordinance. Vice Chair Cynthia Medlin, who chaired the portion of the meeting dealing with recommendations on historic preservation, reopened the floor for comments. With only the major players making

comments—representatives of the Heritage Society, Preserve Austin and the Downtown Austin Alliance—the Planning Commission gave its blessing rather quickly.

Property tax exemptions would follow the task force recommendations, which provide for a maximum exemption of $2,000 in city taxes on homes and retaining the current exemption rates on income-producing properties. Staff has said that the fiscal impact of the guidelines would be to forego $738,558 in taxes annually, providing a negligible impact on revenue. Members of the task force dispute this assertion.

On the other hand, the Planning Commission supported the suggestion of Preserve Austin and staff to recommend that all designated landmarks be eligible for the property tax exemption regardless of age or date of designation. The task force recommended that properties be at least 75 years old.

The commission supported the Historic Landmark Commission, Preserve Austin, Downtown Austin Alliance and staff regarding property tax incentives to rehabilitate buildings in local historic districts. The recommendation was to limit incentives to buildings that are considered contributing buildings in the local historic district, and non-contributing if the project would restore the building to contributing status. The length of abatements would be extended to 10 years for all projects. And a list of particular expenditures that would qualify under the abatement would be developed.

A minority report from the task force asked for exemptions for low-income properties. The Planning Commission recommended no special provision for low-income property owners.

The threshold for starting the process to create a local historic district would be 20 percent of property owners. The threshold for passing that district would be 50 percent of owners.

The Planning Commission supported the tightening of criteria for historic landmark designation, as have all other groups that have reviewed the ordinance. The criteria list has been shortened and the building must meet multiple criteria.

The Planning Commission took no position on reducing the boundaries of the district, nor on the topic of building permits in National Register Historic Districts. The task force recommended administrative approval for building permits within historic districts.

The Planning Commission supported the staff recommendation to approve historic zoning. A second hearing would only be called at the request of the commission. The Historic Landmark Commission could order a demolition delay to receive additional information.

Council members each make an appointment to the Historic Landmark Commission, with specific slots allotted to the Heritage Society of Austin and a local architect. The code encourages the inclusion of members with an expertise in architectural history, law, real estate and structural engineering, as well as the owner of a historic building.

The ordinance is one of 108 items up for Council consideration tomorrow.

City committee hopes to balance district board

Three professional women, doctor likely picks for entire Council

The City Council Health Care Subcommittee's recommendations for the board of the new Austin/Travis County Hospital District are ready for consideration by the full City Council this Thursday. The subcommittee unanimously selected five members and one alternate to recommend to the Council for its approval. In picking the nominees from more than 80 entries, members of the committee strove to maximize diversity on the panel.

"We felt like we had to look at this from several perspectives . . . the diversity of experience, so you wouldn't get nine attorneys; the diversity of ethnicity; and the diversity of gender," said Council Member Betty Dunkerley. "It's really important that each of these people bring very unique experience so that the board as a whole can be successful. I think we really worked hard to try to do that." Since the County's nominees were all males, that placed an extra burden on the City to select from the well-qualified female applicants.

The Subcommittee’s four nominees are Rose Lancaster, a former executive director for a community dental clinic in East Austin; CPA Rosie Mendoza, who serves on the board of trustees of the Austin-Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center; engineer Victoria Hsu, the outgoing executive director of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers; and Dr. Thomas Coopwood, a retired trauma surgeon who practiced at Brackenridge Hospital. For its joint appointee with the County, the Subcommittee is recommending attorney Carl Richie. He is a lawyer with the firm of Gardere Wynne & Sewell and has served on the board for the city's Housing Authority. He also helped create the Texas Ethics Commission. The Subcommittee also named Henry Narvaez as an alternate should one of the four nominees be unable to continue on the board. Narvaez works for the Wright House Wellness Center, which assists AIDS patients.

"It was a very hard decision, because we had so many good applicants," said Council Member Raul Alvarez. "I think any of these individuals, including Mr. Narvaez, would do incredibly well, so I'm glad to include him as an alternate." Dunkerley also praised the overall quality of the pool of applicants. "We had some very, very good applicants. In a way, we could not have made a mistake, because they were all very good." She also offered her thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, who led the interviewing and selection process. Her motion to send the slate of five nominees and one alternate on to the full Council at tomorrow's meeting passed on a vote of 4-0.

Since Travis County Commissioners have already selected their appointees, work to formally establish the new Travis County Hospital District will proceed quickly once the full City Council approves its representatives. "It's currently anticipated that the first meeting will be held next week," said Assistant City Attorney Sally Henly. "They have an incredibly long organizational meeting agenda."

One of the first items of business for the new district will be an interlocal agreement with the City of Austin concerning the operation of the city's community health clinics. That will allow the current employees of those clinics to continue their work without losing the benefits they've accumulated under the city's retirement plan.

Despite the city's budget crunch, there will be one more community health clinic this fall. A federal grant for more than $600,000 will allow the city to reopen the Montopolis clinic, which has been closed since 1999. The grant will pay the staffing costs of operating the clinic, including the salaries of three family practitioners, a half-time pediatrician and a chronic disease manager. "People are not getting the preventive care they need to keep them out of the ER, to keep them out of the hospital. That's exactly what we're doing here," said John Gilvar of the city's Community Care Department at the grant announcement this week by Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

A separate grant from the State of Texas helped fund the renovation and expansion of the building. "We really are so very excited to have this center reopening," said Community Care Director Trish Young. "It's been five years that we've been working on a vision to reopen it." The clinic is expected to serve about 5,000 people in Southeast Austin when it opens in two to three months.

Today’s meetings . . . The Joint City/County Commissioner’s Court Subcommittee meeting is cancelled . . . The Capital Metro Transit Authority Board of Directors will meet at 4pm at Capital Metro board room . . . CTRMA to meet at 9am at the LCRA board room on Lake Austin Blvd . . . The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Policy Committee passed eight resolutions to make the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's proposed $2.2 billion toll road system a bit easier to swallow. A number of the resolutions are on the CTRMA's agenda for discussion today. Board Chair Bob Tesch says CAMPO Chairman Gonzalo Barrientos sent a letter along with the resolutions to encourage "serious consideration" of the proposals. Tesch says he sees no serious obstacles to complying with CAMPO's conditions but that he expected a "lengthy discussion" on the proposals . . Wynn and McCracken send letter . . . Two City Council members who have caught a lot of flak for voting for the toll road amendments sent a strongly worded letter to the CTRMA board last night. Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Brewster McCracken said, “Fundamental to our vote in favor of the toll plan was the approval of the eight amendments to the plan. Fundamental to our ongoing support of the plan is the complete and immediate adoption of these amendments . . . To ensure support for and the success of the CAMPO plan, it is critical that you vote to implement each of these amendments without changes. In particular, it is important that you begin implementation of the amendments’ policies and programs prior to the opening of any toll road” . . . Stumping for streetcars . . . The Downtown Austin Alliance, Livable City, the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association and others gathered downtown on Tuesday for the formal launch of a new organization, Connect Austin. The group is pushing for the inclusion of a fixed-rail streetcar option on the November ballot along with the commuter rail line being considered by Capital Metro. "Commuter rail is a good start, but to make it work we need connections downtown and streetcars are the way to go," said Liveable City Board Member Mark Yznaga. "The way to do it is to ask the citizens of Austin what they think." The group hopes to have 10,000 signatures gathered in time for the Capital Metro Board vote on August 30 on what to place on the November ballot . . . . Part-time faculty needed . . . ACC’s Office of Human Resources is hosting an Adjunct Faculty Job Fair to fill part-time teaching positions for the upcoming fall semester. Participants must bring a completed ACC employment application to the fair, which will run from 9am to 2pm Saturday at Highland Business Center. For more information and a complete list of opportunities go to http://www.austincc.edu/hr/adj_opps.htm. Application forms are available at http://www.austincc.edu/hr/employ.htm

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