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Dunkerley running for re-election

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 by

Despite her absence this week at the beginning of the City Council campaign season, one-term Council Member Betty Dunkerley assures her supporters—and potential opponents—that she definitely plans to run for a second term. Dunkerley tells In Fact Daily that while she has no doubts about her decision, this week’s vacation was booked and paid for a year ago, so she will make her official announcement when she returns to town next week—presumably tanned, rested, and ready to run.

Last week, Dunkerley discussed her record with In Fact Daily, saying she is even more confident now than she was when she first sought the Place 4 seat “that I have the qualifications to be a strong, as well as an effective representative for the citizens of Austin.” Prior to running for Council in 2002, Dunkerley noted, she had served many years as a municipal government employee, including more than 11 years with the City of Austin, where she served as Assistant City Manager and Director of Financial and Administrative Services.

“I've had a lot of encouragement from a broad spectrum of people,” who hope she will continue her service, Dunkerley said. Looking back, she added, “I’m proud that I played a central role on economic development, on health care issues, and housing. I think we’ve made a great deal of progress—as a city and as a Council. We’ve made some pretty impressive strides in all three of these areas in the past two and a half years.”

“On economic development, we brought both small business and cultural and creative affairs into that mix, and we’ve made progress on all the recommendations and came out of the citizens task force.” Dunkerley was also a leader in setting up the Travis County Hospital District, a natural progression from her work with the health care system as a city employee.

If she is re-elected, Dunkerley said, she would focus on small business issues, taking a fresh look at the recommendations from the city task forces in light of the current economic environment. She praised Austin’s Office of Neighborhood Housing, which has exceeded its goals in providing housing to those living below the poverty level. “The Smart Housing program has been recognized as one of the most effective in the nation, so I’m very proud of the housing—and the work we hope to do in the future.”

Dunkerley also wants to make sure the city continues to manage its finances responsibly. “Right now, it looks like we’re beginning to come out of this extended economic slump in Austin, but I think its very important that we don’t overreact and go too far the other way,” by overspending, she said. “The last few years things have been very challenging, and I believe very strongly that we need to take those lessons to heart and continue to make sound, long-term financial decisions for the city. In other words, kind of prioritize what we need to add back and kind of adjust that and not go overboard—as we grow out of this recession.”

Baxter/White race unchanged by absentee votes

White still considering her options

District 48 State Rep. Todd Baxter (R-Austin) was holding on to his seat last night at the end the process for counting provisional and absentee ballots. Democratic opponent Kelly White gained an additional 24 votes, but still lagged behind Baxter by 147 votes. On Election Day, Baxter had a margin of 171 votes. At that time, White’s campaign manager, Robert Jones, said she would likely ask for a recount.

Last night, White's campaign consultant, David Butts, said, "We're going to talk about it. I think the inclination has been to have a recount." A re-run of the voting machine tabulation would cost about $1000, he said. But a complicated and complete recount, which involves printing each actual ballot cast, would cost several thousand dollars more than that.

A number of ballots that were mailed by military service personnel were not counted, Butts noted, because they were mailed from within the United States after Election Day. Other ballots were not received by the statutory deadline of Saturday night.

The consultant recalled the election of 2002 in which an appointed judge, Ernest Garcia, lost votes during a recount and lost the election. "Our position is just to consider all the possibilities," he concluded.

Toll hearing set at low key CAMPO meeting

After months of roiling controversy over the proposed tolling of the William Cannon Bridge – a fight that involved threats, recall petitions and even a documentary—no one stood up to claim victory when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizations' Transportation Policy Committee finally decided tolling the South Austin bridge was a bad idea.

Last night's unanimous vote to call a hearing to pull the William Cannon Bridge from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's toll plan was a bit anti-climatic, given the previous high drama of the toll road debate. The audience at last night's meeting was not filled with angry protesters. Instead, it was the usual CAMPO regulars, plus a handful of observers and cameras from each of the city's television stations.

Even two of those targets of the Austin Toll Party's recall campaign— Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Brewster McCracken—were absent and represented by proxy last night. The Mayor was at a charity fund-raiser and later attended an event with his daughter, according to aide Matt Curtis. McCracken said he had emergency child care duties, since his wife, a prosecutor, was still in court at day’s end. Two more CAMPO board members – Rep. Jack Stick and County Commissioner Bill Burnett – voted for the hearing last night but won't be around for the final vote.

Chair Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos laid out the proposal for three amendments to the CAMPO 2025 plan: The first amendment would delete the old light rail plan and replace it with the new Capital Metro commuter rail plan passed by the voters last week. The second amendment would remove the toll designation from the MoPac bridge over William Cannon. And the third amendment would replace proposed HOV lanes on MoPac with one managed lane in each direction as a measure to replace some amount of toll revenue.

Approval of the amendments is a two-month process. CAMPO will take public testimony on the amendments on Dec. 13. That will be followed by approval of those amendments in either January or February. That date will depend upon CAMPO staff's ability to schedule a meeting in January around the start of the legislative session.

Barrientos said pulling the William Cannon bridge from the toll plan was influenced by two factors: engineering studies on the project and a promise of funding from the Texas Transportation Commission. Council Member Daryl Slusher immediately jumped in to ask what engineering facts had emerged since the board's last vote.

District Engineer Bob Daigh said that it became apparent, with further engineering study, that the proposed tolling design could not overcome the bottleneck that would be created once the cars passed through the toll plaza. Commuters would simply be paying a toll to hurry up and wait in congestion up the road until improvements could be made upstream, Daigh said. Toll road drivers should expect that their tolls provide road access that helps them avoid construction delays and red lights, Daigh said.

In that vein, Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) proposed no tolling of Highway 71 or US 183 before the entire toll road was fully completed. Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Taylor), chair of the House Transportation Committee, agreed to sign on to the proposal, which will be presented in a letter to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Such a proposal could be adopted when the CTRMA board adopts its toll policies.

The managed lanes on MoPac, to be built in existing right-of-way, would stretch from Slaughter Lane on the south to State Highway 45 on the north. Funding from the managed lanes would be used to provide sound barriers along the MoPac. Those sound barriers would be provided under a Texas Department of Transportation minute order.

Barrientos said the new managed lanes would be created within the existing footprint of the road. No homes would be taken for the project, giving residents some certainty on the future value of their homes, he said.

The cost of sound barriers along MoPac is still up in the air. When the idea was last proposed, the cost of the barriers was estimated at $1 million per mile. After last night's meeting, Daigh said the cost of the walls would depend on the scope approved by the neighborhoods along MoPac. Daigh's idea is to present a number of models to the neighborhoods along MoPac, giving each the chance to opt into sound barriers and decide what kind of barriers would suit the neighborhood best.

Council Member Danny Thomas did want CAMPO to continue to pursue the answers to toll road funding questions that were posed last month. Executive Director Michael Aulick promised an update at the December meeting. Thomas said he would feel more comfortable with the project once the community's questions were answered.

Contacted at home, McCracken said the whole situation “definitely makes you aware that you have to ask more questions.”

Eager candidate . . . Jennifer Kim became the first candidate to file the appointment of a campaign treasurer for the spring 2005 City Council election Monday. Kim, a small business owner, named David Buttress as her treasurer. She indicated she will run for Place 3, currently held by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman . . . Tonight’s meetings . . . The City Council Committee on MBE/WBE will meet at 6pm in Room 304 of City Hall . . . The Planning Commission will meet in Room 325 of One Texas Center. That room, which serves as the main meeting room for the three city boards with statutorily defined duties—the Planning Commission, the Zoning and Platting Commission and the Board of Adjustment—as well as others, is bigger than the room specially designated for such commissions at the new City Hall. That will probably cause some head scratching when the city starts its meeting process across the river, since the currently used room is often full when controversial zoning cases are up for consideration . . . The Resource Management Commission is scheduled to meet at 4pm at Town Lake Center, Room 100,, 721 Barton Springs Road . . . Errata . . . In the suit involving the Lowe’s on Brodie Lane, attorneys for the SOS and Save Barton Creek Association disagree with lawyers for Lowe’s as to the meaning of a summary judgment granted by Judge Lora Livingston last spring. Brad Rockwell of SOS says In Fact Daily’s erred in reporting yesterday that “the question of which law actually applies to the site—the SOS Ordinance or House Bill 1204—has not been decided.” Lowe’s continues to argue that the matter has not been decided, but another local judge is unlikely to decide that HB 1204 applies and overturn Livingston’s ruling, since there is not a need to do so. In addition, Rockwell says the lawsuit against the Shops at the Galleria is not entirely over. Although some claims were dismissed, Rockwell said, “The SOS Alliance is proceeding with claims relating to the Chapter 380 agreement that provides millions of dollars of subsidies to the Lowe's project in Bee Cave. Trial is set for the middle of December.

Copyright 2004 In Fact Daily

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