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Year in review: Events that made 2004 memorable

Monday, December 20, 2004 by

Transportation votes, hospital district, Mueller, new City Hall top many lists

The past year has seen the fruition of many years of work in a number of areas—health care and transportation to mention just two. In Fact Daily asked a number of city officials what seemed to them to be the most important events of 2004, not necessarily the stories that generated the biggest headlines, but the stories and events that will reverberate for years to come. Some of those events did generate a lot of ink, including

• Voter approval of the Travis County Hospital District;

• CAMPO’s approval of the toll road plan and the controversy it generated;

• Public vote approving commuter rail from Leander to downtown Austin; and

• Completion of the Mueller Master Development Agreement with Catellus should have gotten more attention than it did and the majority of city officials that we talked to mentioned it as a major development of 2004.

Mayor Will Wynn

Mayor Will Wynn was enthusiastic about the assignment but had a hard time narrowing his list down to five, the number that we had arbitrarily requested. In order of significance, Wynn listed the following:

1. The victorious commuter rail election,

2. Voter approval of the Travis County Hospital District,

3. The City Council votes on economic development matters, including a revision of the Land Development Code to assist small businesses and approval of tax abatement for Home Depot, Sematech and Samsung.

4. Completion of the Mueller Master Development Agreement with Catellus; and

5. The debate and decisions on toll roads.

The Mayor said he doesn't believe that toll roads would have made the big headlines that they did had the matter been handled differently. If he were not restricted to five choices, Wynn said, Number 6 on his list would be the opening of the new City Hall.

For Wynn, the commuter rail vote was significant because it is the beginning of a new mode of transportation for Austin and also because, "We only get a chance to have that every few years." What he didn't say of course was that a loss, coming on the heels of the narrow, but bitter defeat of the light rail referendum in 2000 might have meant Capital Metro would lose some of its sales tax funding. Transportation planners have dreamed of having some form of urban rail in the city for years. While only a starter line, the Leander to Convention Center railroad could—and is expected to be—just the beginning.

The creation of the Travis County Hospital District, like commuter rail, is also just a first step for those who see Texas’ big cities shouldering the burden for surrounding counties. State law currently says that no rural county can be forced to pay into their neighbor’s hospital district. Former Mayor Bruce Todd is working to put together a coalition of urban hospital districts that can convince the Legislature that those rural counties need to do their share in providing health care funds for the needy. That’s a mighty tall order for one session of the Legislature, especially since they have to deal with school financing, among other issues, beginning next month. But it is clear that the state’s urban counties have the population—and at some point that will translate into votes to change the rules.

Wynn said he believes the incentives offered to Home Depot to bring jobs to Austin and to Samsung and Sematech to expand their operations here are significant because the last time the city gave such incentives was 1998. More importantly, though, was approval of five little-noticed amendments to city regulations that make it easier for small businesses to grow and refurbish. He said those changes “are already having a big impact,” as evidenced by emails he has received and reports from employees in the development assistance center. One example of a business that has fewer rules to comply with, he said, is the limited restaurant.

The final signing of the Mueller MDA allows the city to have significant impact on land use patterns on a 700-acre tract of land. “Combined with the fact that we are moving forward with the Transit-Oriented Development ordinance,” Wynn said, will result in significant changes in the local urban landscape.

Neither Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman nor Council Member Daryl Slusher wanted to rank the events they considered most important for 2004. Each gave us a list and Goodman commented, "They’re all ranked high. I think technology-wise, the CAD (computer aided dispatch) system is a huge step forward and that’s moving into the next century—and it’s almost there.” She also noted that Austin Energy had received awards for having the best renewable energy policy in the U.S. and Austin’s Parks Department has also received a Number 1 ranking among city parks departments across the country. Another winner on the national level, Goodman noted, is CTECC, the combined emergency communications center. Such areas, where Austin is in the lead, “are going to define our future," she said.

Each mentioned the importance of approval of the Mueller Master Development Agreement (MDA). Slusher called it, “A critical step in this once-in-the-city’s-lifetime opportunity for important redevelopment. The citizen-developed master plan has held and proven so far to be wise and well thought out.”

Goodman also cited Austin’s emergence as a Wi-Fi city, making libraries, parks and city buildings wireless Internet hot spots. Goodman was instrumental in creating A look at 2004 from the Chamber's Austinite of the Year, which this year completed seven neighborhood plans for a total of 24. Along the same lines, she cited the University Neighborhood Overlay, the innovative plan that was designed to bring growth and density to the West campus area but protect residential neighborhoods.

Goodman said she thinks it is big news that “economic development finally includes creative arts and industry and that crosses a broad range of film, music, wireless, interactive. We’ve rearranged the organization so that economic growth and development has the cultural arts in it. We’re moving toward a better day because those are home grown assets we need to encourage and enhance.”

She also noted the opening of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

Finally, on the less positive side Goodman noted the ongoing lawsuit filed by Sunset Valley against Lowe’s and the City of Austin and the loss of Austin’s bid to stop the Longhorn Pipeline from crossing over sensitive portions of the Edwards Aquifer and close to some schools in South Austin. In an email message, Goodman also noted the LCRA’s approval of a water line down Hamilton Pool Road. Although the vote occurred this month, that controversy will likely continue through 2005 and beyond.

As he has throughout his years in office, Slusher emphasized environmental matters in reviewing the most important events of 2004. He first recalled “the increased awareness among Southwest Austin residents about the environmental fragility of the aquifer, as well as the beginning of a coalition between Southwest neighborhood forces and Central city residents concerned about the environment.

“This was most evident, in fact occurred primarily around the fight against the proposed Wal-Mart at MoPac and Slaughter. Widespread citizen opposition persuaded Wal-Mart to abandon the project. “

“The same coalition united behind the big box ban over the aquifer,” he noted.

“Another critically important effort is the regional planning effort in which I represent the City of Austin. This is a huge challenge due to the tremendous growth pressures over the aquifer, overlapping jurisdictions, lack of strong regulatory authority among many of the jurisdictions, and a number of other challenges. “

Slusher had asked the LCRA to postpone consideration of the water pipeline for Hamilton Pool Road until after the regional planning effort had culminated in a plan, which is expected in February. However, the Board voted to approve the line earlier this month. He noted that approval as a major event of the year, along with continued purchases of conservation easements over the aquifer, stretching city dollars.

He also cited the opening of Oak Springs Villas, a subsidized apartment complex for the elderly next to Oak Springs Library. The complex is also near ACC, Sims Elementary and shopping, banking and restaurants on Airport Boulevard. Slusher sponsored the Council item for building the project on land donated by the city. Volunteers of America are managing it. "Many more projects like this are necessary."

“Revitalization on E. 11th Street after 40 years of trying,” is a major event for Austin, he said, “and in particular the opening of the two buildings. This presents new challenges to protect affordable housing and existing businesses. The challenge is larger than just E. 11th. East Austin is experiencing growth and influx due to its proximity to downtown and the high costs of real estate elsewhere. It will be a tremendous and difficult challenge to preserve affordable housing and existing businesses and offer economic opportunity to current residents while the area grows.

“Passage of commuter rail may be the most important in the long run. “Hopefully,” he said, this will be “the first step in a passenger rail system for Austin and the Austin-San Antonio region. This also officially marked a restoration of trust in Capital Metro by the electorate or at the least a willingness to give the agency a chance.”

Slusher opposed approval of the toll road plan. Noting its importance, he said, “Probably more than commuter rail, this will change daily life in Austin. The designation of the Regional Mobility Authority, an agency with no direct accountability, has potentially disastrous and scandalous consequences for the area. Additionally, the tolls will make environmentally damaging projects possible like eight lanes on Loop 360 and up to eight lanes on S.H. 45 South. “

Slusher also mentioned the upturn in Austin’s economy, in particular the increases in sales tax revenues.

Asked to name the top events of the year, Council Member Betty Dunkerley said her top pick would be the annexation of Robinson Ranch. “That 6,000 to 7,000 acres, represents the future of Austin as far as having a growing city and a city that can sustain itself,” she said.

The second event on Dunkerley’s list is the signing of Mueller Master Development Agreement. “It’s in the heart of downtown and will have a really nice mixed-use development that will fulfill the dreams of a lot of people, including the neighborhoods that have worked on the plans for a long time.“

Third, she said, was the passage of the referendum to create the Travis County Hospital District. “For 100 years, the citizens of Austin have been paying for the bulk of indigent health care,” she said. “Not only did they (the citizens) pay 100 percent of the six and a half cents the city put in but they also paid three-fourths of the penny the county put in. I think we have a really good board in place now and we can look forward to them carrying this issue.”

Brewster McCracken was circumspect about what was important in Austin during the past year. “I put it in a broad category: the people of Austin adopted urbanism,” he said. “I believe the catalyst for the main one was the Mueller redevelopment. Through that catalyst, a lot people learned about it (urbanism).”

At the beginning of the year, McCracken said, “the conventional wisdom was Scenario D (of Envision Central Texas) was dead on arrival. However, the UNO West Campus zoning changes may be much bigger in long term impact.’ In addition, McCracken noted the importance of the redevelopment of Block 21 on 2nd Street across from City Hall as well as the old Seaholm power plant, both of which are in the RFP process. He said the Council would hear a recommendation on which bidder to select for each project early next year. He said $9 million is the minimum purchase price for Block 21 and construction must be completed within 4 years. “It will be exciting watching 2nd Street come alive,” he said, while acknowledging that a building site directly across from City Hall “will add to the chaos.”

Like many of his colleagues, McCracken cited the successful vote on commuter rail as an important milestone for Austin.

He also noted the work to develop form-based zoning on a citywide basis. “A good chunk of the work on form-based code will be completed when we finish the design standard process,’ McCracken said. “Zoning has always dealt with uses but has never dealt with how the built environment has been structured.” He said we sometimes deal with issues of incompatibility but not how buildings relate to the street. “That used to be the first part of the process,” he said. He said there have even been a handful of zoning cases where the neighbors were arguing for more density than the developer wanted. “It’s neat being there when the tipping point happens,” he said. “It happened this year.”

Council Member Danny Thomas’s list includes both the good and the bad. “We had some tragedies this year—the shootings,” he said. “We’re bridging a gap, a healing process that we’ve always been talking about.” Thomas said he learned a lot on a trip to San Diego with the Chief of Police. ”I sat with Chief (Stan) Knee at the table with a bunch of chiefs, international and national police chiefs, and in comparing their departments to our department, I think we are really blessed. I think, overall, bridging the gap and the healing process to the community and the police department was the Number One thing.”

Second, Thomas said, are some of the things accomplished as a whole by the City Council. “We had a lot of housing development—the Villas on 6th street going to have an affordable housing component of at least 85 percent. That was something that was great that happened.” He is also looking forward to starting on the commuter rail “because it’s opening up and its going to help some of the traffic congestion.”

Economic issues were also on his list. “ Council Member Alvarez and I dealt with an item in the East Austin community preservation and revitalization zone,” he said. “I think that is going to be a great start to a great initiative to help economic development in that zone. We had a lot of small business in the community and a lot of people wanted to know how it will help with taxes. That’s a component we have to look at and see if legally we can do that we’re going to try to extend that 90 day period for the city manager to try to look at those issues.” The Council agreed to extend that time at last week’s meeting.

Council Member Raul Alvarez saw a lot of good happening in Austin in the past year. “The Mueller agreement was a huge milestone and accomplishment; the fact that ground was broken at the Children’s Hospital….and provisions for this academic health center, all of that could have really huge and positive ramifications for the city.”

Other items on his list include the creation of the Hospital District and approval of commuter rail. “In terms of significance, these things that are going to change the landscape of how we do health care and transportation,” he said. “I think it’s a big deal that we got the No. 1 parks system, and that we were named the No. 1 city in the country for Hispanics by Hispanic Magazine.” He said last year, Austin was third on the list and a lot of folks were somewhat surprised. “I think people outside of Austin found we were looking at workforce issues, education, cultural arts, and more.”

Music also came to the forefront. “I think the whole agreement with Austin Music Network and AMP was important because of the kind of strife we’ve had about the music network,” he said. “You had folks running the network agree to hand it over to the other party and we were able to agree to other terms. If AMP could make this work, it would be a big deal for Austin, but just the fact that we were able to work through that issue was important.”

For Alvarez, the opening of the Villas on 6th Street was also a significant event. “I am very proud to have been here for that,” he said “The city partnering with Campbell Hogue for 165 units with 85 percent being affordable and affordable for very low income families–that’s pretty significant.” Other events Alvarez mentioned were work on the Rainey Street project, the East Austin Revitalization Zone, and the city design standards issue.

Views from a staff perspective: City Manager Toby Futrell

City Manager Toby Futrell said the new City Hall was a special project that was 30 years in the making. “Let me put it in context,” she said “A group of city leaders went to Seattle to see what they do well and (compare it) to what we do well.” They found that Seattle had a higher crime rate and a higher cost of government, and very little ethnic diversity. “But what they knocked out of the ballpark were things like art museums, public spaces, libraries…” she said, adding that “in my opinion, this is one of the few things Austin struggles with—we have no trouble putting them on the ground, but it has been a long time since a really unique, special public building was completed.”

She said that the hospital district was a monumental event, but in terms of future impact, the Robinson Ranch annexation may loom larger. “When you’re looking to the future of this community, that was the last great land mass, she said. “It is critical for the future growth of this city.“ She said it was a complicated, large transaction that took a lot of time, energy, staff hours, and enormous dedication from the Robinson family and the city. “It represents a shared value between the family and the city.”

Futrell added that the Mueller development was a major milestone for the city. “Turning dirt on the children’s hospital was a good beginning” she said. “Very few cities have the chance to take this kind of inner city space, starting from scratch, putting in every kind of community value….and then layering on it.”

Something not on everyone’s radar screen was the struggle over the city’s budget. “So many citizens may never even realize the effort on the budget, but this is a set of policy makers who did it right,” she said. During a time of economic downturn, “we reshaped government, we stretched productivity to the limit; we got bond rating increases while other cities lost ground.“ She said major bond rating agencies have praised the job Austin did during this difficult time.

Other items Futrell mentioned, in no particular order, included the effect the (firefighters) collective bargaining process is having on the overall city pay scale; winning the National Parks Gold Medal Award; The city’s economic development policy, created to counter a flat economy; the Lamar Boulevard reconstruction, using a new business model, was completed in one-third the normal time for such a project; relations between the police department and the minority community, a work in progress; and a resurgence in the high-tech sector, led by Sematech, Samsung and others.

Vassallo, Smith

Kristin Vassallo, director of the city’s Public Information Office, mentioned the opening of the new City Hall as one of the most important events of 2004.

Second on Vassallo’s list was the decision by SR Ridge to drop its lawsuit against the city over the tract where Wal-Mart planned to build over the Edwards Aquifer on MoPac. She agreed that the creation of a new governmental entity—the Travis County Hospital District—had to rank as one of the top five events. Following that, Vassallo listed toll roads and the commuter rail vote.

For City Attorney David Smith, the most important event of the year was signing of the agreement on Mueller. “Getting the redevelopment of Mueller worked out and in the hands of a competent, caring, conscientious group— Catellus” ranked as the number 1 story in Smith’s book. “Now this vision is on the path to being achieved.” Following the MDA, Smith said, was successful completion of the new City Hall, “a place that shows respect for Austin’s full contact democracy,” he said. “It’s going to be a place that makes it all work.”

A look at 2004 from the Chamber's Austinite of the Year

Named Austinite of the Year by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Pete Winstead is among the movers and shakers who make decisions about the sorts of things that shape events in this rather large small town.

Winstead, a former chair of the Texas Turnpike Commission, is bullish on roads, but also on commuter rail. He told In Fact Daily, “With my background on the Iinfrastructure side, as I kind of look at the events of the past year, I would put at the top of my list, transportation mobility.” It’s been a banner year, he noted.

First, he named CAMPO’s approval of the $2.2 billion toll road plan. “The (Texas) Transportation Commission has been challenging Texas cities, because there’s not enough money to go around. Those parts of Texas that are willing to step up are going to get rewarded.”

Winstead noted “the interesting confluence” of the vote in July on the plan, the first RMA in the State of Texas and the fact that Austin is “first to get those new regional toll roads. We also got a new District Engineer, Bob Daigh…and Mike Heiligenstein becoming the ( Executive Director) of the RMA.” All of those events, he said, “has led to a very courageous act of CAMPO,” regardless of amount of angst that may have caused.

“I think CAMPO showed a lot of real serious leadership. I think Austin has always been behind the curve, but this year we lead the head of the pack and I think the very courageous (vote)—that was huge and you look at some of the people who voted for it.” Previous votes on CAMPO, he said, “have been characterized as a fight between the ‘burbs and the city,” but not this one.

As for the approval of the commuter rail project, Winstead said, “Admittedly it’s a $60 million starter line,” but it means a lot in the context of the commuter rail election loss in 2000 and in the context of transportation options in general.

“My frustration is the public has seen this as a dustup on the toll roads and then another election. We now have CAMPO and TxDOT and the RMA and Cap Metro—four gorillas on the same page. We need to back up and show (the public) a plan for the whole thing. Suddenly, I think this year we have leaped forward on mobility. In old Austin, Texas, these are big, big deals that put us ahead, frankly of Houston and Dallas and other metro areas.

Winstead added, “I think Mayor Wynn has stepped up and demonstrated tremendous leadership. (The CAMPO vote) took real courage in the face of recalls, to step forward and move that agenda forward; and I don’t think a lot of people zero in on that. I think it’s been a good year in Austin. I see the stars aligned on mobility better than they ever have before.”

As if he didn’t have enough to do, Winstead’s firm, Winstead Sechrest & Minnick, represented Catellus in dealings over the Mueller master development agreement. That ranks highly on his list too. He calls Mueller ”709 acres in the heart of town on I-35,” which should bring Austin “a billion dollars of new tax base, plus Austin gets to roll out its version of a New Urbanist living environment.”

“Here’s an Austin neighborhood wanting density, pedestrian-oriented (planning) with a new town center. I think that’s high on my list.”

Winstead also noted the fact that the “ Chamber of Commerce under Opportunity Austin was able to raise $12 million—all focused on economic development,” is significant. “We’ve never raised more than $3-4 million; we’ve been real lazy and complacent…we got marked down as a place not interested in economic development and we’re going to go after 72,000 jobs. I think the chamber’s back,” after having “fallen on hard times. “The Real Estate Council of Austin has been the most dominant business organization. And with Kirk Watson coming up (as president of the chamber) I think we’re going to see a new dominance. We’re going to have to help recruit new companies to come here. We’re a little ahead of the rest of Texas on recovery. I’m not convinced the economy’s totally turned around.”

Council moves forward with stalled South Austin zoning case

The Austin City Council is backing away from a suggestion by the Zoning and Platting Commission to unify the zoning on several tracts at the intersection of Lamar and Evergreen. Instead, the Council approved a zoning change last week on second reading for the two tracts that prompted a review of the area in the first place.

The triangle of land along Lamar in South Austin currently has a mixture of zoning categories, including SF-3, CS, and CS-CO. After agent Jim Bennett brought forward a request for upzoning two SF-3 lots, the ZAP recommended a city-initiated case to zone the entire triangle CS-MU-CO. While that could have made the entire area more attractive for a unified re-development proposal, it was never part of the request from Bennett's client. "I made that real explicit to the Zoning and Platting Commission," he said. Bennett's original client, an elderly woman, has passed away since the case was first filed. He now represents her estate, which is interested in selling the two lots. He asked the Council for some resolution for his clients regarding their request, which had originally been to re-zone their property GR. "We have been in the process for about eight months," he said. "We need to get out of the maze."

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Daryl Slusher were reluctant to go ahead with the rezoning of all of the land in question, since the area is in line for more study as part of the neighborhood planning process for the Zilker-Barton Hills Combined Neighborhood. "This seems to be a sweeping move…to all of a sudden zone the whole thing CS," said Slusher. "It seems a little bit rash to me."

But Slusher was also reluctant to make the property owners wait until the end of the neighborhood planning process for a ruling on their request, since developing a neighborhood plan could take approximately 18 months. Goodman moved to grant the original request for GR zoning on second reading, giving the staff time to review the ordinance and a proposed conditional overlay before third reading in January. Slusher provided the second, and the Council approved the change 7-0.

Zoning for children's rehab clinic OK'd

Council members also cut down a zoning request on a property on Manchaca Road with surgical precision last week in order to allow a doctor to open a rehabilitation clinic.

Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department Director Alice Glasco admitted the city had carefully considered the zoning request on the one-acre property at 4607 Manchaca Rd. near Ben White Boulevard. The property was the last piece of land between other office uses close to Ben White and subdivisions down Manchaca Road to the south into a number of established subdivisions.

“At what point do you draw the line and say, ‘This is the end of commercial zoning?’” asked Glasco, posing the hypothetical question they would have to consider. “You really would not want to rezone the property to the south. They have orientation to the residential subdivision, but you do have orientation along Manchaca here that would probably be more suitable for commercial development.”

Agent Jim Bennett explained the owner of the house wanted to convert its use to a rehabilitative clinic for children. Members of the neighborhood association protested that there was plenty of vacant medical office space in the neighborhood, but Bennett countered that the doctor wanted a house setting in order to teach children the ability to do things like open the refrigerator door and use the stove.

Bennett pointed out that Manchaca was one of five major arterials intended for some amount of commercial use. On one side of the property was a three-story office building. Residential lots were established on the other side. He also countered concerns of the Western Hills neighborhood that the rehabilitative clinic would have more traffic than most LO zoning, saying that it would not be a traditional clinic with drop-in patients, but a practice limited to scheduled appointments on each day.

“This is a rehabilitative clinic for children. It’s not your normal office where you get sick calls in the morning and children come to the office,” Bennett said. “Your patients are coming to this facility for an appointment for your child.”

Council Member Daryl Slusher deferred to Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman when it came time to discuss the case. Goodman’s concern was the precedent that commercial zoning would set, noting that zoning for medical offices around Seton Medical Center had a tremendous impact on the Rosedale neighborhood and the same was true for offices associated with the South Austin Hospital on the neighborhoods around James Casey Road.

Goodman also had sympathy for the concerns of the community, noting that strip zoning during the high growth ‘80s turned housing stock in residential neighborhoods into offices. Without long-term users, those properties “quickly became very underutilized.” Plenty of underutilized property is available in high-intensity zoning.

In the end, Goodman said she could support LO with some aspect of NO if she had more details about the proposal. She crafted a proposal for LO with NO development standards. The LO was limited to less than 5,000 square feet of space and limited to medical use. The LO was limited to the size of the existing footprint. She also limited the trips per day to 300. Goodman considered the 2000 trips per day allowed under LO zoning to be “untenable, with too much access and egress.”

The zoning proposal passed, 7-0. After the vote, Glasco noted that a subcommittee of the Planning Commission currently is considering the question of how to handle commercial encroachment on residential neighborhoods.

District board to hire administrator without consultant

The Travis County Hospital District Board of Managers has decided against contracting with a hiring consultant to assist in the search for an executive director for the agency. The board did leave the door open to possibly use some professional assistance in vetting the final candidates, but decided that with assistance of some Travis County staff, they could handle the process.

The District has been officially operating since last summer under an interim administrator, Jim Collins, a member of the County Attorney’s staff. Collins also doubles as the District’s legal counsel.

“I believe that we can get there without the expense of hiring a personnel consultant,” said chair Clarke Heidrick. “We have the talent and the resources in house to get this job done.” As of December 16, the District had received 85 applications for the position, which is open until December 31.

Travis County Purchasing Agent Cyd Grimes is assisting the District in the hiring process. Grimes, who has been meeting regularly with the personnel committee, proposed an “ambitious” timeline that would have a new director on board between mid-February and the first of March. The schedule would involve sending by email a list of questions to all candidates by January 3, narrowing the candidates to a short list of 10 by January 14, interview those candidates via conference calls to narrow it down to the top 3 to 5. The board would then bring the candidates in to Austin for a final interview the weekend of January 28, and make a final decision and offer shortly after that.

Several Board members felt the money saved by not hiring a personnel consultant could be used to pay the expenses of final candidates for the position. But others expressed concern about having both time and ability to check references on the final candidates.

“I think we will need some technical expertise to handle that type of thing,” said board member Donald Patrick. “I would feel more comfortable having someone with an H-R background to handle that. It would also add an element of consistency to the process.”

Grimes told the board that it might be possible to go back to some of the firms that responded to an earlier request for proposal and see if they might be willing to provide those services only.

“We need to stay on our critical path,” said Heidrick. “It could take too much time to stop and select that person.” Board members left the question open for the time being, saying they would bring it up again when Grimes can report on whether any of the firms are available for what the board may need.

In Fact Daily and politics take a break

… It's almost Christmas and most people are thinking about their holiday plans, gifts and possibly travel. Candidates are working every possible venue, including numerous holiday parties but no major political events are expected this week. In Fact Daily will take its annual winter vacation and return on January 5, 2005 . . . New Year’s Day party. . . Margot Clarke, who is running for Place 3 on the City Council this spring will be having a fundraiser on New Year’s Day. Billed as a Rose Bowl Watch Party, the event is from 3:00-8pm on January 1 at the home of Rosemary Merriam & George Warmingham, 800 West Lynn. For more information, contact Elliott McFadden at 791-9874 . . . Jennifer Kim, who is also running for Place 3, says she is busy dialing for dollars. Kim has named Amy Everhart to be her campaign manager and is planning a mid-January fundraiser emphasizing women in business . . . Place 3 candidate Mandy Dealey, who was forced to put her campaign on hold last month while dealing with illness and death in her family, has also returned to the campaign trail. Dealey has hired Haley Green, former legislative aide to State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, as her campaign manager . . . The HUB of the matter . . . The Travis County Hospital District Board of Managers has approved the hiring of HillCo Partners as it legislative consultant, or lobbyist, for the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature. HillCo will be paid $80,000 for the session, $5,000 more than the original amount budgeted, with the stipulation that it hire former State Rep. Jaime Capelo as a subcontractor. Although the original motion to negotiate a contract with HillCo (See In Fact Daily, Dec. 7, 2004 ) specified that the subcontracted position be with a qualified HUB (Historically Underutilized Business), it was learned that Capelo was not registered as one with Travis County or any other entity. However, no board members objected, including Frank Rodriguez, who added the stipulation to the original motion that the subcontractor be a HUB. It was noted that Capelo was scheduled to begin the registration process immediately, but that it could take up to 60 days for him to be officially designated a HUB. … Design groupies, mark your calendars . . . The city’s Taskforce on Design Standards is sponsoring a series of focus groups in January. The dates are Tuesday, January 25— Neighborhood Representatives—1-3pm at the new City Hall in conference room 2.106; Tuesday, January 25— Design Professionals—3-5pm at the new City Hall in Conference room 2.106, and on Wednesday, January 26— Real Estate and Developers—1-3pm at the new City Hall in Conference room 2.106.The Taskforce draft proposal and the PowerPoint presentation that serves as a summary on design standards website at: . . Final meetings this year . . . Two meetings were planned for tonight, with the Urban Transportation Commission scheduled for 6pm in the 8th floor conference room of One Texas Center. The Urban Renewal Board meeting has been cancelled. The Zoning and Platting Commission will meet at 6pm Tuesday night in Room 325 of One Texas Center . . . From all of us . . . It has been a great year for news. We wish you the best of the season and a prosperous New Year.

Copyright 2004 In Fact Daily

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