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Notes from the campaign trail:

Thursday, February 10, 2005 by

Dunkerley stresses economics, public safety, housing

Council Member Betty Dunkerley launched her re-election bid before enthusiastic, overflow crowd of supporters and family Wednesday morning at Threadgill’s, stressing her accomplishments of the past three years and outlining priorities for a second term in office.

Dunkerley said the highlights of her first term were her work on affordable housing, public safety, and economic development. “I’m very proud that all of the recommendations that came out of the Small Business Economic Task Force have been completed. So now we have to start all over again for next year and see what are the next steps that need to be done,” she said, pledging to make economic development and affordability high priorities if re-elected.

She also warned that the Council would need to keep a close eye on spending during the ongoing economic recovery. “We worked really hard in this downturn to not go in and raise taxes. Instead, we looked inside our corporation, just like every business did,” she said. “Now, things are looking up, but we really do have to be cautious. We have to add back those things that make sense. Maybe our libraries can not be closed two days a week, maybe we can mow the parks a little bit better. But we have to be careful to not add too much back, because we don’t want to get into a yo-yo effect of adding services and people and then laying off services and people.”

She concluded her remarks with a request to her supporters to mention her campaign to their friends and family, along with a request for donations. Volunteers for Dunkerley were working the campaign kick-off event gathering signatures to allow her to bypass the regular filing fee for Council candidates. So far, the only announced opposition she faces is from frequent candidate Jennifer Gale, who reports raising $79.32 and spending $117.63. Dunkerley’s most recent campaign funding report shows a balance of $24,525.83, with a $60,000 loan still outstanding from when she loaned that money to her first campaign for office in 2002.

Clarke party; Labor endorsements

Place 3 candidate Margot Clarke is holding a fund-raiser from 5:30 –7pm tonight at the ever-political Doña Emilia’s. Mandy Dealey held her kickoff event there last week.

The Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO) will meet Saturday morning to screen candidates and decide which ones to endorse in the May City Council races. Although labor’s endorsement is not as important in Austin as it is in may other places, every endorsement is treasured in a cash poor system. All eyes are on Place 3, of course, with four hardworking candidates hoping to win the prize. The city employees’ union, AFSCME, has committed to vote for Gregg Knaupe. Firefighters held their candidate forum earlier this week, but they’re not telling who they selected. According to the AAPF website, “If our choice for a candidate(s) mirrors what takes place at the CLC candidate forum, we will all announce together. If there is a different opinion between our PAC Board the CLC, we will agree to disagree and announce our choice as early as Saturday afternoon but more than likely next week some time.”

DAA has the downtown trash blues

The Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) says there is a refuse problem in many of alleys of downtown Austin, but the proposed solution isn’t sitting well with some members of the Solid Waste Advisory Commission (SWAC) and several waste haulers.

Bill Bryce, director of security and maintenance with the DAA, spoke to the commission at the invitation of chair Gerald Acuna. Bryce outlined the concerns of many downtown property owners, who say overflow refuse spilling out of containers hurts property values and their efforts to recruit new tenants.

“Based on our review, the existing contract in the ‘ T’ is working satisfactorily,” Bryce said. “We want to extend that to an area that will include all of the downtown area.” The ‘T’ is an area of downtown served by the current waste hauling contract so named by its shape. Bryce produced several photos of trash and other waste on the ground in an ally outside the ‘T’ area.

“The poor condition of the alleys contributes to a negative economic impact on the area,” said Bryce. He pointed out that the DAA is not complaining about any of the current commercial waste haulers, adding that much of the problem was due to illegal dumping, or businesses that failed to purchase sufficient waste services.

The DAA recommendation did not sit well with Commission Member J.D. Porter, who was immediately concerned with the effect it would have on competition. “Let’s not add extra layers of responsibility,” he said. “I think that there could be consequences we don’t anticipate. I think that members of the association would benefit from competition among the haulers.”

Porter added that part of the solution may be better enforcement of the laws currently on the books. “These people are in violation of the city’s illegal dumping regulations,” he said. “Once these businesses pay some fines, they might get with the program.”

Dennis Hobbs with Texas Disposal Systems says the DAA proposal would put a hard-earned portion of his business at risk. “I spent 25 years building a business, and now I stand to lose 100 customers because of this proposal,” he said. “We are very concerned that if the city expands the downtown collection area, it could eventually expand and franchise the entire city, cutting out all competition.”

Commission Member Rosemary Wyman moved to establish a stakeholder committee to meet twice between now and the March 9 SWAC meeting to explore options for resolving the problems, taking all options into consideration. Acuna will appoint members from the commission, DAA, waste haulers and others to the committee by early next week.

Firefighters won't protest no contact rule

Although they believe it is unfair and unnecessary, the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters (AAPF) agreed yesterday not to protest when the City Council considers a resolution relating to procedures for conducting collective bargaining negotiations at today’s meeting.

Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza says the resolution is similar to one approved several years back for negotiations under the “meet and confer” process. This agreement, however, states that firefighters may not talk to members of the City Council about collective bargaining matters during the negotiating period. Voters approved collective bargaining for firefighters last spring, but negotiations did not start until last week.

AAPF President Mike Martinez said his team agreed to work under those rules, but not without protest. Earlier this week, Martinez posted the following on the AAPF website: “The city team not only has the ability to talk to Council, but they also get EXECUTIVE SESSION time with them where no one else is allowed in and there are no recordings of the meetings. There was no way that we could agree to not be able to contact our council members when the city team has unfettered access each and every day . . . It is our belief, that our council has been given an unrealistic ‘can of fear’ and flawed legal opinions in order to get this resolution passed.”

The firefighters union president said he had some choice words for city negotiator Lowell Denton, who insisted on the rule regarding contact with the City Council. Martinez said Denton had suggested in an earlier meeting, one not taped by Channel 6, that they agree to the ground rule even though they “all knew it was going to be violated. “

Martinez said the city does not need to pass the resolution. He delivered a copy of a legal opinion from the firefighters’ attorney to the Council on Monday, he said. Even so, he expects the Council to pass the resolution. For those who want to see what goes on at the collective bargaining sessions, they will be aired on Sundays on Channel 6.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Police report due out today . . . A review of Austin Police Chief Stan Knee's conduct, requested by Chief Knee himself, is due back today from City Attorney David Smith. The review was triggered by a series of events surrounding Knee's efforts to indefinitely suspend an APD officer, and is expected to focus on whether Chief Knee made statements to the Texas Attorney General's Office that were either deliberately misleading or inaccurate . . . City Council agenda . . . The Council is scheduled to hear a quarterly economic update and proposals for redevelopment of Block 21, directly north of City Hall . . . Zoning . . .Consultant Sarah Crocker has more than her share of cases on today’s agenda, including a battle against historic zoning for a dilapidated home at 609 West Lynn. Neighbors asked the city to zone the house historic when the owner sought a demolition permit . . . First let’s pay all the lawyers . . . The Council will likely approve an additional $50,000 for Bracewell & Patterson, for a total contract of more than $1 million. The firm represents the city’s Water and Wastewater Department before the State Office of Administrative Hearings on a certificate of convenience and necessity. . . . New SWAC officer . . . The S olid Waste Advisory Commission elected Rosemary Wyman as its new Vice Chair at last night’s meeting. The SWAC is beginning to run low on members. With two resignations in recent weeks, there are now three vacancies on the advisory panel. Persons interested in serving on this or any other panel should check with the City Clerk’s office at https://coaweb11.ci.austin.tx.us/tempbandc.jsp .

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