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Council quizzes CAMPO chief on 2030 plan

Monday, March 28, 2005 by

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Committee can expect some tough questions about the CAMPO 2030 plan from members of the Austin City Council when the committee takes up the plan again at next month’s meeting.

CAMPO Executive Director Michael Aulick presented an overview of the plan at last week’s Council meeting. Council Member Daryl Slusher has questions about the placement of roads across sensitive portions of the Edwards Aquifer. Council Member Brewster McCracken questioned whether the plan conflicted with Envision Central Texas. And Council Member Raul Alvarez wanted to know where the city and the region’s plan continued to conflict in terms of long-term strategy.

Slusher’s concern is the aquifer. He wants to minimize or eliminate the roads over the contributing and recharge zones of the Edwards Aquifer. Fitzhugh Road, in particular, would be expanded from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway, at a cost of $70 million. Another road on the list, Arterial 6, would connect State Highway 45 to FM 967. That road would be just outside the contributing zone, Aulick said.

Slusher said he would continue to push to make sure roads west of Interstate 35 were diverted away from the aquifer when other viable options are available.

“My view on that is that over the Edwards Aquifer, some roads are needed for public safety and some roads are needed for mobility to serve subdivisions and businesses that are already there,” Slusher said. “But some of them are there to spur new growth, and that’s contrary to the long-term plans of the city.”

Aulick stressed that the CAMPO 2030 plan served as a guide for future right-of-way acquisitions, as much as anything else. Roads were drawn in consultation with the cities and using the latest demographic trend information. If the growth didn’t follow, then the roads under the CAMPO 2030 plan would not be built.

That dovetailed with McCracken’s concerns, which were that the CAMPO 2030 plan was “wildly at odds” with the land use planning for the region. Aulick said the plan incorporated the input of Envision Central Texas but acknowledged the land planning favored Option “A” rather than the Options “C” and “D,” which McCracken said the majority of survey participants preferred in the ECT vision process. McCracken and Slusher serve on the CAMPO board, as do Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Danny Thomas.

Bill Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance said the long-term transportation plan has grown from $18 to $22 billion, and that extra $4 billion should require some community time and attention. Bunch said a coalition, the Edwards Aquifer Protection Alliance, would like to see a plan based on safety and scenic beauty, but not at the cost of expansion. That plan, Bunch said, is completely consistent with ECT.

“This plan does not reflect Envision Central Texas whatsoever,” Bunch said. “We’re spending $1.5 billion on roadway expansions in the Edwards Aquifer, but we can make all of that go away for a tiny fraction of the cost.”

Alvarez wanted to match to compare the city and regional plan and asked city staff for an update he could review. Council Member Betty Dunkerley wanted an update on the recent announcement of earmarked money for local highway projects. That transportation funding, announced by Congressmen Lamar Smith and Lloyd Doggett this month, has yet to pass the Senate.

Notes from the campaign trail

Neighborhood organization endorses Clarke, Leffingwell

The Austin Neighborhoods Council is endorsing candidates in two of the three City Council races, but declined to endorse the one most likely to be a slam-dunk winner, incumbent Council Member Betty Dunkerley. The citywide group is backing Lee Leffingwell in Place 1 and Margot Clarke in Place 3 as being open and responsive to neighborhood issues.

The Place 3 endorsement drew the most debate from ANC representatives after their candidate forum Wednesday night. The delegates at first seemed closely divided between supporting Mandy Dealey and Margot Clarke. An initial motion for a dual endorsement was voted down, and a subsequent motion to endorse Clarke passed with a comfortable margin.

In the Place 1 race, ANC members had positive things to say about candidate Andrew Bucknall, with one member wishing out loud that he had filed to run for a different seat. But the group was more impressed with Leffingwell, with several members pointing to his tenure on the city's Environmental Board as proof that had the ability to make the kinds of difficult decisions and deal with the intense pressures that Council Members face on a regular basis.

The group chose not to make any endorsement in Place 4. While a few members praised Dunkerley for her record of accessibility to constituents, others criticized her track record. There was some discussion about the possibility of endorsing candidate Wes Benedict in that race, but the ultimate decision was to offer no endorsement for that position.

The votes came after members used their candidate forum to seek clarification of issues raised in their 33-question survey. The hot-button issue of the evening involved whether a candidate would pledge never to vote against a valid petition submitted by neighbors in a zoning case. Candidates were asked to answer "yes" or "no", but were also given the option of adding more information. This supplemental material led the ANC leadership to classify the answers of Clarke, Dealey, and Greg Knaupe as "non responsive." During the candidate forum, Clarke said she would almost always be inclined to support the valid petition, but there could be some exceptions. "The valid petition is the neighborhood association's strongest tool, that sometimes can be misused," she said. "There have been instances where valid petitions have been gathered up by special interests in a neighborhood and have been really against the wishes of the neighborhoods at large. There are times when it's misused. I would want to vote with the interests of the neighborhood in line with the neighborhood plan."

Place 3 candidate Jennifer Kim, who offered a clear "no" to that question on the survey, also got the opportunity to explain her response. "I would tend to support the neighborhood and listen to their viewpoint," she said. "But I can see a scenario where a private interest would get 20 percent of the adjacent neighbors to sign that petition if they had a commercial stake…and that's very possible." Dealey also offered a specific example of when she would vote to overrule the valid petition, pointing to public works projects supported by the majority of a neighborhood. "If the city wanted to put in a recreation center, and the people immediately around the area had enough signatures for a valid petition…but the whole neighborhood association otherwise was in favor of it, I would probably want to honor the neighborhood will," she said.

More money and staff support for the neighborhood planning process and code enforcement were the other items of major concern for ANC.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

APA leader responds . . . Austin Police Association President Mike Sheffield is not happy about City Manager Toby Futrell’s decision to seek a U.S. Justice Department review of APD and Chief Stan Knee’s willingness to go along with it. He is also unhappy that the City Council did not protest that decision. He writes on the APA web site: “With all the Department is doing, what more can the Department do to ’clear the air’ and enhance the trust of the community? Why doesn’t the City Manager and our Chief remind the community that we have the best police department in the country and that we have great people working as police officers in Austin? What prevents them from talking about the fact that when all of patrol was properly equipped with Tazers, we were able, as a department, to cut the injuries to officers and suspects in half, and reduce the number of times officers are forced to use deadly force?” Perhaps even more galling to police booster Mike Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly, is the fact that the American-Statesman has nominated the two reporters who wrote last year’s series on police use of force for a prestigious award. The Austin Chronicle, not a publication known for pulling its punches, labeled the controversial series “sleazy,” as well as grossly inaccurate. To read Sheffield’s comments, visit the web site http://www.austinpolice.com/home.htm . . . Related note . . . The Cash family, which owned the Midtown Live, had scheduled a rally and press conference for Saturday but rescheduled for this afternoon because of rain. In case you missed Sunday’s Statesman story on the subject, the paper revealed that the Cashes had requested the city loan them $750,000 and refused an offer of $400,000—the amount loaned to Liberty Lunch . . . Monday’s meetings . . . The Design Commission will meet at 5:45pm in Room 1101 of City Hall. Its agenda includes a discussion of the conversion of Cesar Chavez from one-way to two-way . . . The Historic Landmark Commission is scheduled to meet at 7pm in Room 325 of One Texas Center. At the top of the agenda are four houses on which the commission has initiated historic zoning. Commissioners will then take up questions about whether they should try to block the proposed demolition of three buildings, including a home in Hyde Park and one in the University of Texas area . . . There appears to be no candidate forums scheduled for tonight. However, two groups may have candidates speeding across town for their scheduled forums for Tuesday night . . . The Southwest Austin Democrats will hold a forum and endorsement meeting from 6-8pm at the Manchaca Fire Hall Kitchen, 1310 FM 1626 . . . The N orthEast Travis County Democrats have scheduled an endorsement meeting beginning at 7pm at the Garcia Restaurant in Windermere Center in Pflugerville. Candidates are invited to make presentations between 7and 8pm . . . Republicans to rally Thursday . . . Republican Party of Texas Chair Tina Benkiser, among others, will speak against legalizing gambling in the form of slot machines and other forms, at a rally Thursday at the Capitol. For more information, go to http://www.texasgop.org/newsroom .

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