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Candidate says he plans to return lobbyists' money

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 by

Place 1 candidate Casey Walker won the Austin Toll Party’s endorsement last month by swearing his steadfast opposition to toll roads and pledging not to take money from “toll road interests.” However, In Fact Daily has found records that show Walker has received donations from several individuals with ties to toll roads.

The candidate who has won virtually every other endorsement in the race to take the seat of three-term Council Member Daryl Slusher is Lee Leffingwell. In e-mails to Independent Texans, Toll Party consultant Linda Curtis has praised Walker while castigating Leffingwell for taking money from “toll road interests.”

Asked to give examples Leffingwell’s contributors, Curtis named Tim Taylor, Paul Saldaña and Don Martin. Taylor is a real estate attorney who formed a PAC to fight the recall effort against Mayor Will Wynn and Council Members Danny Thomas and Brewster McCracken. Martin & Salinas Public Affairs and Adelante Solutions, with Trey Salinas and Saldaña as principals, have done work for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

But campaign records indicate that Walker took $500 from members of HillCo Partners, one of the most powerful Republican political lobby firms in the state with major links to toll road proponents. Bill Miller, Neal “Buddy” Jones, Marsha Jones and David Anderson are all lobbyists for HillCo. Each donated $100 to Walker’s campaign, as did Jay Howard, another HillCo employee. Howard testified before a recent grand jury proceeding in connection with allegations of money laundering and illegal use of corporate donations by Texans for a Republican Majority, according to the Dallas Morning News. During the reporting period Jan. 18 to Feb 7, 2005, Walker’s only other donation was from his boss, Monica Davis, owner of the Davis Group and Teleclips, which employs Walker.

When asked about the donations, Walker said, “Some of them are friends at my current employment and they heard someone they are involved with is getting involved” in the City Council race. “I don’t know who is over there. They're work friends. I deal with them through Teleclips.” Walker then said Toll Party founder Sal Costello had just informed him about the connection between his donors and toll road politics. As a result, Walker said he planned to return the money.

In Fact Daily had contacted Curtis and Costello with questions about Walker’s donations. Costello told In Fact Daily, “I imagine 99.9 percent of the people don’t know how far back it goes and how the toll road machine was started in 2000 with the Texas Mobility Fund.” He defended Walker’s acceptance of the donations, adding, “He had no idea,” that HillCo had started the toll road ball rolling.

In Fact Daily found the link to HillCo on the Toll Party’s website: The link led to a specific-purpose committee campaign finance report for “Yes on 2 & 15,” the campaign for passage of Propositions 2 and 15 on the November, 2001 ballot. Those ballot items won approval for creation of the Texas Mobility Fund. That report shows that HillCo Partners donated $75,000 to the committee. During the same reporting period, HillCo Partners and HillCo Media SW received $140,000 for work for the committee “Yes on 2 & 15” campaign.

In Fact Daily he and his wife, “are a little gun-shy right now.” He said they want to see politics as “ ’Mr. Smith goes to Washington’, but behind closed doors, it’s just as cutthroat and back-stabbing as they say it is.”

Rio Grande house historic, say residents

Owner wants to build multi-family housing near UT

Love of home was enough to initiate a historic zoning case on 2807 Rio Grande, but it may not be enough to save the traditional four-square structure near the University of Texas.

The home, set for demolition, was on the agenda for the Historic Landmark Commission last week. The wood frame home was neither unusual nor noteworthy in terms of its architecture or ownership, according to Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky, who made a cursory search of records at the Austin History Center. Dan Fawcett of Austin City Homes wants to pull down the house to build multi-family housing.

Current residents, however, argued that the home was noteworthy, a long-time home to the more bohemian elements of Austin’s university community. Residents Brandon Wiley and Jon Canfield made a multi-media presentation on the home’s architecture and history. The presentation noted the front dormer and hipped roof features of the house, which was built around 1909.

University of Texas graduate students currently rent the home at 2807 Rio Grande and they argue that the home has a long history of serving members of Austin’s more eclectic culture. Some of the home’s earlier residents were Jenny and Mary Burleson, granddaughters of Gen. Edward Burleson, who commanded a Texas regiment at the battle of San Jacinto. One was a teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf. A mix of renters – artists and teachers – would eventually live in the home. Residents even included Dallas McLean, “ Austin’s One-Man Band.”

While the commissioners were charmed by the presentation, they were not necessarily sold on the home’s merits. Commissioner Julia Bunton did agree the commission could move forward “to get more research and look at it.” The Historic Landmark Commission often requests a historic zoning case be initiated if it appears the structure in question might have any historic value.

Sadowsky agreed to do a full review of the home’s history and return to the Historic Landmark Commission with more information next month.

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

Gallagher gone . . . Janet Gallagher, who served as division manager for the building inspection section of Watershed Protection and Development Review Department for years, departed last week under disputed circumstances. The official word from WPDR is that Gallagher resigned on Monday. However, the rumor mill says her departure was not voluntary. If you call Gallagher’s old number or send an email to her city address, you will learn that Dan Garcia, who describes himself as Gallagher’s “right hand person,” has been appointed acting building inspections manger. Gallagher could not be reached for comment . . . Also departed . . . Environmentalist Brigid Shea has taken her leave of the Lower Colorado River Authority, where she has served as a consultant on water-related matters. An associate of Shea’s provided a copy of her parting memo, which stated, “(I) continue to believe that LCRA can have a profound impact on sustainable growth in the Central Texas region. But when the history of this time is written, I believe the recent decisions to extend services into the Hill Country without meaningful environmental protection or planning will be viewed as a serious error.” She urged the LCRA to become involved in regional planning efforts and to avoid pumping water from the Barton Springs section of the Edwards Aquifer for services to Creedmore-Maha or other areas to the East. Shea, one of the founders of the SOS Alliance, has consulted on water matters for the City of Austin, also . . . Today’s meetings . . . City Council candidates are invited to participate in tonight’s Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association forum at 7pm at the Nokonah, 9th and Lamar . . . Zoning and Platting Commission . . . The Commission is scheduled to meet at 6pm tonight at the City Council Chambers. The top item on their agenda is discussion of commercial and retail design standards. Staff has recommended against granting the first zoning change on tonight’s agenda, from interim rural residential to neighborhood commercial for the Onion Creek RV Park at 10815 Bradshaw Road . . . The Commission will also consider a request to terminate a restrictive covenant in the Rainey Street neighborhood, among others . . . The MBE/WBE Advisory Commission, meeting at 6pm at 4100 Ed Bluestein Boulevard, will hear a report on the status of a revised study on how women and minorities are faring as contractors in Austin . . . The Housing Committee of the Community Development Corporation will talk about establishing a housing trust fund for the University Neighborhood Overlay area, the special district created by the city in the neighborhood planning process. They will meet at 5:30pm at the Street-Jones Building, 1000 East 11th Street, Room 400 . . . Solar research contract . . . Austin Energy has an item on this week’s agenda to authorize entering a $122,000 contract with Clean Power Research of Napa, Calif. to determine “the comprehensive value of solar power.” . . . Other items . . . The Austin Public Library hopes for the Council’s blessing to enter into a 12-month supply agreement with Baker & Taylor Inc., Charlotte, NC, for music CD’s for up to $145,860 . . . The Council is likely to approve ordinances annexing the Rosemont at Old Manor Area (23 acres), the Avery Ranch area (62 acres), the Goodnight Ranch for limited purposes (714 acres) and the Pioneer Hill/City of Austin Tract Area (42 acres) this week . . . One item on the agenda refers to creation and appointment of a blue-ribbon committee to help the city with quality of life issues vis-à-vis the African-American Community Score Card . . . The Midtown Live loan is not on the agenda but this item may give those who wish to discuss it an easy opening.

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