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Knaupe scores big with RECA, lawyers

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 by

Money continued to trickle into the coffers of most City Council candidates during the first three months of 2005, according to reports filed by all the candidates last week. But an analysis of the Place 3 race shows that with the backing of some powerful lobbyists, one candidate is way ahead in the fundraising department.

Place 3 Council candidate Gregg Knaupe raised more than $50,000 between Jan. 1 and March 28, much of the money coming from the real estate, development and legal communities. Knaupe has pulled far ahead of his three female opponents in fundraising for the May 7 election. Margot Clarke, who is widely expected to face Knaupe in a June runoff, raised about half that–$25,666 from January through March. Clarke loaned her campaign $13,750, while Knaupe loaned his $15,000. Clarke ended the reporting period with $3,041 on hand, according to her campaign manager, Elliott McFadden. In contrast, Knaupe had nearly $47,000 in his account, according to campaign spokesman Rick Cofer.

Jennifer Kim and Mandy Dealey, both of whom are vying for the same spot, raised about the same amount as Clarke during the first three months of the year. Dealey raised $26,430, while Kim brought in $23,920. Kim had about $16,400 on hand at the end of the reporting period. Dealey, widely acknowledged to be the most affluent candidate in the race, had loaned her campaign $25,000 and had about $17,500 at the end of March.

In response to a question about the fundraising gap between Clarke and Knaupe, McFadden said, “I’m not concerned because I think once people see where that money is coming from they're going to be surprised . . . He has 68 RECA (Real Estate Council of Austin) members giving him money out of 500 contributors.” McFadden said his analysis showed that Knaupe received nearly $14,000 from the development community. Former RECA presidents who contributed to Knaupe during the last three months include Jerry Winetroub, Pete Winstead, Alan Glen and Diana Zuniga. Winetroub is also the chair of the RECA Good Government PAC. Former RECA president Kirk Rudy of Endeavor is listed as a supporter on Knaupe’s web site but In Fact Daily did not find a contribution from him.

“RECA has not endorsed a candidate in the last few cycles, but it seems pretty obvious that the leadership and much of the membership is behind Gregg,” said McFadden. Asked what RECA support his candidate has, McFadden said the only one he knew of is Laurie Swan of Stratus Properties.

Cofer responded, “The vast majority of (Knaupe’s) support and money is from friends, family, and neighbors in Travis Country.” Cofer mentioned Knaupe’s contributing friends as Mark Hawkins, Peter Staff and Stephen Butter, while contributing neighbors include Denise Hayes and Leon Komkov. Also outside the development sphere are Knaupe contributors former city manager Jesus Garza, the CEO of Brackenridge Hospital and Seton CEO Pat Hayes. Hayes also contributed to Kim. Environmental leader George Cofer contributed to all four Place 3 candidates. He explained that he does not endorse candidates but believes that “Good people ought to be encouraged to run."

Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, who has no doubt gotten to know Knaupe during the latter’s lobbying efforts at the Capitol, and former Mayor Bruce Todd also donated to Knaupe.

Rick Cofer said he noticed that attorney Mike McKetta, who has been involved in real estate matters for his firm, Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, gave money to Clarke, as did the Brown McCarroll PAC (BMCPAC). Each gave the maximum $100. Clarke has a family connection to McKetta and her real estate-related contributors are slim compared to Knaupe’s. The BMCPAC contributed to all four candidates, as did downtown developer Perry Lorenz.

In addition to eschewing many developer contributions, Clarke has made a pledge not to accept money from toll road proponents. That forced her to return $100 contributions she received from Michael Von Ohlen of Prism Development and his secretary, Veronica Vera. McFadden explained, “Von Ohlen lobbied for the toll road plan and Veronica is his secretary. We didn’t know that when she took the money. When we found out about it, we gave it back. “

Knaupe’s supporters include Neal “Buddy” Jones, Marsha Jones and Bill Miller, the principals in the lobby firm HillCo Partners. Place 1 candidate Casey Walker gave money back to all those folks after learning that they were part of the toll road lobby. ( See In Fact Daily, April 5, 2005.)

Clarke accepted contributions from Clean Campaigns’ Executive Director Fred Lewis and his wife, Dawn; political consultant David Butts, who is working for Kim in this race; Harold Daniel and Donna Tiemann, co-presidents of the Save Barton Creek Association; well-known environmentalists Robin Rather, Jon Beall, Brigid Shea and Brad Rockwell, as well as Max Woodfin and Mary Sanger, who work for environmental organizations. Other contributors include former Executive Director of the Austin Parks Foundations Ted Siff, State Rep. Lon Burnham of Fort Worth; Susan Moffat of Liveable City, Lloyd Lockridge of McGinnis Lockridge & Kilgore; Rose Lancaster, a member of the hospital district board; former Mayor Frank Cooksey; retired Judges Mary Pearl Williams and Joe Dibrell, UT Law School Professor Michael Sharlot; attorneys David Frederick, Craig Smith, Rick Lowerre and Mary Kelly; former AISD board member Nan Clayton, and Grey Panthers’ activist Charlotte Flynn.

Well-known Austinites contributing to Dealey during the most recent time period include Ginny Agnew, Bob and Linda Armstrong, Becky Beaver and John Duncan, Sinclair Black, John Carsey, Roy Minton, former Senator Ray Farabee, former Mayor Jeff Friedman, Mack Ray Hernandez, Jeff Jack, Sue McBee, Nan McRaven, John Nyfeler, Sue Sharlot, Alfred Stanley, and Ken Wendler.

Kim’s well-known contributors during the past three months include Charlie Betts of the Downtown Austin Alliance, Jeb Boyt, John Donisi, Ronya Kozmetsky, Güero’s Taco Bar owners Rob and Cathy Lippincott, attorneys Steve McConnico and Darwin McKee, Paul Saldaña, Roy Spence and Judy Trabulsi of GSD&M and Walter Timberlake.

Kim and Knaupe share the support of the Austin Apartment Association, according to association spokesperson Kim Gunn. Gunn said the group only endorsed Council Member Betty Dunkerley this year, but offered support to Kim, Knaupe and Place 1 candidate Lee Leffingwell.

Crowd wins vote for eastside dentist

Council grants zoning change despite neighborhood plan

A lengthy public hearing on a zoning change request at City Council last week at various times resembled a pep rally, a revival, and a legal cross-examination. The case, a dentist seeking to operate his practice in part of his East Austin home, incited passionate opinions on both sides of the issue.

The property involved, 901 East 15th St., sits just back from the northbound frontage of Interstate 35, and was built originally as a 5,800 square-foot duplex. The owner, Dr. Fernando Loya, was requesting a change from Single-Family (SF3) to Limited Office-Mixed Use with a Conditional Overlay in a Neighborhood Plan Combining District (LO-MU-CO-MP).

Complicating the issue was the fact that Dr. Loya has been red-tagged by the city after complaints from the neighborhood that he was illegally operating a dental practice in his home without proper zoning. The property is a distinctively designed two-story white structure sitting prominently along the east side of the interstate across from the Brackenridge Hospital tract.

City staff recommended denial of the zoning change, based on its inconsistency with the Central East Austin Neighborhood Plan, as well as site constraints including access and parking. The Planning Commission forwarded the request to the Council with no recommendation.

A large contingent of Dr. Loya’s supporters crowded into Council Chambers, politely waving placards of support. His representative, Amelia Lopez-Phelps, told Council members that the dentist made a “judgment call” to open his practice on the site because he was confident he would get the zoning change. “He made the decision as a dentist, not a developer,” she said. “He wasn’t really aware of how zoning regulations work at the time. He had not really consulted with an attorney or developer.”

Among those speaking on his behalf was Dr. Frank Venoso, an oral surgeon, who consults with Dr. Loya. “He is among the finest dentists I have ever worked with,” he said. “He has also made a commitment to provide people in East Austin with access to care. There are not too many practitioners in that area."

Savitri Kumar-Saldaña, president of the Abundant Life Network, praised Dr. Loya for his work with the women in her rehabilitation program, located next to the dentist’s office. “Here’s a man who is investing the neighborhood,” she said. “He is putting his practice in East Austin and moving his family from Pflugerville to East Austin, too.” Kumar-Saldaña also shows a short video about her group and their mission to illustrate how Dr. Loya contributes to the community.

Several others spoke on his behalf, praising his decision to locate his practice in East Austin, and related stories about how he helped many in the community.

Many of those speaking against the zoning change praised Dr. Loya’s work in the community, as well, but said they strongly preferred that he practice dentistry in a more appropriate location.

Casey Monanhan, a 25-year resident of the neighborhood, said he feared creeping commercialism. “I also think that Dr. Loya is to be commended for what he does for people,” he said. “But he has flaunted the zoning process and expects to be our neighbor. It’s a precarious position. We want to keep our neighborhood residential.”

James Medina, president of the Swede Hill Neighborhood Association, said Dr. Loya was trying to circumvent the process. “The neighborhood heard his request and voted against it,” he said. “But now he’s trying go around that process. We feel he must go through the neighborhood planning process, or there is no value to that process.”

Many of those against the project also complained that the majority of people there supporting Dr. Loya were not from the neighborhood.

Council Member Raul Alvarez asked Lopez-Phelps a long series of questions about the case, seeking information on traffic, parking, how much of the duplex would be used for the practice and the circumstances leading up to his illegally opening the business.

Both Council Member Daryl Slusher and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman were critical of Dr. Loya for operating his business illegally. “He didn’t seem to be too concerned for our zoning laws,” Slusher said to Lopez-Phelps. “You said he made the decision to start open his practice there as a dentist. Was he thinking “Why should a dentist obey the zoning laws?’”

After more technical discussion, Alvarez moved to approve the zoning change on first reading only, with the caveat that Dr. Loya meet with both city staff and the neighborhood association before second and third reading to work out conditions for the overlay. The Council voted 6-1 to approve, with Slusher voting “no.”

CAMPO delays vote on 2030 plan

Barrientos touts regional gas tax proposal

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (CAMPO)Transportation Policy Committee delayed a vote on the CAMPO 2030 Mobility Plan last night, with Chair Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin) dangling the possibility of a regional gas tax instead of tolls.

Just how much traction a vote on a regional gas tax would have is debatable. The bill would require a majority of Travis, Williamson and Hays County voters to approve such a measure. But Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) asked CAMPO to run the numbers, and the numbers indicate that a 3.7-cent gas tax over 20 years could cover the gap between what the federal government provides and what Central Texas wants to build in terms of roads.

The full second phase of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority program, which excludes US 183-A, is expected to cost $1.7 billion. The gas tax, which could provide $853 million over 20 years, would be combined with $903 million the region already is expected to receive in federal dollars.

“My bill would provide for the local option of a 3-to-10-cent local gas tax to fund local projects if all three counties voted in favor of it,” Barrientos said. “I can tell you already, believe it or not, that the tax will have opposition.”

In fact, Barrientos’ Senate Bill 478 has yet to field a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, which has been dealing with budget issues. Already, the House Ways & Means Committee has passed out a bill that would provide a state gas tax increase pegged to inflation to pay for the ongoing maintenance of tax roadways. House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) said in March that he would not a support allowing a regional gas tax.

A 3.7-cent gas tax would yield $1.1 billion over 20 years. The assumption would be that tax collections would occur between 2010 and 2030. The CTRMA would draw down only $853 million, given that a quarter of any gas tax is dedicated to education. Usually those education dollars fund things like additional school bus purchases.

The numbers are still preliminary. Under cross-examination by Council Member Brewster McCracken, CAMPO Executive Director Michael Aulick admitted that the quick calculation done by the staff at Strama’s request was not based on the latest numbers of the cost of the projects. McCracken asked a series of questions about what had been backed out of the total cost of the roads, questions Aulick could not fully answer.

The $1.7 billion is expected to cover most of the toll roads in the CTRMA plan, minus US 183-A. The total includes Loop 360 and the cost of maintenance, Aulick said.

Commissioner Karen Sonleitner offered the motion to table the vote on CAMPO 2030, saying that Travis County was not prepared to vote. Cross-jurisdictional discussion still needs to take place, she said, especially given the new role of Williamson and Hays counties in the now three-county region for CAMPO, as well as high growth areas like Elgin.

McCracken had questions about the priorities of the program, saying that Interstate 35 would be getting only one lane in the long-range plan. The CAMPO 2030 plan does anticipate that Interstate 35 has limited expansion possibilities and that State Highway 130 to the east is expected to be an alternative route, especially for heavy truck traffic.

Given the timing of the legislative session, the CAMPO board agreed to postpone the 2030 Mobility Plan vote until June 6, after the end of the session. The vote is due by June 12 in order to guarantee federal funding. The plan could be modified at a future date.

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

Misquoted . . . Austin Toll Party spokesman Sal Costello has made Mayor Will Wynn the major whipping boy in the group’s continuing campaign against toll roads. In a recent e-mail, Costello writes, “Mayor Will Wynn was right. I guess we’ll have to stop it in its tracks. He then quotes the Mayor as saying, “It looks like RMA has this authority to basically run over other people in the region and do what they want to do.” The quote is taken from a closed caption log of a Council work session on Sept. 25, 2002. The trouble with those logs is that they do not always accurately reflect who said what. A videotape of the meeting shows that the speaker was actually Sen. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock). Krusee said, “Things aren’t always as inflexible as they appear on paper. On paper, it looks like the RMA has this authority to basically run over people and do what they want to do. An example, there’s a private construction company has a private franchise to build 45SE if they want to. But if you really look at the fine print, the practicality of doing it, that company getting the bonds to do it, they’ve got to hook up into the state highway system.” Krusee carried the bill which created the Central Texas RMA . . .S igns of our times . . . Last night, the Sign Review Board voted unanimously to move forward with a change to the sign ordinance that will give the board a little breathing room. Under current city regulations, the board is required to consider a variance to the sign ordinance within 45 days after the request is filed. If the Board does not act on the variance within that time, the application is automatically granted. The applicant, of course, may waive the deadline. City staff will now take the recommended change to the Planning Commission, which likely will make its own recommendation before the matter goes to the City Council . . . Sign board cases postponed . . . Jason Subt, the owner of Priceless Convertibles at 317 Bowie Street, downtown, asked to erect one freestanding sign at the height of 17 feet and another at 11 feet. The limit in the area is 6 feet. He also wanted to double the size of another sign on West 5th Street, from 75 square feet to 150 square feet. Subt had a hard time articulating his hardship and could not overcome opposition from architect Girard Kinney, speaking on behalf of both the Design Commission and Scenic Austin. Downtown resident and architect Craig Nasso also opposed the variances. After some discussion during which it became clear that he could ask the board to put off its decision and talk to the opposition or lose the case immediately, Subt opted for a one-month postponement . . . Melissa Hawthorne fared little better in convincing the board to allow her client, Gracy Farms Retail Ltd. at 12001 Burnet Road, to erect a sign normally allowed at 12 feet to be erected to 30 feet. Hawthorne also was trying to increase the size of the sign from 64 square feet to more than 150 square feet. Board members said they were having a hard time visualizing the dimensions of the sign since Whaley’s photos were sign-free. She promised to come back with better visual aids next month and that case was also put off . . . Symposium on faith and values . . . UT, the LBJ Library, and several Austin religious congregations are sponsoring " Religion, Politics, and Values," a symposium which begins at 7pm Wednesday. First on the program is a panel discussion featuring three of the nation's most distinguished thinkers on American religion and politics: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Senior Leader of New York City's interdenominational and interracial Riverside Church; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D. C.; and Professor Mark Silk, Director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Connecticut. The events will be in the LBJ Presidential Library Auditorium. All sessions of the symposium are free and open to the public. For more information, including a list of featured Austin-area participants, visit http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/huminst/symposium/index.html or contact Dr. Evan Carton, UT Humanities Institute. . . Spring Roundtable . . . Leadership Austin presents the last in the Spring Roundtable Series: How Multimedia is Transforming our World and Austin's Role in that Future. The discussion will focus on the implications of new technology for work, life, politics, the economy and beyond. It is scheduled from 11:30am – 1pm today at the Leadership Austin Offices located at 210 Barton Springs Road, Suite 400. Register at http://www.leadershipaustin.org/calendar.html or call Angelica Arguellez at 322-5688. . . One last look. . . Supporters, trustees, donors and other friends of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts will gather at the north entrance to old Palmer Auditorium at 5:30pm Wednesday, to celebrate the start of Long Center pre-construction activities and for a last look inside the original Palmer Auditorium. Champagne and light refreshments will be served and a brief program featuring Trustee Chair Joe Long and Executive Director Cliff Redd will begin at 6:15 p.m. Free parking will be available through the Riverside entrance to the Palmer Center Garage just west of South First Street. For information, contact Howard Falkenberg, 482-8897 (office) or 632-2258 (cell). . . Today’s meetings . . . The Planning Commission will meet in the Council chambers at City Hall at 6pm . . . The RMMA Plan Implementation Commission is scheduled to meet at 6pm in Waller Creek Plaza . . . The Airport Advisory Commission meets at 5pm in Room 160 at ABIA, 2716 Spirit of Texas Drive. . . Tonight’s forum . . . The ADAPT Candidate Forum is at 6pm at 1327 Lamar Square Drive.

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