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Music channel group announces deal

Thursday, May 26, 2005 by

Austin Music Partners must now prepare to take over network

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, chairing her final meeting of the Council’s telecom committee, got a welcome surprise from Austin Music Partners’ Connie Wodlinger yesterday, who announced, “We do have a deal with Time-Warner.” In response to Goodman’s questions, Wodlinger said although the deal is in writing, it has not yet been signed. However, she promised that Time-Warner would release a payment of $8,333 next week as scheduled. Time-Warner is one of the investors in Austin Music Partners, but the company has been slow to sign the necessary documents to allow the city and AMP to move forward.

Under the contract between AMP and the city, the investor group, which includes Wodlinger, a Denver-based investment firm and Time Warner Cable, was supposed to take over programming for Channel 15, one of Austin’s PEG (Public Education and Governmental Access) channels by February 1. However, without agreement from Time-Warner that could not happen. Austin Community Access Television (ACTV) took over basic responsibility for the music network when AMP was unable to do so.

Council Member Raul Alvarez, who will likely be the next chair of the Council committee, wanted to make sure that ACTV would continue to operate the station while AMP is getting ready to take over. Wodlinger said she would know today or Friday whether to plan for a 60-day or 90-day transition period. She promised to pass the word along to the city as soon as possible. Wodlinger said “the concept is to take the original vision (for the station), expand it and take it to another level.”

Wodlinger said, “ideally you have six months to prepare,” but the investor group would begin operating the network either on the first of August or the first of September depending on which one is more practical. She said AMP has to order new equipment, which would not be delivered for 90 days. So the group will have to work with used equipment to begin with. She said she expects to begin production next week, noting that she has “150 people to talk to” today. Wodlinger’s announcement came as a surprise not only to Goodman and Alvarez, but also to Jim Butler of the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Department. Prior to Wodlinger’s announcement, Butler had told In Fact Daily that Time-Warner had not yet agreed to the deal. Therefore, he was unable to provide any details to the Council.

Wodlinger said she expects to keep some of the programming that currently runs on the music network but that “we’ll undoubtedly have some reality programming additions. ”She did not have any other specifics. The committee also praised the outgoing head of AMN, Louis Meyers, who is leaving Austin to become Executive Director of the North American Folk Alliance (See In Fact Daily, May 24, 2005).

"Takings" bill dies on Senate waiting list

Barrientos had threatened filibuster

In Fact Daily prematurely declared HB 2833 dead as of 12:01am today. The bill actually died on a point of order raised by Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos around 2am. According to the Quorum Report, Sen. Todd Staples tried to bring the bill up at that time and Barrientos called a point of order and Staples withdrew the bill.

Also, key parts of a state water infrastructure bill, SB 3, which died on the House calendar Tuesday night, showed up as amendments to HB 2233. The Senate approved that bill on Wednesday.

House Bill 2833, sponsored originally by Rep. Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake), known as the “takings” bill, would have forced municipalities to reimburse landowners when water quality regulations devalued their land.

The bill was posted on the Senate’s intent calendar Wednesday, but Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos threatened to filibuster if the bill was brought to the floor, effectively keeping it in the hopper. Wednesday was the last day for the Senate to consider House bills.

One of several bills that took aim at Austin’s SOS Ordinance this session, HB 2833 was backed by the Texas Landowners Conservancy, a non-profit coalition of ranchers, land owners and homeowners “dedicated to the preservation of Texas natural resources and the protection of private property rights.”

The bill passed easily in the House, despite efforts by Reps. Eddie Rodriguez and Elliott Naishtat (both D-Austin) to amend some of its more strident provisions.

Meanwhile, when Senators heard that SB 3 was likely to not make it out of the House Tuesday night, they began attaching various parts of the bill to HB 2233, which was originally filed as an omnibus financial measure.

Sen. Ken Armbrister, the primary author of SB 3, offered amendments that would set up fees for excess residential water usage to fund current and future water infrastructure projects through the year 2040. Another amendment by Armbrister establishes a commission to determine appropriate flow rates from Texas rivers in the state’s coastal bays and estuaries.

Barrientos authored an additional amendment to increase the fees that can be charged by the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. The bill now goes back to the House, where that body may either accept or reject the Senate’s amendments. If the House rejects the amendments, a conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences in the bill.

Liveable City urges delay on 2030 plan

Group criticizes economics, assumptions of mobility plan

The board of Liveable City has questioned the CAMPO 2030 Mobility Plan, saying it should incorporate the long-term goals of Envision Central Texas’ (ECT’) regional vision and give further study to the fiscal viability of toll road construction.

Liveable City hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday morning at City Hall with Sherri Greenberg, Bill Spelman and Michael Oden of the University of Texas. The trio discussed the financial assumptions behind CAMPO 2030 and its toll roads.

The health of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s bond funding is based on a number of interlocking assumptions, Greenberg said. Those assumptions – including competing demands for local and state revenues, somewhat-dated transit fare box projections and the assumptions behind the toll road projections – need to be carefully weighed and reviewed before signing off on CAMPO 2030, Greenberg said.

The board of Liveable City, in fact, has recommended the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Committee delay its approval of the CAMPO 2030 plan until ECT’s vision is incorporated and its impact reviewed.

Liveable City has recommended CAMPO consider a number of facts related to the issue:

• The $22 billion plan fails to reduce traffic congestion, given the region’s high growth.

• Independent economic analysis is necessary. The emphasis on long-term debt, via toll roads, raises serious questions about financial viability that need review.

• The impact on small business and low-income residents should be carefully reviewed.

• The plan fails to consider the performance of alternative transportation models. Different scenarios should be evaluated on financial impact, mobility and other measures.

• The plan should incorporate ECT Scenarios C and D. Instead, it supports Option A.

• Beneficial bike, sidewalk and transit projects in CAMPO 2030 remain largely unfunded.

Liveable City describes itself as “an inclusive network of individuals working together to create a community consensus to promote policies that address the long term social, environmental and economic needs of the people of Austin.” The group’s stated mission is to help create new community models that focus on the interconnected relationships among growth issues such transportation, housing, environment, affordability, neighborhoods, culture and the economy in an equitable and sustainable manner.

The CAMPO Transportation Policy Committee is scheduled to vote on the 2030 plan on June 6. .

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

Early voting . . . In the first day of early voting for the June 11 City Council runoff, 1130 voters cast ballots. The most popular place to vote, Northcross Mall, saw 140 voters; 136 voters cast ballots at City Hall. One hundred twenty-eight voters cast ballots at Randall’s on South MoPac. Early voting will continue today and tomorrow but will stop for the Memorial Holiday weekend . . . Plug-in hybrid to visit City Hall . . . The newest innovation in automotive technology would allow consumers to plug their cars into a wall socket at night, charge the battery and drive off to work in the morning. Gas is optional and the batteries are made locally by Valence Technology, Inc., a leader in the development of large-format Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. To see a prototype vehicle, a redesigned 2004 Toyota Prius, stop by City Hall between 11am and 1pm today . . . Clarke fundraiser . . . The Margot Clarke campaign will hold a party to raise funds for the June 11 runoff from 5:30-7:30pm at Mother Egan’s Irish Pub,, 715 W. 6th St. Former State Rep. Glen Maxey, who helped run the campaign to secure passage of the smoking ban, and has assisted other Democratic candidates, has also joined the Clarke campaign . . . Against Clarke . . . Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy, an avid supporter of increased funding for EMS and police, has formed his own political action committee. The name of Levy’s specific purpose committee is the Committee for Even Minimally Sane and Rational Government in Austin, which Levy said “is just me.” He explained his frustration at having to file such documents simply to “exercise my First Amendment rights,” and said he would be sending out a two-page letter blasting Clarke next week. The PACs of both the Austin Police Association and the EMS have endorsed Clarke’s opponent, Jennifer Kim . . . Complaint department. . . Attorney Marc Levin joined John Wickham and Wes Benedict outside City Hall Tuesday to criticize the city's Fair Campaign rules and to announce they were filing complaints with both the city's Ethics Review Commission and the Texas Ethics Commission. Levin said that Margot Clarke, who is receiving money from the Fair Campaign Fund, had actually violated the rules for that fund and should give the money back. The two former Council candidates also named City Manager Toby Futrell in their complaint, since as the chief executive for the city, she is responsible for the expenditure of funds. Part of their claim is that the city's release of the money to the Clarke campaign amounts to spending public funds on political advertising, which is prohibited. But the money comes from fees collected from lobbyists and candidates, not tax dollars, and is specifically earmarked according to the terms of the Fair Campaign ordinance. Veteran campaign consultant Mike Blizzard attended the trio's news conference, and afterward criticized the legal analysis and the motives of those involved with Austin Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility. "What we have here is three failed candidates who are trying to hold on to their 15 minutes of fame and bring down someone more successful, and I think that's wrong," he said. Blizzard is not working for the Clarke campaign but said he is supporting her in the Place 3 runoff against Jennifer Kim. The group’s website was created on Saturday. According to the online registration, the group’s address is 2002 Guadalupe, a non-existent location. The phone number given, 800-555-1212, is the number for toll-free information . . . First Amendment on campus . . . The Central Texas Civil Liberties Union will hear from Professor Douglas Laycock of the UT Law School on various issues related to free speech on campus. The meeting begins at 5:30pm at the Hancock Recreation Center, 811 E. 41st St.

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