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Time-Warner, music group have no deal

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 by

Meyers leaving music network for new gig in Memphis

The group that agreed to run the Austin Music Network (AMN) has still not received permission from Time-Warner Cable to take over the channel. Austin Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said Monday that Austin Music Partners (AMP), which is scheduled to make its first payment to the city next week, has had difficulty getting Time-Warner’s approval at the corporate level. “I’m concerned because it’s taking a lot longer than expected,” Stephens said. But he added, “There could be legitimate reasons for that because Time-Warner is involved in a lot of things that they may see as a priority,” as opposed to the AMN agreement.

AMP, a Denver-based investment firm, and Time-Warner Cable made a deal with the city last fall to take over programming responsibilities for what it plans to call the Austin Music and Arts Channel on Cable Channel 15. AMP has said the venture would reach markets beyond Austin, drawing revenue from sponsorships, advertising and cable subscription fees, freeing the city from subsidizing the operation.

Last month, Connie Wodlinger of AMP sent an email to the Council Committee on Telecommunications Infrastructure that indicated an agreement could happen at any time. However, Austin Music Network Executive Director Louis Meyers scoffed at the idea that the two parties were ever near reaching an agreement. Time-Warner could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

Meyers, who has worked at the network for nearly two years and seen it through rough financial waters, said Monday the station has made enough money through grants, sponsorships and events to carry it through the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

AMP is scheduled to pay the city $8,300 per month. Stephens said it would be difficult for the group to make those payments without an agreement from Time-Warner. The city could grant AMP an extension of time to pay the monthly fee, Stephens said, without action by the City Council. The agreement between AMP and the city calls for AMP to pay the city about $2.8 million over the term of the contract, which would run through 2012.

According to Meyers, AMN has about $15,000 in the bank and is spending only about $2,500 a month. “We’re not dependent on the city funding at all and have no intent of asking the city for money,” he said. The network is being operated from community access television (ACTV), which has a contract with the city to run three access channels. Meyers pointed out that the ACTV contract will also expire this year and the city is currently seeking proposals to operate the channels.

The city’s contract with ACTV to run the music network will expire at the end of the month. After that the city has asked ACTV to operate the network on a month to month basis. Meyers said such a situation “makes it almost impossible to generate revenue from events and sponsorships. During a presentation to the Council committee last month Meyers said, “Until Austin Music Partners launches or goes away, it will be impossible to create a long term strategy for the operation of the Austin Music Network. “

AMP had initially proposed to take over operations of the network in January. The date was then postponed to April. In February, Wodlinger told the Council subcommittee her group would need a 60-to 90-day “ramp-up” period from the day that Time Warner approves the agreement.

Meyers said Monday that he will be leaving the network on June 1 and that he had no desire to run the AMN on a month to month basis. Meyers has accepted the job of Executive Director of the North American Folk Alliance. That organization is currently headquartered in Washington D.C., he said, but will be relocating to Memphis, Tenn. this year. Meyers said part of his duties for the folk music and dance organization would be to set up and run the alliance’s annual convention. That convention, slated to begin February 16, 2006, will use all the available space in the Downtown Austin Hilton and half the Austin Convention Center, he said.

Meyers said the folk convention would bring about 500 acts, films, panels, and workshops, and generate $10 million in revenue for the city. He was enthusiastic about his new position, but said he would be available to advise AMN staff until September if they need him.

The Council committee is scheduled to meet at 3pm Wednesday.

Group calls for military budget changes

Goodman, Slusher join Physicians for Social Responsibility

Two members of the Austin City Council joined Physicians for Social Responsibility to call for changes in the proposed U.S. defense budget for 2006. The group, citing a study done by the Center for Defense Information and Foreign Policy in Focus, said Austin taxpayers would send $136 million to Washington, D.C. for weapons that are no longer necessary as part of a nation-wide expenditure of $53 billion the think-tanks concluded would go toward unnecessary military programs ( http://www.cdi.org/) ( http://www.fpif.org/).

In a news conference at City Hall, the doctors’ group said they were not against military spending, but instead, critical of allocating funds to new nuclear weapons, fighter jets, and a national missile defense system, which they said would not help prepare the nation for new threats posed by terrorist groups and rogue nations. "This budget does not adequately fund our ability to combat a bio-terrorist attack. For example, were we to strengthen our public health infra-structure, we would be better prepared were we to be the victim of a bio-terrorist attack," said Dr. Greg Sheff. "Not only would that be useful in the event of an attack, it would also have an immediate day-to-day benefit. What we are focused on is smart security."

Council Member Daryl Slusher said that criticizing the proposed military budget should not be construed as being soft on defense. " President Dwight Eisenhower warned a generation ago about the dangers to our country of the developing military-industrial complex," he said. "He also warned of the damage that could be done to essential domestic programs by excessive and unnecessary military spending. We are living today in exactly the world of which President Eisenhower warned."

Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, whose father was an officer in the military, said that many of the priorities listed in the proposed budget seemed out of date. "It has expenditures listed in it that reminded me so much of the military budgets my father and I used to talk about years ago, when there was a Communist threat, and there was a Cold War and a threat of nuclear war," she said. "It just was like a moment back in time, and I thought 'Why would this be your priority for spending?' With the threat of terrorism actually on our soil, a nuclear attack is not going to do anything for our safety or our security." Instead she said the money could be better spent on new equipment for local first-responders and boosting the public health system. "The kind of preparedness that we would need if there was a biological attack is exactly the same kind of thing that would serve us well with the other kinds of issues that we have to deal with locally."

The physicians group plans to take its concerns to members of the Texas Congressional delegation as the military budget comes up for debate. Slusher also indicated that he would be sending copies of his position on the issue to Austin's representatives in Washington.

Cap Metro Board praises Slusher

Outgoing City Council Member Daryl Slusher participated in his final meeting as a member of the Capital Metro Board on Monday, receiving a special send-off from the other board members and staff of the transit agency. Slusher, who chose not to run for re-election for Place 1 on the Council, has served on the Capital Metro Board since 1997.

That was a very different time for Capital Metro, with public confidence at a fairly low level. Capital Metro Board Chairman Lee Walker said Slusher had helped the agency improve its reputation in the community. "Those eight years were difficult years, but I think that the board, the staff, the team here has acquitted itself well in pursuit of the turnaround of Cap Metro," he said. "You've been central to that. On every issue I can think of, Daryl, you've been a leader. Having him go today is just real, real tough."

The board presented Slusher with a proclamation, a card, a gift bag, a model train, and a ticket for the first running of the Capital Metro commuter rail train in 2008. "I want to make sure you are front and center for that ride," said Walker. "It wouldn't have happened without you."

Slusher, in turn, praised his fellow board members and the agency's staff. "We've worked together to restore public trust in the agency. The success we've had there hasn't been easy, and there's still work to do, but the fact that the voters entrusted Capital Metro with the commuter rail system, I think, is proof that public trust has been restored. I think we'll be remembered, hopefully, for restoring that trust, but I think what is really going to live on from this era is passenger rail returning to Austin."

Other board members took turns praising Slusher for his service along with his support for the commuter rail program. "He's a hard working gentleman, he has integrity, he believes in serving the citizens. He's honest, and he believes in right and wrong," said Council Member Danny Thomas. "You're going to be missed, but not forgotten."

Board Member John Treviño—who found himself a target of Slusher's criticism when he was serving on the Austin City Council and Slusher was a reporter—said his colleague had approached his service on the board with a willingness to forge new alliances. "At one time we weren't this close, and I don't mean physically," said John Treviño, who sits next to Slusher on the Capital Metro dais. "It was kind of a strange relationship, but one day he told me how it felt to be on this side of the dais. Throughout the years we have really developed a very close relationship."

Once Slusher steps down this summer, it will be up to the City Council to appoint a new representative to the Capital Metro Board.

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

Historic landmark brief. . . The Historic Landmark Commission had a brief meeting Monday night, voting to recommend historic zoning for the Lyman Bailey House at 1409 E. 2nd Street. But the Commission put off a vote on whether to support moving the Nelson and Texanna Davis House from its current location at 1621 W. 12th to 1817 W. 10th. The Clarksville Community Development

Corporation supports the proposal as an alternative to the possible demolition of the home. Commissioners requested additional information about the case before making a decision . . . Today’s meetings . . . The Planning Commission will meet at 6pm in Council Chambers . . . The Parks and Recreation Board is scheduled to meet at 6:30pm at the department’s headquarters, 200 S. Lamar . . . HB 2833 up for Senate vote . . . The controversial “takings” bill, which would penalize cities for zoning land with less than 45 percent impervious cover, is on the intent calendar for a vote in the Senate today. The City of Austin, among others, has opposed the bill.

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