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Firefighters leader running for Council

Thursday, December 1, 2005 by

Martinez to stress affordability, environment

Firefighters union leader Mike Martinez Wednesday made good on his pledge to run for the Austin City Council. Martinez, 36, designated former Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman as his campaign treasurer. He said he would remain as president of the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters through next May, but would give up that post if elected to the City Council.

Eliza May and Hector Uribe have also said they would run for Place 2, which Council Member Raul Alvarez is vacating after two terms in office. May is Executive Director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Uribe is an attorney with experience as a state senator.

Martinez has served in the Austin Fire Department since 1993. In addition to public safety, Martinez said his campaign would stress affordability and taking care of middle income Austinites. That is particularly difficult for some residents of East Austin, a problem he said he has seen first hand in his own neighborhood, Holly.

Martinez said he would also campaign on environmental protection, expanding Austin’s park systems and acquiring more open space throughout the city. But Martinez will also draw heavily on his 12 years as a firefighter and city employee.

Asked whether he agreed with the Austin Police Association’s decision to run radio ads seeking the ouster of Police Chief Stan Knee, Martinez said: “As the president of the firefighters’ union, I'm not sure if I would’ve handled it the same way, but I'm not in Mike’s (Sheffield) shoes. And I don’t have the information that he has. But I don’t think it helps when we are fighting against one another.”

“If they have a lack of confidence in their police chief, then we need to address that and if there truly is some justification and information that leads us to question and hold our chief accountable, I don’t think our chief will ever shy away from that. He expects public scrutiny; he expects to be held accountable . . . The police are asking for accountability and the community is asking for that same kind of accountability from their officers.” Martinez said he believes he could help bring the community and the police together.

Austin takes on renewable energy challenge

Mayor Will Wynn joined supporters of Solar Austin at a fundraiser Wednesday night for the group’s Energy Freedom Challenge. Austin is the first city to sign up for the challenge, which emphasizes freedom from fossil fuels through use of renewable resources, especially solar energy. The group, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, is asking cities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources as soon as possible.

Wynn committed Austin’s municipally owned utility, Austin Energy, to meeting that challenge, noting that the Council had previously established a goal of having 20 percent of the city’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

“It was a very impressive goal, 20 percent by 2020, but things have changed,” he said. “The cost of energy has spiked dramatically since then, and therefore the cost of living and the cost of doing business has increased dramatically.”

Higher prices for energy from conventional sources, the Mayor predicted, would spur development of renewables. “As your Mayor, I will accept the challenge that Austin remain the Number One city, the number one utility in the country for renewable sales and that we in fact become the first city in the country to reach the 50 percent renewable goal. I don’t care whether it’s 2025 or next year, but we’re going to be the first city in the country,” he said. “We accept the challenge and we’re going to figure out how to get there from here.”

To help encourage other cities to take the Energy Freedom Challenge, Solar Austin and the Union of Concerned Scientists will hold an awards ceremony in the fall of 2006 to present the “Energy Freedom Progress Prize” to the city closest to the 50 percent goal.

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

Team Martinez . . . Amy Everhart has resigned from the staff of Council Member Jennifer Kim to be Mike Martinez’ campaign manager. In her new position, Everhart will work with consultants David Butts and Mark Nathan. As Kim’s campaign manager, Everhart worked with Butts and got her first taste of managing a campaign. She also has several years of experience in Democratic campaigns and politics. Everhart said Heidi Gerbracht would continue as Kim’s aide, with no plan to hire a second . . . The other campaigns . . . Peck Young and Alfred Stanley both worked on all of Jackie Goodman’s successful campaigns. But Stanley is now raising funds for Hector Uribe and Young is rumored to be Eliza May’s choice as her campaign consultant. . . . Libraries get an extra day . . . Since October 2004, all branches of Austin’s City Libraries have been closed one day a week as a cost-saving measure. But starting today, all branches get their extra day back, thanks to extra money put in this year’s city budget. The Faulk Central Library will retain its current operating schedule: Monday-Thursday, 10am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-6pm; and Sunday, noon-6pm. The Austin History Center will remain closed on Thursdays and Fridays. For additional information call (512) 974-7400 or visit www.cityofaustin.org/library. . . . It’s My Dog’s Park! Day . . . Austin Parks Foundation (APF) will lead community volunteers as they repair and beautify an off-leash dog area along the Shoal Creek Trail. Discerning dogs will be on hand to try out the improvements. From 9am to 1 pm Saturday, volunteers will be building berms and drainage channels, spreading mulch and removing invasive plant species throughout the area. Austin Parks Foundation adopted the Shoal Creek Trail as a result of a citywide parks survey the group did in July and August. This volunteer workday is the 10th of 30 that APF plans to hold on Shoal Creek Trail in the next year. Visit www.austinparks.org for more information . . . New Park opens today . . . Travis County Milton Reimers Ranch Park will begin operating today. The park will be open Thursday through Sunday, sunrise to sunset until December 31. On January 1, the park will be open 7 days a week, sunrise to sunset. A day use fee of $8 per vehicle will be in place at the park effective January 2. The Travis County Commissioners Court approved a waiver of the day use fees associated with the park until January 1 to allow the public to enjoy the new park. Reimers Ranch Park is approximately 30 miles southwest of Austin. Take SH 71 west of Austin through the town of Bee Cave and turn left onto FM 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road). Once on Hamilton Pool Road, travel 12 miles to the Park entrance, on your right. For additional information, go online at www.traviscountyparks.org or call (512) 854-PARK (7275). . . . Getting it right . . . Our coverage of Tuesday night’s Bond Election Advisory Committee (BEAC) meeting (See In Fact Daily, November 30, 2005) drew comments from a couple of participants in the meeting who took issue with our take on the proceedings. Michael Clark-Madison, who serves as outreach chair for the panel, summed up his opinion of the article in three words: “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” He said despite the article’s conclusion that the committee postponed a final vote on the bond package, “The purpose of last night's meeting was to adopt a draft recommendation. We did that,” he said. “Only two people voted against it. There was no failure to do anything or putting anything off. We had a couple of votes on amendments to that draft recommendation, they didn't pass, and we decided to move to public hearings and do those amendments later, as we had said we were going to do.” He adds that a final vote is scheduled on January 9 and 10. We heard from city Budget Officer Greg Canally also, who pointed out that “Tuesday night's BEAC meeting was scheduled for the sole purpose of voting on a draft recommendation, not the final recommendation… The BEAC did exactly that: voting 17-2 in favor of a $614.8 million draft recommendation.” Canally reiterates that there was nothing “final” about Tuesday’s vote. “A final vote was not ‘called off.’ No final vote had been scheduled. Another round of public hearings (there have already been four) have always been on the calendar. The $614.8 million is not a starting point, but is in fact the BEAC's draft recommendation.” In reporting the story, In Fact Daily was attempting to not only relate what happened at the meeting, but give our readers a feel for how the process of developing a bond package is working. The political process is often messy, complicated and difficult to explain. Perhaps in attempting to give our readers a sense of the process, we were not as clear as we could have been. But we feel it is as important to report on the decision-making process as it is to report results, which involves a certain amount of educated interpretation of what we see and hear. And whether you agree or disagree with us, we always appreciate your comments.

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