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Martinez fundraiser draws crowd

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 by

Firefighter promises to be a champion for East Austin

Close to 100 friends and supporters of firefighters president Mike Martinez came to Nuevo Leon last night to applaud his decision to run for the City Council and to contribute to the effort. Martinez told the crowd he wants to make sure East Austin–as well as the rest of the city–benefits from the growth that is inevitable within the next few years.

”We can't build a great wall” around Austin to keep newcomers out, said Martinez, who is running for the Place 2 City Council seat. “We need to welcome them here….so that the development that does occur we all benefit from.” Standing in the East Sixth Street restaurant, Martinez said, “where we’re standing right now in East Austin—this could be our last stand.” Martinez said he wants to help protect people who are struggling to pay their property taxes, like his elderly neighbor.

“We can all be successful; we can all have the right to that happiness. But we cannot pave over people who live here, who have raised their families here, and push them out. I want to be an advocate for those folks,” he said. “What’s happening here on East Sixth and East Seventh Street is exactly what happened on South Congress in the 1980s. So we need to have people who can preserve what makes Austin great.”

Martinez also said he sees the need to address problems between the public safety departments—code words for police department—and the community. “And we have to be real honest about that. We can't sugar coat it; we can't say that the problems don’t exist and we can't say we’ll do a little training over here and it's going to go away. We have to get involved; we have to work on those issues and our community has to come back together and support the public safety groups that protect them,” said the 13-year veteran of the Austin Fire Department. Quite a few of those in the gathering have served with him in the department.

Noting the difficulties candidates have in raising money with the $100 fundraising limit, Martinez said he would need the help of all those supporting him to reach his goal of a $250,000 war chest.

Martinez concluded his remarks by noting the need to balance a healthy economy and jobs with environmental protection. Finally, he said, “It’s time for folks to stop putting plans on the table and leaving them there. We need Council member who can not only put plans on the table, but complete the task. I am going to complete the task.”

S tate Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who worked with the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters to get public approval of collective bargaining for the firefighters, introduced Martinez, who serves as president of the group.

Eliza May of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Hector Urib e, attorney and former state senator, have also said they will run for the seat being vacated by Council Member Raul Alvarez.

Council OKs 30-acre project near ABIA

Neighborhood opposition did not stop City Council last week from approving a change in zoning for a 30-acre property near the intersection of SH 71 and US 183 within the Airport Overlay Zone.

The developer intends to build a 30-acre multi-use project on the way to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Some neighbors in the Carson Creek watershed, however, opposed approval of the project before a full review of the watershed was completed. The Council, however, overruled those objections, approving the project on a vote of 7-0.

According to documentation on the case, the owner, JHX2/Lampting Joint Venture, intends to develop the acreage as a service station, with convenience store, hotel, shopping center and warehouse uses. Staff recommended a zoning classification of CH-CO, which is a zoning classification of community highway with a conditional overlay.

The conditional overlay proposed by staff excluded bed-and-breakfast establishments, as well as townhomes and multi-family development. Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department Director Alice Glasco said such zoning would be appropriate, and Council approved the zoning, with an additional condition that height on the property be limited to 90 feet.

Pete Cicero, speaking on behalf of the owner, said the neighborhood association and adjacent church had agreed to the zoning change from Interim RR and CS. This area, said Cicero, was one of the city’s desired development zones and zoning changes would allow a flexible transition for development. He called the area on the way to the airport the city’s “next Arboretum.”

Resident David Cook, however, said he was concerned about the city’s ongoing study of the Carson Creek watershed. Impervious cover of 80 percent on the property, Cook said, would only add to the flooding problems of neighbors. Cook’s home, along with five others, have been flooded in recent heavy rains.

“I’ve come here to tell you that I’m worried my house is going to flood,” Cook said.

Dan Davidson, former city manager, owns the property. Davidson pointed to the unanimous support of the Zoning and Platting Commission. He pointed out the property would meet all transportation and drainage requirements set out by the city. Davidson said everyone affected, including the adjacent church, were being kept up-to-date on the development being proposed on the 30-acre property.

George Oswald of the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department was called to discuss the zoning proposal. Oswald said the Carson Creek watershed was under review as part of a countywide flooding study, which will be completed next March. He said the city was cognizant that flooding did occur in Richland Estates and that the development proposed recognized that flooding as a part of its requirements. Flooding in the Richland Estates area will be addressed primarily by a levee system, Oswald said after his presentation.

Motions argued in PET suit against MPOs

State District Judge Gisela Triana heard arguments Monday in a lawsuit filed by People for Efficient Transportation against the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Texas Governor Rick Perry. The toll road opponents are claiming that the MPOs do not have the authority under the Texas Constitution to dispense federal funds and make decisions about roadway projects.

Attorneys for the state asked that the case be dismissed. The State of Texas argued that PET lacked standing to sue over the MPOs’ decisions, and that any challenge to the groups’ existence should have been made within four years of their creation in the 1970’s.

But attorney Steve W. Smith, representing PET, countered that the MPOs had undergone a dramatic shift in their responsibilities since being created as advisory-only panels. Since the groups now effectively have control over millions of dollars in federal funding, he argued, the state legislators that serve on their boards were exercising powers reserved for the executive branch when they voted on which specific projects would be eligible for those federal funds. He added that it would be unreasonable to expect PET to have sued in the 1970’s for a harmful action (approval of toll roads) that had only recently developed.

Judge Triana agreed to take the arguments of both sides under advisement. She will likely rule after the Christmas holidays on whether to allow the suit to proceed.

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

Holidays . . . The City of Austin will be closed on Friday as well as Monday, Dec. 26. In Fact Daily will publish its final edition of the year tomorrow and will take off until January 9 . . . Changes at the top . . . With the New Year comes several changes in management at City Hall, as announced by City Manager Toby Futrell: Art Alfaro has been named City Treasurer, a position he has held on an interim basis since June. He has been with the city for 19 years; Cathy Rodgers has been named Director of Human Resources on the retirement of Vanessa Downey-Little. Rodgers has been with the city since 1973; Sylvia Gonzalez has been named Assistant Director of HRD. She has been with the city for 16 years; Greg Guernsey has been named Director of Neighborhood Planning and Zoning upon the retirement of Alice Glasco. He has been with the city for 18 years; and Susan Hutson will assume the role of Acting Police Monitor at the end of this year. Before coming to Austin, she was an Assistant City Attorney for Corpus Christi . . . Meetings . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission meets at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall . . . The Parks and Recreation Board Land and Facilities Committee meets at noon in the PARD Main Office Board Room, 215 South Lamar Blvd. . . . The Animal Advisory Commission meets at 6:30pm in The Town Lake Animal Center, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St. . . . The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9am in Commission Chambers at 314 W. 11th Street . . . The Williamson County Commissioners Court meets at 9:30am in the Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3 Courtroom, 301 S.E. Inner Loop, in Georgetown. . . . Todd continues to improve . . . Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd’s condition continues to improve, according to his wife Elizabeth Christian. Todd was injured in a bicycle accident on November 27 and suffered several broken bones and a head injury. According to Christian, he is still in Brackenridge Hospital and has been moved from the intensive care to the intermediate care unit after recovering from a bout with pneumonia. She said he is expected to be moved to a rehabilitation facility soon. The family is requesting that donations be made in his name to the Blue Santa Campaign for bicycle helmets, or financial contributions can be made online at http://www.austincycling.org. . . . Round Rock mourns loss . . . Jimmy Joseph Jr., who served on the Round Rock City Council for 12 years, died on December 18. Joseph was elected as Place 6 Council Member in 1989, and served four consecutive terms through 2001. He served as Mayor Pro tem from December 1992, to May 1993. . . . Ballot place drawing . . . Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir will conduct a drawing to determine ballot order for the Special Election to fill the unexpired term for House of Representatives District 48 at 10am today. The drawing will take place in the County Clerk's Elections Division offices at 5001 Airport Blvd. . . . Smoking ban on appeal . . . The group Keep Austin Free, which funded an appeal of the Federal Court ruling that upheld the city’s Smoking Ordinance, is looking for more support to continue to challenge the ruling. In an email to supporters, the group says it believes there is a reasonable chance the law will be overturned on appeal or successfully challenged in the local courts. For more information, go to http://keepaustinfree.com. . . . One for the guys . . . If you are a man and you are into staying healthy, you’ve come to the right place. Austin was recently named third among the Healthiest Cities for Men, according to Men’s Health Magazine. We came in behind San Francisco and Honolulu, and just ahead of San Jose and Salt Lake City. On the bottom of the scale were Charleston, W.Va., Montgomery, Ala., Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia. Some of the criteria for judging included measures such as heart disease and prostate cancer, mortality rates, body-mass index, exercise activity, housing density, employment rates, and crime data . . .

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