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Martinez launches campaign with fundraiser

Thursday, January 26, 2006 by

Firefighters president gets major backing for Council race

Mike Martinez officially launched his campaign for Place 2 on the Austin City Council with a party and fundraiser at Threadgill’s Wednesday night.

The party drew a large crowd of firefighters, union leaders, stalwart Democrats and several local elected officials, including State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and Veronica Rivera of the Austin Community College Board of Trustees. Also spotted in the crowd were former Council Members Jackie Goodman, Brigid Shea and John Treviño, who now serves on the Capitol Metro Board of Directors. Activists Robin Rather and Mike Blizzard, AFSCME leader Jack Kirfman and Education Austin President Louis Malfaro all turned out to show their support for the President of the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters in his first run for elected office.

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton introduced Martinez, whom he credited with playing a major role in his 2004 election. “When I jumped off into the political arena, a lot of folks told me I needed to get a hold of Mike Martinez, because his support would go a long, long way,” he said. “One of the things I’ve learned about Mike over the years is that he’s a straightforward guy. I think that’s what we need here at the City Council.”

Martinez said if elected he would focus on protecting the environment, assisting small businesses, keeping East Austin affordable, and supporting public safety.

“I want to protect our natural resources, protect what’s most important to us. The environment and our quality of life have to be our top priorities,” he said. Martinez also pledged to make small business a priority. “Yes, the Samsungs and Freescales are vital to Austin, but it’s our small businesses that make Austin what it is. We need to support those businesses and not run them out, not push them out with the unprecedented growth that’s already happening.”

Martinez said managing that growth, especially in East Austin, would be an important task facing the Council. “East Austin is one of our last stands as a city,” he said. “It’s the last stand for what makes Austin unique. And we can’t stop that growth, we’re not going to try to—but we’re certainly going to try to preserve what is special about East Austin, and those people who have lived and died here and paid taxes their whole life shouldn’t have to leave because they can’t afford the taxes anymore. The City of Austin should provide a homestead exemption for people who are on fixed incomes so that we can keep them in the city.”

On the subject of public safety, Martinez said he would work to improve the relationship between East Austin and the city’s public safety departments. “We have to trust our public safety groups, but at the same time our public safety groups have to be accountable to this community,” he said. “I want to bridge the gap that’s existing right now and the deep-seated scars that have been laid over the last few years.”

Rodriguez urged the crowd to spread the word about the campaign. “Right now, we need someone who’s not going to be weak hearted, someone who’s going to stand for issues,” he said, “That’s what I love about Mike. I’m proud to be his supporter and be his friend.”

Martinez is facing former State Rep. Hector Uribe and Eliza May of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, on the May ballot.

Angelou outlines data center options

Austin is known as a town that rolls out the red carpet for semiconductor companies, but members of the Council’s Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee are studying whether there are other types of technology firms the city should be making an effort to recruit.

Committee members heard a presentation from a local economist Wednesday, discussing data centers as the next wave of businesses looking for locations and what steps the city might take to lure them here.

Austin economist Angelos Angelou said the data center industry is looking for places to locate the same way semiconductor firms were looking a decade ago. Data centers are large operations where major companies consolidate their data storage and processing to gain an economy of scale in its operations, Angelou said.

“There are both national and international opportunities for the location of data centers,” he said. “Right now, over 100 major companies are looking for cities to locate their data centers.”

Angelou said there are four major types of data centers: internal operations, where all of a company’s accounting, shipping, and other strategic functions are consolidated; internal services, a central location for storage of a company’s application software; security redundancy, where a company’s data operations are located away from the main headquarters for survivability in case of a catastrophe or natural disaster; and co-located or independent centers, operated by smaller companies.

The main factors driving such businesses are cost savings, the ability to refresh technology rapidly; ease of recovery after a disaster; date requirements from government regulations, and increased web usage. Angelou said large data centers can serve such diverse functions as a search engine, financial services, telecom, e-tailing, and web hosting.

“Data centers have a high density technology use with a relatively low number of employees,” he said. “These are highly mechanized buildings which contain between 75,000 to 200,000 square feet of raised floor area, employing only about 50 to 100 people per 100,000 square feet of building.”

Austin is already the location for several data centers, including Oracle database and Home Depot.

Angelou outlined the factors that businesses look for in a city when locating a data center, including the cost and reliability of electrical power; fiber line connectivity and backups; incentives from local governments; risk analysis showing low incidence of natural disaster or threat of terrorism; a skilled labor pool and good timing.

“We believe that there are three or for major companies looking at Austin right now, he said. “Austin and Dallas are the major locations in Texas right now, along with the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, Santa Clara, California, and areas like Denver, Seattle, Boston and Phoenix. The hurricanes last year caused most companies to take cities like Houston, Miami and Orlando off their list.”

Council Member Jennifer Kim suggested that the city look into developing incentives to bring data centers to the area, including the development of data center parks in which the city provides infrastructure for companies looking to set up centers.

Panel says lift covenants for 37th Street project

Planning Commission paves way for medical office, parking garage complex

Members of the Planning Commission on Tuesday agreed to endorse lifting three restrictive covenants on property at 37th Street and West Avenue. Developers have already received an approved site plan for the construction of a new medical office and parking garage at 805 W. 37th St., but need some restrictive covenants dating back to the early 1970’s removed to go ahead with the project.

“This is basically a clean-up to make sure that everything that applies to the property is consistent with the neighborhood plan,” said attorney Michael Whellan, who represented the doctor who plans to open a radiology clinic on the site.

The covenants require the placement of a fence along a line that runs through the middle of the property and also contain stipulations regarding the dedication of park land. But those restrictions no longer made sense, said Whellan, since the site was rezoned during the neighborhood planning process.

“When there’s a restrictive covenant, you bring that with the zoning case and have it done simultaneously. Frankly, there was a mistake made here and it wasn’t done simultaneously. It is truly a clean-up.”

Although the developers have already had their site plan approved and pledged to comply with the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, some nearby residents opposed the project. “My concern is that the removal of these restrictive covenants will open the door to development which will be detrimental to our neighborhood and to the mixed-use philosophy of land development,” said Ann Bower. She told commissioners that the same developers had made certain promises to the neighborhood in 2000 regarding landscaping in exchange for the neighborhood’s support for a parking garage, but that the trees and shrubs had never been planted. “I’m very concerned that this pattern of deception and manipulation is continuing,” she said.

Other neighbors were concerned about the impact another parking garage would have on their property values. “I don’t like to see my home injured,” said William Braystead, who said light from other parking garages in the neighborhood was intrusive. “The lights are not protected…every time I take my dog out for a walk at night, there are those terrible lights shining down on us.”

Whellan and other representatives of the developer pointed out that any lights at the medical office and parking garage planned for the site would have to be shielded in order to meet compatibility standards, which did not apply to other garage neighbors had complained about. He also tried to allay their concerns about the potential height of the building, which under GR zoning could rise to 40 feet.

“We have an approved site plan that has a landscape plan that we have to comply with,” he said. “The site plan is a two-story garage, a one-story medical office, and there’s parking on top of the medical office. It is less than 30 feet in total height.”

Commissioners decided that the site plan would offer sufficient protection for the neighbors. “I’m comfortable that the building as proposed with the approved site plan is not going to be a detriment to the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Cid Galindo. “It will enhance the neighborhood and will be an asset. I think this is the right thing to do.” The vote was 9-0 to remove the restrictions. The City Council will have the final decision on whether to terminate the covenants.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Oops! . . . In Fact Daily reported yesterday that Council Member Brewster McCracken had no campaign treasurer or organization. That is not the case. Actually, McCracken said his first fundraiser, Tuesday night, brought in about $14,000. In addition, attendees got to see former Mayor Bruce Todd, who is recovering from a cycling accident last November. According to McCracken, Todd seemed like “the same old Bruce,” albeit in a wheelchair. McCracken has drawn one little known opponent so far, Kedron Touvell, but plans to raise more than $150,000 for the race. Mark Littlefield is running the campaign; media consultant Dave Shaw is in charge of advertising and Susan Harry is doing the fundraising . . . City Council today . . . Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas will have his first opportunity to run an entire Council meeting by himself. This will be his chance to find out if being Mayor is as rewarding as he thinks it is, at least on Thursdays. Mayor Will Wynn is attending the US Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC . . . Litigation discussion . . . The Council will go into executive session to talk about its contact with Archer Western Contractors, Ltd. for work on the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant expansion. Things are not going well between the city and Archer Western, hence the need to discuss “a legal services agreement with Scott Douglas and McConnico, in connection with project resolution and potential litigation” . . . Polling places for primary . . . County commissioners approved polling places for the March 7 primary on Tuesday. While early voting places remain at the Airport Boulevard building and the downtown Civil Courthouse, some of the regular voting locations have been knocked out because of federal requirements to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. David Chapel, for instance, has been a popular place for city meetings and for voting, but County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said that it could not meet federal compliance standards . . . Airport still looking for land . . . Plans for a Central Texas general aviation airport have stalled. While Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock) says he is still committed to finding a location for a new airport in Central Texas, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division has been unsuccessful in finding a location. Leander, the latest candidate, was struck from the list when adjacent property owners complained about a potential airport . . . Planners defer AISD vote . . . The Planning Commission deferred its consideration of an amendment to the Austin School District Land Development Standards issue until its meeting on February 14. While Environmental Officer Pat Murphy did make a presentation on the issue of AISD meeting impervious cover limits on its three new schools – the plan will require an amendment to the SOS Ordinance – the Planning Commission will wait to see the Environmental Board’s recommendations on February 1 before making its own recommendation. The issue goes to the full City Council on February 16 . . . Candidate dropped from ballot . . . A Republican candidate for Judge of the Williamson County Court at Law No. 4 will be dropped from the May 7 primary ballot because the check he wrote to cover his $1,500 filing fee was returned by the bank. Georgetown attorney Chris Mealy said he wrote the check for the filing fee, and then left the country on a vacation, and was unable to return in time to shift funds and clear up the matter before the filing deadline. The incident leaves incumbent judge John McMaster unopposed in the primary and the general election, unless an independent candidate petitions to get on the ballot. There are no Democrats running for the seat.

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