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Wynn urges Postal Service to convert to plug-in hybrids

Friday, May 5, 2006 by

After securing the support of more than 20 cities and 130 electric utilities, organizers of Austin’s Plug-in Hybrid Partners Campaign are turning their attention to the federal government. Austin Mayor Will Wynn on Thursday called upon the U.S. Postal Service to begin transitioning its fleet to plug-ins to help send a signal to automakers that the marketplace would support mass-producing the fuel-efficient vehicles.

“Congress is drafting new measures almost daily to try to speed up efforts to address the energy crisis the country is facing,” Mayor Wynn said. “Plug-in hybrid technology is available right now. It represents a realistic near-term solution to our energy problems, so let’s use this technology. The Plug-in Hybrid Partners Campaign is calling on Congress to provide incentives to begin the integration of plug-in hybrids into the transportation mix.”

Wynn made the announcement at the Austin Convention Center during the World Congress on Information Technology, which is receiving international media attention. He estimated that the U.S. Postal Service could save $100 million dollars per year in fuel costs by using plug-in hybrids compared to its current fleet which relies on gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, and the ethanol-gasoline mix E85.

“We’re suggesting that Congress facilitate the transition of the U.S. Postal fleet of almost 200,000 vehicles to these plug-in hybrids,” Wynn said. “Such a conversion would immediately open the door for much wider application to other delivery fleets, providing the economic stimulus for the mass production of plug-in hybrid vehicles.”

Thursday’s announcement signals a shift in the focus of the Plug-in Hybrid Partners Campaign, which so far has been recruiting support and fleet commitments from government agencies and electric utilities.

“We’re very enthusiastic about the new partners we’ve brought on board,” said Austin Energy Deputy General Manager Roger Duncan. “In the near future we will start to focus particularly on the large business and corporate fleets, particularly delivery vans. We think these are prime examples of the types of vehicles for which the plug-in hybrid would be well-suited.”

Complaints filed against CWCG PAC

Proposition 1 & 2 advocates charged with campaign finance law violations

Two complaints are in the works against the Clean Water Clean Government PAC, alleging violations of the state’s campaign finance law from the most basic—and perhaps critical—to the smallest. Attorney Jim Cousar said early Friday that Greg Hartman, treasurer of the Committee for Austin¹s Future, would be filing the complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission today. An earlier report on this page incorrectly stated that the complaint had been filed Thursday.

CAF was formed specifically to oppose the Clean Water and Open Government amendments.

Libertarian activist Arthur DiBianca has filed separate complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission against the group campaigning for passage of Propositions 1 and 2.

Clean campaign spokesman Glen Maxey, responded to the complaints via email, writing, “All expenditures and contributions, both in-kind and monetary, have been fully reported to the public by the Clean Water Clean Government PAC. The name, address and treasurer of Clean Water Clean Government PAC have appeared on all materials produced and distributed by this campaign.

“It has long been a campaign tactic to file complaints at the Texas Ethics Commission during the last weeks of a political campaign. We will await word from the Ethics Commission about these issues and respond accordingly at the appropriate time.”

Carl Richie, an attorney with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, drafted the complaint for CAF, with the assistance of Cousar. CAF is also complaining about contributions and political expenditures by the Save Our Springs Alliance, Inc, which sponsored the petitions to put the matter before voters. DiBianca filed complaints in March against SOS for allegedly making campaign expenditures without reporting them.

Cousar, a campaign finance specialist was the principal author of the City of Austin’s Ethics Ordinance. He is the attorney for the Committee for Austin¹s Future.

CAF’s complaint contains seven separate allegations, some of which are made alternatively. He first alleges that SOS made more than $33,000 in political expenditures during late 2005 in order to collect signatures for Propositions 1 and 2—which information was revealed in the statement signed by SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch on April 13, 2006. The complaint says SOS should have appointed a campaign treasurer at the time and that the contributions and expenditures should have been itemized. Then, CAF writes, SOS should have filed a report on Dec. 31, 2005 or Jan. 15, 2006, detailing both the who gave money and who was paid from the organization.

The same is true for money—more than $40,000—SOS spent in 2006 prior to formation of the CWCG PAC, says CAF.

Richie issued the following statement: “During my tenure as Interim Director of the Texas Ethics Commission under Texas Governor Ann W. Richards and in my subsequent years of practicing before the Commission, I have never witnessed a group or an individual who has blatantly violated Texas campaign finance and ethics laws as the proponents of Propositions 1 and 2,”

CAF is also complaining about CWCG PAC’s failure to use the words “political advertising” in signs and failure to list the name of the group’s treasurer. DiBianca complained directly to the PAC earlier this week, resulting in a change to its web site but Maxey indicated that the only signs already in place would not change. The magic words are also missing from mailers sent to voters and in print advertising in local media.

Ted Siff, treasurer of EDUCATE PAC, said, "Throughout this whole process the so-called clean water and open government proponents have failed to follow the very principles they like to invoke. A small group wrote this in secret and then spent nearly $75,000 on petitioners and consultants without reporting it. It's like they believe the rules in place don't apply to them while at the same time they want to impose new Draconian rules on every one else."

Kathy Mitchell, treasurer for CWCG PAC told the Statesman earlier that she believes the PAC had followed all reporting requirements

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

New Planning Commissioner. . . Council Member Raul Alvarez has appointed Perla Cavazos, who works for Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. to the Planning Commission. Cavazos, who has a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, is employed as a policy analyst for Lucio. She may have to recuse herself on occasions when Minter Joseph & Thornhill has cases before the commission since her boss’ son, Eddie Lucio III, works for the firm. Other Board and Commission members named by the Council on Thursday included Dorothy Richter, Hans Herman and Laurie Virktis, all reappointed as alternates on the Board of Adjustment, and Art Barraza appointed to the Airport Advisory Commission . . . McMansion regs extended. . . The Council on Thursday approved extending the interim development regulations for single-family homes passed during the “McMansion” debate until June 23. “This is something that’s been unanimously supported by the task force doing the interim residential standards and the final ordinance, and also supported by the homebuilders association,” said Council Member McCracken. “My understanding is they are very close to a consensus final proposal for the Council.” . . . Holly Plant closing . . . The Council also passed a resolution to close the Holly Power Plant at the end of September of 2007. That’s about 90 days sooner than the deadline set by the Council’s previous resolution. The move surprised some employees of Austin Energy, including Mike Pope, who works at the Holly Power Plant. “We have a lot of concerns as to how that will affect the employees’ plans, because they had planned originally for 2009…then it was changed to December 2007. People made commitments to stay at the power plant and make sure it was operational and safe.” Deputy City Manager Joe Canales assured Pope the accelerated closure would not mean the loss of any jobs. “There are no plans anticipated to have reductions in force associated with the earlier closure,” he said. “There are no plans to lay off employees.” Workers who want to be reassigned to other facilities will be able to receive training for new jobs . . . TV stations raking in the bucks . . . TV ads are also running for Place 2 candidate Mike Martinez, as well as Place 6 candidates Darrell Pierce and Sheryl Cole. Mayor Will Wynn is the only candidate in his race with the funds to mount a TV campaign. Tape the local news from various stations and you can catch several ads in a short time, if you’re a true political junkie . . . Time-Warner is urging viewers to contact the Texas Legislature in support of property tax cuts. The ad, which says homeowners can save $800 per year as a result of pending legislation, comes amid a new flurry of political advertising for the May 13 election. The tagline says, “Legislative advertising paid for by Time-Warner Cable.” Hmmm, could it be some other part of the legislative agenda, such as lower taxes for some corporations, that really interests Time-Warner, rather than the prospect of lower property taxes for homeowners? . . . Robocalls . . . Former Executive Director of the Travis County Democratic Party Elliott McFadden has taped a message urging voters to support DeWayne Lofton f or Austin City Council Place 6. McFadden, a consultant with his own firm, does not reveal in the call whether he is being paid for making it . . . Long Center inside preview . . . . The Long Center’s new website, at http://www.thelongcenter.org, provides a webcam look at project construction and up-to-date information on the performing arts venue. The website also includes a tour of the proposed project, including The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation Hall, the Debra and Kevin Rollins Studio Theater and the overall master plan for the project . . . Early voting . . . Early votes for the May 13 Joint General and Special Elections continue to pile up, with almost 1.5 percent of Travis County’s 545,797 registered voters casting ballots as of Thursday. Travis County is holding the election for the City of Austin, as well as West Lake Hills, Rollingwood, Lago Vista, Pflugerville and Leander. Early voting continues through May 9. Go to http://www.co.travis.tx.us/elections/ for locations . . . Take a hike . . . Looking for a little exercise and education this weekend? The Austin Water Utility is sponsors guided hikes on the city’s Water Quality Protection Lands on the first Saturday of every month in southwest Austin. Enjoy a gentle 1/2-mile interpretive hike that uniquely blends the human history and natural resources of this property in telling the story of why these lands are protected and how they are managed today. To register, please call 263-6433 or send an email to nancy.didonato@ci.austin.tx.us with your name, daytime and evening phone number, email address and number of people in your group. The hike starts at 9am . . . Trade-in weekend . . . It’s time for the annual Central Texas Electric Lawn Mower Program’s trade-in weekend. Anyone who buys an electric mower at the Home Depot at 3600 S. IH-35 on Saturday can get a discount if they trade in their gas-powered mower..

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