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Meeker to announce run for Place 1 on Council

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 by Austin Monitor

After spending more than a year fighting city hall as the spokesman for Responsible Growth for Northcross, Jason Meeker today will take his activism to the next level by officially launching his bid for Place 1 on the Austin City Council. Meeker will make his announcement at 11:30am in the parking lot of Zinger Hardware on West Anderson Lane, just across the street from Northcross Mall.


It was anger over the city’s approval for the site plan to redevelop that mall with a new Wal-Mart that brought Meeker into local politics. “Working with Responsible Growth for Northcross, I realized that the city has a problem,” he told In Fact Daily. “It seems like City Hall is run by insiders, and there is not enough of a presence on the City Council for hard-working people like myself…who need their own insider, whenever something happens to their neighborhood or their small business, to help them.”


Meeker is still active with RG4N, which is considering its legal options after losing a lawsuit against the City over its approval of the plans for the proposed new Wal Mart store. If he is elected to the Council, Meeker predicts he may have the opportunity to deal with the Northcross issue head-on. “The Northcross battle, if it’s still going on, is something that this Council or the future Council will definitely have to look at. That problem is not going away anytime soon for that particular location…and I’m pretty confident that there will be more building around that area and throughout Austin that will be more controversial,” he said.


Although the issue will be prominent in his campaign, he said Wal-Mart was not the only reason he decided to run for Council. “While my baptism by fire in politics dealt with the Wal-Mart at Northcross, looking ahead, we can see that those kinds of things will probably be happening in neighborhoods all over Austin,” he said. “For that reason, people need someone at City Hall they can talk to who can relate to their problems. I don’t think they have that right now.”


With three seats up for election on the Council this May, Meeker said he chose to run in Place 1 because he was especially dissatisfied with incumbent Council Member Lee Leffingwell’s actions during the past year, not only on the Northcross issue but on other issues as well. “I was particularly stung by his inability to lead or support the neighborhood when it came to the Wal-Mart at Northcross. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to even vote for the big box ordinance,” Meeker said. “And then the Las Manitas battle was another thing that was indicative… here was a bailout to a small business that was loved by the city of Austin, but that amount of money? Then he voted against it when it became politically hot. I can’t figure out what Lee fights for. I don’t know what he stands for.”


Leffingwell, along with Council Member Sheryl Cole, voted against offering a forgivable loan to the owners of Las Manitas (See In Fact Daily, June 8, 2007). A majority of the council approved that offer, which the Perez sisters eventually rejected because of conditions they deemed unfavorable.


Meeker plans to explain his position on several other issues as the campaign progresses, including one involving Austin Energy. The city-owned utility is working on a plan to solicit public input on which types of power the utility should use to generate electricity (See In Fact Daily, Dec. 14, 2007). Nuclear power, Meeker told In Fact Daily, should not be one of the options considered.


Lee Leffingwell…came out a few months ago, I think it was in September in the Statesman, in favor of nuclear power. I’m against that,” Meeker said. “I think it’s guaranteed to be another financial boondoggle for our city. The potential environmental factors are still there. That’s just shocking to be for nuclear power. In a city like Austin, I doubt that will hold up real well.”


A check of the archives of the Austin American-Statesman shows that Leffingwell, known for his work on the city’s Environmental Board before being elected to Place 1, actually did not endorse nuclear power. The daily newspaper wrote an editorial on the city’s possible involvement in the expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Project (STP), which is jointly owned by NRG, the City of Austin, and San Antonio’s City Public Service.


NRG sent a letter to the City of Austin asking it to participate in construction of two new generating units, which would double the capacity of STP. The city has been asked by NRG to respond by March 4. Leffingwell was quoted in the editorial as saying the request from NRG deserved “serious consideration”.


Referring to Meeker’s statement that he supported nuclear power, Leffingwell said, “That’s a bald-face lie. I think that’s irresponsible of him to make that kind of a charge without anything to back it up.” Leffingwell told In Fact Daily he does not intend to support city involvement in expansion of the plant when it comes up for a Council vote later this month.

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