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‘Polite’ Place 4 Council campaign goes negative

Friday, June 6, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Gone are the days of the positive and polite May election. With early voting in full swing for the June 14 runoff election, Place 4 candidates Laura Morrison and Cid Galindo are busy painting negative pictures of one another.


Morrison continued her mail effort against Galindo this week with a piece that says, “Real estate developer Cid Galindo has a conflict of interest” because of his ownership in condominiums in East Austin as well as a development in Pflugerville.


The piece notes that while Galindo sat on the Planning Commission, he and others formed two real estate partnerships “to build high-priced condos (some over $500,000) in the heart of a low income East Austin neighborhood.


Galindo’s political consultant, Jeff Crosby, responded, “If Cid’s in a conflict because he owns a house in East Austin, then she’s (Laura) in a conflict because she owns a house in West Austin. Anybody with a lick of sense knows that the mere ownership of a home somewhere does not automatically create a conflict of interest. Otherwise, nobody would be able to serve on the City Council.”


Morrison is also criticizing Galindo “and his Las Vegas associates” for promotion of a Pflugerville development while he promotes town centers in the northeast part of town. Galindo has pointed out that locating town centers along the east side could help prevent further sprawl over the Edwards Aquifer.


Some voters Thursday also received automated phone calls from someone who identified herself as “Lauren with the Small Business Group.” That caller repeats charges made by the Galindo campaign that the city is considering a proposal to prevent sale of homes until energy efficiency upgrades are made. The caller says “Morrison has flip-flopped on the point of sale ordinance and is attempting to confuse homeowners by denying its existence.”


Mayor Will Wynn – who sponsored a resolution setting up a task force on such upgrades — has criticized the Austin Board of Realtors for trying to deceive homeowners about what is on the table.


Observers say the panel is discussing a wide range of options to improve the efficiency of Austin’s homes, but is far from making any concrete proposals to the Council.


The Mayor is absolutely adamant in rejecting the claim that the task force or the city is considering a policy that would require homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades or pass some kind of inspection before they would be allowed to sell their homes.
Wynn said, “That is 100 percent, absolutely and indisputably, not the case.  It has never been the case.  The only time that idea was ever discussed was in a task force conversation where it was explicitly ruled out as an option.  Any group or individual who makes claims to the contrary is either misinformed or deliberately attempting to mislead people.”

On Wednesday, the Small Business Political Action Committee filed a special report with the City Clerk’s Office indicating that the PAC spent nearly $6,500 with E Communication Advantage for “voter identification” in support of Galindo’s candidacy.


When In Fact Daily contacted E Communication Advantage’s CEO, Richard Trachtenberg, he declined to comment on whether the firm was currently working for any political candidate or PAC.


According to Texas Weekly, Trachtenberg was one of “a group of Republican politicos” who started the “phone room” company back in 2000. One of the company’s investors was identified as Norman Newton, former head of Associated Republicans of Texas.


Correction: Although Texas Weekly described Trachtenberg and his partners as

“Republican politicos,” Trachtenberg says that statement is “wildly inaccurate.” Although he will not discuss his business or political clients, Trachtenberg denies that he is a Republican and says since moving to Austin in 1983 he has never voted in a Republican primary and has voted in almost all the Democratic primaries. Former Council Member Daryl Slusher characterized Trachtenberg as a “maverick” or independent.


The Small Business PAC reported to the City Clerk’s Office in mid-May that it had changed treasurers, with downtown club owner Paul Silver stepping down and Roger Chan taking his spot. In 2006, the PAC supported Mayor Will Wynn, Council Members Brewster McCracken and Mike Martinez and losing candidate Darrell Pierce.

Galindo’s consultant said the campaign has no information on what the PAC may be doing to promote his candidacy.

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