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Whispers Roundup: The ANC Mega-Forum

Friday, September 19, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Whispers Roundup is a weekly column of items from our reporters’ notebooks.

ANC plans mega-forum next week … The Austin Neighborhoods Council will hold its candidate forum next week. Following the forum, ANC will vote on its endorsements, which will be announced Sept. 29. Those of you with some (or a lot) of time on your hands may want to look through the candidate questionnaire responses, which are posted here. Like everything else in this City Council race, there is a lot to digest, though not all of the candidates have ANC questionnaires. ANC President Mary Ingle explained to the Monitor that only the candidates who filled out the questionnaires thoroughly were invited to the forum. Those 38 candidates whose questionnaires have been posted are: (Mayor) Steve Adler, Sheryl Cole, Mike Martinez, David Orshalick; (District 1) Andrew Bucknall, Ora Houston, DeWayne Lofton; (District 2) Delia Garza; (District 3) Kent Phillips, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Mario Cantu, Christopher Hoerster, Shaun Ireland, Fred McGhee, Eric Rangel; (District 4) Gregorio Casar, Laura Pressley; (District 5) Dan Buda, Dave Floyd, Ann Kitchen, Mike Rodriguez; (District 6) Jimmy Flannigan, Matt Stillwell; (District 7) Jeb Boyt, Leslie Pool, Pete Salazar, Melissa Zone; (District 8) Eliza May, Ed Scruggs; (District 9) Chris Riley, Kathie Tovo; (District 10) Tina Cannon, Mandy Dealey, Sheri Gallo, Jason Meeker, Bill Worsham. Ingle said she had worked out a strict schedule for the forum, which will host all of the candidates in one night. We will be there, so we will let you know how it goes. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Austin Energy Building, 721 Barton Springs Road …

Not their usual shade of green … This week’s Environmental Board meeting was host to a sea of neon-green shirts Wednesday night, when neighbors opposed to the “Lightsey 2” development filled the room, even though the item was not on the agenda. The development, planned for 1805 Lightsey Road, will be at the Planning Commission next week. Developers PSW Homes are seeking approval of their preliminary plan. Staff is recommending approval of the plan, but judging from the dozens in neon, developers are facing some serious, organized pushback. Primary among neighborhood concerns is the proposal to build a through street, which critics say is dangerous for children and pedestrians, and that the risk of flooding would not be properly mitigated by proposed water retention plans. Neighbors are also worried about the removal of trees on the land, which we wrote about earlier this month. Though the board asked for a presentation on the development at its last meeting, one has yet to materialize. Chair Mary Gay Maxwell stressed the fact that the board wanted to discuss the case. “We want somebody to be at our next meeting to talk about this development,” said Maxwell. “If it gets referred to us by the Planning Commission, then we’ll deal with that, too. If it happens to be the same meeting, then all the better. It can be a big circus.” …

Don’t mess with our trees … Trees were also the focus of another PSW project in South Austin that was under fire at the Environmental Board meeting. It, too, was not on the agenda. During citizens communication, Melanie McNearney spoke on behalf of herself and other neighbors about what she said were “growing concerns” about the development at 900 South First St. McNearney said the development’s proposal to remove trees was a threat to some of the neighborhood’s last green space. She expressed concern that developing the land would cause drainage and runoff issues and threaten wildlife. “We are aware that development is happening all over Austin, sometimes to the detriment of our beautiful green spaces and the environment, along with the wildlife that inhabits it. It is these types of rare pockets that makes Austin so very special and, in turn, will attract others to our city,” said McNearney. Maxwell asked for a staff briefing on the South First development as well.

Morrison endorses a slate of candidates … Council Member Laura Morrison, who will leave Council at the end of her term in January, is trying to help candidates who agree with her values. In particular, Morrison has endorsed District 4 candidate Greg Casar, who is in a tight race with Katrina Daniel and Laura Pressley. Morrison and former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro are co-hosting a fundraising party for Casar on Sept. 30 at Chago’s Caribbean Cuisine, 7301 N. Lamar. Morrison said, “As a Council member, Greg Casar will fight for everyday Austinites, their families and their neighborhoods, no matter who they are, and where they come from. Greg shares my values and has demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of what it takes to be effective at City Hall.” Morrison is also supporting her friend and colleague Kathie Tovo for District 9, Ora Houston for District 1, Ann Kitchen for District 5, Leslie Pool for District 7 and Mandy Dealey for District 10. None of her Council colleagues have announced support for specific candidates …

You can’t keep all of them happy … Anyone who spends time at the Zoning and Platting Commission is aware that Chair Betty Baker is never shy about speaking her mind. That was certainly the case this week when she seemed upset that no one showed up to speak at a public hearing on the CodeNEXT rewrite of the Land Development Code. She asked Matt Dugan of the Planning and Review Department if the CodeNEXT item had been properly posted. (It appears to have been properly posted.) The question caught Dugan by surprise, and he did not have an immediate answer, prompting Baker to say people were not likely to react well if the commission approved the report without their input. “Well, there’s one thing that people do not like,” she said. “They don’t like us. And the second thing is, they don’t trust us.” That drew a chuckle from the crowd, and the commission went ahead and approved the report …

Whispers Roundup was compiled from reports by Austin Monitor reporters Elizabeth Pagano, Jo Clifton and Tyler Whitson.

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