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Reporters Notebook: Campaign cash still flowing

Friday, November 7, 2014 by Austin Monitor

Adler raises $100K the first day after the election … The election judges hadn’t even caught up on their sleep yet Thursday when mayoral candidate Steve Adler began indulging in a little financial chest-thumping. Adler’s campaign announced that he raised $100,000 from 400 donors during the first day of the runoff election campaign. According to Adler’s campaign manager, Jim Wick, those figures set a record for the first day of a runoff. Adler received about 37 percent of the vote and Council Member Mike Martinez about 30 percent in Tuesday’s election. The Martinez campaign declined to provide information about how much money they had raised. However, Bo Delp, the campaign’s spokesman, released the following statement Thursday night: “We’re raising what we need to win this runoff, and we’ll release our fundraising figures on the 8-day report.” Meanwhile, the Martinez campaign’s Facebook page announced that Martinez had raised $10,000 on the day after the election. The Adler campaign also reiterated that they would not take any money from PACs. The so-called 8-day report is due at the Austin City Clerk’s Office on Dec. 8, eight days before the Dec. 16 runoff election. City Election Clerk Ann Franklin said the City Council would canvass the election on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. After that, there will be a drawing to determine ballot order in each of the nine runoff elections. Early voting begins on Dec. 1. Any candidate who made it into the runoff but decides not to participate must notify the City Clerk’s Office by 5 p.m. today in order to withdraw, Franklin said.

Travis County won’t challenge commercial appraisals … It’s not every day that you hear a politician say she wants to keep politics out of something, but that was Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gómez’s intent Tuesday. Gómez led a 3-2 majority in voting down a proposal for the county to hire an expert to evaluate the appraisals of commercial properties in Austin for the purpose of challenging them. Several residents have complained that commercial properties are often undervalued, placing the tax burden disproportionately on homeowners, and have asked commissioners to challenge the appraisals in hopes of making them more fair. But Gómez is on the record saying that the Texas Legislature set up appraisal districts to be separate from county commissions to keep elected officials out of the process. The only control Travis County Commissioners have is over whom they appoint to the Travis Central Appraisal District board. All property owners have the right to challenge their appraisals. But although commercial property owners can usually afford an attorney and an outside appraisal to make their case, that step is usually too expensive for most homeowners. Commissioners Ron Davis and Gerald Daugherty joined Gómez on Tuesday in voting the idea down for now. The City of Austin is also considering studying commercial appraisals, but has yet to take any action.

But golf courses are where most of the lobbying takes place … Though they didn’t take up the issue directly, Council members did discuss the proposed golf courses at Decker Lake on Thursday. Council voted unanimously to waive the requirements that would normally prohibit members from talking with officials from Decker Lake Golf Course, LLC. “It’s not about allowing anyone to come lobby the Council, it’s about trying to create that transparency and have full conversations about what is going to take place on that site,” said Council Member Mike Martinez, who pointed out that the land wasn’t currently “pristine parkland.” In fact, he said it wasn’t even currently accessible to the public. He explained that lifting the no-contact provision would allow Council members to ask questions about the proposal and give answers to the community before any final decision is made. For those who are curious about the plan — and from the public testimony in the past, there seems to be many — a draft of the negotiated agreement will be posted online today.

Leffingwell doesn’t like “No Wake” on the lake … A resolution calling for the first step toward establishing a “Slow, No Wake” zone within 50 feet of the Lake Austin shoreline proved worrisome to Mayor Lee Leffingwell on Thursday. He questioned whether the petition to the state for a required waiver on the basis of health and safety could be “changing the reason from an illegal reason to a legal reason to just get it done.” He said that, originally, the change was suggested to prevent shoreline erosion. “Going beyond that, I am concerned that it’s not good policy, and that it will have a very adverse effect on property owners.” Leffingwell pointed out that Lake Austin was a long, skinny lake that may not be 100 feet wide in some places. “At the Mansfield Dam, that would basically close the entire lake to anything more than a canoe, which might even generate a wake,” said Leffingwell. He said it would be a major change for a lake that was constructed to be recreational. Council Member Kathie Tovo, who sponsored the resolution, confirmed that it was a consensus recommendation of the Lake Austin Task Force, and came out of a concern for public safety. “I think it’s prudent to move forward with this,” said Tovo, who said the goal could be met by “strategic” placement of buoys and wouldn’t necessarily apply to the entire lake. If it gets the waiver from the state, Council will have to establish a no-wake zone separately. Council members approved the item on a 5-1 vote, with Leffingwell in opposition and Council Member Bill Spelman absent. Leffingwell said that he would be in favor of more limited no-wake zones, but not the proposed change for the entire lake.

(Reporter’s Notebook was compiled from contributions by Jo Clifton, Elizabeth Pagano and Mark Richardson.)

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