Whispers

Monday, October 13, 2014 by Alex Dropkin

BSEACD extends permit for ‘wake park’

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District unanimously approved an extension Thursday on a well drilling permit for an artificial lake at an amusement park. The board had previously issued a 2 million gallon permit for Quest ATX, a recreation park that offers cable wake boarding and other activities. However, the park’s operators say that the 2013 Halloween floods filled the lake with polluted floodwaters and it needs to be refilled with fresh water. The permit extension is for one year. The park is located on FM 1625, south of Austin Bergstrom International Airport.


Friday, October 10, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Animal shelter waives adoption fees

An influx of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens to the already overburdened Austin Animal Center this week has prompted officials to waive adoption fees for all animals through Sunday. Officials report that on Oct. 7 alone, more than 50 animals entered the shelter system. Due to the high number of intakes, the center is confronting a capacity crisis with a deficit of approximately 85 kennels for large- and medium-size dogs.  Center officials remind pet owners who have lost a pet recently to immediately check the Austin Animal Center. The center will also be waiving reclaim fees for all altered pets returned to their owners through Oct. 12. The Austin Animal Center, 7201 Levander Loop, is open daily from 11 a.m.  to 7 p.m. The adoption special also applies to all pets at the overflow kennels at Town Lake Animal Center, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St.


Friday, October 10, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Hays to develop Road Character Plan

Hays County officials are planning a meeting to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150, from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs. County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant will host the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about the cross-county road as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Improvements are expected to be phased in over 10 to 20 years. The meeting is set for Oct. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Thurman’s Mansion, 17900 FM 1826 in Driftwood. The presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. Go online for more information on the Roadway Character Plan, or contact Concept Development & Planning at 512-533-9100.


Friday, October 10, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Arbor Day ceremonies set Oct. 18

If you have ever wanted to be a tree hugger, your chance is coming up. The city, TreeFolks and more than 70 volunteers will be planting 80 native trees and mulching existing trees at Boggy Creek Greenbelt in honor of Arbor Day 2014.  The event will celebrate Arbor Day and the City of Austin’s 23rd year as a Tree City USA community. There will be activities, live music, an Arbor Day proclamation and lots of family fun, including tree planting, tree ID tours, and seed ball making. The event is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Boggy Creek Greenbelt, 2300 Rosewood Ave. The ceremony is set for 11 a.m. Check online for more information about Austin’s Urban Forestry Program or TreeFolks.

 

 


Thursday, October 9, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Central Health considers new leases

The Central Health Board of Managers met Wednesday evening in closed session with their lawyers to discuss the two final major lease agreements for the new Seton Medical Center teaching hospital. The hospital will be replacing the Central Health-owned University Medical Center-Brackenridge, which is currently operated by Seton. Central Health will continue to lease the hospital’s land from the University of Texas and will then sublease the grounds to Seton to build and operate the facility. Under the agreements, Seton will pay monthly rent starting at $72,000 directly to the university, although Central Health as intermediary between the two will also be responsible if Seton defaults on rent, or any other part of the agreements. The board will vote on the two agreements at its regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 15. Both the University of Texas and Seton have already approved the agreements. Groundbreaking on the new facility will take place after the leases are approved.

 


Thursday, October 9, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Another look at cash in District 4

A couple of days ago when we wrote about the many candidates running for mayor and the 10 districts, we tried to include all those who had raised significant cash or had garnered enough endorsements to be called credible candidates. We failed to mention Marco Mancillas, one of eight candidates running for District 4. Mancillas has raised more money than some of those who have gotten more attention and endorsements. Mancillas reported this week that he had raised nearly $34,000 and spent only about $7,000. Mancillas, the former executive director of the Hispanic Physicians Association, lists more than 45 doctors as contributing to his campaign. Three other candidates in the race have garnered more attention. Greg Casar of Workers Defense received several labor endorsements, as well as endorsements from Democratic clubs and environmental groups. He has also collected the most money and has almost $44,000 in the bank. Katrina Daniel has the backing of numerous business leaders and won the endorsement of the Austin Police Association PAC as well as the Homebuilders PAC. Laura Pressley, who can count on support from the slice of District 4 that supported Ron Paul for president, also won an endorsement from the Austin Neighborhoods Council. She reported having $27,000 in the bank after spending nearly $36,000.

 


Thursday, October 9, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Panel: Put Events Ordinance ‘on hold’

What was initially proposed in 2012 as a plan to simplify and streamline the process for planning special events has come back to the Austin Music Commission in a form commissioners say they never quite intended. Instead of recommending the Special Events Ordinance, the commission passed a resolution this week asking City Council members to “hit the hold button” and have city staff address several problems brought up by stakeholders before going forward. Bobby Garza with Transmission Events, who is a also former Council aide, told the commission that the original impetus for the ordinance came from members of the music community, who were frustrated with the complexity of the permit process. However, he added that what has come out of the process is not what they had in mind. “The ordinance, as I understand it right now — having read it in several iterations — feels like a lot of bureaucracy and much less consolidation than I think is warranted.” The Music Commission is the 28-page ordinance’s last stop among several boards and commissions before it goes before Council on Oct. 16. Council members approved the ordinance in 2013 on first reading, but agreed that it needed work before second and third reading. With pushback from the Music Commission and several other boards, passage of the ordinance could be delayed again, possibly long enough to be on the agenda of the new Council when it is seated in January.

 


Thursday, October 9, 2014 by Mark Richardson

City opens Section 8 waiting list

The city’s Housing Authority will open its Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher waiting list this year for the first time since 2006. Applicants can apply online at any time between Oct. 22 and 29 using any Internet device. To provide applicants with equal access to the process, the Housing Authority has partnered with a number of groups, businesses and community organizations across the Austin area to provide Internet access. Those who apply during the eight-day period are entered into a random lottery for an equal chance at one of the 2,500 available spots on the waiting list. Organizers say they expect the number of applicants to be between 20,000 and 40,000. The pre-application process will be available online only at austin.apply4housing.com.  For more information, call 888-262-3949.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by Mark Richardson

SXSW Eco honors Martinez, Riley

SXSW Eco presented Austin City Council Members Chris Riley and Mike Martinez SXSW Eco Awards on Tuesday night for their “leadership on making Austin a national clean energy leader.” The SXSW Eco Awards Presented by PBS honors ingenuity in cleantech, social innovation, public interest design and storytelling. In August, Council passed an affordable energy resolution sponsored by Martinez and Riley. The resolution outlined a plan to expand solar power, including provisions to expand accessibility to local solar programs for low-income communities and to replace the aging Decker gas-fired power plant by 2017. Now in its fourth year, SXSW Eco attracts a global community to “explore, engage and co-create solutions for a sustainable world.”

 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by Tyler Whitson

ZAP delays Ace Auto Salvage rezone

The Zoning and Platting Commission voted Tuesday to postpone a rezoning request for property that is currently home to ACE Discount Glass and ACE Auto Salvage, pending a potential Transfer of Development Rights between the applicant and the city on an environmentally sensitive tract of land. If approved, the agreement would likely influence the commission’s decision on whether to rezone that tract to Community Recreation. According to Sherri Sirwaitis of Planning and Development Review, staff was not finished with the TDR review process. She added that Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak, who was not present, expressed interest in a postponement until the review was completed. “The city has made an offer and I’ve accepted it,” applicant Roy Cavanaugh told commissioners. He added that he’s simply waiting for staff and the legal department to approve the agreement. The ZAP will revisit the item on Nov. 4.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Riley releases campaign platform

District 9 City Council candidate Chris Riley released a platform for re-election Tuesday, highlighting contrasts between him and his opponents in the race for the new 10-1 Council. Riley’s platform emphasizes more ways for people to live, work, play and get around Austin.  “We need to provide more options for the many people who want to live closer in, live smaller and drive less,” said Riley. “Doing a better job of meeting that demand will not only promote affordability, it will also raise the quality of life in Austin, ease congestion and limit our environmental footprint.” He said his 10-point platform includes specifics on how he plans to advance his vision of Austin “as the most progressive city in America.” Riley’s platform can be found at his campaign website.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by Tyler Whitson

ZAP elects slate of officers, goes home

The Zoning and Platting Commission elected officers Tuesday night. Starting next year, Commissioner Rahm McDaniel will be known as Assistant Secretary of ZAP. The commission also  re-elected Chair Betty Baker, Parliamentarian Gabriel Rojas, Secretary Cynthia Banks and Vice Chair Patricia Seeger. Banks made the nomination at Tuesday’s meeting, Rojas seconded and the vote was unanimous. McDaniel was not inclined to make a speech regarding his new position, though he did appear flattered. Baker followed the discussion by asking if the commissioners would like to go home. They agreed and did.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Let’s Go Austin PAC raises $486,000

The “Let’s Go Austin” political action committee that is campaigning for Proposition 1, the city’s November road and rail bond package, reports that it has raised $485,876 during the most recent reporting period. That brings the overall fundraising total to $559,121, according to PAC officials. LGA’s total current cash-on-hand — funds left to spend before Election Day — is $290,724. Greg Hartman, LGA’s treasurer, said the campaign has exceeded its initial fundraising goal of $500,000 and will continue to raise funds over the final month of the election. The November bond proposal totals $1 billion, with $400 million dedicated to road projects and $600 million dedicated to the first phase of the rail system.

 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

More pay urged at city’s 911 call center

Austin Police Commander Julie O’Brien told Public Safety Commissioners on Monday that the city should consider raising the pay for 911 call takers and dispatchers. O’Brien said the starting pay for the positions, around $15 per hour for a call taker and $16 per hour for a dispatcher, is not adequate given the responsibilities and stresses of the job. “Compared to the work they do, (the pay) is not much,” she said. In addition to the relatively low pay, O’Brien said new call takers and dispatchers must complete a drug test, psychological exam and medical screening. Her comments on the pay were part of larger report she gave commissioners on the 911 call center’s staffing needs.

 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Voter ID cards available on weekends

All voters in Texas must now present a photo ID in order cast a ballot on Nov. 4. For those who do not have a driver’s license or other form of approved ID, the Texas Department of Public Safety is issuing an Election Identification Certificate, a free photo ID that can only be used for voting. The DPS will keep several driver’s license offices operating on Saturdays before the election to issue the certificates. In Travis County, four area offices will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 11 through Nov. 8: the North Lamar office, 6121 North Lamar Blvd.; the Northwest office, 13730 Research Blvd.; the South office, 6425 Interstate 35 South, No. 180; and the Pflugerville Mega Center, 216 E. Wells Branch Parkway, Pflugerville. Those who do not have an approved form of ID with a photo (a Texas driver’s license, state-issued personal identification card, Texas concealed handgun license, U.S. passport or military identification, U.S. Citizenship Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization) can go to the DPS and receive the Election Identification Certificate. More information is available on the DPS website.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

APD seeking to recruit more women

The Austin Police Department is looking for more women to join its ranks. To encourage more female applicants, APD is hosting a Women in Law Enforcement recruiting event Oct. 18. Topics include application and training requirements, balancing home and work life, and career paths and promotion opportunities. APD recruiting staff will be on hand to speak with interested applicants. Speakers will include APD Assistant Chief Jessica Robledo, who is also serving as event emcee. Robledo started with APD in 1988 and rose through the ranks to her current role, in which she oversees the Special Operations Units. The recruiting event is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 18 at Cornerstone Church, 1101 Reinli. For more information, visit apdrecruiting.org, email APDRecruiting@austintexas.gov or call 512-974-4211.


Monday, October 6, 2014 by Mark Richardson

District 9 Ballot Boxing Forum tonight

The Monitor and our partners at KUT, KXAN, the Austin Chronicle and Univision continue our Ballot Boxing series of in-district Austin City Council candidate forums this week. Tonight, we will hear from the candidates from District 9 at 7 p.m. at KUT’s Studio 1a at 300 W Dean Keeton St.    Also, we will host the District 10 candidates at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lower Colorado River Authority headquarters at 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. The final event in the series will be the Mayors Forum on Oct. 15. A video of each forum will be posted on the Monitor site soon after the event. Click here to find more information.


Monday, October 6, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Adler, others loan campaigns money

All 78 candidates for the Austin City Council are required to turn in their most recent contribution and expenditure reports today. While certainly not definitive in winning an election, money does still make a difference. Exactly how much difference will not be clear until after the November election and possibly, the Dec. 16 runoff. Last week, mayoral candidate Steve Adler revealed that he loaned his campaign $102,000 in September. Adler had previously loaned his campaign $194,000, bringing the total he has invested in the campaign to $296,000. In contrast, Council Member Mike Martinez has loaned his campaign only $25,000 and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole has not made any loans to her campaign, although she and her husband contributed $700 this summer. District 5 candidate Ann Kitchen loaned her campaign $17,500 on Sept. 25, bringing her loan total to $38,200. District 6 candidate Jay Wiley last week reported loaning his campaign $14,000, for a total of just over $25,000. District 7 candidate Leslie Pool reported loaning her campaign a total of $40,000 in September. Council Member Chris Riley has loaned his campaign $25,000 and opponent Council Member Kathie Tovo had already loaned her campaign about $40,000. Both are running for the District 9 seat. Mandy Dealey, who is running in District 10, loaned her campaign $25,100. Dealey, Robert Thomas and Sherri Gallo will likely fight it out on Election Day to see who will be in a December runoff. Gallo has not reported any loans but Thomas has reported loans totaling around $41,000.

 


Monday, October 6, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Last day for voter registration for Nov. 4

Today is the last day for voters to register in order to be eligible to cast ballots in the Nov. 4 General Election, which includes the Austin City Council election. You must register today to be able to vote either in the early voting period, Oct. 20-31, or on Election Day.  To register, you must complete a voter registration form and mail it to the Travis County Tax Office postmarked by the end of the day. There are a number of places where you can obtain a registration form, including online, at local post offices and at the Travis County tax office on Airport Boulevard. Volunteers will also be registering voters today at all Thundercloud Subs locations from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. For more information, go to the Travis County Voter Information page.


Monday, October 6, 2014 by Mark Richardson

LDC rewrite panel seeks public input

If you want to put in your two-cents’ worth on the city’s rewrite of the CodeNEXT Project, this is your opportunity. The Land Development Code Advisory Group meets tonight to gather public input on the project. CodeNEXT is a City of Austin initiative to revise the Land Development Code, which determines how land will be used throughout the city. The process is a collaboration among Austin’s residents, its business community and civic institutions to align land use standards and regulations with what is important to the community. Go here for more information. Tonight’s meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Milwood Branch Library, 12500 Amherst Drive.


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