Whispers

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Watching PACs

Texans for Accountable Government has declared its support for anti-fluoride activist Laura Pressley, a candidate in the District 4 race. The largest donor to this group was Jeff Kantoff, identified online as a member of Ron Paul Republicans Meetup Group. Austinites for Geographic Representation filed the appropriate paperwork for dissolution of their political action committee. Stacy Suits, campaign treasurer, declared no further expenditures would be made and there was no money left in their coffers. After all, they won their fight more than 18 months ago when Austinites finally agreed to single-member districts. Let’s Go Austin, the PAC collecting money to support Austin’s rail project on the November ballot, raised about $76,000. Of that, the Downtown Austin Alliance contributed $37,000, dwarfing others’ donations. Tyson Tuttle, the CEO of Silicon Labs, contributed $10,000. The architects of Page Southerland Page gave $5,000, as did Texas Gas Service. Rather surprisingly, the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association donated $4,000 to the effort. Engineers and land planners Cunningham- Allen, Inc. gave $2,500.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City employee killed in crash

Ernesto Gonzales, a 22-year veteran of the city’s Resource Recovery Department, died Tuesday in a crash near Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Police say a pickup truck driven by Gonzales was involved in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer on FM 973 near Eva Street. Police say Gonzales was pronounced dead at the scene. City Manager Marc Ott issued a statement Tuesday offering condolences to Gonzales’ family and co-workers.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Zumba Time at Zilker Park

The Parks and Recreation Department is planning to ‘Zelebrate’ Zumba at Zilker Park Thursday. Attendees may enjoy a group Zumba class and giveaways. Zumba is a popular dance fitness program. On July 1, Mayor Lee Leffingwell proclaimed July as Parks Month in support of PARD and the National Recreation and Park Association’s nationwide initiative to promote healthy communities through recreation and leisure. The “Zumbathon Zelebration” is set for 10 a.m. at Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Appraisal issue returns to Austin Monitor Radio

Travis County Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator Deece Eckstein joins Monitor Publisher Mike Kanin to talk about ongoing concerns associated with the Travis Central Appraisal District’s property tax appraisal process. Tune to 91.7FM KOOP at 2 p.m. today to hear the discussion.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Commission on Immigrant Affairs plans a special called meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez Street . . . The Building and Standards Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Eager to run

Council Member Mike Martinez was officially the first to file documents required to get his name on the ballot under the heading of Mayor. He filed just after 9 a.m. Monday, with Susana Almanza filing for District 3; Mike Rodriguez and David Senecal filing for District 5; Jimmy Flannigan and Jay Wiley filing for District 6; and Melissa Zone filing for District 7. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Campaign finance reports from committees

Political Action Committees were also required to file contribution and expenditure reports last week. A peek at them shows nothing too exciting, however.ChangeAustin.org. reported collecting only about $658, all of it from founder Brian Rodgers, and spending about $2,600 on salaries. Linda Curtis, the PAC treasurer, got about $1,200 of that as a consulting fee. The PAC reported no remaining funds.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City seeks input on Housing First program

The City of Austin is seeking development team members familiar with the Housing First model of Permanent Supportive Housing to provide insights for the city’s program. The Austin Housing Finance Corp. and Health and Human Services Departments want input on the best approaches to solicit partners for Housing First developments for the Austin community. A Request for Information was released Monday and responses are due by Aug. 4. The housing agency is looking for teams with experience in design, construction and/or operations of Housing First Permanent Supportive Housing. Later, the city will solicit its first “Housing First PSH development” providing at least 50 units to highly vulnerable, chronically homeless individuals. Click here to download the RFQ.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Capital Planning Office wins award

The city’sCapital Planning Office has received the Public Technology Institute’s 2013-14 Technology Solutions Award for its Strategic Capital Investments GIS mapping analysis, which can be found in the Long-Range Capital Improvement Program Strategic Plan. The Public Technology Institute’s annual Solutions Awards Competition recognizes PTI member local governments that demonstrate how they use technology to solve specific problems, improve community services and internal operations and reduce costs. The Capital Investments GIS Mapping Analysis, also known as the Strategic Investment Areas Overlay Analysis, overlays city initiatives identified by the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan with infrastructure need. For more information, click here.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in Chambers at 700 Lavaca St. . . . TheWilliamson County Commissioners Court meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown . . . The Hays County Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos. . . . The Parks and Recreation Board meeting is canceled . . . . (Note: Double-check your meeting’s location. Some meetings are in different venues due to remodeling of the Council Chambers at City Hall.)


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Today’s the day

Those 64 or so citizens who have declared they would like to be candidates for Mayor or City Council can start filing the paperwork today to make themselves official candidates for the 11 seats. And Council Member Mike Martinez, who is running for Mayor, plans to be among the first to file. According to a press release from his campaign, Martinez will file the necessary paperwork and signatures to get his name on the Nov. 4 ballot around 9 a.m. The filing deadline is Aug. 18. Winners will have until Jan. 6 to get ready to serve. But we can expect several runoffs, with the date for that election December 16.


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Also running

In addition to the five candidates already in the race to represent City Council District 5, there is an additional candidate. But don’t expect to hear much from or about David Senecal, who signed up on July 14 and pledged not to collect or spend more than $500 on the race (excluding filing fees). His opponents include Dan Buda, Jason Denny, Dave Floyd, Ann Kitchen, and Mike Rodriguez.


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Cap Metro to brief Travis County

Capital Metro will brief the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday on the transportation authority’s policies, procedures and limitations regarding its bus service in the county. The meeting is in response to commissioners’ concerns about the county’s Growth Guidance Plan. The plan, approved for public review and comments July 1, seeks to create high-density, low-impact transit areas in unincorporated parts of the county. Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gómez worried that these areas would not get sufficient public transportation from Capital Metro to allow citizens the option to leave their cars at home.


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Property tax task force to report

The court will also get an update this Tuesday on the county’s work to identify legislative and legal remedies to fix what citizens and officials are calling a broken property tax appraisal system. There has been rising public outcry against the inequity of low-balled commercial property appraisals, which many taxpayers say shifts the burden of paying for services onto the residential homeowner and renters.


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Land Development Code Advisory Group and CodeNEXT meet at 4 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . The Arts Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Cultural Arts Division Offices at City Hall . . . The Electric Utility Commission meets at 6 p.m. at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road . . . The Urban Renewal Board meets at 6 p.m. in the Street-Jones Building, 1000 East 11th Street . . . (Be aware than many meetings have been moved to different sites due to the remodeling of Council Chambers at City Hall.)


Monday, July 21, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Hays County building under repair

The Hays County Government Center at 712 S. Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos will be closed today for ongoing plumbing repairs. The county says the building is expected to open on Tuesday at its regular time. All other Hays County buildings will be open as usual today.


Friday, July 18, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City plans candidate forums

With 11 slots to fill in the new City Council system, there is great need for the public to become informed about those running. The League of Women Voters and the city’s Ethics Commission have teamed up to sponsor such forums, beginning on Sept 4, according to Lara Foss, a new member of the city’s Public Information Office team. Each of the forums will be held in or near the districts of the candidates appearing although some will be combined in order to complete all the forums within a month. The final forum will be for mayoral candidates on Oct. 1 at the Convention Center. There is also a forum planned for those who make it into a runoff, scheduled for Nov. 21. Of course, there will be a number of other forums, including several co-sponsored by the Austin Monitor, KUT and the Austin Chronicle. Foss said she is putting together a Council candidate Q &A archive so that when one candidate asks a question, all the other candidates and the general public can read the answer. She expects that to go live on Monday, the first day candidates can officially file for one of the spots on the November ballot.


Friday, July 18, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Mayor meets with EPA officials

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Ellen Gilinksy, senior adviser for water for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressed their support Wednesday for an EPA proposal to clarify which waterways are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The EPA proposal would restore protections to smaller streams and wetlands that only flow seasonally but which, during rainy seasons or after storms, flow into larger waterways that serve as the drinking water sources for over 117 million Americans. This includes 11.5 million Texans and 864,000 people in Travis County. Gilinsky is traveling in Texas to hear perspectives on the proposed rule, also known as Waters of the U.S. Leffingwell was joined in his support for the EPA by the environmental groups Clean Water Action and Environment Texas. The groups delivered thousands of comments from their members. The comments will form part of the official public record on the proposed rule. The comment period ends Oct. 20, after which EPA will make a final determination.


Friday, July 18, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Rojas suspends campaign

District 4 candidate Gabe Rojas told the Austin Monitor Thursday he is suspending his campaign, although he has hopes that he might launch another race for the same spot either two years or four years from now. Rojas is a member of the Zoning and Platting Commission and said he would continue that service as well as work in the community. However, this year is “not the right time for my family,” Rojas said.


Friday, July 18, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Howard to lead Women’s Health Tour

Austin State Rep. Donna Howard announced Thursday that she would lead a statewide series of Listening Sessions on women’s health issues. The Women’s Health Tour, sponsored by Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives, will host sessions in seven cities: El Paso, Dallas, McAllen, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston. The sessions are free and open to the public. These forums will begin with a brief overview of legislative actions on family planning and women’s health issues. Lawmakers will then listen as community members share their thoughts, concerns and experiences related to the subject matter. Details on the tour are available here.


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