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Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Michael Kanin
New candidate for Mayor
Ronald J. “Ron” Culver jumped into the Mayor’s race yesterday, appointing himself his own campaign treasurer and filing the necessary paperwork to be on the ballot. His address indicates he lives in far Northwest Austin in Williamson County. Culver pledged not to collect or spend more than $500 on the race. Otherwise, the only candidate who has actually filed for Mayor is Mike Martinez, who did so Monday.
Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Michael Kanin
Many candidates and prospective candidates were present at Wednesday’s Austin Neighborhoods Council meeting. However, those gathered for the meeting offered applause for just two – District 3’s Susana Almanza and District 1’s Ora Houston. Neighborhood interests have traditionally held sway in Austin City Council elections. We’ll have to wait until Nov. 5 to see if that is true under the new system with many more candidates and voters.
Two more join the battle
Two more City Council candidates made it official Tuesday by filing their ballot applications for a spot on the Nov. 4 ballot. Jeb Boyt filed for the District 7 seat and Margie Burciaga filed for the District 10 spot. That brings the total of official candidates to nine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.