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Strange Bedfellows, Stranger Enemies

By Amy Smith, Fri., July 19, 2002

The Stratus Properties controversy has generated strong emotions on every side, and has also created increasingly bitter splits among Austin environmentalists. The level of vitriol is well illustrated by a recent e-mail that escaped its sender and receiver (as e-mails tend to do) and has been making the rounds of local political circles.

The message, headed "Stratus Settlement Agreement -- Beall's Position," dated June 25 at 1:37am, is from Jack Goodman to Jon Beall. Beall is the president of the Save Barton Creek Association, and Goodman is an SBCA board member and elected board member of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (he's also the spouse of Mayor Pro Tem and SBCA Board Member Jackie Goodman). The e-mail refers to an SBCA board meeting the previous evening, at which Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, attempted to persuade SBCA to join the just-filed SOS lawsuit against the city of Austin and Stratus Properties. The SBCA initially voted to join the suit, but rescinded its decision after Beall polled some other board members who had left the meeting before the vote.

Other people mentioned by name in the e-mail include: Beau Armstrong, CEO of Stratus Properties; Steve Drenner, attorney for Stratus Properties; Casey Dobson, outside attorney on the Stratus deal for the city of Austin; Jeffrey's [restaurant]; George Cofer, longtime local environmentalist and director of Hill Country Conservancy; Bob [Breunig, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center] (Cofer, Beall, and Breunig are all "stakeholders" included in the Stratus negotiations); Steve Beers, SOS activist; Dick Kallerman, SBCA board member and alternative transportation advocate; and Jim Collett, SBCA board member.

Goodman's e-mail is transcribed below in full (misspellings and typographical errors have been silently corrected). Goodman refused to comment on the e-mail. Beall, however, said the note offers an accurate snapshot of the emotions attached to the Stratus case. "It's no different than the way we address a lot of issues in Austin," he said. "It happens in elections, in zoning cases, and it's happening in this case. It's all part of the democratic process."

Bunch, long accustomed to personal diatribes, said only, "It's too absurd for a response."


Jon,

I need to know what happened after I left tonight. I apologize for leaving, but if I hadn't I would have missed Beau Armstrong, Steve Drenner, and Casey Dobson at Jeffrey's. I believe that this [is] a desperate attempt by Bunch as a last ditch effort to save his agenda which I sincerely believe to be one of a vendetta against "rich developers" by an arguably mentally ill person. I found most of the arguments for opposing the agreement with Stratus to be ludicrous. I have been told by reliable sources that this lawsuit that Bunch has filed has no merit in law, and I don't want to see all of your, George's, and Bob's work to come to nothing.

I think that Armstrong and them [sic] will remain at the table even if SBCA joins the lawsuit although they are unhappy at the prospect. They agreed with me that there are two separate issues. Opposition to 1704 is a given for us and it has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations that you all have been involved with. To me, Bunch has once again marshaled his increasingly meager forces, his sycophants (Steve Beers, Dick Kallerman, Jim Collett, and whoever that new guy was) to convince well-meaning people that Stratus is the linchpin in the preservation or destruction of the Aquifer. This is absurd, and we face many battles down the road thanks to the LCRA pipeline.

I have no problem supporting a lawsuit opposing 1704 for its own sake, but given the chances it is vital that we continue the dialogue. There are tremendous precedents that we can set. Enough! Please let me know how things went after I left.

Thanks,

Jack

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