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Happenings
May 8-14
News Story  May 9, 2008
"...ELECTION DAY Go vote already! (See austinchronicle.com/election for election news, Chronicle endorsements, and past weeks' riveting play-by-plays on school bonds, ACC/AISD trustees-to-be, and your rascally City Council candidates.) www.ci.austin.tx.us/election. Sunday 11..."

Beside the Point
With shrinking sales tax receipts, so much for shopping ourselves outta recession
News Column  May 2, 2008, by Wells Dunbar
"...Projections of local sales-tax revenues – which amount to 28% of the city's general fund – were overshot dramatically; instead of the estimated 7.5% growth, the numbers had come in at 4.7% and now, following a month of negative revenues, stand at an increase of 3.8% for the year. In order to get a sense of the city's total potential revenues for the new budget year, budget officer Greg Canally prepared three projections (with each property-tax rate including an extra penny to pay for the 2006 bonds):..."

Six-Card Stud
It's a wide-open Place 4 race
News Story  April 25, 2008, by Wells Dunbar
"...Ken Vas­seau is an apartment locator who has acknowledged running for council in order to raise his business profile. His seven-point platform calls for "issuing municipal bonds at low rates" to pay for public safety services and finding "a solution to the panhandling epidemic."..."

Naked City
News Story  March 28, 2008
"...The amount brings Carollo's total for work on the plant to more than $42 million. A separate but related piece of business, Item 8, has the Austin Water Utility issuing $20 million in commercial paper bonds, because, as a memo from Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza puts it, "[d]ue to the additional costs associated with the new site and the backup plant site, it is necessary for the Utility to seek additional appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2007-08 Capital Budget." This won't be the last funding request for WTP4 either: Item 19's backup states, "Staff will return to Council for approval of additional funding for Carollo Engineers for the construction phase and warranty assistance phases for WTP 4 on this new site." – W.D...."

Spring Training
Seasonal snapshots of the council candidates
News Story  March 21, 2008, by Wells Dunbar
"...He's currently an apartment locator and real estate agent. Vasseau has issued a seven-point platform for his campaign, including calls to "issue municipal bonds at low rates" in order to provide services and utilities required by sprawl, "against converting freeways into tollways," creating a "5-mile radius for disposal of analog TVs," "mixed-use city garages, retail, restaurant/bar etc.," and "find solutions for crime at Highland Mall."..."

Forgione's Long Farewell
Superintendant Forgione plans his final year
News Story  March 21, 2008, by Richard Whittaker
"...Another step toward stabilizing the district before handover will be the cash injection of the proposed May bonds. Much of what will be on the ballot is for essential repairs, urgent relief for overcrowding, or mandated investment to reach academic or health and safety standards..."

AISD on the May Ballot
Board of Trustees: Campaign anti-climax
News Story  March 21, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


The Bond Breakdown
News Story  March 21, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


Point Austin: Villamusing
Council says no to film studio, concert venue, and film set residential development proposed for eastern Travis County
News Column  March 14, 2008, by Michael King
"...The Muse presentation was full of rhetoric about "creativity" and "job creation" and "stimulating industry growth" and "Facili­ties + People = Sparks" – yet the project team could not answer direct, fairly simple questions posed from the dais. Mayor Will Wynn asked, if the problem is Austin's potential annexation, "Why not make these exact same proposals in our ETJ with an agreement not to annex?" The response referred vaguely to "timing" and the "marketability of the bonds." Trying to help the Musers, Brewster McCracken (who supported the release) asked more than once, "What would be the [financial] impact" of being inside or outside the ETJ? "We've been asked to look at quantifying that," was the response, "and we're just not prepared to do so at this time." An attempt by Betty Dunkerley to elicit an explanation of the bond timing also got nowhere...."

Muni Filings: Race to May under way
Candidates for City Council, Austin Community College board, and the AISD board seal their respective fates by applying for ballot spots
News Story  March 14, 2008, by Wells Dunbar and Richard Whittaker


Oh Boy! Another Campaign Season!
City of Austin, AISD, and ACC poised for another round of elections
News Story  March 7, 2008, by Wells Dunbar and Richard Whittaker


Naked City
News Story  February 29, 2008
"...Forgione always tells me, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." In a second resolution, the board also adopted a covenant that says, should the propositions pass, board members will not be able to make major changes to any approved projects without consulting with counsel, as well as holding public hearings. The board also committed itself to forming a citizens' oversight committee to monitor the projects funded by the bonds..."

Working on the Railroad
The regional Transit Working Group is poised to make progress on passenger rail
News Story  February 22, 2008, by Katherine Gregor
"...Actively in play for the proposed voter referendum: Exactly what transit modes and lines would voters be authorizing? Would voters simultaneously vote yea or nay on general obligation bonds or other funding? Who would call the election – Capital Metro? The city of Austin? The Regional Mobility Authority? That's what the group members need to help determine, and fast. Rail systems take a long time to plan and build – so proponents believe there's no time to waste..."

The School-Bond Lowdown
AISD trustees tell staff to work on language for three bond propositions for May ballot
News Story  February 22, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


AISD's Bond Proposal Possibly Ballot Bound
While district administration broadly supports Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee's recommendations, still some controversy
News Story  February 15, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


Senators Trounce Transportation Officials
Politicos field tough questions during three-hour grilling
News Story  February 15, 2008, by Kimberly Reeves
"...What chairs Sens. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and John Carona, R-Dallas, want to see is the Transportation Commission refrain from redirecting project funds to maintenance unless absolutely necessary and begin issuing the $5 billion in bonds approved by voters last November..."

Sorry to Be Tardy to the Party, but ...
More seating for Royal-Memorial Stadium? Just what we needed …
DAILY News  February 12, 2008, by Matt Martinez
"...Remember that whole UT Regents meeting that happened last week? Well, among all the spending for new communication and liberal arts buildings, and more offices for those cool biomedical engineering cats, hid a peculiar little gem: more stadium seating at Royal-Memorial Stadium! That's right. The south end zone got jealous of the north end zone, and now they're going to add 3,500 to 4,000 bleacher seats with $21 million in bonds and $4 million more to be gathered through donations..."

AISD Payroll
Rule of thumb
News Story  February 8, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


The PAC
Not ready for prime time
News Story  February 8, 2008, by Richard Whittaker


Point Austin: Gift Horse
A rich guy wants to give AISD $7 million. What's the catch?
News Column  January 25, 2008, by Michael King
"...There are, alas, more than a few small problems with Rathgeber's offer: 1) The math only works if the gift can still be considered "matching" funds for the 2004 bonds, which likely will require the attorney general's review. 2) Would the location be part of the new bond vote – and if the site doesn't work out for any reason, does the bond crater again? 3) At this very late date in the bond process, how are the CBAC and the board and the public supposed to evaluate this (admittedly very well-dressed) pig-in-a-poke?..."

Beside the Point
Just like your college-ball hopefuls, several city manager picks won't go the distance
News Column  January 11, 2008, by Wells Dunbar
"...Thought Austin had a rough downturn? As city manager, having to correct a "structurally imbalanced" budget meant Cauth­en had to cull $254 million in "expenditure reductions" – no mean amount of arithmetic. He augmented the cuts by garnering more than a billion dollars in revenue through bonds and voter-approved tax increases, all while managing to maintain high ratings from the bond houses..."

Top 10 Toby Moments
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
News Story  January 4, 2008, by Wells Dunbar
"...3) Anybody Find Those Hippie Hollow Pics? If the early press on Toby sought to impart anything, it's that she was "Austin" through and through. In his Chronicle profile ("She's One of Us," June 7, 2002), Mike Clark-Madison recounted that when voters approved 1998 open-space bonds, "Futrell danced barefoot within the drum circle, under the stars, at the victory party thrown by [the Save Our Springs Alliance]."..."

Canyon Creek Rebels Target MUD Lawsuit
Municipal utility district board members resist suggestion they withdraw federal suit
News Story  December 28, 2007, by Michael King
"...18 meeting – a lively affair, dealing with issues ranging from replanting the soccer field to fighting feral hogs to preventing teenage vandalism in Trailhead Park – several of the dozen residents in attendance requested that the board consider withdrawing from the suit, or at least not pursuing an appeal should the court rule against the MUD. While none of the residents directly disputed the board's insistence that Section 5 is "inequitable" – because "it assumes that we're guilty" of potential voting violations, said one board member – several called it an "ideological" lawsuit that is "not germane" to the practical business of running the MUD, which exists to repay infrastructure bonds and manage park facilities..."

Playing Through
On baseball juicers and the president: Get away with whatever you can
Columns  December 21, 2007, by Thomas Hackett
"...The list of ignominy is eye-poppingly long: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, David Justice, Miguel Tejada, Ken Caminiti, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet ......"

Naked City
News Story  December 21, 2007
"...If the library were to be located on the site of the soon-to-be-decommissioned Green Power Plant, then the project would likely be folded into a larger multiuse development. Under the original schedule for the bonds passed last November, the central library would be one of the last projects to be built, possibly to give the Austin Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Austin Public Library the ability to do some additional fundraising..."

How Green Grows My County?
'Greenprints' aim to protect our most precious natural lands
News Story  December 14, 2007, by Katherine Gregor
"...Conservation Foundation. A green­print could affect decision-making in all five counties and in cities like Cedar Park, where last November voters approved nearly $18 million in bonds for parks and conservation. Travis County Process..."

Playing Through
Not only has Marion Jones been forced to return her five Olympic medals, she's kind of a jerk, too
Columns  November 30, 2007, by Thomas Hackett
"...In January she'll likely be sentenced to hard time in prison. In the coming weeks, she is scheduled to testify against her former coach Graham in the Balco steroid case, a case which has also finally laid the mighty Barry Bonds low...."

Naked City
News Story  November 23, 2007
"...• On a related note, a whopping 500 residents attended a public meeting Monday in Burnet County, most to express their opposition to county commissioners regarding a proposed 500-bed private detention center in the area. "Burnet County residents are concerned that the proposed jail will be operated by a Louisiana-based for-profit private prison corporation and that out-of-county prisoners will be shipped to the prison and that Burnet has taken steps to float revenue bonds to pay for the prison, which could endanger the county's future bond rating, without a public vote," according to Bob Libal, spokesman for those opposed to the facility..."

Two-Thirds There
Prop. 15 surprisingly unpopular in Travis County.
DAILY News  November 6, 2007, by Lee Nichols
"...The least popular is Prop. 4, the scattershot amendment that would approve up to $1 billion in bonds for a variety of construction projects (some good, some bad), but it's still winning at 58%. Up in Fort Worth, with 41 of 45 precincts counted, Democrat Dan Barrett is headed for a runoff in the special election to replace retiring Anna Mowery in state House District 97..."

The Light at the Beginning of the Waller Tunnel
Long-awaited Waller Creek Tunnel Project shows a glimmer of light
News Story  November 2, 2007, by Kimberly Reeves
"...Who's footing the bill for the tunnel work? We are. The cost of the project is being divided between city bonds and a tax-increment finance district co-sponsored by the city and county...."

Citizens Communications Unbound
A student's look at City Council citizens communications.
DAILY News  October 29, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"...Take Paul Robbins for example. He stood before the council on Thursday to speak about the city charter and how it is routinely ignored, in regards to voter approval for revenue bonds..."

What Happened With 'Chronicle' Endorsements
Postmarks  October 29, 2007


Ronnie Weeks: Reinventing the Wheel
Collage is a valid form, and artist Ronnie Weeks uses it well
Arts Review  October 19, 2007, by Salvador Castillo
"...Collage is a valid form, and artist Ronnie Weeks uses it well. When obvious references and strategies are not apparent, as in Her Biological Clock or Harvest Time, the different elements form stronger bonds..."

Naked City
News Story  October 19, 2007
"...Kress told The Dallas Morning News two weeks ago that he had never been in the running. In the meantime, Scott has announced plans for a major reorganization of the TEA – minor reorganizations are an annual event – and told school administrators at a recent conference he's committed to aligning high school and college curriculum, overhauling career and technology education, and getting the nod from the feds to expand the program to use the state's credit to guarantee school district bonds..."

Blake Behind Bars
To write a parody of prison movies, Naughty Austin's Blake Yelavich sentenced himself to 27 films in the big house
Arts Story  September 28, 2007, by Robert Faires
"..."It's the cast feeling good about themselves and feeling good about each other," says Yelavich. "It's few and far between that I have a cast that's this fun and that bonds without an adversary in the group..."

Naked City
News Story  September 28, 2007
"...Rick Perry's line-item veto of $154 million in community-college funding for employee health insurance has yet to be resolved by either Perry or the Lege leadership, so on Tuesday, three Demo­crat­ic lawmakers made a suggestion on where to find the money: In a letter sent to Perry, Reps. Garnet Coleman (Houston), Jim Dunnam (Waco), and Pete Gallego (Alpine) wrote that, rather than borrowing money that was previously appropriated to pay down debt on tuition revenue bonds (as was suggested by the governor's office at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing), "[A] more appropriate pool of money from which you can 'borrow' the $154 million to make our community and junior colleges whole is your [the governor's office's] budget and the budget of the Legislature." The borrowed money could then be replaced through an emergency appropriation by the 2009 Legislature..."

@ Chronic
City Council Notebook
News Story  September 28, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"...Item 19: Allocating $8.5 million in affordable-housing bonds to the Austin Housing Finance Corp. – $5.1 mil for rental housing, $3.4 mil for their homeownership program...."

Beside the Point
The budget passes, and the feathers fly
News Column  September 14, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"...Large public construction and improvement projects are funded over several years by bonds and certificates of obligation in the capital budget. There were three main council-driven allocations from the CB, along with others from staff:..."

Live-Blogging the City Budget Adoption
Continuously updated blog of the budget adoption.
DAILY News  September 10, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"...Apparently, reimbursement for military leave was restricted to one specific military action (Enduring Freedom, or whatever), instead of service in general. Weird. Now it's reimbursements from bonds and utilities..."

Austin's Cultural Makeover: The Next Stage
How much closer we are to getting the cultural wonderland we imagined 10 years ago
Arts Story  September 7, 2007, by Robert Faires
"...The State, a movie theatre that dates to 1935, was a candidate for renovation in 1985, when voters approved $2 million in bonds for the adjacent Paramount Theatre to turn the faded cinema into a performing-arts venue. Unfortunately, the Paramount's financial troubles and the Eighties bust derailed the plan right away..."

Letters @ 3AM
The current economic crisis is real, probably systemic, and maybe dire
Columns  August 31, 2007, by Michael Ventura
"..."Using what are known as market-neutral strategies designed by computer models, hedge fund traders have been blindsided by a correlation between bonds and stocks that they never expected would occur. ....."

Gimme (Animal) Shelter
Swirling city politics, site selection, and – oh yes – animal welfare
News Story  August 24, 2007, by Katherine Gregor
"...Valls-Trelles explains, "I made a very conscious decision not to create any controversy during the bond election," so as not to jeopardize voter support for a new shelter. "We're famous for infighting – so no debates or dissension in the animal community over this was desired." She also says she was verbally guaranteed, by City Manager Toby Futrell, that a relocation decision would go through the Animal Advisory Commission and be aired during a "full public discussion." After the bonds passed, said Valls-Trelles, "Futrell said the bond-money meetings were the public discussion" and that relocation was a done deal...."

Will's Story a Primer on Mexican Political Culture
Postmarks  August 20, 2007
"...Read the story of Brad Will's murder and the events that followed as a primer on Mexican political culture, and you will start to understand what I mean. When we think of the benefits of immigration, a distinction needs to be made between culture in the general sense and political culture specifically. The colors, the rituals, the quinceañera and the Day of the Dead; the culinary arts and the other arts; the family bonds to the elderly and children – all enrich and expand the depth of the cultural life of the United States, but there is nothing of value in Mexican political culture..."

Naked City
News Story  July 27, 2007
"...• Speaking of getting around town, the city still has a few bonds left from its 2000 bond issue, and most of that money will go toward road projects that require either joint city-county participation or relieve bottlenecks on various clogged arteries across the city. Federal cutbacks in transportation funding, however, have left the reconstruction of Brazos Street underfunded to the tune of $6.5 million..."

Live-Blogging the FY 2008 Budget
Just what the title says!
DAILY News  July 26, 2007, by Wells Dunbar
"... Mike Martinez's got beef with the allotment of employee bonuses for those "exceeding expectation:" budgeted at a level of bonus pay for 30%, "you put it out there and say 'it's available,' pretty much everyone's gonna succeed." Wants to see some trends over time from Futrell. Brewster McCracken notes voters approved adding an extra penny to the tax rate, i.e., the 2006 bonds..."

Streetcar Desires
The Austin streetcar has a consensus – it still needs champions
News Story  July 20, 2007, by Katherine Gregor
"...The sale of the decommissioned Green Water Treatment Plant Downtown could yield $60 million-70 million for the city; all or part could be earmarked as a special endowment fund for the streetcar. In addition, Austin could dedicate revenues from the new underground parking garage planned at the site; Portland, Ore., sold bonds backed by parking revenues from city-owned parking garages to raise $28.5 million for its phase one streetcar..."

Learning From Portland
News Story  July 20, 2007, by Katherine Gregor
"...The fare-box wasn't one of them: Riding the streetcar is free. (The Cap Metro financing study also recommends free rides, at least until ridership is at full capacity.) Parking revenues, fittingly, provided more than half the capital cost of the phase one segment: The city sold bonds backed by parking revenues from city-owned parking garages to raise $28.5 million..."

Naked City
News Story  July 13, 2007
"...• The Planning Commission met Tuesday, July 10, to discuss recommendations to the city's capital-improvement projects, including moving more affordable-housing bonds to the front end of the bond program, tweaking priorities in sidewalk building, and making sure utility extensions follow Envision Central Texas' principles of avoiding sprawl. At a Planning Commission subcommittee meeting last week, Chair Dave Sullivan also suggested looking for a way to tie parkland-dedication and sidewalk fees to neighborhood-plan goals so neighborhoods can see more results from their planning..."

Studio Involvement
Catherine Parrington and the future of the Austin film industry
Screens Story  July 6, 2007, by Joe O'Connell
"...Eliot poems). Parrington, who spent 13 years with Sony Pictures Entertainment, comes to Austin Studios at a time of major transition, with $5 million in city bonds slated to renovate the studios and the recently approved $20 million statewide film incentives program, from which Wire in the Blood might make history as the first recipient...."

City Capital-Improvement Projects Under Discussion
DAILY News  July 3, 2007, by Kimberly Reeves
"...A subcommittee of the Planning Commission met Monday night to discuss recommendations on the city’s capital-improvement projects, including those funded in the recent bond election. Recommendations going to the full Planning Commission next week will include moving more of the affordable-housing bonds to the front end of the bond program, tweaking priorities in sidewalk building, and making sure utility extensions follow Envision Central Texas' principles of avoiding sprawl..."

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