Off the Desk:

The fallout continues from last month's shake-up in the city's bureaucracy, with the resignation Tuesday of Austan Librach from his position as director of the Planning, Environmental and Conservation Services Department. Librach's abrupt exit comes on the heels of a decision by City Manager Jesus Garza to put former Parks and Recreation Director Mike Heitz in charge of the city's new drainage utility instead of Librach, who admits he wanted the post. Environmentalists worry that Heitz, who is considered an untried novice on environmental issues, could weaken the city's water quality controls, which will fall under the auspices of the drainage utility. Librach, who has expertise in water-quality and endangered-species issues, will start his new job on March 4 as a "principal-in-charge" at the national environmental engineering firm of Espy Huston & Associates, which is based in Austin, and contracts with clients in both the public and the private sectors... UT President Robert Berdahl asked faculty leaders at a faculty council meeting on Monday to quit bellyaching and accept that the school's new molecular biology building will be named after Freeport-McMoRan Chair Jim Bob Moffett. But some faculty leaders, like Professor Alan Cline, vowed to keep raising a stink. The council also ignored Berdahl, approving an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the naming of the building... Cline was among seven professors and Chronicle reporters recently threatened by Freeport with lawsuits if they did not desist spreading information concerning human rights violations commited in and around the company's Indonesian mine site. Those threats made against the "Freeport Seven" have generated national interest as well. TheColumbia Journalism Review has interviewed Chronicle reporter Robert Bryce for an upcoming story on Freeport's relationship with the local press... Mayor Bruce Todd will be asked to fill three openings on the city's Urban Renewal Agency Board at today's council meeting. Already serving on the board (which will have the power under eminent domain to approve demolition of property on E. 11th and 12th Streets slated for redevelopment) are Phyllis Wilson, a business analyst with the state comptroller, and Rolando Ortiz, who could not be reached at press time. The three new applicants under consideration are: Darrell Glascow, vice-president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and husband of Alice Glascow, who is the director of the city's development services; Paul Hilgers, a governmental affairs officer with the Lower Colorado River Authority who used to work as an aide to former Congressman J.J. "Jake" Pickle; and Ben Moreno Sifuentes, a pharmacist and Eastside resident. Residents within the boundaries of the Austin Redevelopment Authority (ARA) who fear they could be forced to give up their homes may be especially cheered by the appointment of Sifuentes. His wife is the secretary for the Guadalupe Association for an Improved Neighborhood, one of the neighborhood organizations that fought for a voice on the ARA board in order to curb possible abuse of eminent domain... Austin attorney Jeff Hart announced his bid last Friday for Max Nofziger's soon-to-be-vacant seat on the city council. His message, emphasizing basic city services, sounds an awful lot like that of one of his opponents, former Chronicle politics editor Daryl Slusher, whose campaign slogan is "Basics, not Boondoggles." Slusher formally kicked off his campaign last Tuesday with a bus tour of Austin in which he shuttled local media folks from "boondoggle to boondoggle" throughout the city. Highlights included the $23 million Sumiken building and the $11.7 million Avante building for which city leaders, said Slusher, paid too much. The trip also included the site of the proposed downtown mall for which investors wanted tax subsidies, and the Colorado River Park, where an out-of-town baseball franchise wanted to build a stadium with the city's help. -- A.D.


Out of the Closet

Austin Community College trustee John Worley may have failed to win support on resolutions dealing with ACC's land-acquisition quest for a new campus, but he succeeded on one important front: He forced ACC trustees out of a closed board room, where they've been privately chatting up the pros and cons of buying a piece of land from FM Properties, Inc., among other property holders.

"At least," said Worley after the January 22 meeting, "we got some public discussion on the issue. I was happy about that." Worley is worried that his fellow board members will vote to sink the $2 million earmarked for land purchase into 70 acres of the Lantana tract, part of a 728-acre site situated within the sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone in southwest Austin. FM Properties is peddling the Lantana land for development, now that it has a utility commitment from the City of Austin.

Similar concerns have also come from ACC's Part-Time Faculty Association, which unanimously approved a resolution urging the board to be mindful of environmental factors (as well as ACC's image) in looking for a site on which to build a new campus. The community college is experiencing serious growing pains at its Pinnacle campus on US290 West, and needs a bigger home to satisfy the demands of a growing student population in South Austin. The Lantana tract, at William Cannon Drive and the Southwest Parkway, seems to be the property of choice for ACC staff and administrators, who reportedly have recommended that the board go ahead and seal the deal. But the trustees say they're still weighing their options and are not ready to vote on -- or talk about -- their choices.

Meanwhile, real estate brokers keep sweetening their propositions with who-knows-what kind of bargains. "Lantana and other people are starting to make us more attractive offers," is all trustee Mack Ray Hernandez would say. "Lantana has made some substantial changes, some favorable changes, than what was originally on the table."

That kind of wheeling and dealing makes Worley nervous. That's why he came forward with his proposed resolutions -- one that would have outright banned ACC from building a new facility within a recharge or contributing zone of the aquifer (a motion that failed for lack of a second), and another that promised to adhere to the court-quashed Save Our Springs ordinance, which drew only Worley's vote of support. Trustee Hernandez said he supported Worley's efforts "philosophically," but felt the resolutions were "premature and overly broad."

Board chairperson Della May Moore tried to strike a harmonious chord with a resolution promising to follow the rules of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). But Moore withdrew her motion because trustees weren't altogether up to speed on TNRCC rules. Hernandez said he wouldn't have supported Moore's resolution anyway. "Knowing a little bit about [TNRCC's] political venue... I'm doubtful they would impose stringent guards that I'd like to see in place." -- A.S.


Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

It had to be the cheeriest public hearing in Austin's history. On Thursday, January 30, nearly 30 people showed up at the Citizens' Planning Committee (CPC) public hearing, and most crooned over the group's draft of proposals to the city council that would revamp neighborhood planning and representation. Called the "Curry Proposal," it asks that the city Planning & Development Department improve their maintainance of the registered neighborhood associations (NAs) list, lays out specific requirements for NAs to qualify as representative of their community, and requests that the city encourage developers to contact, and meet with, neighborhood groups before submitting their site plans. The Curry Proposal also calls for a strengthening of protection for neighborhoods from incompatible development within the city's Land Development Code (LDC), and encourages NAs to prepare neighborhood development plans which would then be referenced within the LDC. Most of the public comments were positive, but many speakers wanted to require -- rather than request -- that developers meet with NAs. Architect and CPC Chair Ben Heimsath said the group will consider that suggestion as they revise the draft.

The Curry Proposal is only the first step in a broader vision of a more efficient and inclusive process of neighborhood planning and development, says Heimsath. The group, which was given a mandate by the city council in September of 1994 to look at all these issues, is also preparing recommendations regarding the LDC, the urban core, transportation, and intergovernmental relations. All of those recommendations are supposed to be presented to the city council by February 29. The CPC will hold another public hearing on the Curry Proposal some time in mid-February. For more info, call the CPC's city office at 499-2665. Check this column next week for the date of the public hearing. -- L.C.B.


Money for Nothing

He's a lame duck who has said he doesn't intend to run for another public office, but Mayor Bruce Todd is still pulling in more campaign contributions than anyone else on the city council, even those gearing up for an election.

According to his Contribution and Expenditure report (C&Es) for the latter half of 1995, the mayor took in $41,982. Councilmember Ronney Reynolds, who has informed fellow councilmembers that he intends a run for the mayor's seat in 1997, was next with $19,959.

Todd has no outstanding debt to absolve, and has said he wants out of the public arena to concentrate on business and family. So what's the money for?

Asked that question, the mayor responded, cryptically, "officeholders' account," and jumped into his sport utility vehicle and sped off to the airport to catch a flight to D.C. His aide, Trey Salinas, shed slightly more light on the issue later, explaining that the money will help pay for some expenses that could otherwise be charged to the city. "It's for all the stuff he's invited to. You try to do your best to not always use taxpayer money."

It's hard to determine if the mayor has saved taxpayers money in the past. Todd spent $38,543 in the last six months of 1995 from his campaign account, but the majority of that was for fund raising expenses. Only $7,371 during that time was spent on meals, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. That amount may have been eligible for taxpayer funding, depending on whether the expenditure involved city issues or campaign issues. The C&Es do not say.

Nonetheless, any help will be beneficial in the future, since the mayor's spending trend is upward. In 1993 and 1994 combined, taxpayers paid $9,572 in travel expenses for the mayor; in 1995, taxpayers footed a bill of $13,869. -- A.M.

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