Off the Desk:
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.
Out of the Closet
"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.
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
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
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.
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.
Money for Nothing
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.