The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Off the Desk:

July 4, 1997, News

In the spirit of compromise between two embattled city departments, the Barton Creek Preserve (BCP, formerly Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan) is transferring out of the Parks and Recreation Dept. and going under the control of Drainage and Utility. With D&U funds paying for Parks personnel to run the preserve, clashes between the two city departments had escalated to the point where staff members could not even sit to have a civil discussion. In fact, communication between the departments has so deteriorated that instead of using experienced staff from the Parks Dept. to manage BCP, D&U is taking applications. Meanwhile, the citizens Parks board worries that under new management, BCP will be fenced off and made inaccessible to the Austin taxpayers shelling out the $13 million to pay for the preserve. The board is recommending to council that BCP's management remain with the Parks department...

With the SCIP III low-income housing project nearing completion, Councilmember Gus Garcia says it will soon be time for the city to get SCIP IV off the ground. The new project is slated for the neighborhood south of East Fifth and east of I-35... -- K.V.

Mickey Mouse ears were all that were missing from an anti-Walt Disney press conference Wednesday morning at the state Capitol. The American Family Association of Texas is calling on the state's Permanent School Fund to sell $25 million in Disney stock. House Bill 1, says AFAT, forbids the state from investing, whether directly or indirectly, in companies that produce "violent or obscene music, or music which degrades women." In this case, that would be Disney subsidiary Hollywood Records. -- A.S.

No Regrets, KVET?

KVET Broadcasting Co., home of mean and cranky Sammy & Bob, faces a serious challenge to its application for license renewal before the FCC. On Tuesday, an attorney in Washington, D.C. filed a petition against KVET on behalf of Dorothy Richter, a longtime Austinite and neighborhood activist.

KVET, the document states, "has a record of irresponsible attacks on individuals and groups, including minorities, with whom it disagrees." The petition is thick with 10 affidavits from Austin notables (among them jewelry store owner Russell Korman and former Councilmember Brigid Shea) who claim that morning radio hosts Sammy Allred and Bob Cole led on-air attacks on their character. In her petition, Richter cites several examples of wrongdoing, among them:

Sammy and Bob's June 1996 broadcast assault on Korean-based Samsung Austin Semiconductor ("These people are not used to living in a democracy, well they ain't Christians..."); The duo's May 1997 charges against Councilmember Willie Lewis ("The issue is, is he a child molester..."); and their attack on Rep. Glen Maxey, Austin's openly gay state representative, which took place on national Flag Day, June 14, 1996 ("It's Fag Day -- do we have to salute Glen Maxey today?").

The petition alleges that KVET violates FCC rules by impugning people without providing them with a script or tape of the show and an opportunity to respond. On Wednesday, KVET General Manager Ron Rogers refused comment and referred the Chronicle to the station's Washington, D.C., attorney, Jason Shrinsky, who was unavailable at press time. Shrinsky's secretary, however, said Rogers had previously notified the law office that a petition against KVET was in the works. -- A.S.

BFI Makes Offer

The Gardens Neighborhood Association's battle against its noisy neighbor, the BFI Recyclery, may end on a harmonious note. But here's the rub: BFI says it will pull up stakes and move from its Bolm Road property, provided that the company scores the city's coveted 30-year recycling contract. BFI had earlier stated that it would move only a portion of its business if it wins the contract.

But moving only part of the business wasn't enough for the neighbors, who wanted the number two waste company in North America to move, lock, stock, and trash barrel, out of East Austin. Another thing: BFI says it will need help from the city to cover the cost of relocating outside the city limits, away from a residential area. In return, BFI says, it will donate the Bolm Road location to the city "for its use and determination, hopefully for neighborhood use," according to a letter from BFI's Steven Dunn to Johnny Limon, president of the Gardens Neighborhood Association.

While BFI -- along with competitors Waste Management Inc. and Texas Disposal Systems -- is prohibited from lobbying the city for the contract, there's nothing stopping the neighborhood association from going to bat for BFI.

Limon says he is satisfied with BFI's latest offer. "I feel that the city should really take the neighborhood into considerdation when awarding the contract this time," Limon said, "especially since they didn't consider us before when we were opposed to BFI getting the contract." -- A.S.

Rezoning Victory

Cathy Vasquez-Revilla squeezed in a victory at last week's council meeting before getting bounced off the Planning Commission, probably in August. Vasquez-Revilla has long advocated the rollback of limited industrial zoning to single family zoning in the residential neighborhoods of East Austin near the BFI and Balcones recycling plants. Although it is not the entire chunk of East Austin zoning rollbacks which she has been seeking, Vasquez-Revilla did manage to get one house at 2412 Hidalgo, directly across the street from the Balcones plant, to be designated single family.

Vasquez-Revilla says that she is currently working on an ordinance which would put special restrictions on any industrial development in East Austin which is near a church, school, or park. "I'm trying to beat the clock to get it out of committee and in front of the council before I leave," she says.

The house's owner, Homer Morin, originally came to council to protest the rollback, because he assumed that LI zoning would give him a more valuable resale value, but he quickly changed his mind and decided to go with what his neighbors want.

"It's not valuable because we're going to oppose every expansion we can find out about," says Vasquez-Revilla, who is leaving the planning commission after not being reappointed by Gus Garcia. -- K.V.

Parking Commodity

Airport Advisory Board member Leonard Lyons is so indignant over the proposal to add valet services and raise parking rates at Robert Mueller Municipal Airport that he can hardly find metaphors enough to denounce it. "They tried to slip this in under the door, but in the full light of day it won't pass the smell test... they found a way to make $2 million and set up a straw man to distract us," says Lyons.

The plan submitted by Ampco, the airport's parking services provider, would carve 100 prime short-term spaces from lot "A" as a staging area for the $15-per-day valet service, and raise the daily rate in the lot from $11.50 to $24. Ampco will also rope off 300 spaces in lot "D" to form a parking area for the cars of valet customers. Ampco says the plan will free up short-term parking space; Lyons says if you follow the money you'll find more sizzle than steak.

For one thing, Lyons says, Ampco would be worsening the airport's most critical problem, which is that all its lots are crammed to capacity. For another, Ampco will be cashing in on business travelers without sharing proceeds with the city. The city collects 89% of the revenue from the 400 spaces Ampco proposes to take away, but will get none of the fees from the valet system. Lyons says those fees could exceed $2 million, though Ampco offered no numbers when they put the plan before the board. AAB chairman Bob Binder is withholding judgment on the plan, but admits the city would essentially be handing over space to accommodate a "private business."

If the city wants to add more airport parking, Lyons says, Capital Metro could establish a shuttle system between the airport and nearby shopping centers such as Highland Mall. To discourage all-day parking in the "A" lot, escalating rates could be applied which would make it cheaper for people to use limousine services than tie up short-term parking spaces. These options would cost the city nothing.

The AAB will consider Ampco's proposal on July 15 and then forward it to the city council. Binder notes that applying parking rate increases which translate into real benefits for airport customers is "a difficult bridge to cross." -- K.F.

Death Row Woes

Last Thursday, June 26, the Radio-Television-Film Department of UT screened four documentaries by MFA candidates; one of those was Tassos Rigopoulos's Texas and the Death Penalty, a chilling account of the realities and ideologies behind death row in Texas. The film cites local attorney James Harrington, legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, Pam Lychner of the Victim Rights Association, and David Lee Powell, who was convicted in 1978 for the capital murder of a police officer. At the time of filming, Powell was on death row, but has since returned to the Travis County jail for the next step in his appeals process.

Organized opposition to the death penalty is gaining steam in Texas, says Paula Effle, a local attorney who has four clients on death row and is the president of the Central Texas chapter of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which on June 29 observed the anniversary of the 1972 Supreme Court decision ruling the death penalty unconstitutional. Although Effle has yet to see the documentary that screened last week, she echoes some of its sentiments. Chief among those is the desire to provide clear insight into recent capital punishment trends in Texas.

Recent legislation has made it possible for the lengthy capital punishment appellate process in Texas to be streamlined, and Effle says that while she favors efficiency, she questions whether death row inmates are receiving their just due in the appellate process. She worries that the process may actually push death row inmates one step closer to execution without exhausting all their resources. -- C.S.

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