Off the Desk:
The City Council is expected to vote today on an $800,000, 36-month contract with The Music Management Company to run the Austin Music Network. Will the music network finally be saved? Stay tuned ...
The inaugural issue of Working Stiff Journal, a monthly newspaper devoted to covering issues affecting Austin workers, will hit the stands Sept. 7, Labor Day. The editorial collective includes members of seven unions, including the UT Staff Association, the Austin Federation of Teachers/Austin Education Workers, and the Texas State Employees Union. "There's a notable lack of labor news in the press," says Joshua Freeze, a member of the collective. "Newspapers have business sections, but they don't cover labor issues. When the business section does cover labor, it's always from a negative perspective." For subscription info or to get involved call 374-4436 ...
Anticipating a November vote to decide whether Round Rock can spend hotel-motel taxes to build a $13 million ballpark to house the migrating minor league Jackson Generals, critics of the stadium financing plan unveiled a new Web site this week. The site is an exhaustive directory of books, newspaper, and magazines articles sharing a common theme: public funding for sports franchises rarely benefits the taxpayers that fork over the dough for them. For more, check out http://www.foulball.com ...
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, and Mayor Pro-Tem Gus Garcia are among the local Democrats hosting a fundraiser for Texas Land Commissioner candidate Richard Raymond at 5:30 pm Monday at Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Bergman. A $15 donation is requested. For more info, call 476-7585 ... - L.T.
Quote of the Week: Last week, at a forum on Open Records Act issues sponsored by the Austin chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Comptroller John Sharp, who is running for lieutenant governor, offered his assessment of the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Sharp said both parties will "spend every dime in the treasury. The only difference is that Republicans will tell you that they feel bad about it." ... - R.B.
Today marks the second week of hunger strikes in protest of the proposed Sierra Blanca nuclear waste dump. The Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund has signed up over 40 protesters who are holding one-day hunger strikes until Sept. 15, in an attempt to convince Gov. George W. Bush to stop plans for the "low-level" radioactive waste dump in the small West Texas town located 18 miles from the Mexican border. The Bush-appointed Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission will make its final decision whether to license the facility next month. State hearings examiners have recommended that the TNRCC reject the plan. "We hope Governor Bush will finally listen to the citizens here and in Mexico," said Leslie Fields, of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter. "He must not authorize this dump." - E.K.
Just Plane Angry
The harsh criticism leveled by Airport Advisory Board member Leonard Lyons at the latest round of proposed concessionaire contracts at Bergstrom Airport created an angry stir among some local minority powerbrokers, who apparently wanted Lyons tossed off the board. Lyons questioned whether the city's selection of CA One Services Inc. as one of the airport's two newsstand and gift shop vendors owed more to the political connections of the local Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) partnered in the joint venture than to a fair bidding process.
In an e-mail circulated to city staff, Lyons referred to JMP Enterprises, a DBE headed by Juan Portillo, who also controls the $24 million business Tramex Travel, as a corporate "parasite" who wormed into the deal without offering any additional services. Both JMP and another DBE, the Robena Jackson Agency, are said to be responsible for "marketing activities and management." Lyons and two other advisory board members refused to endorse the proposed concessionaire contracts when the board voted to send them to the City Council, saying that inexplicable variances in scores awarded the bidders gave the impression that the outcome of the contract process was predetermined. Lyons also asked how the city had accomplished its stated mission of increasing commercial diversity at the airport by hiring the same company that already holds the food and beverage contract. Lyons' e-mail was forwarded to minority business leaders around town, reportedly as an attempt to launch a petition drive to oust Lyons from the board, say sources who received the e-mail. Tim Warren, director of the city's Small and Minority Business Resources office, and Stacy Dukes-Rhone, daughter of prominent businessman Ben Dukes Sr., are said to have instigated the petition movement. But Dukes-Rhone says while she found Lyon's comments "negative, and maybe kind of racist," she "doesn't want anyone to think I was trying to get him off the board." Warren declined to comment.
Ben Dukes Sr. is a partner in Austin Parking Inc., which in partnership with Ampco, the current parking vendor at Mueller Airport, has been recommended for the parking services contract at Bergstrom. Lyons and the other dissenting advisory board members are not happy with that arrangement, noting that Ampco pays its attendants and drivers barely over the minimum wage, which seems at odds with the city's purported goal to foster living-wage opportunities. Lyons also found fault with the fact that Ampco had the advantage of knowing the number of daily shuttle trips the airport would need and was able to hone its estimated operating costs accordingly, while other bidders had to guess.
Lyons' incessant calls for clean and fair business deals at the city airport have apparently won him more supporters than enemies, however, and fellow board members, councilmembers, and minority business people say they don't want him removed from the board.
"I may not agree with him on everything, but I have the utmost respect for Leonard. He always researches his facts and gives an unbiased opinion, as he sees it, anyway," says Carol Hadnot, owner of Business Resource Consultants, a DBE partner with the Paradies joint venture that will also operate news and gift shops at the airport. Hadnot and others say Lyons asks the correct, if sometimes discomforting, questions about the city's contracting process, and say it's not Lyons, but those trying to silence him, who are behaving irresponsibly. Lyons says Warren's claims that he impugned the character of the DBEs through his comments is just "phony anger" meant to distract attention from a "setup." One of the bidders who lost out to CA One Services, News and Gifts ShopsInternational, as well as Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy, whose magazine is distributed at airport newsstands around the country, also charge that the city's contract selection process was seriously flawed this time around. - K.F.
As noted in last week's "Media Clips," a movement is afoot by several of KOOP radio's (91.7FM) programmers to force a recall of the community station's board of trustees, a move which was denounced in a July 29 e-mail from one of the board's supporters, C. Paul Odekirk. This week, strange facts have surfaced regarding that letter.
The e-mail was signed by several individuals and community organizations, one of which was the Paramount Theatre. That struck KOOP founder and board opponent Jim Ellinger as odd, so he called Paul Beutel, executive director of the Paramount, to ask why the theatre had taken sides in the issue. Beutel replied that the Paramount had no position on the matter and that he had never given permission for the theatre's name to be attached to the letter. Ellinger brought this information to light last Friday on his KOOP program, Austin Airwaves, and also revealed that Odekirk is a Paramount employee.
"I have no idea what our name is doing on the letter," Beutel told the Chronicle this week. "The Paramount has absolutely no position on this issue. I have no idea how our name got on the letter, because I am the only person with the authority to do that." Beutel also confirmed that Odekirk is a part-time employee in the Paramount's box office.
Beutel said he has not directly questioned Odekirk about the matter, but "our box office manager has. [Odekirk told the box office manager that] he has no idea how it got on there either. I do intend to try and find out who is responsible for putting our name on it." When contacted by the Chronicle, Odekirk said, "I didn't sign the Paramount to it. I sent out the letter and when it came back, it came back with a bunch of signatures, and then I sent it out to the press." Asked if he had checked the names to see if they were valid, Odekirk said, "I know most of the people on there, and I assumed somebody with the Paramount had signed [the theatre] on there. I called the other people on the list afterwards, and they all said it was okay." - L.N.
If Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock had any second thoughts about his endorsement of Gov. George W. Bush, he doesn't any more. In the Aug. 14 issue of the Texas Observer, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Garry Mauro blistered Bullock, his former mentor. "He's irrelevant. I mean, in the last poll, 15% of the people recognized him," Mauro said of Bullock. "He's not a help anymore. He's dead. He's gone. He's nobody. He's a lobbyist."
Bullock is not a lobbyist. At least, not yet. But he will soon be moving his office to Public Strategies Inc., the powerful public image/positioning firm founded by his longtime friend, Jack Martin. Bullock's spokesman Tony Proffitt explains that last month, Bullock left his job at the Austin law firm of Scott Douglass & McConnico, where he has worked since 1992. After Bullock leaves office in January, he will begin working out of PSI's offices. But Bullock "won't be an employee," says Proffitt. "He won't be associated with them. He may work on some projects or he may not." Proffitt added that Bullock "is not going to lobby." As for Mauro's comments, Proffitt said that Bullock is not a lobbyist. "And he's not dead. And I suspect his name I.D. is better than Garry's."
For the record, Mauro was Bullock's chief aide during Bullock's first two years as comptroller. Bullock is also the godfather of one of Mauro's children. But after these most recent comments, it appears doubtful that Mauro will be getting any dinner invitations - or endorsements - from Bullock. - R.B.