The Austin Chronicle

Dreams and Schemes

He's Got Vision

By Jenny Staff, November 20, 1998, News

Watson said the logic of the CSC deal is "so obvious it hurts: "It bypasses developers and deals directly with the tenant, it snags for downtown a major employer with all its attendant benefits, and it bolsters Austin's high-tech economy, which in turn gets us more mentions in the likes of Fortune magazine, etc. But Watson's few critics say he's asking us to trust him on a lot, and a deal that looks suspiciously like the gift of a prime city lease to a big corporation without a competitive bidding process is going a little too far.

This is a good mayor with a good vision for the city. But sometimes he does get carried away. His hasty plan to bring the Ice Bats to the shores of Town Lake, for example, had to be aborted mid-stream, but still, the end result was a better plan for Auditorium Shores. While he's a fast mover on ideas he likes, the mayor is a man whose instincts are usually trustworthy: "Some of his ideas are half-baked, but he's a good chef," said a source close to the council.

There's no question that the mayor has been, in the words of one council-watcher, "emboldened" by his successes. And the Nov. 3 passage of an ambitious bond package, including the mayor's Palmer Auditorium/new civic center scheme, has him riding even higher. "We haven't had a mayor as strong as this since the Roy Butler days," said one downtown developer-type. "If you're on the wrong side of the mayor, watch out."

But one of the main reasons you've got to watch out for this mayor is the enormous consensus he's built -- a unified council and a solid majority of Austinites who come out to raise their own taxes by approving huge bond packages. Anyone who challenges him needs to provide an alternative -- quickly and very publicly. The mayor's coalition is only growing, and his mark is being left more thoroughly on this city every day. So speak now or forever hold your peace.

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Dream On by Robert Faires

This Week in Council: Council will consider exceptions to the S.O.S. Ordinance for a proposed shopping center, The Forum, planned in southwest Austin; there's a possibility council could agree to more impervious cover in exchange for more land left untouched by the developer.

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