The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/1999-09-03/73725/

Naked City

Off the Desk

By Amy Smith, September 3, 1999, News

Mayor Kirk Watson clambered onto a giant backhoe Wednesday afternoon and, with the aid of a licensed backhoe driver, scooped up some dirt, officially breaking ground in the $110 million, 470,400 sq. ft. expansion of the Austin Convention Center. Off to the side, Council Member Willie Lewis boasted his own backhoe expertise: "I could pick up a quarter with one of those things," he said. A few moments earlier, city honchos, downtown developers, Chamber boosters, and old-school Convention Center detractors swapped congratulatory salutations as they waited for the ceremony to begin. Some of the one-time naysayers credited the center's director, Bob Hodge, for their newfound allegiance to the center. "As long as he's in charge," said one, "I have complete faith in this deal." With work scheduled to begin this month, a foundation laid in December, and construction starting in March, expect the new facility's doors to swing open in spring 2002...

New warning signs posted at the Barton Springs spillway in Zilker Park may signal the end of one of Austin's time-honored traditions -- letting your dog run amok in the cold waters gushing out of Barton Springs Pool. City park police are fixing to crack down on unleashed pets in the creek area due to complaints of aggressive Alphas picking on smaller dogs. Parks and Rec workers have hammered in new signs that ban both swimmers and unleashed dogs in the spillway, although dogs are the real target. "We're asking for voluntary compliance," says Warren Struss, chief administrator of the park police, who calls the sign a "tool to use when it becomes a problem." That means owners of breeds with a bad rep -- pit bulls, Rottweilers, dobermans -- could find that "tool" being applied to them more than others, so beware. While verbal warnings will be the rule, Struss says some violators could get Class C citations, which carry fines as high as $200...

Eco-Wise owner Jim Holland was hopping mad when he saw the letter his fax machine spit out last week, tacitly informing him that Texas Health Distributors, a subsidiary of Whole Foods, was cutting him off from the $20,000 worth of health products he buys from them each year. "This will allow us to focus our energy and resources to supporting Whole Foods stores," the letter stated tersely. "They offered no apologies and no suggestions of where to go, except maybe to hell," grumbled Holland from his South Austin shop, which sells environmentally friendly products. Whole Foods -- through THD -- controls the organic produce market in Texas, so it's understandable why word spread like fruitflies this week that THD may be cutting off a chunk of its local client base -- a move that would force many buyers to seek a distributor outside of Austin. Neither Whole Foods nor THD could be reached for comment at press time. A Fresh Plus employee says his store hasn't been informed of any such cutoff, although he'd heard that one could be imminent. Wheatsville manager Dan Gillotte says the co-op won't be affected. "We've gotten some assurance they're going to keep serving us," he says. "I think they might be letting go of some of the smaller fish, though" ...

When Tivoli Systems went scouting for land to expand its Austin office, it took the unusual step of turning to the SOS Alliance for help. Tivoli, heeding its employees' wishes, wanted to settle in a Smart Growth zone, explained Tivoli's Yvonne Donaldson, which meant looking outside the watershed area of the southwest. Now, the IBM-owned outfit is looking at three prospective sites: US 183 in Cedar Park, the IBM campus on Burnet, and McNeil and Parmer Lane in Northwest Austin.

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