Naked City

Off the Desk

It's going to take more than a leap of faith to convince a new neighborhood group that the Hyde Park Baptist Church is expanding in the name of the Lord. The recently formed Alliance to Save Hyde Park is calling on the spirit of local activism to try to stop the church's $18 million mission to snap up property and construct new buildings in the historic neighborhood. (That's to say nothing of the church's drive to spread its wings up north -- a plan that also has neighborhoods rallying in opposition.) In Hyde Park, where the church has made its flagship for more than 100 years, higher-ranking neighborhood association members are resigning their positions to join the new activist group -- thus circumventing a potential conflict for HPNA in light of its 10-year-old development agreement with the church. So far, former co-president Susan Moffat (who is married to Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro) has opted out of taking another NA position, and Marie Carmel has stepped down from the NA's church liaison committee to take up arms alongside the activists. Former co-president Ann Graham tries to strike a harmonious note on the latest developments. "I believe in what both groups are doing," she says of the Alliance, and the NA's more reserved (and restrained) church liaison committee. "The new group ... is creatively exploring ways to say, 'No, you can't do this.'" The Alliance hopes to shuttle the dispute off to City Hall, where it would likely take on more colorful hues, with former mayor Ron Mullen and attorney Richard Suttle standing in defense of the church. Wisely staying out of the fray is Council Member Bill Spelman, whose home is within a stone's throw of the Baptists ...

Longhorn Railway owner Don Cheatham was spitting mad Tuesday afternoon when, for the second time in less than a month, a train being pulled by his railway company derailed at a crossing on Cherrywood Blvd. in Northeast Austin. Cheatham pointed the finger of blame squarely at Capital Metro, which owns the tracks. "This is outrageous," he seethed, as he surveyed the damage. "I told them to fix this crossing a month ago." The transit authority's rail manager, Robert Bolduc, arrived at the scene shortly after the derailment. "We need to open the crossing up and see what's underneath and then fix it," he said. But Cheatham insists that Cap Met's lack of action shows a disregard for safety. If his train had been hauling hazardous materials instead of lime, the spill would have put local residents in danger. The accident will likely cost Cheatham $30,000, although the railway owner/lawyer is not likely to bear the cost himself -- particularly when his relationship with the transit agency is so poor. As Cheatham put it, "They've done nothing but manipulate, equivocate, and prevaricate"...

By the time Council Member Gus Garcia made public last week his decision not to seek re-election, at least a dozen names were being floated as possible successors to the veteran politician's seat. There are too many to name here, but the more notable prospects include former county commissioner Marcos De Leon, lobbyist and former state senator Hector Uribe, up-and-comer Raul Alvarez of the Sierra Club, one-time council candidate Hector Ortiz, and attorney/lobbyist Rafael Quintanilla. (And who says the "gentleman's agreement" is dead?) Political watchers say Quintanilla carries broader appeal -- except for the fact that he campaigned against the SOS ordinance in 1992. "That was many years ago, and now I'm as committed as anyone," he says, adding he'd like to meet soon with the SOS leadership.@body text:

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Hyde Park Baptist Church, Alliance To Save Hyde Park, Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, Marie Carmel, Ann Graham, Ron Mullen, Richard Suttle, Don Cheatham, Longhorn Railway, Gus Garcia, City Council, Marcos Deleon, Bill Spelman, Robert Bolduc

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