Naked City

Off the Desk

Town Lake Park stakeholders are fit to be tied over a parking proposal the ARTS Center Stage folks slipped past them to try and fast-track for City Council action on Dec. 16. In taking the parking idea directly to city staff, ARTS bypassed fellow stakeholders involved in the planning of the new Community Events Center and Long Center for the Performing Arts, both of which will replace the existing City Coliseum and Palmer Auditorium. "So much for an open process," mused Larry Akers, a Friends of the Parks stakeholder. Akers said he had no idea the latest parking proposal had been in the works until receiving a Dec. 6 letter faxed from ARTS Chair Ben Bentzen, a Dell Computer executive, who lays out the plan and asks for stakeholder support. The proposal calls for ARTS loaning the city $1 million to build "structural support" onto the planned parking garage that would allow for two extra levels "should the current parking plan [of 1,200 spaces] prove inadequate." In turn, the city would pay back the loan with interest, and ARTS would retain the right to name the parking garage. "This money issue is serious," Akers says. "They want the extra parking but they're not offering to pay for it at all. They'd rather raid the park development budget," Akers, along with Jeff Jack of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, and Ellen Johnson of the South Central Coalition of Neighborhoods, are trying to do some fast-tracking of their own to deep-six this idea before it lands on the council agenda...

In other serious money matters, City Manager Jesus Garza will likely be sweating bullets today (Thursday, Dec. 9) as the Austin City Council is scheduled to rate his performance of the past year and decide whether the CM deserves a 3% raise, a 5% raise -- or, egad, nothing at all. Garza's relationship with some of the council members over the past year has been a bit testy, so the review process should prove interesting...

Bicycle activist and woman of letters Amy Babich will announce her candidacy for Austin City Council tonight, as part of the monthly meeting of the Austin Bicycle Advisory Council. Babich is seeking the Place 5 seat currently held by Bill Spelman, a University of Texas professor, who is expected to run for re-election. In a press statement on Tuesday, Babich made clear that transportation issues -- sans cars -- would be her primary pitch to voters. "We need to reduce the number of cars on Austin's streets," Babich wrote, "not try to accommodate more cars." Last year, Babich tried to run against Jackie Goodman, but only got as far as the clerk's office, where she was turned away due to some quirky red tape concerning her filing papers, which effectively disqualified her as a candidate. Babich launches her campaign at 6pm tonight (Thursday) at Threadgill's on Barton Springs Road...

Hours before Mayor Kirk Watson's anti-climactic announcement Wednesday that he would seek a second term, the Austin Police Political Action Committee had already cranked out a press release dutifully proclaiming their support for the mayor who is a "friend of law enforcement." Similarly, a cross-section of supporters filled the council chambers Wednesday, demonstrating perhaps that anyone else would have to be crazy to run against Watson. Before heading out on the campaign trail, the mayor's first order of business will be to find a replacement for Larry Warshaw, his spin control chief who has left the mayor's office effective this week. Warshaw is working with three other folks -- including high-tech millionaire Peter Zandan -- to launch an Internet company that focuses on health care. Watson, says Warshaw, "has been a wonderful mentor ... he's taught me how to be successful and how to get things done."

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town lake park, ARTS center state, Larry Akers, Jesus Garza, Mayor Kirk Watson, Larry Warshaw, Amy Babich.

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