Naked City

Off the Desk

If Place 6 Council Member Willie Lewis thought he had a lock on the Austin Police Association PAC endorsement of his re-election candidacy, he was mistaken. But he shouldn't have been surprised. The APA members this week threw their weight behind one of their own, Danny Thomas, who's been with APD for 21 years. "As a working police officer, Danny knows the traffic problems in this city better than most anyone," said APA PAC Chair Sean Mannix. "He understands that it is critical to the safety of our residents that we find long-term and short-term solutions to our congested streets and highways." Lewis' political consultant, Todd Main, brushed off the news this way: "While Willie has voted for everything the police ever wanted, they don't have a good track record of making political endorsements," Main said. "They didn't endorse Willie the first time he ran, and he won; they didn't endorse Bill Spelman, and he won, and they didn't endorse Beverly Griffith, and she won." Apart from Lewis and Thomas, the only other Place 6 candidate to announce so far is insurance agent Nelson Linder. See this week's "Council Watch" for the latest developments in the Place 5 council race, where Bill Spelman announced he won't seek re-election ...

The whole town knew it was a done deal before the deal was ever sealed, but on Friday, officials from the city and Computer Sciences Corp. finally put their respective John Hancocks on the documents designed to keep the pair honest during the course of their public-private marriage -- which began in earnest long before the contract was signed. The arrangement calls for three new CSC buildings, a new City Hall, a public plaza, and ground-floor retail opportunities, which are supposed to put a new face on downtown's bare-boned west end. Despite the project's relatively broad-based booster appeal, the new deal is not without its skeptics. Local activist Paul Robbins is as skeptical today as he was when the plan was first introduced. "There will be things that go wrong that we can't predict -- cost overruns, traffic jams, and construction delays and errors," he said. "And since the Austin community was never really consulted and had no input, they will be much less likely to tolerate the problems." In a broader sense, he added, the city may be becoming overreliant on the local computer industry's good economic fortune of late. "What happens," he asks, "when the computer industry takes a dive? We could end up like Detroit did in the late 1970s."

One computer geek who refuses to take a dive (despite antitrust police efforts) is Bill Gates. The Microsoft king will appear via satellite at the Austin Convention Center on Thursday for the Windows 2000 launch. Registration starts at 10am. For details, call 877/673-8368, or go to

If you're a civic-minded individual looking for extra pocket change, the local Democratic and Republican parties have sent out an all-points bulletin in search of able bodies and minds to assist with the March 14 primary election. There are lots of positions open -- from election judges, to clerks, to ballot counters. Some jobs pay $5.15 an hour, while others pay as much as $7 and change. Only registered voters need apply. For specifics, contact one of these three: Travis County Democratic Party, 477-7500; Travis County Elections, 473-9553; or Travis County Republican Party, 420-9556. In a similar vein, the Texas Democratic Party needs volunteers to help with a big mailout Friday afternoon at party headquarters; call 478-9800.

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