Naked City

Off the Desk

Just when you thought you wouldn't have to cast another ballot until November, along come the City Council elections. So mark May 6 on your calendar as the day all you city folk trudge off to the polls again. In the meantime, neighborhood activist Clare Barry will add her name to the growing list of council hopefuls when she announces her candidacy at a 5:30pm campaign kickoff party Thursday, March 16, at Threadgill's on Barton Springs Road. Barry is running for the Place 5 seat being vacated by Council Member Bill Spelman, and our preliminary read on the race tells us there'll be some interesting dynamics at play between the old-guard neighborhood/ progressive lot, many of whom are backing Barry, and the liberal/borderline booster bloc that supports Will Wynn, a downtown developer and SOS supporter who announced his Place 5 candidacy last month. Barry's support list, released last week, reads like a Who's Who of old Austin rabble-rousers, including enviro activists George Cofer, Mary Arnold, and Dick Kallerman; and neighborhood/community players Will Bozeman, Shudde Fath, Charlotte Flynn, and Susan Moffat, to name just a few ...

Also Thursday, segments of the local Mexican-American community will host a fundraiser for Council Member Willie Lewis, who's running for re-election in Place 6, and has so far drawn two challengers -- police officer Danny Thomas (who has a fundraiser 5-7pm Sunday, March 19 at Roy Henry's Waffle and Chicken, 1815 W. Ben White), and insurance agent Nelson Linder. The Lewis fundraiser runs from 5:30-7:30pm at Juan in a Million, 2300 E. Cesar Chavez ...

In other City Council-related activities, the Polar Bear Club of Austin will rally forth opposition to the proposed Gary Bradley settlement at 10am Sunday at Barton Springs Pool. "We're very disappointed that the current council has chosen to side with [Bradley]," says Polar activist Al St. Louis. He adds his group is trying to recruit some candidates to run for council, but at least one of those prospective recruits, attorney Peggy Underwood, has already deep-sixed that notion. Unless she gets a wild hair in the middle of the night, Underwood says, she's definitely not running. "But something needs to be done to protect the pool," she says. "I've been swimming down there for 25 years ... there used to be plants and fish and turtles and all kinds of life in that pool. Now there's nothing, except salamanders, and the only good thing about the drought is that it's keeping the pool clean." While rains help feed the springs, they also send all sorts of trash and debris rushing downstream, forcing the pool's temporary closure after nearly every storm. The Polar Bears argue that if Bradley is allowed to build on even portions of his property, there'll be twice as much debris and other pollutants to deal with. For more Bradley settlement details, see this week's "Council Watch"...

On the other side of I-35, meanwhile, there's growing neighborhood dismay over the city's decision to buy the old Brown Distributing Co. building at 411 Chicon to house their Building Services Division. "We support the city buying the property," says Joe Quintero of the Greater East Austin Neighborhood Association, "but we don't support what they want to do with it." Quintero says a multi-family, mixed-use conversion would be much more palatable than a city office. "More than anything, we need affordable housing in this neighborhood," Quintero says. The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for March 23. Expect Eastside neighborhood activists to turn out in force on the issue.

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