Naked City

Off the Desk

Shane Phelps, the law-and-order Republican candidate who wants to unseat District Attorney Ronnie Earle in November, has resigned from the state attorney general's office to immerse himself full time in what likely will be this fall's hottest -- and costliest -- race in Travis County. "I am determined to win," Phelps wrote in a widely distributed e-mail announcing his resignation as deputy attorney general for criminal justice. Phelps is making his second attempt for DA after having lost to Earle, a Democrat and longtime district attorney, in 1997...

A varied collection of "concerned community leaders" sent a letter to Dell Computer this week imploring the computer giant to reconsider moving its executive headquarters into the Drinking Water Protection Zone off of Loop 360. "The only thing that bothered me about signing the letter is that Dell is such a good corporate citizen," said downtown property owner/developer Perry Lorenz. "But they are incredibly responsive, and I think it would be incredible for them to pull out [of the DWPZ]." East Austin community advocate Thomas Henderson, who also signed the letter, wondered why more companies like Dell don't relocate to East Austin, where there's plenty of property. "Why do they have to go sit on our birds and bees and water, when they can empower and impact the lives of blacks and browns in a disadvantaged community?" See below for the full text of the letter and a list of its signers...

The city auditor's evaluation last year of the electric utility's new billing system project may have angered City Manager Jesus Garza, but the report took first place honors this week at the annual convention of the National Association of Local Government Auditors. City Auditor Helen Niesner and others from her staff are expected to pick up the award today, Thursday, May 18, in New Orleans. The audit, presented to the City Council last June, faulted the utility for its implementation of a new Customer Information System, now in effect after nine months of delays and cost overruns of over $1.2 million, according to the audit. "The city manager was a little upset," Assistant City Auditor Page Graves recalled of the response from Garza, who oversees the utility. "But we've had some nice conversations since then."...

After a long winter's nap, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has rumbled out of its resting place to move toward weighing in on the issue of light rail, which goes before voters Nov. 7. The chamber has assembled a blue ribbon task force charged with deciding whether the business group should climb on board or not. Dewey Biscotto, Southwestern Bell's vice president for external affairs, and Ben Bentzin, Dell's public online marketing director and chairman of Arts Center Stage, will co-chair the group ...

It's official: outgoing state Rep. Sherri Greenberg, Austin's District 48 representative, has thrown her support behind a prospective successor -- Democratic nominee Ann Kitchen, who faces the GOP's Jill Warren in November. Greenberg hosted a fundraiser for Kitchen at her home Wednesday night ...

Jennifer Gale isn't discouraged by her recent showing in the mayor's race, even though she got just 1,244 votes, the fewest of the four candidates in the race. "I'm going to keep running until I win," Gale said last week. "Even if it takes me 50 years." While awaiting her date with City Hall, Gale told the Chronicle she's planning to run for Congress as an independent write-in candidate. Once that political bug bites...

DELL LETTER

To: Michael Dell, Tom Meredith & Other Dell Senior Executive Team Members

From: Concerned Community Leaders

Date: May 15, 2000

Re: Location in the Drinking Water Protection Zone

We are writing to express our grave concern with the selection of Las Cimas as the "new headquarters" site for Dell's top executives. Las Cimas is located in Austin's most sensitive watersheds, known as the Drinking Water Protection Zone (DWPZ). If a highly influential and important company like Dell locates here, it sends a clear message to the rest of the business community that Austin's Smart Growth strategy is not worth supporting. We are asking you to please consider the magnitude of Dell's influence on the rest of the business community and reconsider your decision to locate any operations in such an environmentally sensitive area.

This decision is in sharp contrast with the outstanding leadership you showed on Smart Growth when you chose the location for your Parmer Lane facility. We are surprised that you did not take advantage of this opportunity to send a clear signal of commitment to protecting our region's quality of life.

Our specific concerns can be summarized as follows: Dell is the first major employer in more than ten years to move to the DWPZ. This significantly reverses the momentum built recently by companies such as CSC, Motorola, Tivoli and Intel. This sends the wrong signal at the wrong time to those many major companies looking to move here or expand existing facilities. For Dell to indicate that locating in environmentally sensitive areas is acceptable is a critical blow to the city's efforts to direct growth to the Desired Development Zone, and protect our quality of life. Dell has always been a magnet for growth. Dell's decision could accelerate other companies' plans to move nearby, creating a domino effect of new offices, new residential subdivisions and new retail services that will be nearly impossible to stop. This action will also greatly magnify existing traffic problems.

We realize that this new headquarters is more convenient. We appreciate the fact that Dell is symbolically moving "back to Austin. " We realize that other, smaller/lesser known companies are already there. We realize that the building is under construction. Still, these factors are far, far outweighed by the damaging implications of such a move and the missed opportunity. It is ironic that the news of Dell's decision to locate in our most sensitive watersheds appeared one day before both the Austin American Statesman and the Austin Chronicle ran major features warning about the dangers of high-tech induced growth patterns.

We respectfully ask that Dell reconsider its decision. We further ask that you meet privately with a small group of community leaders and planning experts to discuss the impact of this move. Most importantly, we ask that Dell formally outline its intentions to support Austin's Smart Growth initiatives, our environmental assets and our neighborhoods over the next five years. In exchange, we offer to enthusiastically assist you in finding a site that supports Smart Growth and meets your needs. Thank you in advance for your attention. We appreciate Dell's leadership and hope to move forward together to protect what we all love about Austin.

Signed, (PLEASE NOTE: The signers are acting as individuals; the affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.)

Robin Rather, CEO, Mindwave Research Inc.; Brigid Shea, president, Brigid Shea & Associates;

Thomas Henderson, East Austin community leader;

Fr. Bill Elliott-Pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church;

Robin Schneider, director, Texas Campaign for the Environment;

Will Bozeman, pres., Austin Neighborhoods Council;

Steve Madere, CTO, deja.com'

Gary Chapman, director, 21st Century Project and national columnist on high tech;

Dwayne "Sparky" Anderson, program director, Texas Clean Water Action;

Will Wynn, newly elected Austin City Council Member;

Gus Garcia, Retiring Austin City Council Member;

Jackie Goodman, Austin City Council Member;

Daryl Slusher, Austin City Council Member;

Karen Akins, community transportation specialist;

Perry Lorenz, downtown real estate broker/developer

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