Naked City

Off the Desk

According to SOS director Bill Bunch, the agreement the city is considering -- that will give Stratus Properties the right to develop some 4,000 acres on the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone west of the city -- is not much different than the development plan that started the SOS fight 10 years ago. "After all the triumphalism of the New Green Austin, did we win or lose?" Bunch asked.

Bunch complains that Mayor Kirk Watson has made "a strategic decision to pursue this deal rather than build a coalition to fight it in the next legislative session." As Bunch sees it, after the city's hired lobbyists and Watson's own lobbying effort failed to stop the Legislature from enacting House Bill 1704, City Council surrendered. "Now they are about to retreat and declare victory," he said. HB 1704 allows developers to build under older and more lax "grandfathered" regulations.

"The city is negotiating as if it has to accept the Stratus deal or have them impose their settlement on us," Bunch said. "The lawyer representing the city, Casey Dobson, said if the city turns this down, Stratus will drop a hydrogen bomb on us in the next Legislature. So we are surrendering." Mark Tschurr, who also works with SOS, argues that allowing the development makes no sense when the city has the high tech community committed to locating downtown as part of a smart growth plan. "We will have to make commitments of services, schools, roads, and money to suburban development, while we ask them to stay downtown," Tschurr said. A draft proposal will be presented to City Council Thursday, Oct. 5, and decided upon over the next few months ...

George W. Bush fared better at the presidential debate in Boston than he did at a pro-choice fundraiser in Austin, where he was a foil for abortion rights candidates backed by TARAL -- the Texas Abortion Rights Action League. "The next president will likely nominate two or three Supreme Court justices," said Liz Carpenter, reading her own quote from a promotional poster. "George W. Bush has said his models are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Are they yours?" Two hours after Carpenter referred to the two justices who define the extreme right of the high court, Vice-President Gore warned debate watchers that Thomas and Scalia are the sort of justices Bush will appoint. Carpenter, an Austin writer, institution, and former speech writer for Lady Bird Johnson, won TARAL's annual Voice for Choice award.

San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth was the lone pro-choice Republican officeholder at the fundraiser, and while TARAL director Kae McLaughlin recognized Wentworth as a friend "from the other side of the aisle," she handed her microphone to Ann Kitchen -- a Democrat running for the West Austin House seat vacated by Sherri Greenberg. "The whole state looks to the Austin delegation for its support of women's reproductive rights," said McLaughlin. Kitchen told the audience that her opponent, Jill Warren, received her candidate's questionnaire and "checked that little box that says 'I will work to overturn Roe v. Wade.'" Kitchen will benefit from money TARAL is spending in Austin, where targeted voters will get a combination of four to seven direct mail pieces and telephone calls between now and Nov. 7. (McLaughlin also complained that the Austin American-Statesman doesn't run TARAL op-ed pieces because it is too close to the governor.) City Council Members Jackie Goodman and Beverly Griffith also attended the event, as did Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, judicial candidate Darlene Byrne, and surrogate candidate Alan Greenberg, campaign manager and husband of Municipal Court Judge Karrie Key, who is running for district court.

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    Gary Bradley fires back in the ongoing battle over who will control ranchland claimed by Hatsy Heep Shaffer, but it will be a while, if ever, before the Circle C developer can implement his development plans for the land.

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    Three bonds proposals up on the city ballot Nov. 7 may strike a sense of deja vu in longtime Austinites.

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    After months of litigation over who owns what portion of the Sand Beach Reserve on Town Lake, Lumbermen's Development Corp. has offered the city a deal. Also: the council discusses a settlement with Stratus properties over development on their land over the aquifer, and the city amends the camping ordinance.

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