Naked City

Off the Desk

Public hearings on the Stratus Properties development deal with the city are a moving target. Last week, hearings concerning development over the Edwards Aquifer were postponed. This week's Dec. 7 public hearing is also being postponed. But while public hearings are on hold, closed-door negotiations are likely to continue. Item 48 on the council's Thursday agenda, introduced by Council Members Will Wynn and Daryl Slusher, directs the city manager to resume negotiations with Stratus on a possible trade of land or development rights at the former Mueller airport. A separate agenda item filed by Council Member Beverly Griffith calls for a more open process. SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch warns that the closed-door discussions might result in a Mueller trade without adequate public input.

Council Member Danny Thomas opposes secret negotiations and any deal that would give Stratus rights to develop Mueller in exchange for less development over the Aquifer. In a Dec. 5 letter, Thomas quotes the Mueller Airport Redevelopment and Reuse Plan, which guarantees the city control of "the quality and character of development at the airport." According to Thomas, adhering to the plan will ensure that neighborhoods adjacent to the airport have a say in its development. Thomas writes that protecting the aquifer and developing the old airport are separate issues. A proposed trade with Stratus, he writes, will achieve neither. Thursday's council meeting will be held at 4:30pm at the LCRA Bldg. at 3700 Lake Austin Blvd....

Local consumer advocate Paul Robbins has learned that Florida law permits anyone to examine ballots after an election. In fact, publications and groups are already getting in line. The Washington Post, The Nation, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel are among nine papers and groups to request access to Florida ballots. Robbins suggests that some group recount them -- a daunting task considering that six million votes were cast in Florida, and standing between the ballots and counters is Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, now a household face.

But some Florida votes will never be counted, because they were never cast, according to Gregory Palast's Dec. 6 story in the online magazine Salon (www.salon.com). It seems the Florida secretary of state hired an Atlanta-based firm, ChoicePoint, to prepare a "scrub list" to purge voter rolls of felons. Using the list, 173,000 potential voters were kept from the polls. But not all were felons (see "Margin of Error," p.28). Some Florida counties refused to use the purge list because as many as 15% of the names ChoicePoint provided were incorrectly identified as felons. One Florida "felon" was Linda Howell, who discovered the error because she is elections supervisor of Madison County. (Howell decided that the lists would not be used in Madison County.) There was also a racial bias in the purge list. A Hillsborough Co. statistician found that African-Americans made up 54% of the county purge list, though they represent only 11.6%of the county population. (One ChoicePoint felon is a Hillsborough Co. judge.) ChoicePoint refused to provide the county with verification and information about methods used in compiling the lists.

Despite a flurry of negative publicity, ChoicePoint remains optimistic. Spokesman Martin Fagin told Salon that "given the outcome of our work in Florida, and with a new president in place, we think we will see our services expand across the country." ChoicePoint's board of directors and list of executives include Ken Langone, who was chair of Rudy Giuliani's campaign against Hillary Clinton, and Giuliani's former police commissioner, Howard Safir. GOP lobbyist Vin Weber is also on the board, according to reports in Salon.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    The latest casualty of Vignette's relocation downtown: The Chain Drive, a gay leather bar that sits on property owned by Perry Lorenz that is directly in the path of Vignette's expansion.

    Naked City

    Some Florida voters disqualified as ex-felons by misused Texas Department of Public Safety information

    Naked City

    Council adopts the four-years-in-the-making Mueller redevelopment plan.
  • Naked City

    Despite an expected cancellation of the scheduled public hearing on the city's settlement with Stratus Properties, two council members have put forth a motion to start negotiations on a land or development rights swap between Stratus and the city's land at the former Mueller airport.

    Naked City

    All Sprawled Out

    Naked City

    The Border Patrol settles a suit by several environmental groups, who claimed that the agency's beefed-up efforts at the border have harmed several endangered species.

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