Edited By Lauri Apple, Fri., March 8, 2002
Savor the magic:
Severe Weather Awareness
Week -- it's almost gone.
Nearly twice as many local Democrats as Republicans have participated in early voting for the March 12 primary, according to the Travis County Clerk's Office. As of Tuesday, 8,600 Democrats and 4,534 Republicans had cast ballots. Two years ago, Travis GOP turnout was actually higher than Dem turnout; County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir notes that while Democratic numbers have stayed roughly the same, the GOP's have declined. Despite hopes that the Sanchez-Morales race would spur Hispanic turnout, locations in Latino communities so far haven't witnessed any significant spikes. The heated six-way race for state House Dist. 51, along with the gubernatorial matchup, may be causing voters to ponder their choices a little longer before making final decisions.
The candidates dueling to become master-developers of the Mueller Airport project made their public presentations to a packed meeting of the city's Mueller Redevelopment Plan Implementation Advisory Commission Tuesday night. Both the local Mueller Redevelopment Team and San Francisco-based Catellus Development have proposed changes to the Mueller master plan drafted by Roma Design Group, which is helping the city evaluate the two teams' business plans. City staff will make its recommendation to the City Council in four to six weeks.
The Villas on Guadalupe student housing complex goes before the City Council for second and third reading at today's (March 7) meeting. Members of the North University Neighborhood Association -- including those who live on Hemphill Park, across the street from the proposed Villas -- have filed a valid petition opposing the rezoning request for MF-6-CO (with conditions) on Tract One of the site, and CS-MU-CO (with conditions) on the second tract. Council approved those zoning standards 5-2 on first reading Jan. 10, but would need six votes to override the petition. Joined by other associations, NUNA has called for a moratorium on development until the city reviews its neighborhood planning process.
The Austin Police Association has mounted a PR offensive, including radio ads, against a proposed charter amendment that would make the results of internal investigations and certain police personnel records available to the public. If adopted by voters in May, the "sunshine amendment," which originated with the ACLU Texas Police Accountability Project, would violate the current meet-and-confer agreement with the police union, says the APA. Supporters counter that the amendment would only take effect after the current contract expires.
A proposed ordinance prohibiting front-lawn parking will appear on the Planning Commission's March 13 agenda and could go before City Council as soon as March 14. The ordinance would automatically include all neighborhoods that have written letters of support either to the council or to movement leaders the North Austin Civic Association. Neighborhoods hoping to pass the ordinance after council's approval would need to submit a petition containing signatures from 10% to 20% of homeowners. On March 8, Council Member Danny Thomas' office will begin putting together a map of neighborhoods to be covered by the ordinance. The Planning Commission meets at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd., at 6pm. For more info, call 972-5600.
After a stern talking-to from South Austin doyenne Susan Toomey Frost, the City Council decided to postpone indefinitely a measure amending the city code to prohibit alcohol sales within 300 feet of private schools. (Public schools and churches are already covered.) Frost's property between Barton Springs and Toomey Rd. will likely be the fourth, and final, home of the Cedar Door bar, but Parkside Community School is within 300 feet, and the school has fought the bar's zoning change before the Zoning and Platting Commission. A receptive council -- perhaps remembering what must be, between them, thousands of wet ones tipped at the Cedar Door -- voted 7-0 to make the idea go away.
On March 5, the State Comptroller's office shut down Austin's legendary Texas Chili Parlor for non-payment of $36,039 in both sales and mixed-beverage taxes. Comptroller's Office spokesman Mark Sanders said the office had been trying to work with the restaurant's new owner, Margaret Chase, since last September, but that six checks intended to cover the back taxes all bounced. Chase has until today (March 7) to come up with the money, Sanders said, but if she can't, the comptroller could be forced to auction off the restaurant's assets. "We haven't made any final decisions," Sanders said, "and we're hoping we can work it out."
Lawyer Vincent Aldridge, Council Member Danny Thomas' appointee to the Zoning and Platting Commission, has announced he's running for City Council against incumbent Daryl Slusher -- assuming Slusher gathers enough signatures to get around term limits. And lawyer and novelist Brewster McCracken, who's been campaigning for a while, formally kicks off his candidacy against Beverly Griffith at the Driskill Hotel on Thursday, March 7, at 1pm.
When Texas Dems told gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez he would have to pay the cost to be the boss, he apparently took it literally. Campaign finance reports released this week confirm that Sanchez has spent nearly $19 million this primary season, including roughly $15 million of his own money in contributions or loans. Will Sanchez have to raise money from private interests to repay the loans? He says he hasn't yet decided. (His main primary opponent, Dan Morales, has thus far spent about $560,000 since entering the race at the January deadline.) The numbers also must be raising eyebrows at incumbent Rick Perry's campaign headquarters, where the January kitty stood at only $13 million; Perry has no primary opponent. Should Sanchez win the nomination, the general election promises to be the most expensive in Texas history, surpassing the 1990 Ann Richards vs. Clayton Williams toll of $50 million.
Dist. 51 Lege candidate Eddie Rodriguez had planned his March 5 fundraiser at Pato's Tacos, but the cozy restaurant burned down the night before -- requiring him to move the fiesta to campaign HQ on East Sixth. Pato's, an Eastside landmark, fell victim to a fire started by transients trying to stave off the freeze.
The Texas Dept. of Public Safety will graduate 102 new troopers March 8 at 10:30am at the Toney Burger Activity Center, near Oak Hill. Since the department expects a marked increase in retirements this year, DPS has extended its new trooper recruitment deadline to March 25. For more info, call 866/TXTROOP.
Wimberley Mayor Linda Hewlett has decided not to run for re-election -- that is, assuming there is such a job come May. Residents are petitioning to force a vote on unincorporating the village, which only became a proper town in 2000. Longtime Austin planning commissioner Walter Brown, now a member of Hewlett's City Council, may run for the job.
Voters hoping to choose pro-choice state and federal candidates during the March 12 primary have a resource to guide them at the polls. The Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League has posted its voter's guide at www.taral.org.
Speaking of Slusher, in a Feb. 25 letter posted on his Web site, www.darylslusher.com, the council's answer to Hank Williams discussed "18,263" -- the number of citizen signatures he, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, and Council Member Beverly Griffith need to override the two-term limit on council members seeking reelection. (Griffith reached the finish line last month, and Goodman, like Slusher, is still collecting.) Slusher cited his 1999 victory over five opponents with just 18,721 votes (55% of the total cast), and also referred to a recent Dallas Morning News article on a signature drive underway in Cuba, of all places. "Under the Cuban constitution," the DMN reported, "citizens who collect 10,000 signatures can compel the government to hold a straw poll asking for legislative changes." Replied Slusher: "OK, so it's probably more difficult to collect signatures in Cuba, but the point is that the Cuban Constitution provides for a national referendum upon collection of 10,000 signatures in a country of 11 million. Back in Austin, it takes almost twice that many signatures just to run for a third term on the City Council -- or roughly the same number it takes to handily win a Council election."
Judge Margaret Cooper recently turned down Brazoria and Fort Bend Counties' request for an injunction to keep 55-mph speed limits from being reinstated in the Houston suburbs. Meanwhile, Austin-area clean-air planners are considering lower speed limits in an attempt to deal with air pollution. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission also is exploring alternatives to the dreaded double-nickel, at Gov. Rick Perry's request. AISD invites folks with strong appellative skills to submit names for the district's new North Activity Center and the Field Sports facility, currently under construction in northeast Austin. Include a one-page narrative describing the person whose name you're nominating. The deadline is Monday, March 18; send nominations to AISD Board of Trustees, 1111 W. Sixth, Austin, TX 78703.
As if life in City Hall weren't cinematic enough, Mark Nathan, aide to Council Member Will Wynn, is co-director (with UT film prof Paul Stekler) of Spit Farther!, a short documentary film spotlighting Luling's annual Watermelon Thump. The film, which Nathan modestly describes as "the most important film about watermelon-seed spitting ever made," premieres this week at the SXSW Film Festival.
Help clean up Cherrywood Green Creek, which neighbors say is full of garbage. Meet at 34th and Cherrywood, noon, Saturday, March 9. Keep Austin Beautiful will provide bags and gloves, so just bring yourself and a date.