Naked City

Council a No-Show at SOS Events

Supporters of the Save Our Springs Ordinance rocked the house -- and the water -- last week in honor of the 10th anniversary of the citizen-driven law to protect water quality. The celebrations, including an Aug. 8 party at the Hard Rock Cafe and a daylong festival Aug. 11 at Barton Springs Pool, were bittersweet, considering the City Council's freshly inked deal with Stratus Properties to allow for development of more than 1,250 acres over the aquifer. Opponents of the agreement, led by the Save Our Springs Alliance, proved merciless in their opposition, which apparently caused the council to dig in its heels even further. The battle-scarred Stratus agreement is also the object of a pending lawsuit that the SOS Alliance has brought against the city and the developers.

The noticeable absence of council members at an SOS Alliance-sponsored event hardly came as a surprise, although the standing joke was that they and city staff would have turned out in droves had the event featured a dunking booth for SOS leader Bill Bunch. Council Member Raul Alvarez -- the lone dissenter on the Stratus deal -- had planned to attend, but evidently got sidetracked. Only Mayor Gus Garcia sent his regrets; he was attending an event honoring U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in the Rio Grande Valley. In an e-mail to the SOS Alliance, Garcia apologized for his absence, congratulated the folks who keep the ordinance's spirit alive, and offered some sentiments about the future. "Much remains to be done, and my hope is that we continue to work together ... in a positive and participatory manner to complete the work necessary to protect our aquifer and our springs," he wrote.

As it turned out, the Alliance got its biggest political boost from Austin's State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who put in an opportune appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe, along with an entourage of T-shirt-wearing campaign staffers (Barrientos is on the stump; he faces Republican Dellionaire Ben Bentzin in November). The veteran senator gave a rousing, impromptu speech touting the work of SOS Alliance and even encouraged the 200 or so folks to donate more than the $10 that got them through the door.

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