Naked City

Austin Stories

After less than three years at the helm, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Mark Hazelwood announced he would step down by year's end. After backing causes like light rail and regional planning, Hazelwood earned good marks from many Austin leaders used to fighting tooth-and-nail with the "Chamber of Concrete." But the tech bust, which took a huge bite out of the Chamber's own budget, took its toll; the former oil executive says rebuilding Austin's economy will take a longer and deeper commitment than he's willing to make. -- M.C.M.

Capital Metro smiled as it adopted its $108.3 million fiscal 2003 budget last week. Despite declining sales tax revenues, transit authority spending will actually go up 8.8%, mostly to defray increased personnel costs, after some budget-scrubbing and additional federal funding. Cap Metro will also acquire six hybrid electric buses, expected to enter service early next year. -- M.C.M.

Ballet Austin announced it will purchase -- for $3.5 million -- the Aus-Tex Printing and Mailing building in the Warehouse District for its new headquarters. The site, across from the Austin Music Hall and the proposed Austin Museum of Art, will be renovated (another $3 million) to house both offices and rehearsal space. Local banker, booster, and bon vivant Eddie Safady is giving the troupe a special low-interest loan, to be repaid only after fundraising for the Long Center for the Performing Arts is completed. -- M.C.M.

The Society Page: Two young men on the go in Austin politics -- mayoral aide Adam Smith and political consultant Mike Blizzard -- bid adieu to bachelorhood this week. Blizzard married Karen Hoffman last Saturday at an elegant but noisy ceremony on the lawn of East Austin's French Legation, with County Court-at-Law Judge Gisela Triana presiding and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, among other local notables, in attendance. Smith (described by In Fact Daily as "tall, dark, handsome") is set to marry Anna Himler on Friday. -- Lauri Apple

A County Court-at-Law judge will hear arguments Friday in the long-running battle between the city and downtown property owner Harry Whittington, whose land the city wishes to condemn for the new Convention Center parking garage. The city's first eminent-domain filing on Whittington's block, between Sabine, Red River, Fourth, and Fifth, was tossed out on a technicality -- the city hadn't personally served Whittington's wife and daughter, co-owners of the property, with condemnation notices. Whittington is likewise seeking to have the current case thrown out, because the city failed to include in its motion an alley that, while not visible on the ground, is identified in city plats. Whittington says he'd rather keep the property for a future multi-use development. Friday's hearing is set for 2pm in Court at Law No. 1. -- Amy Smith

As promised when it approved the FY2003 city budget, the Austin City Council has raised the fine for parking in a handicapped space to $300. The extra money raised will help fund the city's summer-jobs programs for young people with disabilities. -- M.C.M.

It's been a long time coming, but the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas has finally landed a new executive director -- Randall K. Ellis of Houston. He is currently the district director for state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, was the rep.'s policy analyst in the last legislative session, and has also served as outreach coordinator for the AIDS Foundation of Houston. He succeeds Dianne Hardy-Garcia. -- A.S.

A draft of a proposed pipeline safety ordinance will make the public-hearing circuit this month, but will likely undergo several revisions before it reaches the City Council dais at the end of the year. The measure was spawned by the acrimonious proceedings surrounding the Stratus Properties development agreement; though the controversial Longhorn Pipeline runs right through Stratus' southwest Austin holdings, it was largely unaddressed by the agreement. The draft ordinance proposes a 200-foot minimum distance between any structure and underground pipelines carrying hazardous liquids; developers are said to be antsy about having another set of rules imposed on their projects. A draft should be available for public review before the first hearing, set for Oct. 14 at LBJ High School. Other hearings will follow on Oct. 21 at Johnston High, Oct. 28 at Langford Elementary, and Nov. 4 at Bowie High. The Longhorn Pipeline, meanwhile, is on hold indefinitely due to financial difficulties. -- A.S.

Clarksville homeowner Mark Canada may become the first Austinite to face criminal charges for illegally demolishing a historic structure. Canada, who had a permit for a 200-square-foot addition to his 800-square-foot house on West 11th, says he ended up tearing down the 90-year-old home (without a demolition permit) when he realized, after beginning the project, that the house had no foundation. City staff and the Historic Landmark Commission were not in a forgiving mood when Canada appeared before them last week -- especially since he has now proposed a 2,000-square-foot house and 800-square-foot garage apartment for the same lot. If found guilty, Canada could face thousands of dollars in fines. His court date is scheduled for Nov. 4. -- M.C.M.

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