Naked City

Austin Stories

Managers at Bergstrom Airport are a bit red-faced after their plan to eliminate free parking -- which they had already begun to implement -- was scuttled by the City Council. Parking revenue, which makes up more than one-fourth of ABIA's income, has plummeted since September 11, but council members worried that, beyond the obvious PR issues, eliminating the first-30-minutes-free option would lead to massive traffic jams in front of the terminal. Also last week, ABIA briefed the council on its 20-year master plan, which forecasts the need for a second terminal building and other expensive enhancements that look a little daunting given the current state of the air industry. New security procedures went into effect at Bergstrom this week -- most airlines can no longer hand out boarding passes at the gate. Southwest, which carries nearly half of Bergstrom's traffic, is working out a system with the federal security forces for handing out its little colored cards in the Bergstrom lobby. -- M.C.M.

As expected, City Council selected Hensel Phelps Construction to be the "construction manager at risk" for the new City Hall. The CMR model reflects new state rules allowing municipalities to look for the "best value" -- rather than just the lowest bid -- in contracts. One element of "best value" is meeting local goals for minority contracting, and the CMR model for City Hall -- even though it will delay the project's completion for at least eight months -- is seen as a way to increase participation by minority subs. Move-in day for the Second Street showpiece is now set for fall 2004. -- M.C.M.

Former City Council Member and UT regent Lowell Lebermann, high-powered lawyer Henry Gilmore, and transportation consultant Johanna Zmud are Travis County's appointees to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Williamson County -- which also gets three appointees, despite being one-third Travis County's size -- named two developers, Georgetown's Jim Mills and Cedar Park's Bob Tesch, and outgoing Round Rock City Manager Bob Bennett. The seventh RMA member (and chair) will be appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. -- M.C.M.

"I've gotten a whole new perspective -- I'm looking at life with an unbroken heart," reports state Rep. Elliott Naishtat from home, where he is recuperating comfortably after successful heart surgery Dec. 11 to repair a prolapsed mitral valve. "I had the surgery on Wednesday, and they threw me out [of Heart Hospital] on Sunday," Naishtat joked, "because I was starting to jog down the hallways and annoy the other patients." The Austin Democrat will need a few weeks to heal fully and can't yet drive, but he's already taking long walks, and on Monday he insisted on joining his Capitol staff at Curra's for lunch. At home he's already working his way through correspondence, grading final exams from his social policy students at St. Edward's, and reading Master of the Senate, the latest volume in Robert Caro's massive LBJ biography. He told us that while hospitalized he had gotten bipartisan best wishes from his House colleagues: "I received a nice flower arrangement from Pete and Nelda Laney, and the next day another from Tom and Nadine Craddick." Pete Laney is the current speaker of the House, and Tom Craddick is expected to replace him in the 78th Legislature, which opens Jan. 14. -- Michael King

Visiting District Judge David Cave on Dec. 10 denied a city motion for summary judgement in a whistleblower case filed by APD officer Jeff White, telling the city's attorney that there is not yet enough evidence on which to consider the city's motion. White's is the third whistleblower lawsuit against the department related to the now-defunct joint drug task force investigation code named Mala Sangre, or Bad Blood. White is alleging that he was transferred in retaliation for reporting his suspicions that certain police officers may have been involved in criminal activities and that his assignment to the case -- after all the other officers working it had been transferred -- was a setup for failure. (For more on the case, see "Still Bleeding," May 31.) -- Jordan Smith

The Business Section: Computer Sciences Corp. has announced its purchase of Virginia-based DynCorp for nearly $1 billion -- a bid to get CSC's fair share of the homeland security pork bag. Whole Foods Market has been added to the NASDAQ 100 index, benchmark for many mutual funds. And local philanthropists George and Ronya Kozmetsky -- he, of course, a UT professor, among other things -- have donated $3 million to set up an international-finance center across the river at St. Edward's University. -- M.C.M.

As expected, longtime drinking institution The Tavern ("Air Conditioned") closed on Sunday. Owners of the bar and owners of the property on which it sits could not come to an agreement on financing renovations for the property, forcing owner Steve Lynne and his partners to shutter the business that opened in 1933 and has served generations of thirsty Longhorn fans. -- Lee Nichols

Lawyers in the Gary Bradley bankruptcy case were granted a 90-day extension in their investigation of his financial records. Bradley detractors welcomed the decision as a sign that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is taking its charge seriously, in trying to prove that Bradley fraudulently obtained loans in the Eighties to build Circle C Ranch. Bradley never repaid the loans, and the debt has since grown to more than $73 million. He also owes the IRS about $4 million. Bradley opponents, led by the Save Our Springs Alliance, have waged a campaign to pressure the feds into taking action against Bradley. (The SOS "Make Gary Pay" Web site got written up this week in, of all places, American Banker magazine.) -- Amy Smith

The City Council last week postponed action on a proposed pipeline ordinance until Jan. 9. The draft may contain some revisions when it returns in the new year; both the Environmental Board and Planning Commission recommended strengthening measures to address environmental concerns. The PC also offered suggestions for appeasing nearby homeowners concerned that the ordinance would impose too many restrictions on home-improvement projects. The proposed ordinance calls for new development within 200 feet of a hazardous liquid pipeline to meet strict building standards set by the city fire marshal. The draft document is posted on the city's Web site, www.ci.austin.tx.us. -- A.S.

Both Austin and Travis County have concurred on the governing makeup of a proposed health care financing district, which puts the draft legislation one step closer to being ready for filing. As proposed, the City Council and Commissioners Court will each appoint four directors to the hospital district board and appoint a ninth member by consensus. Additionally, a four-member oversight committee would have veto power over any tax rate set by the board; this committee would be comprised of elected officials, most likely representatives of City Council and Commissioners Court. If the Lege passes authorizing legislation this session, Travis County voters would likely decide in November whether to create a city-county district. -- A.S.

Investor Jeff Sandefer has finally bought Woodlawn, the historic Pease mansion, from the state of Texas. Earlier this year, Sandefer offered to take the dilapidated 22-room sprawler on Niles Road off the state's hands, but withdrew his bid Aug. 19, citing the cost of fixing the foundation. First built in 1853, Woodlawn has been home to two Texas governors -- Elisha M. Pease, whose family estate became the surrounding Enfield neighborhood, and Allen Shivers. -- Lauri Apple

Austin Police Chief Stan Knee will be reprising his role as professor at Huston-Tillotson College this spring. His Monday afternoon class, "Community Policing," will explore, among other things, "criminal behavior as an aspect of social deviation." Interested? For registration info call 505-3028. -- J.S.

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