Naked City

Austin Stories

Promising to face and deal with current challenges and put Austin back on track to "set the tone for what a great American city should be," Council Member Will Wynn "finally and formally" kicked off his mayoral campaign to a cheering Downtown throng Tuesday. While acknowledging the "painful process" of budget balancing that will be Job No. 1 for the new mayor, Wynn also dubbed himself "an optimist by nature" who won't lose sight of Austin's need for long-term economic growth and desire to fulfill dreams born during the go-go Smart Growth era. Wynn's campaign HQ is the old Cinema West on South Congress -- "Some of you may be familiar with that location," he needled the mostly white-men-in-suits crowd. So far, Wynn has six opponents. -- M.C.M.

Also last week, the field to succeed Wynn in Place 5 grew more crowded, as Urban Transportation Commissioner Carl Tepper and former League of Conservation Voters Director Margot Clarke entered the race against Brewster McCracken and Robert Singleton. -- M.C.M.

Meanwhile, turnout was strong at the re-election fete and fundraiser for incumbent Council Member Raul Alvarez, held Monday at Nuevo Leon on East Sixth. So far, no one has announced a bid to oppose Alvarez, who won election in 2000 by 201 votes. He has assuaged business, neighborhood, environmental, and Hispanic interests during his first term, say some council observers -- enough to avoid facing a serious challenge. Danny Thomas is also, so far, running unopposed. -- Lauri Apple

Cile Spelce, late of the KEYE-TV news team before that station did some major housecleaning, is the new spokesperson for Austin Community College. Spelce's appointment as "communications executive" will last six to eight months, ACC says -- long enough to carry the college through its May 3 referendum on a tax-cap increase, which it formally approved at its Monday meeting. -- Lee Nichols

Another development war is brewing in Southwest Austin that's pitting environmentalists and the city of Sunset Valley against home-improvement retail giant Lowe's and the city of Austin. Last November, retail-weary Sunset Valley released some Brodie Lane property to Austin to try to circumvent Lowe's plans to build a megastore at Brodie and William Cannon. The idea was that Austin's Save Our Springs Ordinance would prohibit Lowe's plans, but the retailer claims "grandfather" status under state law because it filed a preliminary application with Sunset Valley before the property came under Austin's jurisdiction. Sunset Valley officials say Lowe's application was incomplete: "When one comes in with paper and a check, that doesn't mean they have a project," said Deputy City Administrator Jayme Foley. Austin city staff similarly rejected Lowe's application. However, Austin Assistant City Manager Lisa Gordon and other staffers -- at the behest of the City Council -- are expected to meet with a Lowe's representative on Friday. -- A.S.

Responding to a request made in December by the Austin chapter of the NAACP, the FBI will look into the June 2002 shooting death of Sophia King, shot by Austin police officer John Coffey during an altercation with a Housing Authority employee at East Austin's Rosewood Courts. An internal APD investigation cleared Coffey, and a Travis Co. grand jury failed to indict him, but Austin's citizen police-oversight panel recommended an independent investigation -- on hold, by court order, while the city and the police union work out procedures for such an investigation. Local NAACP President Nelson Linder, who penned the request for action from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, isn't surprised by the FBI's getting involved. "I think the nature of the case and the level of interest [it's had] made it inevitable," he said. -- Jordan Smith

David Waters, the man behind the plot to rob and kill atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her son and granddaughter, died Jan. 27 of lung cancer at the federal pen in Butner, N.C. Waters struck a deal with the feds in January 2001 -- pleading guilty to extortion in exchange for a 20-year federal sentence -- before leading authorities to a ranch outside Austin where he buried the three bodies. -- J.S.

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