Naked City

Mayor's Race Livens Up

Using the Stevie Ray statue as his pulpit, mayoral candidate Max Nofziger focused his campaign attentions Tuesday on a host of landmarks -- including the CSC complex, the Intel carcass, the controversial Sixth + Lamar site, the unfinished Pfluger Bridge, and the even-less-finished new City Hall -- of the Smart Growth era he hopes to bring to a firm end. "There's clearly a pattern here," he said. "Is it ineptitude, or just a run of bad luck, or is it corruption? We have to ask these questions so we can keep it from happening again."

Nofziger, who served three terms in City Hall from 1987 to 1996, noted that "nothing like this happened when I was on the council. ... I learned that the way the city handles its business sends a message to the private sector. The next mayor will have to revitalize the local economy" -- and that won't happen, he says, until the city sets a better example. Though it wasn't visible from Auditorium Shores, Nofziger also singled out Austin Energy's new $100 million Sand Hill power plant, built without voter approval, as a symptom of the disease he aims to cure.

The former council member singled out the current elected in the race, Will Wynn, for special criticism, claiming that Wynn still supports the Smart Growth incentives and also tarring Wynn with the city's recent troubles at Barton Springs Pool. "The pool closed on Wynn's watch," Nofziger charged. "He clearly hasn't done enough to safeguard the springs. That people aren't outraged by this disappoints me." Wynn replied that "I think Austinites have a more rational understanding of the complex challenges we face in preserving the pool than to suggest that any one person is to blame. The prudent thing to do was to close the pool to ensure there was no health risk, and to play political football with that fact is irresponsible."

Meanwhile, fellow candidate Marc Katz says that, if elected, he'll dispense with the city's $1.5 million lobbying team at the Lege, calling it a luxury the city can no longer afford and a job that the mayor and City Council should be handling themselves. "Perhaps city leaders should change their focus from international relations" -- a reference to the council's recent anti-war resolution -- "to improving city-state relations right here at home," he says. Katz would use the money saved to hire more police: "Instead of hired guns, we should hire more men and women who carry guns to protect our citizens and quality of life."

The forum-and-endorsement cycle has begun in earnest, with Wynn and Place 5 candidate Brewster McCracken hauling in the lion's share -- though Nofziger got a nod from Independent Texans, the statewide nonmajor-partisan group organized by his former campaign manager Linda Curtis, and former League of Conservation Voters director Margot Clarke outpaced McCracken among the Central Austin Democrats.

Look for the Chronicle's endorsements next week; early voting begins April 16.

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