News briefs from Austin, the region, and elsewhere.
Edited By Lee Nichols and Cheryl Smith, Fri., June 10, 2005
Quote of the Week"Texans have made a decision about marriage, and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live." Gov. Rick Perry, in response to a question about returning gay veterans who might want the right to marry in Texas
Headlines The City Council Place 3 run-off election is Saturday, June 11, as voters make a final decision between Margot Clarke and Jennifer Kim. Get out and vote!
Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Daryl Slusher take part in their final City Council meeting today (Thursday), with proclamations for their staffs and a (surprise!) appreciation scheduled for 5:30pm at City Hall everybody welcome!
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved its $22 billion 2030 transportation plan Monday, beating a June 12 federal deadline and sidestepping questions about the wisdom of more of the same but also agreed to review the plan over the next year in a search for less costly and less sprawling alternatives.
Fire apparently started by lightning destroyed much of the Oasis restaurant last week, although limited service was restored in a few days and Beau Theriot, owner of the popular Lake Travis venue, vowed to rebuild.
Gov. Rick Perry held a ceremony at a Fort Worth church gymnasium to sign bills requiring written parental consent for minor-child abortions and proposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Austin Stories It's bond pondering time the city of Austin's bond advisory committee was recently assembled, and now Travis County's 15-member BAC is holding public meetings to address possible capital improvements: road capacity, bridges, drainage projects, right-of-way acquisition, and park and open space acquisition. The upcoming meetings are Monday, June 13, 7pm, at the Pflugerville Justice Center, 1611 Pfennig Ln.; Tuesday, June 14, 6pm, Travis Co. Commissioners' Courtroom, 314 W. 11th (Ned Granger Bldg., first floor); Thursday, June 16, Del Valle High School (Performing Arts Auditorium), 5201 Ross; Wednesday, June 22, 6:30pm, Travis Co. Precinct 1 Satellite Service Center, 9301 Johnny Morris Rd.; Thursday, June 23, 6:30pm, Precinct 3 Travis Co. Office Complex (Courtroom), 8658 SH 71 W. A bond election date has not been set but may be scheduled for November. Michael King
Tuesday, June 7, was National Hunger Awareness Day, and the Center for Public Policy Priorities is calling attention to a congressional budget resolution that recommends cutting federal food programs by $3 billion. If the cuts are eventually enacted, the Texas Food Stamp Program could be cut by hundreds of millions over the next five years while every day in Texas, 2.4 million Texans depend on food stamps to supplement their basic food needs. Texas ranks second of 50 states in the percentage of hungry families, nearly 15%, and in Travis Co., about 41,000 children suffer from food insecurity every day. The Capital Area Food Bank has joined a national effort of "One Big Table" potlucks to spread awareness and raise money to fight hunger. For information, go to www.austinfoodbank.org. M.K.
With the Place 3 run-off election only hours away election day is Saturday, June 11 charges and countercharges were flying from the Jennifer Kim and Margot Clarke campaigns. On the Kim side, the attacks were mostly surrogate: The Austin Apartment Association, which has endorsed Kim, distributed Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy's scurrilous attack letter (see "Frontrunner Dues and Blues," June 3), and Robert Morrow, a local GOP precinct chair, sent out a flaming e-mail diatribe, heavy on the gay-bashing, that makes Levy's letter look mild by comparison. (Sample Morrow rhetoric: "Clarke's supporters are environmental radicals, socialists, and 'in-your-face' homosexuals who demand that the rest of society worship salamanders and support 'gay' marriage.") Meanwhile, the Clarke campaign reviewed Kim's campaign finance filings, and with the Toll Party's Sal Costello issued a press release charging that Kim has reneged on a pledge to reject contributions from the "toll lobby." (Kim's latest filing is indeed heavy with developers, RECA members, and related business sources.) The Clarke campaign has actually been distributing Morrow's hysterical letter to their own supporters, with the comment, "Don't let them win!" M.K.
And speaking of the election, 3.88% of you registered voters have already cast ballots. At the close of early voting Tuesday evening, 15,863 votes had been cast either at voting booths or by mail. As usual, the busiest of the 15 early voting stations was Northcross Mall, with 1,952 voters; weakest turnout was at the Albertsons on Riverside, where only 210 showed up. Polls are open 7am-7pm on Saturday. You must vote at your neighborhood precinct see www.ci.austin.tx.us/election to find your polling place. L.N.
A water tower is no mere stock tank on stilts when it comes to the neighborhoods around the former Mueller Airport site, or so the city is about to learn. The city's announcement of a 200-foot-tall reclaimed water tank just off the Mueller property was the subject of much consternation in the Windsor Park neighborhood, which has taken upon itself the task of forming an ad hoc committee to address the issue. The tank would be located on East 51st Street, just across from the National Guard Armory. City officials wanted to know what kind of fencing and landscaping the neighborhood wanted. Windsor Park is ready for a full-scale discussion of possible design options, which they have been culling from city Web sites around the country. A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 7pm at Messiah Lutheran Church, 5701 Cameron. Kimberly Reeves
Oak Hill residents have plenty to say about the next possible toll project in Central Texas, which would be the expansion of a three-mile stretch of US 290 West, between Scenic Brook Drive and Joe Tanner Road. TxDOT hosted an open house on Tuesday at the ACC-Pinnacle campus for Oak Hill residents, whose comments were split between toll road opposition and simple concern over how they would cross from one side of 290 to the other. The Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods is especially concerned about the "Y," fearing that road construction could kill any possibility of redeveloping the area. The $100 million project has been on the books for about 20 years, but has only come to fruition with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's toll road plan. With or without tolls, construction on the project is expected to begin in January. K.R.
Travis County's Southwest Growth Dialogue will get one more month to come up with interim rules on development in the county's extraterritorial jurisdiction. County commissioners extended a moratorium on preliminary subdivision plans in the ETJ through July 31, with the intention of adopting interim development rules at the end of July. Those rules are not expected to differ significantly from ones proposed in March. The county managed to dodge the wrath of local property owners during the just-completed legislative session when a handful of landowners banded together to try to stop the local development controls by creating the Texas Landowners Conservancy, but failed to produce a successful bill. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty promises that the Growth Dialogue is making progress and will have something to report in a month. K.R.
Whole Foods Market and Schlosser Development are facing opposition to their redevelopment plans for the local grocer's former headquarters at Sixth and Lamar. Disturbed by proposals for a 120-foot office tower with several national retailers and a movie theatre downstairs that city officials predict will bring close to 10,000 more car trips per day to the gridlocked corner, a coalition of neighboring residents and businesses have formed NoSixthandLamarPUD.org, which has accumulated 299 petition signatures since June 1, protesting the developers' application for rezoning needed to make the plans possible. Planned Unit Development zoning does not require residential neighborhood compatibility, as opposed to the other zoning options. City staff plans to recommend PUD zoning for approval to the Zoning and Platting Commission, which meets June 21. Schlosser's David Vitanza says plans now involve less density or leaseable square footage, and he cites the area's transit-oriented development potential as a key to mitigating traffic but adds that some neighbors' anger over losing city views is ultimately fueling protest. The Statesman has reported that retailers Anthropologie and REI have already contracted for the site; Vitanza estimates the overall development will be 25-30% local businesses, including the existing BookPeople, Whole Foods, and Pure Austin gym. Daniel Mottola
Beyond City Limits A flack's work is never, ever, ever done. The Dallas Morning News is reporting that George W. Bush media handler and Austin political consultant Mark McKinnon, far-sighted chameleon that he is, committed earlier this year to work on the 2008 presidential campaign of Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain. (The possibilities of truly unctuous campaign ads stagger the mind.) McKinnon would admit only to "friendly conversations." "I like the senator a lot," trilled McKinnon in an e-mail to the DMN's G. Robert Hillman, "but it is too early to speculate on his intentions, as he has said himself, not to mention mine. My political focus right now is on a successful second-term agenda for President Bush." Then he can answer the question, if this is success, what would failure look like? M.K.
On Monday, June 6, Catellus Development Corp., master developers of the Mueller Airport redevelopment project, was acquired for $3.6 billion by ProLogis, a larger rival development corporation and owner and developer of warehouse and industrial property for tenants such as Sears and General Electric. According to a report in Reuters, "The acquisition of Catellus would increase ProLogis' existing facilities by about 50 million square feet, to more than 350 million square feet in 75 markets in North America, Europe and Asia." Reportedly the sale will have no effect on Catellus' plans for Mueller, and Reuters reports that Catellus Chairman and Chief Executive Nelson Rising will have a seat on the ProLogis board. M.K.
Weed Watch: In the case of Gonzales v. Raich, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the federal government may arrest and prosecute seriously ill medical marijuana patients who are using medi-pot in accordance with state laws. The 6-3, split-decision majority concluded that the government's need to enforce the drug-regulation scheme set out in the Controlled Substances Act provides the compelling interest necessary to justify the feds' use of their commerce clause power to enter individual states in order to enforce the CSA in this case, by arresting sick people using medi-mari in the 10 states that have codified the practice. "The question before us is not whether it is wise to enforce [the CSA] in these circumstances; rather, it is whether Congress' power to regulate interstate markets for medicinal circumstances encompasses the portions of those markets that are supplied with drugs produced and consumed locally," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. "Well-settled law controls our answer. The CSA is a valid exercise of federal power, even as applied to the troubling facts of this case." For more on the case, see "The Supremes Take a Hit," Dec. 10; to read the court's opinion, go here. Jordan Smith