Beside the Point

It's Not What You Say ...

Public lewdness, disturbing the peace, libel and slander – we're no stranger to litigation here at BTP, but we feel compelled to mention the citation we garnered in Austin judicial annals this week, specifically in those dog-eared pages concerning aquifer litigation. Friday, plaintiffs sympathetic to the Save Our Springs Alliance – including former state Rep. Glen Maxey, the Austin Neighborhood Council's Jeff Jack, the ACLU's Ann del Llano, and energy gadfly Paul Robbins – filed suit against the city over the council's ballot language for SOS's open government (Proposition 1) and clean water (Prop. 2) charter amendments, calling the language grossly misleading and inappropriate "electioneering." In the pleadings BTP enters, stage left, at p.17, with our description of the council's Prop. 6 insurance language as "the blandest terms possible" ("Dueling Dictionaries," March 10), therefore in sharp contrast to the hellfire-and-brimstone predictions proffered for Prop. 1. "While it is permissible to state the factual purposes of a proposed measure," the plaintiffs charge, "it is not permissible to use the ballot language to paint an inaccurate doomsday scenario in order to push voters into voting against the measure." With the city clerk waiting to issue approved ballots, a hearing for the ballot lawsuit was fast-tracked to this morning (Thursday). (Meanwhile, at press time Wednesday afternoon, Judge John Dietz had yet to issue a ruling in the earlier SOS suit to enjoin Advanced Micro Devices from settling at Lantana.)

With the amendments looming, Lovecraft-like, over the November bond election – at least in the minds of opponents – last week city staff began the first of several presentations to council of revised bond numbers, aimed at cutting the citizens Bond Election Advisory Committee's $614 million recommendation by $100 million or so. (Heads up: Facility renovations will be discussed April 6; new facilities and the library arrive April 20, followed April 27 by affordable housing, parkland, and open space.) The story in the transportation package was the staff's renewed emphasis on streets, in contrast to the BEAC's decision to invest more heavily in alternatives like bikeways and less in what it called "the traditional mode of automotive transportation." Despite the goal of cuts, transportation hiccuped from $98.9 to $103.1 million, and street repair bumped up from $66 to $85 million. Drainage was downgraded from $122.1 to $95 million, but staff hopes to span the difference with drainage utility funds.

Quicker than a ravenous Roto-Rooter, Brewster McCracken used the moment to snake SOS's drain. After prompting Watershed Protection and Development Review director Joe Pantalion to describe the merits of storm-drain infrastructure (71,000-plus feet planned), McCracken pointed to a map of master-plan priority projects, arguing, "We would have to basically draw a box around the bottom left quadrant of this and not do any of these projects, including two major water quality projects and a number of storm drainage, erosion control, and multiobjective projects. … If Prop. 2 passes, the language of that appears to prohibit us from doing these things that I think we all recognize would be beneficial for water quality, beneficial for homeowners, and beneficial for public safety." (The ballot language lawsuit insists that rather than prohibit such projects, the amendment would "prioritize" water protection in the Barton Springs Zone.)

City attorneys say they're afforded wide discretion in drafting, yet the city's propositions – lengthy and loaded – differ profoundly from their supporters' (admittedly enthusiastic) one-sentence originals. The latest council spin is that the "open government" amendment pushed the bonds back to November – because the cost is so high, those poor bonds would just have to be re-jiggered. Never mind the fact that the decision to delay the bonds was made before the signatures were dry on the amendment petitions.

Council absents itself from chambers this week, returning next for continuing bond presentations, possible action on the Urban Transportation Commission's recommendation to deny the sale of Roy's Taxi's permits to Yellow Cab, and any new fallout from SOS's various legal endeavors.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

City CouncilCity CharterBarton Springs watershed, Save Our Springs Alliance, Glen Maxey, Jeff Jack, Paul Robbins, John Dietz, Ann del Llano, Bond Election Advisory Committee, Brewster McCracken

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