Beside the Point

The Toby Ultimatum

With all the pirates, green ogres, and spiders having vacated the neighborhood septuplex, we've entered the doldrums of blockbuster season. Yet hasn't the entire filmic summer lacked a certain creative verve? When an actioner transformed from a decades-old toy line is trumpeted as an original franchise, that's saying something, right? Luckily, there's one much-needed shot in the arm, a blast of Steadicam-challenged adrenaline barreling through theatres like a nitro-powered VW Tourareg whipping around the hairpin corners of Second Street (if only those sidewalks weren't so goddamn big): The Toby Ultimatum.

In this, the third installment, our preternaturally talented rogue city manager is trying to escape "The Company" before it does her in. But as the bodies pile up, her amnesia is becoming an increasingly dangerous handicap: I don't recall the details of Austin Energy hiring my (husband's) brother-in-law! Who planned Joe Canales' going-away party at the Convention Center? Not me! Our chief financial officer's wife got a cush consulting gig at our loss-leader of a gift shop? I ... I ... can't remember!

In the words of Jason Bourne, "Everything I found out, I want to forget."

Still, Agent Futrell has one last assignment: ongoing presentation of the fiscal year 2007-'08 budget, leading to its adoption in September. Last week's dossier of budget briefings focused on popular but perennially underfunded city services and social programs: Parks & Recreation, the library, Health & Human Services, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, and trash. There were no major surprises; agencies got funding bumps across the board (see tables below), with new money for "internal control" positions and "core service investments." Parks and Rec had the day's most exciting highlights, as long-gestating projects like Town Lake Park and the Mexican American Cultural Center got their due, along with newer rec centers like Turner/Roberts and Gus Garcia. As council doesn't meet this week, the budget discussion resumes Aug. 23, when public-safety spending is up for what's likely to be a brisk going-over -- although the "2.0 [cops] per thousand" mantra is always ripe for a workout.

No, the real fireworks, aside from the reignited debate over Water Treatment Plant No. 4 (see "The $360 Million Question," p.18), were over council adoption of rules for BYOB establishments, which, as of Monday, had already driven intended target Chester's Club out of business. The most entertaining part for council-watchers was when Chester's humble proprietor, Darren Wydermyer, came before the dais -- after the ordinance had already passed -- to ask for the Las Manitas treatment. "I'm not asking for a handout," Wydermyer said, before doing just that. "I mean, we put money, blood, sweat, and tears into this business."

Well, no argument there.

E-mail BTP at wdunbar@austinchronicle.com.


Upcoming Budget Dates

Presentations and Public Hearings

Presentations begin at 11am; public hearings begin at 6pm

Thursday, Aug. 23: Public Safety

(Municipal Court, EMS, Fire, Police, Public Safety and Emergency Management)

Thursday, Aug. 30: Infrastructure

(Austin Energy, Austin Water Utility, Public Works, Watershed Protection and Development Review, Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services, Neighborhood Planning and Zoning)

Budget Reading & Adoption: Sept. 10, 11, and 12

Three dates scheduled, but the budget could be passed on all three readings in one day


COA Proposed Spending on City Services & Social Programs (in millions)

FY 2007 AmendedFY 2008 ProposedChange
PARD$31.7$35.8+$4.1
Library21.223.5+$2.3
Health32.134.9+$2.8
Housing31.337.4+$6.1
Solid Waste53.857.8+$4.0

From Aug. 9 city of Austin proposed budget briefing

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Beside the Point, Toby Futrell, city budget, BYOB establishments, Chester's Club

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