City Council: Butler Honors and Charter Foresight

Council on the trail to honor the Butlers and revise the charter

Consideration of further changes to the Down­town Austin Plan aren't the only issues consuming City Hall this week (see "City Hall Hustle"). At today's meeting, Thursday, Nov. 3, City Coun­cil is both honoring the past and looking forward to potentially profound changes to the city's future.

Item 36, sponsored by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, and Council Member Bill Spelman, would name the entirety of the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail the "Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail." Providing a history lesson in miniature, the draft resolution states Roy Butler – Austin's first popularly elected mayor (prior to that, council members designated a member from among themselves) – and his wife were instrumental in launching the trail project. Soon after Butler's 1971 election, the resolution notes, "while in London for an international conference of mayors, Mrs. Butler met up with Lady Bird Johnson" – the former first lady, most directly associated with the vision for Town Lake – "who was staying at the same hotel. The two women were admiring a stretch of the Thames Path – a beautiful, green trail – when Mrs. Johnson asked Mrs. Butler if it was something that could be created in Austin. Mrs. Butler said yes, and looked to her husband, Mayor Roy Butler, for help." [Later, of course, he brought us MoPac and the nuclear South Texas Project, and was public enemy No. 1 for the emerging environmental community in Austin – but it would be impolite to bring that up. – Nick Barbaro] At council's Tuesday work session, Laura Morrison said she was "concerned about moving forward on this without some public dialogue."

From past history to the still unfolding variety: Item 43, from Cole, Laura Morrison, and Mike Mar­tinez, is a resolution "affirming City Council's intention to hold a charter amendment election in November 2012." The item is posted to alleviate any doubt regarding the question, as Austinites for Geographic Representation recently launched a signature-gathering petition drive to put an 11-seat, single-member district form of City Council governance on the ballot (see "SMD: Seventh Time's the Charm?," Oct. 28). AGR members have publicly stated they would prefer a November 2012 vote, but they've also claimed to be suspicious that council would preempt them by setting a May vote on the issue. (An election resulting in changes to the City Charter can only occur every two years, and the city is considering a suite of additional charter changes along with SMDs, including changes to terms, election dates, and more.) Item 43 definitively states that council desires a November charter election (amusingly noting, as an aside, that council's "inten­tion to hold a November 2012 charter amendment election has been stated previously" in three separate resolutions).

Now the real fun can begin ....

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City Council, Roy Butler, Lady Bird Johnson, Ann Butler, City Charter, Single-Member Districts, Austinites for Geographic Representation

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