Public Notice: Something at Lake Long?

If not golf, what?

Public Notice

Among his many other fine qualities, developers' attorney Richard Suttle is extremely good at counting to four. So, with a majority of City Council unwilling to mortgage the future of the public parkland at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park to private developers, Suttle opted not to ask Council to consider the Decker Lake Golf Course proposal at their final meeting today (Dec. 11). So there's a couple of hours of acrimony, and a bad policy decision, avoided.

And if the developers can't count to four now, it's hard to see how they'll be able to count to six in January, at least without Council requiring a public vote. Because somewhat lost in the concern over what the golf courses mean for water policy, is the fact that the city charter specifically denies Council the right to "sell, convey, lease, mortgage, or otherwise alienate" any parkland "unless the qualified voters of the city shall authorize such act ... [in] a general or special election." In short, for this proposal to go forward, it has to go to a public vote.

And in fact, though it was little remarked on during the current debate, a proposal very similar to this one did indeed go to a public vote back in 2000. See if this sounds familiar, as described by Mike Clark-Madison in the Chronicle of March 24, 2000: Developers "envision Lake Long as the home of a first-class golf resort and conference center, a Lakeway or Barton Creek of the east. But the land they desire for their Prairie Grass project is dedicated city of Austin parkland. But it's land that's been undeveloped and, indeed, fenced off for 30 years. But the Parks and Recreation Depart­ment has, for all that time, wanted to build its own public and low-cost golf course there. But the city has never rounded up the money to do that. But ...."

Clark-Madison wasn't crazy about that proposal either. He suspected, correctly, that it would fail (it was voted down that November by one slim percentage point, with the opposition led by Council Member Beverly Grif­fith, along with her aide, Jeff Jack). But, like the current residents of Colony Park and other neglected northeastern neighborhoods, he wondered if this might be the only way this area would ever see progress: "But there's another question: What will it take to make the Desired Development Zone desirable? Do we need development engines like Prairie Grass, or do we need a destination park like Lake Long? We know we don't need vacant land fenced off for 30 years, so now that this has become an issue, we'll likely see something happen on the shores of Lake Long, be it Prairie Grass or something else. What at first seemed like a simple developer pipe dream may turn out to be Smart Growth in the test tube."

Yet, of course, nothing has happened on the shores of Lake Long, and the vacant land has now been fenced off for 45 years. So, perhaps someone has a Plan B?

Updating my somewhat pessimistic voter turnout predictions from last week: With just three days left in early voting, turnout is even lower than it was in the first days, and seems to be slowing. On the other hand, I failed to sufficiently consider the fact that, with so few races on the ballot, the number of no-votes should be negligible (as opposed to the general election, when up to 16% of ballots didn't include a vote for mayor). Those factors largely cancel out, but I will raise my turnout prediction to 17% for mayor, and a 16% average for Council. We'll see. Meanwhile, enjoy some historical comparisons at Richard Whittaker's "Voting Turnout Bad, But How Bad?" on the Chronicle's Newsdesk, Dec. 10.

Give the City Two Pieces of Your Mind

The City Office of Sustainability created a Community Climate Plan Survey to determine what individual actions residents have taken, and would be willing to take, to help reduce their individual carbon footprints. The brief and somewhat informative survey ends with a link to the office's extensive index of incentives and rebates available to residents and businesses, to give you more to ponder. Meanwhile, the City Music & Entertainment Division is still looking for input from musicians, music business people, venue staff, and support businesses, for the ATX Music Industry Census & Needs Assessment Survey. They've gotten 3,000 responses so far, but say they need 5,000 to ensure the data is representative. Take the survey at

Home for the Holidays? With the Town Lake Animal Center at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez in woeful disrepair, the 58 dogs who are still there are in desperate need of a new family. So the Austin Animal Center is offering all adoptions for $25 through Jan. 4 (free for pets 7 years of age and older), plus through this weekend, free crates for dogs over 40 pounds, to help manage the transition from the shelter to their new homes. 7201 Levander Loop; 11am-7pm daily. More info at,

"Stuff the Bus" Capital Metro, Whole Foods Market, and the Capital Area Food Bank host this third annual food drive Friday through Sunday, Dec. 12-14, 10am-6pm at both Whole Foods Markets, 525 N. Lamar, and in the Domain. Most needed items include peanut butter, canned chicken, tuna, vegetables or fruit, dry pinto beans, brown rice, nonfat powdered milk, and whole grain cereal. Items should be in unopened packaging; no glass, please. If we do really well, maybe they'll have to use one of the new oversized bendy buses.

Never Mind: An APD press release Tuesday notes that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the Please BE KIND to Cyclists campaign "to promote safe driving practices by motorists as they share Texas roads with vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians," which had been due to kick off this week, has been postponed indefinitely. Resume your normal driving habits.

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