The Stonegate Neighborhood Association in East Austin agreed to a compromise with developers on the Heflin Lane zoning case reported on earlier in the Independent.

Under the compromise more units will be built on the property than the neighborhood would prefer (the Heflin Lane property backs up to yards in Stonegate), but there will be a 25 foot setback and no cut through street to Martin Luther King Blvd will be plowed through the small and historic Stonegate neighborhood. 

The refusal of Council Members Leslie Pool, Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo to support the item on first reading likely helped persuade developers to compromise. The Council Member who represents the District, Natasha Harper Madison, focused most of her remarks on defending the developers whose tactics had irritated some neighborhood residents.

Strong Mayor Initiative Draws Resistance

Despite there being no Council, state or national elections next year, Austin voters are unlikely to get a break from major decisions in 2021. The Strong Mayor initiative appears headed for a vote in May.

Meanwhile a group of local activists and union officials sent a letter to strong mayor campaign chair Andrew Allison calling on him to abandon the campaign. They wrote that a strong mayor system endangers progress toward equity and justice that they believe has been made under the 10-1 single member district system and instead “would dismantle the 10-1 system and result in an unrepresentative and unhealthy consolidation of power within the Office of the Mayor at the direct expense of democratically-elected members of Austin City Council who represent distinct districts.”

The signers concluded, “Mr. Allison: on behalf of our members and the communities we serve, please reconsider your position and end your “strong mayor” campaign.” 

The signers were: Carol Guthrie of AFSCME, the City and County employees union; Selena Xie, President of the union representing EMS employees; Willy Gonzalez of UNITE HERE Local 23; Jeremy Hendricks from the Southwest Laborers’ District Council and LIUNA Local 1095; Emily Timm, Co-Executive Director Workers Defense Action Fund; Chap Thornton of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286; Kathy Mitchell, a longtime police accountability advocate and member of the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force; Emily Gerrick, a “criminal reform advocate” and also a member of the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force; Amanda Woog, criminal reform advocate; environmental advocate Robin Schneider; Chris Harris, a social justice advocate and member of the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force; community advocate Bob Batlan; and Jason Peavler of the  Communications Workers of America Local 6132. 

The story was first reported by by Jo Clifton in the Austin Monitor. Allison told the Monitor that the campaign will continue. Campaign officials also told the Monitor that they have already gathered some 24,000 signatures and in January will present enough signatures to the City Clerk to force an election on the matter.

For previous Austin Independent coverage of the strong mayor issue click here.

New Film on History of Barton Creek

In an earlier story we mentioned a new film about the history of citizen efforts to save Barton Creek and Barton Springs. Produced and directed by Karen Kocher and Monica Flores, the film is called Origins of a Green Identity, Austin’s Conservation Pioneers. It premieres December 29 at 8:30 PM on KLRU and will be re-broadcast January 8 at 8 PM. It will also be available for streaming on PBS after the premiere.

The film explores how the creek and springs have been beloved by many generations of Austinites and focuses intensely on early struggles to protect the creek and springs from development — dating as far back as the 1950s and the development of Barton Hills. In particular, the film focuses on the efforts of long-time Parks and Recreation Executive Beverly Sheffield and Parks Board Member and relentless advocate for parks, open space and water quality, Roberta Crenshaw, then Roberta Dickson. 


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