Kit Brooking …N\\ ‘”,:\\sr\\ sk*: ‘m contracts, the curious practice whereby the city has paid more than $20 million over the last two decades for developers to install water and sewer lines wherever the developers choose to build new subdivisions. Past councils have simply rubber stamped developers’ choices of building sites. But Friedman and the council majority now want to exercise some discretion over where new growth should be encouraged and they don’t see any need for the city to subsidize middleand upper-class housing projects. There was no problem getting a majority to agree to end the refund contracts. The crunch came on whether to go ‘ahead and pay for the 29 projects currently in the works. The city legal department opined that Austin has no binding agreement with the developers of the 29 projects, and Dr. Linn moved not to honor the contracts, but a majority of the council decided that the city has a “moral obligation” to pay for them. Leftwing critics of the council say this vote is an illustration of how the council is moving toward the center after only a short time in office. On another front, the council cut way back on the city funding for Chamber of Commerce tourist projects. The state requires that a certain portion of the hotelmotel tax go to developing tourism. But, instead of giving it all to the C of C, as the city has done in the past, the council decided to keep about half of the tax money and spend it on projects like the new city arena and improving Waller Creek, Mike Smith Council member Lebermann projects that both tourists and citizens can enjoy. Needless to say, the decision has rankled the Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Linn insists the council’s action was not anti-Chamber but rather “anti-special interest. There was no reason why we should single out the Anglo C of C for funding while there’s also a Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce and other civic groups. Besides,” Linn ‘ says, “Austin is the state capitol and we’re going to have tourism here no matter what.” Wray Weddell, the industry-boosting editor of The Austin Citizen, chalked up the council’s action on the C of C to “political spite.” Weddell’s front-page column in the twice-weekly Citizen is filled with stirring condemnations of the ruinous policies of the “hyperliberal” council. His invective rose to new heights when the council members decided to raise their salaries from $95 a week to $12,000 a year. The action made the Austin council the highest paid municipal governing body in Texas, according to the Citizen. “Council pay hiked; taxes will increase,” blared the American-Statesman. The headline left the impression that the city’s $49,000 a year increase for council salaries \(out of a total budget increase over last ble for an eight-cent per $100 valuation increase in property taxes. All five of the council majority members campaigned on a promise that they would vote themselves a $1,000 a month salary because they wanted to work full-time for the council. \(Of course, a full-time council, like a full-time Legislature, could result in more government spending, as many Lebermann, who voted for the salary increase, commented that a full-time salary changes council members from public servants to city employees. In the past, most council people have beeri sufficiently wealthy to “donate” their time to the city. None of the progressive members of the council is independently wealthy, however, and none could afford to serve for $95 a week without serious injury to the family budget. The council has also instituted a strong new equal employment ordinance concerning hiring, firing, and promotion. During recent budget hearings, they asked each city department and social agency requesting funds to provide information on the total number of women and minorities in the operation and the total number in management positions. In addition to that, when two equally qualified companies are competing to do work for the city, the council has been investigating the companies’ hiring records to determine who gets the contract. City boards and commissions that used to be . filled with white men in business suits are now open to all manner of riffraff. The Board of Equalization, which mediates disputes between citizens and the city Tax Department, last year was composed of three white men a retired banker, a retired contractor, and a retired federal employee. This year there’s a black real estate man, a young female lawyer, and a Mexican-American accountant. There are new priorities in the city budget which reflect the goals of the Austin Tomorrow program and the fact that East Austin has more representation on the council. Social services are in and concrete is out. There’s new money to purchase a portion of endangered Barton Creek and funds for neighbo -rhood health clinics and drug and rape counseling programs. THE POLICE department is in for some changes. As a councilman, Friedman carried on a one-man campaign to get Police Chief Bob Miles to resign. Friedman charged that the chief was insensitive to the needs of the black and brown community. Shortly after Friedman became mayor, Miles quietly announced his retirement. A new chief has yet to be named. There has also been a major change in October 17, 1975 5
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