Jeff Archer opened the meeting and introduced Alison Alter, chair of the Ramsey Park Renovation Committee. Employees from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) were also present: D’Anne Williams, landscape architect; Charles Mabry; and Kim McKnight, project coordinator.
Alison said that Phase I of the Ramsey Park renovation project is complete. The tennis and basketball courts have been renovated, we have new tables and benches and the limestone amphitheater is in place, as well as limestone seating around the basketball court.
Kim McNight said that the goal of the program is to work with communities to design master plans and take them all the way through to implementation. Ramsey Park has been the largest partnership of its kind for PARD to tackle.
She said the city is set to begin construction on Phases II and III of the Ramsey Park improvements. Construction officially begins next week, starting with tree protection and other prep measures that need to be in place for the laying of the new pathways and the installation of the new playscapes. They will be putting fencing up around the areas to be worked on. There will be partial to full closure of the park over the next few months. The basketball and tennis courts, baseball field and amphitheater will remain open. There will be signs at the park pointing families to other parks with playscapes nearby. There will be a new climbing structure for older kids, a couple of spinners, new baby swings, cycle tracks around the playscapes, and the toddler playscape will be replaced with a new natural playscape. Basically, everything will be open except for the playscape area. They are estimating that the playscape area will be closed for at least 3 – 4 months, if everything goes smoothly and we don’t have a wet year.
Alison said that it is a $480,000 project. The project received $241,000 from the mitigation funds for storing equipment in the park, $50,000 from the Austin Parks Foundation grant, $66,000 from the Neighborhood Partnering Program, and has raised over $100,000 from neighbors. More than 200 individuals and families have given. She said we have a matching grant opportunity going on right now – $5000 from Tauraus, and the project has received $3,000 in from that. We are now less than $25,000 away from our fundraising goal of $480,000. If you haven’t donated, please go to RamseyPark.org and donate. Brick and paver donations are still being accepted for the Ramsey Park Walk of Friends walkway. The walkway will be located between the tennis court and the toddler natural play area.
Kim said the partnership between PARD and Ramsey Park project has been one of the most incredible partnerships that PARD has seen and they will be using it as a model for other parks.
Many candidates representing District 7 and District 10 were present to introduce themselves to the neighborhood. Jeff gave each candidate 3 minutes and then adjourned for the candidates to have a chance to mingle with voters.
District 7 went first. District 7 represents Rosedale north of 45th all the way to Parmer Lane.
Ed English – said he was a 31-year resident and has lived all in districts of the city. He’s a Viet Nam Veteran, grew up in South Texas. He got his BA in A&M in Kingsville. He had a career in sales and marketing with heavy emphases on contracts. He’s now retired. He also ran a successful small business. He’s been married for 34 years to an elementary school counselor. He was very involved in getting 10/1 passed. He volunteers with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Red Cross. He said he is running for office to restore common sense government when it makes decisions. He is opposed to the rail project, and said we need something more comprehensive. He said this area needs parks. He wants to bring private industry experience to council. He said when we need money, we shouldn’t raise taxes but should live within our means. He lives near Mopac and Parmer Lane.
Pete Salazar – he was born on Grover and now lives off North Loop. He works for Caritas and Goodwill. He’s an employment specialist helping veterans find employment. He also helps Iraqi refugees whose families were targeted for helping US (such as translators). He said that he understands the city council is accountable to the people. He said that the 10/1 districting is about redefining ourselves about what we consider important: public transportation, corridors, public growth.
Jeb Boyt – he said he’s a lifelong Texan. He lives just a few blocks north of here. He moved in 1993 to Austin. He thinks that affordability and transportation are major concerns. He has served on Parks board and Bond Commission. As an attorney he has worked with many groups, getting folks together to improve quality of life. He’s be3en involved with Waller Creek. He thinks an important issue is accountability. He said you can count on him to make sure the system works. He will work to end city council policy discussions that go on after midnight; he believes it’s important to have more deliberative discussions earlier in the day that provide a chance for public input.
Jimmy Paver (He couldn’t be here so Anita Paver was speaking for him). She said he’s a lifelong resident – moved to Austin at 6 months, now lives near Northwest Park in Allandale; he grew up in Crestview. He has 10 years of experience at the state and federal level. Used to work for Loy Doggett, he got his masters at the LBJ School, he knows how to put policy in place. Taxes are one of his biggest concerns, and getting spending under control. He knows there’s concern about water fees, utility fees. They have 3 month old baby. She said he’s a good person with excellent judgment, he’s balanced.
Leslie Poole – She’s from Rosedale, she lives on Shoal Creek and 45th street. She was working to keep Rosedale together – didn’t want the split, but didn’t win that battle. She said she’s committed to working with whoever is in 10, 9, 4, 1, and 7, all the districts that touch Rosedale. She’s lived in Rosedale since 2002. She couldn’t afford to buy her house today. Affordability and making sure we aren’t priced out of our homes is a big issue to her. She’d like to stop giving subsidies away to companies moving here. She would rather focus on local small businesses rather than giving money away to huge corporations. She’s live in Austin since 1980. She moved around a lot as kid, when she got to Austin, she decided it fit her and she wasn’t moving again. Her daughter went to Hill, Murchison Middle School and Anderson High School. She’s served on 4 commissions – Arts, Downtown, Telecommunication, and Water/Wastewater Commissions. She was the only board member who opposed the Water treatment Plant 4, which everyone agrees now is a bad idea.
Melissa Zone – she lives in Crestview. She’s only been in Austin 4 years. She’s an urban regional planner for Travis County. She’s done a lot of land development, transportation, and park planning – she said she deals with those issues every day. She said she loves this district. She thinks there’s been a lot of bad decisions in the past 20 yrs. apparently the city promised a park in Crestview over 30 years ago, then turned around and sold the land. She said she knows regulations, and the land development code is coming up for rewrite – as a candidate, she has experience in these matters.
Margie Burciaga – she said she has a financial background as a small business owner, and is a certified life coach. She thinks we should eliminate wasteful spending in government. When she hears Austin’s goal of being the greenest city, she thinks it’s admirable, but wonders who is going to pay for it? Or rail – who is going to pay for it? She thinks Austin should examine its priorities. She said she has bipartisan support for nonpartisan seat. She said we need tax cuts, affordable solutions, and transparency in government. She said she’s a fourth generation Texan and has lived in Northwest Hills for almost 30 years.
Jason Meeker – he lives in Great Hills and has done a lot of work on Great Hills Park. He led the fight to try to stop Walmart in Northwest Mall. He said that movement had a ton of support from Rosedale. He lived in Brentwood at the time. He’s on Austin Neighborhood council and is president of his neighborhood association. He has worked to make developers pay their fair share, to stop Short-Term Rental Ordinance, and to keep lobbyists out of code rewrite process. He has been at City Hall, and was a Zoning and Planning Commissioner for 3 years. His motto is, “Do it neighborly and do it right.” He plans to say no to the rail bond, because he believes we need a comprehensive plan, and he plans to say no to any development that threatens the neighborhoods that would be affected by the development of the state lands on Bull Creek.
Matt Lamon – he lives in Tarrytown near Muni Golf Course. He noted that Zilker Park is going to be closed down for the ACL festival and with fall there is going to be one festival after another. He believes the city needs to find a way to fund parks, by instituting user fees to invest in neighborhood parks. He grew up in Austin. He used to be with an international consulting firm that would help struggling government agencies. Now he serves as chief of staff at the Texas House, working with both parties. He’s done this for 6 terms.
Robert Thomas – lives in Northwest Hills. He said he’s a neighborhood guy. He was practicing law, went back to UT to get his MBA. He said Austin is a jewel. He’s been here since 1990. He has worked as an assistant city attorney in Houston, and employed hundreds of people in various businesses. He has served as chair of the Safe Place board, and governance chair of Austin Child Guidance Center. He said this race is an opportunity to take back our city. He believes we need smart growth, to respect our neighborhoods, and a master plan for transportation. The Austin Board of Realtors has endorsed him, as well as the Austin police dept. and Austin fire dept.
Sherri Gallo – grew up in Highland Park, graduated from McCallum. She lives in Northwest Hills. Endorsed by 3 former mayors: Bruce Todd, Lee Cook, and Ron Mullen. She has 35 years of business experience running a small business; she kept her doors open through several downturns in the economy; she has experience in budgeting and controlling expenses. She believes in spending money on neighborhood parks, and has strong leadership roles as chair of the UT School of Social Work advisory board, Doss PTA president, and has lived in Dist. 10 for over 50 years.
Tina Cannon – she said she’s the business candidate. Auditor, accountant, started and founded a number of businesses, been on board for fraud auditor, helped over 100 companies from start. She said this is not a time for volunteers; it’s time for a real numbers cruncher. She’s not entirely sure, but she thinks she’s the only accountant running for City Council. She has served on fraud board. She called recently for water utility audit. She’s given out thousands of pink flamingos. She was part of this movement that brought the 10/1 districts.
A school board candidate was also present – Karen Flannigan. She said grew up in Austin. She went to Lucy Read, Pillow, Anderson High School, and Texas A&M. She was in Health Education, retired, and became a licensed nutritionist. She said schools have kids eating lunch as early as 10:30 am and as late as 2:00 pm. The thinks the school board should look at the environment that kids are exposed to every day. She said we have to provide the essentials to kids. They can’t be hungry if we expect them to learn. She was one the Community Bond Oversight Committee. She said we need to look at money and make sure the majority of money is going to teachers and classrooms. We need good teachers and we need to pay them enough to keep them in the classroom. Her district includes Anderson, McCallum, Lamar, Murchison, and Highland Park. This is school district 4.
Jeff thanked all the candidates for coming He said we all feel like we know more about what we’re about to do. If you’re not registered to vote, get registered at your current address.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 so that candidates and voters could mingle.