in Houston, Texas
City of Austin considers land sale to pay for cost overruns from water treatment plant project
Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012, 04:47PM CST
By Curt Olson
money

A massive Austin public works project that triggered political turmoil and second-guessing by City Council members now has top city leaders preparing for cost overruns.

City Hall staffers are seeking permission to sell 73 acres for as much as $11 million to pay for unexpected costs on the water-treatment plant under construction near Lake Travis in Northwest Austin, the Austin American-Statesman reports. City Manager Marc Ott and his senior leaders expect the most expensive project since construction of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to exceed its $508 million budget.

Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros downplays any cost overruns and believes they will amount to just 1 percent of the project — $5 million. Whatever the final cost-overrun dollar amount, the scope of the water-treatment plant has already been cut at least $12 million, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, crews constructing a shaft near the plant identified a leak in December, the Statesman reported. All that digging prompted talk of legal action by environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Save Our Springs Alliance, who say the project threatens the Jollyville Plateau salamander.

The costs have also been political. Former Council Member Randi Shade, who cast one of the four votes for the plant in October 2009, was defeated last year by Kathie Tovo, an opponent of the plant. Council also had a heated debate last year whether to stop the project but opted not to after learning it would have cost $100 million to $155 million to restart the project, the Statesman reported.

The talk of cost overruns has led to I-told-you-so refrains from project critics.

"I think this tells us the staff was grossly misleading the council about what sort of venture they were getting the city into," said Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, the Statesman reports.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of money by flickr user 401(K) 2012, used via a Creative Commons license.

An Ott-of-this world pay package: Austin City Manager Marc Ott in line for a $7,000 raise -- and a cool $400k if he’s fired
Monday, Aug 27, 2012, 02:08PM CST
By Curt Olson
money

Austin City Manager Marc Ott will receive his second raise in as many years if rank-and-file city employees receive a raise proposed in the 2012-13 city budget that will be up for approval next month.

Austin’s non-civil service employees would see an increase of 3 percent, which would simultaneously boost Ott’s salary to $256,746, up $7,478 from his current salary of $249,268. It would be the second raise for Ott since he became Austin city manager in January 2008, the Austin Bulldog reports.

The amount of more than $256,000 reflects Ott’s base pay. His compensation catapults higher with contract perks that include $50,620 in deferred compensation, executive allowance, automobile allowance, cell phone allowance, and retirement or health-care related benefits, the Bulldog reported.

Ott’s recommendation for a raise surfaced following a lengthy Austin City Council closed session earlier this month. After council members emerged from the executive session discussion of personnel, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said, “I just wanted to say that we did in executive session (take up the issue of) compensation and benefits of the city manager, and we look forward to his continued service.”

Ott’s raise comes in a package of 3 percent raises forthcoming for the city auditor and city clerk. The municipal court clerk would receive a 5 percent raise to bring her up to the market rate, said Mayor Lee Leffingwell, the Bulldog reported.

In advance of Ott’s personnel evaluation, the Austin American-Statesman reported there were grumblings about the city manager. Those who complain about Ott focused on his handling of the Austin Energy rate hike, which will be in place in October and took two years to resolve, and his grasp of environmental battles that still exist in Austin. One council member expressed concern about how city government responds to the needs of a growing population.

Ott ranks third in base pay among city managers in Texas, according to data compiled by the Texas Tribune.

If Austin City Council terminates Ott, he would be entitled to severance pay of more than $431,000, according to the Austin Bulldog.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us onTwitterandScribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of the money by flickr user Unhindered by Talent, used via a Creative Commons license.

God save the Queen -- and our tax dollars; Austin junket event 'chaos,' a 'nightmare'
Friday, Jul 06, 2012, 04:51PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
queen

Bloomin’ g’day and right ho to all you chappies and birds, crumpets and nabobs. Texas Watchdog is coming to you live from Silverstone Raceway in Jolly Ol’ England.

Well, not exactly. We weren’t offered the same last minute, all expenses paid junket the blokes from the city of Austin got.

Just imagine, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Manager Marc Ott, Police Chief Art Acevedo and Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr getting all knackered collecting facts about Formula One racing to bring back to the hoi polloi here in the Colonies.

But, blimey, if we didn’t do the next best thing, checking up with the Northampton Chronicle & Echo website. Seems our right honorable Safety and Security Measures Research Mission ran into a bit of a gullywasher.

Looks like it’s all mackintoshes, galoshes and bumbershoots this weekend, wot? Just don’t seem cricket, what with all the money put up by Circuit of the Americas, builder of a Formula One track in Travis County, and the $5,556 generously donated by the taxed class.

Katie Tyler, Silverstone’s director of communications, is calling it a disaster. We e-mailed Katie this afternoon, hoping to find out what our intrepid racing explorers might be doing to stay dry.

We also e-mailed Jeremy Casey, the sports editor of the Chronicle & Echo, and John Harrison, who is covering the raceway deluge, confident that they had at least been introduced to our Austin VIPs.

More than likely we will get an up-to-the-moment report after tea time.

Rest assured our intrepid expedition will return with everything needed to conduct a race in a flood. Only a tosser or plonker would think that’s not money well spent.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Queen Elizabeth via the Official Website of the British Monarchy.

Austin officials to see F1 racing in England; city taxpayers get $5,556 bill
Friday, Jun 29, 2012, 02:07PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
F1 car

Not crazy enough to let a perfectly good junket go to waste, Austin’s top city officials will be going to England courtesy of a Formula One racing company.

Oh, and city taxpayers, who will be picking up $5,556 to send four other city officials, in what has become a sprawling junket saga for the Austin American-Statesman.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Manager Marc Ott, who are getting their travel and board paid for by Circuit of the Americas, whose offer to do the same for two Travis County officials was spurned the other day by the Commissioner’s Court.

The gracious, normally secretive Circuit folks are also paying to put up Police Chief Art Acevedo, Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and two other city officials, whose airfare taxpayers will be footing.

Calm down, you fiscal worrywarts out there. The tickets are coach.

Although the short notice was one of the reasons the county turned down the free trip, city officials are making time to spend July 5-9 at Silverstone, where racing entrepreneurs have crowned the lovely English countryside with a jagged 3.2-mile ring of asphalt.

As was the excuse proffered by county officials, Austin’s leaders are going to take an eyewitness look at how a Formula One event is staged. The $300 million Circuit of the Americas racetrack here is hosting racing Nov. 16-18.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, who had been alerted to the trip by the American-Statesman, said, “Public money should not be used to fund trips to England in support of the Formula One race. The City of Austin has many pressing needs, and it would be inappropriate to use our scarce dollars for this purpose.”

Tovo may or may not have been referring to the pressing need for $2.2 million to run the money-losing MetroRail trains on the weekends. Or the $2 million to give away reusable grocery bags to low-income Austinites. Or maybe the $1.2 million to make Austin Energy’s private cleaning service public.

Or maybe she was piqued not having been invited along on the Silverstone junket.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo 'Formula 1: British Grand Prix' by flickr user Alex Basnett, used via a Creative Commons license.

  • 1
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Watering Hole 1114 B Potomac Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Still Missing the Good Ol’ Days “I was born in ’91, so I never got to experience the little mom and pop stores (hardware store or otherwise). I wish I could have...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Nothing Really Happens with This Bed Bug Shutdown Notice and Implosion Threat Posted to a Westheimer Strip Center Mattress Store “The movie finally makes a reasonable amount of sense now” after 4 years of work on it, writes producer Joseph Graham on the...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: Central Bank Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support! Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
The Next Food Hall Coming to Downtown Houston Will Be a Storeful of Open Kitchens If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall....
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Amazon Will Swallow Whole Foods Whole For those who expected Whole Foods Market to shop itself to a fellow grocery store chain and not a powerful company experimenting with...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
This Century’s Rise in Home Prices; Rare Local Air Monitoring Equipment Exhibited at Museum Houston-Area Home Prices Have Increased Nearly 30% Since 2000, Finds Harvard Study [Houston Chronicle] Stream, AMD To Develop 5-Story...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Feagan, and Again, and Again Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Demolition is...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Blessed are the Poor: Examining opposition to debtors-prison legislation Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt was quoted by the Associated Press (June 11) criticizing debtors-prison legislation (SB 1913) which...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Vault 14759 Oak Bend Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Bones Found in Holdout Heights House Attic Tell No Tales Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Fast Indian Comes to the Strip Center End of 19th St. Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
A Personal Big Day at L'Auberge in Lake Charles In previous posts, including in my Lifetime of Running Cold history of my personal gambling, Iit's been mentioned that I've been...
Update:2 years 9 months
Cory Crow
Debtors-prison policies decried, DPS cuts license center hours, and other stories Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on preparing for a much-need break next week.SCOTUS...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Junk-science based false convictions in Houston lampooned by comedian Someone has finally grokked and managed to convey in an accessible, understandable way the unmitigated travesty of justice surrounding drug...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Just Liberty post-session roundup podcast Here's the latest Just Liberty podcast - this time reviewing criminal-justice reform legislation from the 85th Texas Legislature -...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Governor signs omnibus innocence bill to track informants, record interrogations Governor Greg Abbott today signed HB 34, Texas' latest omnibus innocence legislation. Grits explained in this post why the eyewitness ID...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston meeting of Texas Latino GOP PAC tomorrow evening From the InBox: The Texas Latino GOP PAC are the gatekeepers to the conservative Latino Community, for far too long GOP outreach to Latino...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Sen. Joan Huffman to recap the 85th From the InBox: Join us THIS WEDNESDAY, June 14 (Flag Day!), for our meeting with State Sen. Joan Huffman, SD 17, who will be discussing...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Gov. Abbott mistakes incarceration smell for "freedom" Governor Greg Abbott made a speech in Bell County recently declaring that, as one drove north out of Austin, one could notice a different...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Unanswered questions about law-of-parties beyond death penalty In our podcast the other day, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Amanda Marzullo estimated that 10 percent of death-row defendants...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Priorities The headline from the Victoria Advocate declaring that the Texas Legislature prioritized mental health treatment over incarceration is...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:2 years 10 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:2 years 10 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:2 years 11 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:3 years 1 week
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:3 years 1 week
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:3 years 2 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:3 years 3 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:3 years 2 months
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 10 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 7 years 10 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 10 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 10 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 7 years 10 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 7 years 10 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 7 years 10 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 7 years 10 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 7 years 10 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 7 years 10 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 7 years 10 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 7 years 10 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 7 years 10 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
© 2020 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement