What to watch for in annexation debate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Mark Reeves is a good guy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Mark Reeves is a good guy. So is Rick Kahn. They’re both from Minnesota. As a result, when the two debate the annexation issue and the election referendum Wednesday night, don’t expect a lot of sparks.

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Do, however, expect to hear both sides of the issue clearly explained in a half-hour debate moderated by KAAL senior reporter Carla Johnson. However, don’t tune into Region Six to watch the half-hour debate at 9 p.m. Wednesday; tune into cable Channel 6, the public access channel.

At issue is the annexation of 55 acres of land west of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center, land that was annexed by ordinance by the Austin City Council in May. When more than 1,000 citizens objected to that annexation and signed a petition to that affect, Austin’s most recent referendum became a reality.

It’s up to the voters to decide whether the annexation will proceed now. A "yes" vote on the referendum is a vote of support for the annexation; a "no" vote means the voter doesn’t want to see the land annexed.

Don’t have cable TV? Pop some popcorn and invite yourself to a friend’s house for the half-hour program that was broadcast live – without sound – last Tuesday. Officials and participants are hoping the second showing, a tape of the first time, will successfully reach the viewing audience this time.

Reeves, who acts as spokesman for the citizens who oppose the annexation, and Kahn, the president of the development company that wants to build 127 homes on the land, hit most of the highlights in the debate, which is over too quickly to explore all the issues. Austin Community Development Director Craig Hoium – a surprise addition to the debate, according to Reeves – speaks for the city during the congenial debate. The trio talk housing density, housing needs, flooding, environmental impact and suggestions to mitigate any possible problems with the nature center. Johnson also brings to the light of day some of the questions that have been circulating in the hallways and meeting rooms of Austin since the whole process began.

"Dr. Reeves, you have critics who say the members of your group just don’t want neighbors," she said, referring to the fact that Reeves lives within the perimeter of the nature center and many of the group’s members live opposite the proposed development.

"Mr. Kahn, why do you feel you have the backing and experience to make a development of this size work?" she asked the developer, who is hoping the Austin development will be a flagship for the budding company.

For their answers and more, tune in cable Channel 6 at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

One thing that can be revealed, neither man will tell you he’s the only one who’s right. Both Kahn and Reeves respectfully stress that this issue is up to the voters to decide.

"We’re not saying that the six (council members) who voted for the annexation were wrong, we’re saying that it’s an issue that should be decided by more than seven people," Reeves said.