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Nubian Queen Lo-La: Don't Tread on My Trim!

“I’m not going to paint this RV, because I’m not going to compromise,” Lo-La insisted. “When somebody gets so worked up over a color, believe me, it’s not going to end at a trailer. Next thing he’ll be asking you to change the color of your skin, change the color of your car, change the color of your hair.”

What's the ruckus about? Lozina E. Stephens, proprietress of beloved Rosewood restaurant Nubian Queen Lo-La’s Cajun Kitchen, is being threatened with eviction from the Royal Palms trailer court. What drastic offense has prompted this reaction from the management, you ask? Unbelievably, it's the purple trim she painted on her trailer. Here's an excerpt from our forthcoming story on Lo-La's predicament by the always estimable Diana Welch:

Unless reason returns to the Royal Palms trailer court by Saturday, July 21, Queen Lo-La will be looking for a new estate.

Like her popular Eastside restaurant, Nubian Queen Lo-La’s Cajun Kitchen, Lozina E. Stephen’s new RV is dark, cool, and comfortable, done up tastefully in burgundy and purple crushed velvet, with recorded gospel music in the air. It is remarkably tidy for its small size, especially given that it houses not only Lo-La but also her two teenage daughters and a small dog. The level of order Lo-La and her girls maintain is artful: Just beyond the houseplants that serve as dividers between the sitting area and the kitchen, bags of potato chips are carefully displayed in a line on a built-in rack on the counter. Outside, the garden is just as tidy, with windmills and other colorful trinkets sprucing up the rented lot at the Royal Palms (“Manufactured Home and RV Community”) at Ben White Boulevard and Highway 183, where the RV has been parked for less than two months. Fourteen-year-old Lisa recently personalized the home with a carefully executed present to her mom: She painted the trim and door of the off-white home in Lo-La’s signature color: purple.
Read More | Comment »

Local 2:14PM Tue. Jul. 17, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Bushies vs. the House, Part 2068

Did anyone notice there seems to be a constitutional crisis going on?

On Friday, Dallas-based lawyer and ex-White House counsel Harriet Miers no-showed the House Judiciary Committee under orders from her former bosses. Today is the last day for her to show up before she faces the possibility of contempt of Congress charges or the even more esoteric inherent contempt charges.

Today is also the last day for the Republican National Committee to hand over documents about the U.S. attorney firing scandal. Of course, this raises the question of why exactly the RNC had documents about this issue and whether the president is going to claim executive privilege covers not only his staff, but everyone he has ever looked at.

Now the committee has canceled another meeting because the Department of Justice refused to make Voting Section Chief John Tanner available for questioning about his role in the Georgia Photo Identification Law debacle. For those of you too busy to even keep track of all the multifarious voter suppression (whoops, we mean ID) measures in Texas, the Republican-authored bill would have forced Georgia residents to provide a government-issued photo ID to vote. Now where Justice comes in is that its lawyers looked at the bill before it was passed – and said it would be unconstitutional. The very next day, Tanner overruled them and told Georgia the bill was fine and dandy.

Now the question is: If Congress starts handing down contempt charges against past and present White House and Justice staffers, will Attorney General Alberto Gonzales actually enforce them? Read More | Comment »

National 1:29PM Tue. Jul. 17, 2007, Richard Whittaker

POTUS Candidates on Pot

With the next presidential election more than a year away (that’s right, we have endless campaigning and politicking yet to come…for cryin’ out loud), the Marijuana Policy Project reports that 10 of the 18 declared POTUS contenders have come out in favor of ending federal raids on medi-pot patients in the 12 states that have legalized medical Cannabis.

By the end of June, Democratic contenders Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had already pledged to end Drug Enforcement Administration-led medi-pot raids in states where use is legal. Although New York Sen. Hillary Clinton initially told MPP she was studying the issue, the New Hampshire group Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana now reports that during a campaign stop there on July 13, Clinton called the DEA raids “terrible” and pledged to stop them. Notably absent from the mix is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who hasn’t yet made any commitment to ending the raids. Instead, Obama has said only that raiding sick people shouldn’t be a priority for the Dept. of Justice. Read More | Comment »

Reefer Madness 9:33AM Tue. Jul. 17, 2007, Jordan Smith

Get Yer Boat On

After a three week boating ban, the Lower Colorado River Authority has made it official: Lake Travis is open again!

It's down to 686 foot above mean sea level, which is still seven feet above what the LCRA calls full, and boaters are being asked to be careful about debris. Some buoys and markers also got washed away, and since there's still some partially submerged houses and boat ramps, try not to create wakes, especially around Graveyard Point.

There's still two floodgates open at Mansfield dam, which means the City of Austin won't be be opening Lake Austin or Town Lake yet. The gates may be closed and the lakes open later this week, but that depends on whether it rains again in the watershed.

On further updates, the plan is that Gloster Bend and The Narrows at 5pm Tuesday, and Cypress Creek Park and Sandy Creek Park at 8am Thursday. Check the LCRA web site for the full list. Read More | 1 Comment »

Local 8:59AM Tue. Jul. 17, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Welcome to Election '08!

So the 2008 elections in Texas have officially begun.

It was supposed to start last Thursday, with Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, announcing his intention to think about taking Sen. John Cornyn's seat off him. But he had to re-schedule, so as not to be holding a press conference the day after Lady Bird Johnson died. So it was going to be this morning instead – but that thunder got stolen by the the GOP beginning a very early "get out the vote" campaign.

Over at the Omni Hotel, Gov. Rick Perry and Cornyn were launching the statewide Republican election campaign/fundraising exercise, Victory 2008. Or Victory '08, or Victory in '08, depending who you ask, which is probably causing the GOP's election analysts to have kittens. If the party head honchos have so little message discipline (as the pollsters and campaign managers put it) that they can't get the name exactly right, that doesn't bode well for the rest of the campaign. Read More | Comment »

State 10:14PM Mon. Jul. 16, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Mayor's Statement on Futrell Retirement

Will Wynn stepped away from a photo shoot long enough to issue the following statement. Notice the strong call for a national search and the expectation that Futrell stay in-house, not appointing an interim manager, before her departure:

Austin City Manager Toby Hammett Futrell today announced that she will retire on May 31, 2008 after thirty-one years of service to the City of Austin.

The announcement bookends a remarkable career that saw Futrell rise through the ranks, starting as an entry-level clerk in the Health and Human Services Department, to ultimately lead a municipal workforce of more 10,000 people.

“Toby’s career trajectory is a testament to her abilities,” Mayor Wynn said. “I’ve rarely known a person with such unrelenting drive and dedication.”

The Mayor said that from discussions with other Council members, he believes there is strong agreement that the City should avoid the disruption of administration that could come if an interim manager were appointed while a new, permanent manager is found. Wynn also called for a broad, national search to find Futrell’s successor.

“For three decades Toby has had the City’s best interest as her number one priority, and today’s announcement is another case in point. She clearly recognizes the lead time Council will need in order to implement an appropriate process for finding her replacement and transitioning directly to a new manager,” Wynn said. “My hat is off to her.”

Wynn said he anticipates the Council members will discuss next steps in executive session of the July 26 City Council meeting.
Read More | Comment »

Local 4:27PM Mon. Jul. 16, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Breaking: Futrell Bows Out May 2008

May 31, 2008, to be exact. The City Manager just sent out a misty-eyed memorandum minutes ago looking back on her tenure, entitled "Ending the Suspense." Check it out here.

UPDATE: Here's the money passage:

"Looking Ahead. However, recently, I've come to believe that over-heated speculation about my retirement plans are becoming both counterproductive and a distraction. I had originally intended to publicly announce my plans in early September after the 2008 budget adoption, but I've decided to put an end to what feels like mounting media frenzy and conjecture (Chronic's emphasis; good luck with that!).

I will be retiring in ten months with thirty-one years of service on May 31, 2008.

This will give the Council eight months to complete a national search, if desired
(again, Chronic's emphasis – mighty white of her to offer!), for my replacement, and leaves another two months for notice requirements and potential slippage in that schedule." Read More | 4 Comments »

Local 2:14PM Mon. Jul. 16, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Slusher Speaks

In the fallout over Toby Futrell's 2002 staffing of a specially-created Austin Energy position with her brother-in-law, one name familiar to longtime Council hounds has been brought up for comparison: former Austin Chronicle politics editor and City Council member Daryl Slusher. In the article disclosing the quasi-nepotistic hire, and the subsequent editorial admonishing Futrell, the Statesman noted Slusher's 2007 hire by Futrell as illustrative of the City Manager's ability to both create a new position and fill it with a hand-picked candidate – in this case, Slusher, then working on Austin Energy's Plug-In Partners hybrid vehicle campaign, went on to become assistant director of environmental affairs and conservation at the water utility. An unmentioned but implicit subtext was Slusher's employ under Futrell was a role reversal from the days when Futrell was under Slusher's Council direction – raising questions whether Slusher was benefiting from a revolving-door arrangement of sorts. So we asked him. Read More | Comment »

Local 1:21PM Mon. Jul. 16, 2007, Wells Dunbar

The Last Repose of Lady Bird Johnson

In trucks, in cars, in buses and even coaches, they came to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum to say farewell to Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson. Most of them probably wouldn't recognize the name. But that was because, to everyone, she was Lady Bird.

From Friday afternoon, she had laid in repose in her husband's presidential library. In the great hall, beneath the carved presidential seal, a wall of her husband's papers and the watchful eye of news cameras. Even by Saturday morning, the queue of those wishing to pay their final respects was still quickly replenishing itself. Bikers in Harley shirts, the politerati in suits, families with young children and those old enough to remember when Lady Bird was a congressman's wife. They signed the condolence sheets in brown felt tip. By home address, they had come from Austin and around the state and far beyond. They all passed through quietly, up the 23 stone steps to where she lay. Some bowed their heads, some crossed themselves, but most stood in silence for a few moments and moved on. Read More | Comment »

Local 9:18AM Mon. Jul. 16, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Lake Ban: They're Not Kidding

For those of you thinking, Hey, I know the City of Austin has been saying "Don't go in Town Lake," and the Lower Colorado River Authority is saying "That water's fast and nasty," but how bad can it really be? – here's how bad it is.

This is what the waters on Town Lake by Shoal Beach looked like at midday Sunday. Yes, Town Lake has rapids. Now whitewater rafting on Waller Creek doesn't seem that far-fetched, does it?

There is some good news for boaters: the city has opened Lake Austin from Walsh Landing to Loop 360. There's some big restrictions: no boat over 30 foot, and a 10 mph speed limit. The fire department still recommends no jetskis and no swimming, because of debris and high bacteria levels.

The rest of the lake is still closed, as well as Town Lake and the Colorado below Longhorn Dam. And, you'll face a Class C misdemeanor with a $500 fine for breaking the ban. The ban will be reconsidered midday Monday. Read More | Comment »

Local 4:21PM Sun. Jul. 15, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Friendly Fire in the Culture Wars: Pt. 2

More inadvertent hilarity from the clash of cultures.

What's that noise?

A Muslim woman was arrested and faces charges after she hid electronics under her headscarf and smuggled them into a British court.

Terrorism? Not so much, but maybe there was some illegal downloading involved. The Manchester Guardian reports the judge kept hearing strange noises coming from the jury box during a murder trial at London's Blackfriars crown court. A lawyer saw a wire peaking out of the hijab or traditional Islamic clothing of one of the jurors. On inspection, it turned out she'd been listening to her mp3 player during the dull bits of the evidence, and had been hiding the headphones under her headscarf. She now faces contempt of court charges.

One thought: how awesome would it be if she was listening to The Black Album? Read More | Comment »

Media Watch 4:21PM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Smith, Privilege and Pork

There was scratching of heads here at Chronic Towers yesterday when we got that rarest of beasts: a press release from our ever-loving local Republican US Rep. Lamar Smith. He wrote to say he'd managed to put away $150,000 in the Commerce, Justice and Science Bill, for the Austin Police Department to buy themselves a driving simulator. Well, kinda. Actually, it's only got through committee, and still has to pass a House vote.

Why this sudden largesse? And why put out a press release about pork that could still get cut? Could it be he's trying to curry some local favor after his performance Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee? While they were supposed to be discussing Harriet Miers and executive privilege, Smith railed on that this was biting into presidential power, a waste of time, and wholly partisan. He was then on the losing end of the seven-to-five vote that said Miers had been bad for not showing up.

This came after Tuesday's meeting about pardons, when Smith hammered on about presidential power and calling Bill Clinton the Prince of Pardons. (Somebody should make sure he's working off the right talking points. After all, the president told us yesterday Scooter Libby is officially old news.)

Smith threw up all the old canards – terrorism, immigrants, Internet predators – and said the committee should get back to "the people's business." However, if he's hoping to get on the people's good side, someone should tell him big piles of cash for APD may not be the way to do it. Read More | Comment »

State 3:52PM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Brewster McCracken, Wife Divorcing

We received this email last night from city council member Brewster McCracken:

I have prepared a short statement below confirming that I and my wife Mindy Montford have agreed to a divorce. We were married in 1995 and have been separated for the last seven months.

Mindy is an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office and an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law. We have one son, Ford, who was born on March 2, 2004. As for the child custody part of our divorce agreement, we will be joint managing conservators.

STATEMENT OF BREWSTER McCRACKEN:

"With great sadness, I am confirming that Mindy and I have agreed to end our marriage. We are incredibly blessed to have a wonderful son together. We both love our son very much, and we will work together to be great parents for him."
Read More | Comment »

Local 3:18PM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Friendly Fire in the Culture Wars: Pt 1

With the weekend looming, time for some light-hearted news from the 'war on terror', courtesy of the UK media.

Metal musician arrested for terrorist facial hair

A story ripped through the media that British security staff at Luton Airport near London questioned a suspicious-looking individual. They were on the edge of getting out the rubber gloves because of his "Taliban" beard. The man in question actually turned out to be Metallica frontman and noted beardy James Hetfied, who was flying in to play the UK end of Live Earth.

Actually, what happened was that Hugo Rifkind made a one-paragraph passing comment about it in his Times of London column (sort of a rich man's Page Six). This got picked up and accelerated through the world's news pages. Rifkind, who many suspect only got the gig with the snooty Times because his daddy was a Conservative MP, is highly unlikely to have ever hung around with the "friends" who he claims were the source of the story – unless they were his own friends, who probably couldn't tell Harvester of Sorrows from a hole in the ground. And there's another slight problem. Hetfield's press people said it's never happened. Read More | Comment »

Media Watch 3:08PM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Richard Whittaker

No Break for Boaters

Lake Travis is staying closed to recreational boaters: that's the latest word from the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Although it's down ten feet from last Friday's peak of 701.52 feet above mean sea level (the fifth highest level ever), the flood pool at Travis is still ten feet deep in water. That means most public boat ramps are still submerged. Plus there's worries about debris and potential risks to marina owners and lakeside residents who might be making repairs.

Because water (and debris) flows downstream, that means no boating in Austin either. The city is keeping Lake Austin, Town Lake, and the Colorado River below Longhorn Dam shut as long as the LCRA keeps the floodgates on the Mansfield and Tom Miller Dams open. The LCRA is saying that it may close those gates this coming week, but only if there's no more rain in the hill country.

In good news for swimmers, as least Barton Springs is open again. Just in time for tomorrow's free swim day and public forum on the new masterplan for the historic swimming hole. Read More | Comment »

Local 1:03PM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Duck!

A phantom foie gras foe lobbed a brick through a plate glass window at Jeffrey's restaurant late Wednesday, bringing to eight (that we know of) the number of businesses vandalized this month for serving the fattened duck liver. (See "Foie Gras Fracas" in this week's issue.) Jeffrey's owner Ron Weiss said restaurant employees discovered the shattered window, plus the brick, Thursday morning and that police are taking the matter "very seriously." Weiss said he doesn't believe the Central Texas Animal Defense group is responsible for the damage but he's asked leader Noah Cooper to aid in trying to stop the nonsense. "This kind of behavior isn't going to help their cause," Weiss said, adding that the vandalism only stiffens the resolve of targeted restaurant owners to keep foie gras on their menus. Cooper said his group doesn't condone such tactics and CTAD will issue a statement today. Read More | Comment »

Local 10:10AM Fri. Jul. 13, 2007, Amy Smith

Anthrax in Texas (The Good Kind)

Seem Gov. Rick Perry's all pumped because Texas may be getting a bioweapons (sorry, "agricultural biodefense") research facility.

The Texas Research Park in San Antonio, promoted by the Texas Biological and Agro-Defense Consortium, got through to the next round to select a site for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). These labs, run by the Department of Homeland Security, will research preventing animal diseases, especially "high-consequence biological threats involving human, zoonotic (i.e., transmitted from animals to humans), and foreign animal diseases." Basically, that means ways to tackle biowarfare, either through direct threats to people, or indirect threats like, say, wiping out every chicken through a genetically modified virus. Read More | Comment »

State 5:41PM Thu. Jul. 12, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Did Miers Leave a Forwarding Address?

Someone might want to tell the White House that Harriet Miers doesn't work for them any more. Its official biography of Miers says she's still Counsel to the President – even though she quit that post back in January.

This may mean any of several options:

1: The Bush administration is now so secretive that even its Human Resources department isn't being told who's where any more.

2: They're hoping that by saying she's still there, it'll boost their claims of executive privilege a bit more.

3: They've been a bit distracted, what with the war and everything.

4: If it's not a file they're claiming is super-duper extra-double-trouble secret, then they're not really interested in keeping track of it. Read More | Comment »

National 2:44PM Thu. Jul. 12, 2007, Richard Whittaker

If Harriet Won't Go to the Committee …

The big "will she, won't she?" dance on Capitol Hill was solved this morning when Dallas lawyer and former Texas Bar Association President and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers no-showed the House Judiciary Subcommittee.

She was supposed to give evidence on the ever-growing US attorney firing scandal, but instead took the White House line that executive privilege trumps House subpoena powers. Bad news for her: the subcommittee just voted 7-5 that Miers was bound to at least show up. This means she's now open to contempt charges.

President Bush's interpretation of executive privilege stretched the credulity of constitutional scholars. In a very pointed letter to her lawyers yesterday, the subcommittee made it clear where they stood: "Even if a witness intends to assert privilege in response to a subpoena, that intention to assert privilege does not obviate the obligation to appear." Legalese for "turn up, or we'll hold you in contempt."

Miers' case probably wasn't helped by fellow witness and former White House aide Sara Taylor turning up Wednesday to answer questions selectively, even though she was under the same "no-show" orders from her former bosses.

Meanwhile, Bush himself was telling a press conference that the first conviction of a ranking member of his administration, Scooter Libby, was old news and they should move on. Fortunately for the White House press pack, his former staff were doing their best at the other end of the Capital Mall to give them something new to chew on. Read More | Comment »

National 1:54PM Thu. Jul. 12, 2007, Richard Whittaker

The Mayor Wears Prada

With all the scintillating prose you'll find in print this week, let Chronic direct you to After a Fashion as not to miss this:

"A MODEL MAYOR It seems like just yesterday that our mayor, Will Wynn, strutted down the runway at Antone's wearing a silk smoking jacket and pajama pants from our own Made in Heaven collection. Our hunky leader slyly pushed the jacket back to reveal his shoulders, and by the time he made it to the end of the runway, he was completely shirtless, and the audience was a happy, howling mess. And now look what we hath wrought: Wynn will be soon be appearing on the pages of Esquire magazine modeling a hip pin-striped suit from Prada. The Esquire folks were all over Austin during South by Southwest back in March and, by a fluke, wound up hanging out with Wynn, who showed them a great time. When they found out that Wynn would be attending the big U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in L.A. a couple of weeks ago, they contacted Wynn out of the blue and asked him to model for them (contrary to another story making the rounds). Wynn agreed if they would help him promote energy efficiency – so apparently Austin will be getting additional coverage from Esquire soon. That's the story, straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. Wynn was quick to remind After a Fashion that "I remember where I got my modeling start." Awww."

Leffingwell, McCracken and the other pretenders to the throne have their work cut out for them in the PR department. Read More | Comment »

Local 10:16AM Thu. Jul. 12, 2007, Wells Dunbar

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