The Hunt Is On

For all who are sick of catching the same psychic hotline commercials on afternoon television, frustrated with job-hunting endeavors, and/or simply tired of the old workplace grind, an opportunity to browse Central Texas’ job market fast approaches. The Ninth Annual Career Expo, which, according to a press release from the Austin Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities, is the region’s largest job fair, is Wednesday, May 9 from 9am to 3pm at the Palmer Events Center. More than 50 employers are slated to be at the free event, as well as “a technology center and job-related workshops; resume critiquing and health care continuing education,” according to the press release, which also notes that the fair is the only one in Austin “that provides accommodations such as sighted guides, sign language interpreters and Spanish translators.” For more info, call 637-7571 or see Read More | Comment »

Local 11:29AM Fri. May. 4, 2007, Cheryl Smith

I'm in Your 'Trek', Reading Your Memes

Following yesterday's Star Trek-inspired insanity during City Manager Toby Futrell's presentation of the city's financial forecast, it only seems appropriate to steer y'all to LOL Trek, a riff on the admittedly retarded LOL Cats meme, set to the show's infamous episode, "The Trouble With Tribbles." Hey, if our butch sister blog, The Gay Place is doing it, why can't we?

But if you really want a laugh, the financial forecast is here for your perusal. Did we say laugh? We meant shivering, fetal-position-inducing cry. Our bad. Read More | Comment »

Local 9:59AM Fri. May. 4, 2007, Wells Dunbar

No Knock and No Crack, Pt. 3

There were more – and even more disturbing – revelations out of Atlanta last week in the ongoing story of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who was killed by Atlanta PD during a bogus drug raid at her house on Nov. 21 – including that police actually planted pot in Johnston’s basement to bolster their insistence that drugs were being dealt from her home.

To recap: Atlanta narco officers obtained a so-called “no-knock” warrant – allowing police to enter unannounced – to conduct a drug raid at Johnston’s Northwest Atlanta home. Police obtained the warrant from a magistrate by claiming a confidential informant told them a man named “Sam” was dealing crack out of the small house. They needed the no-knock warrant, they averred, because Sam was known to monitor surveillance cameras at the house. The plainclothes cops cut through Johnston’s burglar bars and stormed through the door, only to be met by Johnston who, apparently thinking the men were intruders, fired a .38 revolver at them in an attempt to defend herself and her home. Johnston’s bullets failed to hit anyone, but prompted police to unleash a torrent of return fire – 39 rounds in all – striking the 92-year-old woman five or six times, killing her. Read More | 1 Comment »

Reefer Madness 9:51AM Fri. May. 4, 2007, Jordan Smith

Dying in Committee, Part 3

It's not just good, worthwhile or well-considered legislation that fails to see the light of a floor debate. Take this gem that seems to be doomed to disappear into the void of unpassed bills:

What is it? House Concurrent Resolution 29, by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.

What would it do? It would encourage "memorializing the U.S. Congress to pass House Resolution 1146 to withdraw the United States from membership in the United Nations.

Come again? Every session in D.C., U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (the famous Texas District 14 nominal Republican/spiritual libertarian) files a bill called the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which says the U.S. should quit the UN. This resolution just says that it would be really nice if it passed.

Why would it be good? Because it would send a strong message to those New World Order liberals in their black helicopters that are obviously circling around Brazoria County. Read More | Comment »

On the Lege 5:06PM Thu. May. 3, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Lost in Space

Think of the city budget as the USS Enterprise under Klingon siege, says City Manager Toby Futrell, hitting the nitty-gritty in the city's financial forecast. Capt. Kirk can demand Warp 10 from his trusty engineer, but with fires everywhere below deck, we know the refrain, delivered in that unmistakably thick brogue: But captain, she can't take any mooooooore!

"City staff is that beleaguered engineer," said Futrell. "City staff is Scotty. We're putting out those fires, and we're producing that Warp 10 … but that Warp 10 is not reliable; it's weak. … We don't have the internal controls we need. … We're going to need to reinvest."

This analogy was used to sell what Futrell called core service investments – more than $7 million in "growth related" and "internal control" dollars. She says they're needed to keep pace with growth, but, with respect to the sparse (Vulcan-esque?) picture she's painted elsewhere, it might be a hard sell. Read More | Comment »

City Hall Hustle 3:49PM Thu. May. 3, 2007, Wells Dunbar

ACL 2007 Derby: And They're Off!

Looks like the Austin City Limits Music Festival dam has started to splinter. Austinist reports this morning that Charles Attal has bowed to overwhelming public pressure and leaked the first two major names for the 2007 Zilker dust bowl: Icky Thump mariachi duo the White Stripes and Volta sprite Björk. Right before their Stubb's show last night was rained out, Blonde Redhead announced they'd be back in September.

Over on - wonder what that Web site's about? - they've taken a page from South by Southwest and run a fine-tooth comb through MySpace and artist pages to come up with a list of about 40 confirmed performers.

Of those, TCB is psyched for Reverend Horton Heat, Beausoleil, and the Heartless Bastards, but not so much for Indigo Girls, Joss Stone, and Peter, Bjorn & John, but, you know, whatevs. Current odds on Bob Dylan are running about 50-50, as no one seems to have heard much either way, but Arcade Fire, Wilco, and Bloc Party appear squarely in the "probable" category. To prevent any further leakage, ACL Fest has promised to give the Chronicle the complete list in time for next week's issue. Read More | Comment »

National 11:51AM Thu. May. 3, 2007, Christopher Gray

I Called the Witch Doctor

Kicking off the five-year financial forecast at City Council today is economist John Hockenyos, with an economic context view "50,000 feet from above."

There's some "bubblish" signs, but "the fundamentals remain strong," says Hockenyos. But he also says his field is a step away from witch-doctoring, so take that into account, too. To us, it sort of seems like crouching the sunny conventional wisdom about Austin in pseudo-scientific jargon. Here, see if you can separate his statements into those respective categories:

"I wonder if enough people moving into town can afford half-a-million dollar condos."

"More than one in 10 of us wasn't here in 2000. … People are leaving California in droves."

"The difference between the haves and the have-nots is getting bigger."

"[Entertainment] used to be about experience - going to see a band. … Now we're capturing the in capital of our creative sector in a way that can be exported all over the world. … [I call it] exportable sustainability."

Time's up!

Oh no, Brewster McCracken's talking about the digital convergence! Run! Read More | Comment »

City Hall Hustle 10:41AM Thu. May. 3, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Texas State Hold 'Em (Updated)

Cut those cards (but don't deal 'em yet), because letting people play poker for money and taking a share for the house may become legal this session.

House Bill 3186, aka the Texas Poker Bill, shuffled out of the ever-thrilling House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee Wednesday. It would allow poker tables at some bars and racetracks, with the state (of course) taking a rake out of every hand. Importantly, it also legalizes charitable poker events, which are currently illegal. The cash from license fees and taxes (18% of the house rake for commercial gambling, 5% from charity events) will end up in the coffers of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, to be split 50-50 between homeless shelters and programs and the housing trust fund.

It's all born from a good dose of pragmatism: As bill sponsor Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, put it in a press release, "Right now, in any size city at almost any time, anyone can find an illegal poker game to play in. Texas ought to benefit from the game rather than push these millions of dollars into the hands of criminals."

Personally, we blame ESPN for showing the World Series of Poker.

Next stop for this bill? The House for debate, where it may just about pass before the end of the session. Read More | 1 Comment »

On the Lege 9:21PM Wed. May. 2, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Big Hair, Bigger Hearts

Nothing truly makes perfect sense at 3:30am, but glancing over at CNN and seeing Hillary Clinton giving a speech over the screen caption "The Bono Effect" is pretty jarring. Turns out Clinton and the U2 singer had announced a new initiative to add billions of foreign-aid dollars to overseas education programs – particularly, of course, in poverty-stricken nations. (As far as that new record goes, Edge must've needed the studio to himself yesterday. Hopefully.) As an irrationally passionate U2 fan, a condition that only deepens as the years pass, it's funny to think of the days when they were just part of the same pack as Simple Minds, the Alarm, INXS, Tears for Fears, the Call, Midnight Oil, the Waterboys, and a few others.

Post-punk bands tended to shake out one of two ways: these brooding, quasi-mystical Celtic poet-bards girls (and some guys) adored and the much more lovelorn and dour miserable bastards in the Cure, Smiths, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Over the years, critical myth-making has largely confined itself to the not-getting-any camp (go figure), while the former is ignored if not outright abhorred – no one is asking Simple Minds to reunite at Coachella. But it's a good 20% of XM Radio's classic alternative channel Fred (XM 44), and you can make a decent-sized playlist – or mixtape, for those who remember such ancient notions – of these moody British Isle (and Commonwealth) bands who weren't afraid to take rock & roll seriously. Maybe too seriously. It was the Eighties, after all. Even the hair was serious. Especially the hair.

Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays"
Tears for Fears, "Mad World"
The Alarm, "You Sold Me Down the River"
World Party, "Ship of Fools"
Simple Minds, "She's a River"
Waterboys, "This is the Sea"
The Call, "Let the Day Begin"
U2, "Wire"
INXS, "Don't Change"
Midnight Oil, "Blue Sky Mine"
Gene Loves Jezebel, "Who Wants to Go to Heaven?"
Simple Minds, "Alive & Kickin"
Boomtown Rats, "Looking After Number One"
Tears for Fears, "Shout"
Waterboys, "The Whole of the Moon"
INXS, "Listen Like Thieves"
U2, "Bad" Read More | Comment »

National 4:42PM Wed. May. 2, 2007, Christopher Gray

(Medi)-Pot Paranoia

Someone's seeing pot smokers everywhere in the Lege. After functionally killing this session's medical-marijuana bill, Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, got all excited in this morning's House Public Health Committee meeting while discussing House Bill 574, a bill that would start a long and very slow consultation exercise on how the state controls pain medication. Somehow, Delisi saw through the smoke and saw this for what it was - backdoor medi-pot! Determined to expose it for what it was, Delisi got all McCarthy up in this House … Committee Chamber.

"Is your organization in favor of medical marijuana?" probed Delisi of one witness from Texas Partnership for End-of-Life Care, an advocacy group working for better pain-management policies in the state.

"Er, no," came the reply from the confused witness (confused only because the question had nothing to do with her testimony).

Ha! Take that, hippies! Read More | 2 Comments »

On the Lege 2:35PM Wed. May. 2, 2007, Richard Whittaker

We Ain't Saying She's a Gold Digger …

… but she ain't messin' with no broke mayors.

Austinist directs us to this illuminating Craigslist "Missed Connections" post:

Mayor Will Wynn and the Gold-Digging Hoochie Mamas - w4m - 33
Reply to:
Date: 2007-05-01, 8:54PM CDT

Mayor Will Wynn, you are hot. Really, what more can I ask for – a Democrat with that delicious clean-cut Republican style? In a word, "yum."

Unfortunately, I couldn't get near you at the Downtown premiere because you were surrounded by big-haired, fake-breast-having hoochie mamas.

Do they share your interest in fitness, global sustainability, and intelligent entertainment? No, I don't think so. They are only interested in carat size.

I don't care about your power or money; I'm really just after that cute ass.

Me: B cup, smart, sexy, and funny as hell.

Call me when you're ready for a real woman.

Damn. All this talk of "big-haired, fake-breast-having hoochie mamas" makes us real sore we missed the premiere gala. But this isn't the first we've heard about the mayor's popularity with the ladies. Hell, if you were single and presiding over the biggest boom town in Texas, I think you're allowed a hoochie mama here and there. Read More | 1 Comment »

Local 12:18PM Wed. May. 2, 2007, Wells Dunbar

EMS Bargaining Power – At Budget Time

While we're truly in the waning days of the Lege, where bills drop like dead birds along Congress, some Austin-centric legislation has wound its way from the Senate to the House, with a fair chance of getting passed – and it's not bad either. Senate Bill 1104, penned by Sen. Kirk Watson, allows meet-and-confer contract negotiations for Austin's EMS employees. Seems only fair, since both Police and Fire departments have the same bargaining rights; 1104 would round out the public-safety trifecta. As identical legislation from Rep. Elliott Naishtat sailed out of the House Urban Affairs committee – where 1104 is being heard today – hopefully this means the bill will make it to the House floor, then to the Guv's desk.

Of course, tomorrow at City Council comes the five-year financial forecast; advance word is it paints a rainy picture, focusing on budget shortfalls created by the APD's cush contract. With the city likely budget cinching, it'll be interesting – to say the least – to see what another group with bargaining power adds to the mix. Read More | Comment »

Local 11:15AM Wed. May. 2, 2007, Wells Dunbar

City Council Notebook

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Item 15: $250,000 out of no more than $1 million for decommission and deconstruction of the Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant. Aloha fecal coliform!

Item 21: $11,649,000 in water-treating quicklime for the water utility. Yum!

Item 29: Lee Leffingwell's Water Conservation Task Force recommendations, in their likely 45-minute, ass-numbing glory.

Item 30: Dumping interest from the $10 million sale of Block 21 into an account funding operating costs of the new central library – to go on top of Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant. The circle of life continues.

Item 31: An item from Jennifer Kim and Brewster McCracken creating a three-dimensional digital model of Austin with emphasis on the myriad Town Lake Corridor projects and making it available for public use. Someone's been watching too much Tron.

Item 32: Approve a resolution requesting the Planning Commission make and forward a recommendation concerning amendments to Title 25 of the City Code concerning the dedication of parkland at its meeting on May 8, 2007, and directing the city manager to timely bring to council the recommendations of the Planning Commission, staff, and other boards and blah blah blah. Can anyone but Katherine Gregor stay awake for this?

10:30am: Morning Briefings
Item 40: Presentation on the city's five-year financial bloodbath, err, forecast.

Item 50: Return of the Lakeshore PUD (massive Riverside condo and apartment project), up on second and third.

UPDATE: As requested, a link to the agenda in full. Read More | 1 Comment »

City Hall Hustle 4:55PM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Dying in Committee, Part 2

Or should we say, dying on the bud? More bills are being left at the committee stage every day in the Lege, including a serious attempt to decriminalize medical marijuana.

What is it? House Bill 1534, sponsored by Reps. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin; Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; and Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton.

What would it do? This bill prevents state law enforcement from taking any criminal, civil, or administrative cases out against providers and users of medi-pot.

Why would it be good? It's not a blanket approval, since it says the physician has to believe that the "benefits of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks," (so no getting some green just because you've got a headache comin' on), but it would mean that doctors prescribing it and patients taking it wouldn't get hounded through the courts.

What's the odds of it passing? Low to zero: Last sighted in the Public Health Committee on Feb. 21, chair Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, didn't let it come up for debate since then. Texans for Medical Marijuana were so steamed (pardon the pun) about the lack of legislative movement that they planned their own "shadow hearing," complete with expert testimony from a doctor, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, and others Monday night at the Legislative Conference Center, deep in the bowels of the Capitol extension. Read More | Comment »

On the Lege 3:25PM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Dying in Committee, Part 1

In all the column inches dedicated to the bills that get through the elaborate, nay labyrinthine, path through both chambers of the Lege and all their committees, it's easy to forget about the bills that never quite make it. Sadly, the ones that will (as they say under the dome) die in committee are starting to become apparent. Let's take an example:

What is it? House Bill 1782, the work of local Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.

What would it do? This bill would wipe out a slice of the education code that allows a higher-education institute to take money given by the Legislature for an across-the-board salary raises and instead turn it into cash for performance-related pay rises.

Why would it be good? Because legislators who think they're voting out a pay raise for everyone are actually finding that some state employees are missing out because their boss just doesn't like them.

What's the odds of it passing? Pretty low: As of Monday, it was still stuck in the House Higher Education Committee. The Texas State Employees Union, which has been working on the bill with Howard, is saying that it'll be working on it in the interim – short hand for "we'll see you next session." Read More | Comment »

On the Lege 11:34AM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Happy 'Mission Accomplished' Day!

"Major combat operations have ended … in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." – President George W. Bush, March 1, 2003.

To relive the magic, Atrios has a good roundup of the swooning coverage from the time, while Glenn Greenwald riffs about the Beltway media's depiction of the "Triumphant Top Gun." Read More | 1 Comment »

National 10:11AM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Wells Dunbar

The Lawnmower Man

The Pimp My Tricked-Out American Chopper trend of vehicle customization looks to have reached its pinnacle – or judging from the photo-op to the right, possibly its nadir. The Dixie Chopper LP3000, “the World’s Fastest Lawn Mower,” plowed into Austin yesterday as part of its nationwide promotional push, err, drive to promote propane as an alternate form of energy. (Insert your own Hank Hill joke here.) It must be in those keg-looking things attached on either side of the mower.

But with party boy Rick Perry there to – yes – race the mower, who knows? We wouldn't be surprised if they were filled with Natty Lite after all. As you can see from this thrilling pic, the Guv cruised down to Zilker Park and raced the LP3000 Monday. After all, Dixie looks like something him and Ted Nugent would ride when hunting the most dangerous game of all – man! Read More | Comment »

State 9:55AM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Wells Dunbar

Follow the Money (Online)

There was a victory for our own House member Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and for transparent government yesterday with the passage of House Bill 3430 through the House. The bill establishes the Searchable State Expenditure Database, an online tool that will allow people to search through the whole Texas budget and find out who is spending how much on what.

For those fearing the comptroller will be able to hide data behind a bad interface and ugly search tools, the bill specifically prohibits the comptroller from designing a Web site that requires a tax attorney and six CPAs to understand. It must be "searchable and intuitive to users" and must present the data in useful forms like pie charts.

One particularly juicy search tool for government-watchers that the bill mandates is that the user may "ascertain through a single search the total amount of state funding awarded to a person by a state agency." So, finally, it'll be easy to see who is making out like a bandit from state contracts, without having to search through each agency budget individually.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where (like all legislation) it will hear the ticking clock of the imminent end of the session. Read More | Comment »

On the Lege 9:01AM Tue. May. 1, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Pointless House Point of the Day

Does Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, ever get confused with Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston?

Actually, that's about as important a thought as most business currently before any House committee. With only 28 days left in the session, odds are that any House bill, no matter how good or worthy of debate, not already voted out has little chance of making it on to the Senate calendar. That won't stop legislators from pushing their pet bills as far forward as possible this session, so they'll have a better chance at getting through next session.

Either way, look for a lot of bills to start dying on the vine. Read More | 1 Comment »

On the Lege 4:09PM Mon. Apr. 30, 2007, Richard Whittaker

Bush Boozing Frazzles First Lady Laura

From no less a journalistic authority than E! gossip guru Ted Casablanca:

Is there trouble at the White House between Dubya and first lady Laura Bush? I hear someone's headed for a hotel, could she already be there? … U.S. Chief of Grief, George W. Bush, has a wife (by the name of Laura, ‘course) who’s so damn put out by the teetotaling Texan’s return to drinking that she had to get outta the White House. Woo-hoo! That be first-class First Lady dish there, my darlin’ goss lovers!

There's no way this ends well. (Via Atrios.) Read More | Comment »

National 1:30PM Mon. Apr. 30, 2007, Wells Dunbar

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