<Body text> Austinites may recall Dr. Marlin Ray Perryman's efforts in 1991 against the Save Our Springs ordinance; a report he produced, predicting that the SOS ordinance would be a factor in a "stop-growth scenario," was used by the Chamber of Commerce to campaign against voter passage of the water quality ordinance. Chamber literature at the time misquoted Perryman, saying the economist warned that passage of SOS alone would be responsible for the loss of 131,000 jobs.
<Body text> Despite Perryman's prediction about SOS and the "no-growth scenario," Austin has since 1991 been one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, and has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.9%. Last week, WSJ reporter Laura Johannes asked Angelos Angelou, in charge of economic development for the Chamber, whether the SOS ordinance cost the city in terms of companies moving here. "Absolutely not," Angelou replied candidly.
<Body text> The WSJ article on Perryman, which ran May 10, examines the economist's claim that in 1982, at the height of the economic boom in Texas, he predicted the Texas oil bust coming later in the decade; it was a "prediction" he used to promote his own million-dollar career as a economist for hire. However, as the article points out, Perryman's only reference to changes in Texas' oil and gas market in 1982 occured in a forecast table showing the state's mining activity slipping by 0.9% that year, a figure that was never explained in the text of Perryman's report at the time. Even Perryman admits, "It got a whole lot worse than we thought it would."
<Body text> According to the WSJ article, although Perryman has produced many successful economic forecasts, his reputation has been tainted by a series of discredited reports, namely for Central Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of Central & South West Corp., and for Southwestern Bell. Both companies went before the Public Utility Commission (PUC) with rate hike cases supported by reports from Perryman's company, the Perryman Group. In both cases, PUC staff economists declared the Perryman's reports to be "incomprehensible" and "unreliable."
<Body text> One of those staff economists, Dr. August Ankum, told WSJ that Perryman has little chance of future success before the commission. "Nobody in their right mind would bring him back, because they know he would be clobbered." Ankum is now at MCI Corp.'s Chicago office.
<Body text> In his own defense, Perryman told WSJ that his reports are based on a computer model of the Texas economy, using "the best data available," and that he wouldn't hesitate to go back before the commission. "I am a public figure involved in very controversial issues," he added. - L.C.B.
<BODY TEXT>AMPHIBIAN ACTIVIST: Austin's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had an unusual guest last week: a giant, seven-foot Barton Springs Sala-mander visited the state agency's office on May 17, the last day for public comment on the proposal to list the salamander as endangered. It may have been only a papier-mâché salamander wrapped around chicken wire, but it had genuine Barton Creek algea hanging out of its mouth. Most people walking past missed it, as it blended in with the mauve carpet and light pink wallpaper. Only a month old, its skin was cracked in places as though it were already dead and decaying, probably from being dragged along the street during a recent demonstration at the Barton Creek Parade of Homes. One official stopped to take its picture, asking the Earth First!ers who brought it to smile for the camera.
<Body text> The EF!ers were there with their papier-mâché friend to urge officials to list the salamander before the agency's August 17 deadline on the issue. The listing would have to occur on an emergency basis, since the Clinton administration put a six-month moratorium on endangered species listings. The moratorium ends in October.
<Body text> While the number of these tiny amphibians living in nearby springs continues to decrease, the listing process has gone through one delay after another since February 1994. The EF!ers, however, are not deterred. "Not even this Congress would pass a moratorium prohibiting emergency listings from occurring," says EF! activist Robert Singleton.
<Body text> On May 17, the environmentalists were given a conference room to review the variety of documents they asked for: copies of city surveys on the numbers of salamanders living in Barton Springs, and letters against listing the salamander (until that morning, there had been none supporting the listing). By noon, however, the EF!ers had gathered 53 letters supporting the listing, and, in typical EF! fashion, were contemplating writing comments on their seven-foot, pink pal, entering it into the FWS' official file.
<Body text> In the latest survey from the city's Environmental and Conservation Services Department, divers found only 12 salamanders in Barton Springs on May 2, down from 150 in November, 1992. - A.B.
<BODY TEXT>BEATING THE ODDS: Despite the fact that girls comprise 56% of National Merit Scholarship competitors, over half of this year's semifinalists are boys. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest, has long charged that the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT), the instrument used to select the semifinalists, is constructed with a bias against women.
<Body text> Last year, FairTest filed a gender discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, alleging that the test makers - the Educational Testing Service and College Entrance Examination Board - are using their federal grants unlawfully. A press release from FairTest says that "the case is currently under active investigation by the OCR regional office in New York City."
<Body text> Last year, 57.1% of boys and 38.6% of girls in the U.S. were eligible for a National Merit Scholarship (the gender-neutral names of the remaining 4.3% rendered them into the "unknown" category). But the gender breakdown this year has improved considerably. Boys comprise 53.4% of this year's semifinalists, 42.3% are girls, and 4.3% are unknown.
<Body text> In Texas, the figures are a little different from the national breakdown: 55% are boys, and 40% are girls. For the last several years, AISD has produced four times the number of scholarship finalists and semifinalists than would be expected for a district of its size. Last year, the gender breakdown of AISD semifinalists was skewed, even in comparison with the national average: 63.4% were boys, 26.8% were girls, and 9.8% were unknown.
<Body text> Now, things may finally be starting to turn around. This year's breakdown is skewed a little more toward girls. Out of 117 AISD semifinalists, 48% were girls, 40% were boys, and 12% were unknown. - R.A.