Naked City

Austin Stories

Seven activists were arrested at Dobie Mall Tuesday in a protest against military recruiting and war against Iraq at the UT-area hot spot. A group of more than 150 protesters signed up recruits for peace for more than two hours before Dobie management called the cops. Organizers called the event a successful act of civil disobedience. -- M.C.M.

Bike advocates want the planned Lance Armstrong Bikeway to follow a Fourth Street route through Downtown. So do the city's planners. But some City Council members say no, Fourth Street isn't safe for bicyclists -- let's kick it over to Third. So the council sent the bikeway plan back to the drawing board last week and delayed action on it until January. The Austin Warehouse Association, which represents business owners on retail- and restaurant-heavy Fourth, believe the bikeway would pose too many safety issues for both bicyclists and patrons. But city bike coordinator Linda DuPriest isn't happy about a Third Street route, which she says is far less aesthetically appealing than the eclectic Fourth Street mix. "Bicyclists really want it on Fourth," she said. "This is a signature project and we want it to do Austin proud." Also, under the proposed Downtown street plan, Third is supposed to become a one-way street, making it less safe for bicyclists, DuPriest says. Council Member Will Wynn, who favors a Third Street route, suggested leaving the street's two-way traffic flow intact. -- Amy Smith

The Cty Council unanimously approved $3.2 million in additional funding for the Austin Convention Center parking garage -- but not without Will Wynn probing city staff on why the extra cash was needed to build something as mundane as a garage and a cooling plant. "In the scheme of things," he said, "it's not that complex of a challenge." As it happens, the garage design has been reconfigured to include 25,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the 730-space structure planned for between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Downtown boosters, including Wynn, aren't happy about the city putting a parking garage on a prime piece of real estate, a move they say goes against the city's own pedestrian-friendly design goals. City staffers hope to stifle those complaints by adding shops on the ground floor. -- A.S.

A politically sensitive vote to determine regional road-planning boundaries was delayed again Monday night, this time until Feb. 10. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization currently covers all of Travis and small parts of Hays and Williamson counties. The 21-member CAMPO board needs to expand its planning boundaries but is unsure how far to go -- adding all of Hays and Williamson, or all of the five-county (including Bastrop and Caldwell) Austin metro area. Board members from Austin favor the latter course, which could broaden the city's influence in regional planning matters. Hays Co., on the other hand, wants assurance that CAMPO won't mess with its big road plans once it jumps on board. -- A.S.

Maurice Pierce, the third defendant awaiting trial for the notorious 1991 yogurt shop murders, will go on trial April 21, according to an order issued this week by District Judge Mike Lynch. If convicted, the 27-year-old could face life in prison but not death, since he was a juvenile at the time of the quadruple murder. Pierce's co-defendants Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott have already been convicted; Springsteen was sentenced to death in 2001, Scott to life in prison this fall. -- Jordan Smith

In its first public foray since its much-publicized debut this summer, the all-star Liveable City nonprofit civic coalition released a study this week showing that current plans for the Sixth + Lamar development -- specifically, the Borders Books and Music slated for the on-again, off-again project -- would hurt, not help, the local economy. The report by Civic Economics argues that harm done to nearby BookPeople and Waterloo Records -- which, as locally owned businesses, are more likely to put money back into the local economy than is a national chain -- would offset any boost that would justify Sixth + Lamar's $2.1 million (at last count) Smart Growth incentive package from the city. "We must consider the broader impacts of public decisions if we hope to ensure that Austin retains its unique local culture," said Liveable City board chair (and former City Council Member) Bill Spelman. -- M.C.M.

Sixth and Lamar was also one of the sites eyed by the General Services Administration for the new U.S. Courthouse, but as far as the city's concerned there's only one choice. Mayor Gus Garcia is "being very adamant that the Intel building is the city's preferred site," says mayoral aide Paul Saldaña. While the GSA can take pretty much whatever site it wants, Garcia wants City Manager Toby Futrell to do what it takes to bring the GSA and Intel together. What happens to the city incentive package awarded to Intel, which already owes Austin more than $1 million to pay back fees waived for the tomb of Smart Growth? Theoretically, they wouldn't be transferable to the GSA, which doesn't really need them anyway. But "anything we can do ... to move Intel out of there and get a new owner in is really the goal here," Saldaña says. -- M.C.M.

Media professionals are alarmed by news that the UT School of Journalism may eliminate its photojournalism program, which has existed since 1908 (originally in the physics department) and has produced 12 Pulitzer Prize winners. The school, acknowledging that tight budgets make for difficult choices, is considering converting the photo sequence into a program focusing on new media and video and says that fewer and fewer photo graduates are able to find work in today's media industry. -- M.C.M.

Are you registered to vote in Travis County? Are you sure? On Tuesday, county tax assessor Nelda Wells Spears -- also Travis Co.'s voter registrar -- was set to purge more than 37,000 names from the rolls. Those folks' eligibility had been suspended between 1998 and 2000 because they failed to provide updated address info despite repeated attempts by the county to contact them. In routine housecleaning, if those names and addresses were not updated by Tuesday, Spears planned to erase them from the data bank for good. If your voter-registration card is orange and has an expiration date of 12/31/03, then you're still registered. If you need to re-register, you can pick up an application at public libraries, post offices, grocery stores, and government offices. You may also call 854-9473 or go to www.traviscountytax.org. -- Lee Nichols

Opening arguments began Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by the family and estate of UT chemistry professor William Gardiner Jr., who died after a 2000 bicycle wreck caused, the plaintiffs allege, by metal plates improperly placed during roadwork on Guadalupe. The defendant, Tri-Dal Inc. -- the company that placed the plates -- claims nobody witnessed the accident; plaintiffs claim the original plates were mysteriously repaired after the accident. Legal action against the city of Austin, originally named in the Gardiner suit, has been dropped. Travis Co. Probate Judge Guy Herman is hearing the case. -- Courtney Barry

He's baaaaack: In a Dec. 6 press release, Travis Co. Sheriff Margo Frasier announced she has selected former Sheriff Doyne Bailey to rejoin the TCSO as the agency's new deputy chief, replacing Chief Deputy Dan Richards, who is retiring on Jan. 31. Former Austin police officer Bailey was elected sheriff in 1981 and served three terms before leaving to become Gov. Ann Richards' criminal-justice specialist, then to run the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. He's been security chief for the Seton Healthcare Network since 2000. -- J.S.

Other personnel moves: Linda Dailey, aide to Council Member Danny Thomas, is leaving City Hall, reportedly to take a job in Houston as an emergency room nurse (her profession before entering politics; Dailey ran for council herself in 1999, losing to Beverly Griffith). APD's Deputy Chief Jim Fealy is headed to High Point, N.C., to become police chief there. And Round Rock has narrowed to four the list of candidates to replace City Manager Bob Bennett, who's retiring after more than 20 years in that post. -- M.C.M.

Under an emissions-trading program called Cap and Trade, the Holly Power Plant could produce more pollution than it does currently, say some of the Eastside plant's most active opponents. Authorized by 1999 legislation, Cap and Trade sets pollution limits on electric plants, but allows them to trade excess allowances to help each other avoid going over their prescribed limits. Holly could participate in the plan as soon as next May, but neighbors have asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a six-month delay to explore emission and air-quality testing. -- L.A.

The Business Section: Hoover's Inc., the Austin-based business information service, is being acquired by D&B (the former Dun and Bradstreet) for $117 million. While layoffs are likely, Hoover's will maintain its operation at the old ButterKrust bakery on Airport Boulevard. Meanwhile, Faulkner Construction Co., one of Austin's largest commercial builders, and the Landmark Organization, developers of the new Downtown Hilton, have announced they're merging into FaulknerUSA. And Project Atlantis has sunk between the waves; the much-hyped search for an Austin location for an anonymous -- but very big -- drug company has been shelved by the mystery firm itself. -- A.S. & M.C.M.

Here's a case for the City Council's Keep Austin Weird committee: Owners of the Tavern say the restaurant and bar located at 12th & Lamar may close if they can't afford to upgrade to current city health codes. Co-owner Steve Lynne says he is negotiating with Enfield Partners, owners of the property, to get them to bear some of the costs of the upgrade. Lynne said the Swiss-style house was originally built in 1917 or 1918 as a home, and then became Enfield Grocery, and then a brothel, and at some point became the Tavern. "I know it's been the Tavern at least since 1957, because I had a guest who met his wife there," Lynne says. The business, known to generations of UT students as "the Tavern Air-Conditioned" (referring to its neon sign), to distinguish it from the now-defunct Texas Tavern on the UT campus, is still popular among Longhorn fans. -- L.N.

Clifford Antone was popped from the federal big house Dec. 5, six months ahead of his scheduled release date. Antone is moving into the McCabe Center halfway house on East MLK where he will serve out the remainder of his sentence. Antone pled guilty in 1999 to charges of marijuana distribution and money laundering. According to a statement by Antone's Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, the famed club owner intends to counsel kids about the dangers of drugs. -- J.S.

Vladmir Yarets is not your typical bearded guy begging for money on the Drag. A deaf-mute from Minsk, Belarus, Yarets has traveled across the former Soviet Union, Europe, Africa, and the Americas on his sticker-adorned Jawa 350 motorcycle, and is aiming for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Since arriving in Florida in June, Yarets has already sped through 21 states; he landed on the Drag on Dec. 2 with photos and maps documenting his travels for curious passersby. He communicates through photos, notes written in Russian, and his placards, which have been translated into several languages.

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