Fri., July 6, 2012
• After surviving a marathon last week (see "The Dead Walk by Night"), the next regular meeting for City Council is not until Aug. 2 (after a couple of work sessions), when budget, bond proposals, and tax rates will be much of the business – along with ongoing barn-burners like districting and short-term rentals.
• Council postponed a final decision on new rules for short-term rentals. They had already amended the rules earlier in June (see "There Goes the Neighborhood," June 22), but Kathie Tovo pushed for an Aug. 2 debate, pending a report on the impact of STRs on local schools.
• Council also summarily rejected a plan for a $5.4 million no-bid contract with Siemens to build a temporary customs facility at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, designed to open before the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in November. The city has plans to expand the airport in 2013 anyway; critics saw this accelerated timeline as a backdoor subsidy to Formula One.
• The number of "justifiable" homicides spiked in Texas, from 36 in 2006 to 48 in 2010, according to new FBI numbers. Critics blame controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws passed in Texas in 2007 for these avoidable deaths, and Democrats are pledging to push back on the legislation next session.
• Looks like Texas isn't so broke after all. New numbers show total tax revenue for the third quarter of the 2012 financial year up 13.6% over the same period in 2011. However, Gov. Rick Perry is still asking state agencies to cut another 10% from their budget.
• By a 5-4 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court voted on June 28 to uphold the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Texas, one of the states challenging the law, must now construct a health care insurance exchange before the January 2013 deadline or the feds will do it for them.
• Less than four days after the Austin Police Department announced new traffic-safety initiatives to curb rising fatality rates, the city recorded two separate traffic fatalities early July 1; 42 people have died in vehicle crashes this year, compared with 30 at this time last year.
• That was rain you noticed falling from the sky briefly on Sunday, enough to soak the ground in some neighborhoods and a good omen for Wednesday's Fourth of July concert and fireworks show over Lady Bird Lake, canceled last year because of the drought and fire concerns. Happy birthday, U.S.A.!
• Another shoe dropped in the prosecution of Tom DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee, as ARMPAC chief and DeLay aide Jim Ellis pled guilty to a felony charge of an illegal corporate campaign contribution in 2002. His sentence includes a $10,000 fine and four years' probation. In 2010, former House Majority Leader DeLay was convicted of conspiracy and money-laundering and sentenced to three years in prison; he's free pending appeal.