Fri., Nov. 16, 2012
› Start your engines or close the curtains. The inaugural United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas takes place this weekend, with an estimated 300,000 attendees expected across the three-day race weekend. See our coverage.
› The Confederacy has found the Internet! A petition on the White House website, asking for Texas to be given independence, has gained more than 30,000 signatures and therefore must get a response from the president (we're expecting it will be "no"). A rival petition, asking for Austin to be allowed to secede back into the U.S., is also up on the website, as is a petition seeking to deport all persons signing petitions to secede. See www.whitehouse.gov/petitions.
› Speaking of crazies, the Westboro Baptists – the fringe church that pickets the funerals of gay Americans and soldiers – have announced they will be protesting at Formula One this weekend because "Bible-ignorant fools worship these race car drivers like they are little gods!"
› City Council meets Monday, Nov. 19, but only to canvass last week's election results – no regular meeting again until Dec. 6 (work session Dec. 4). For a brief report on last week's helicoptering, see "Council: As the Copter Spins."
› State lawmakers started pre-filing bills on Nov. 12 for the 83rd legislative session. So far, filing has been slow: only 124 Senate bills and 168 from the House in the first full day. Many, including a slew of bills on texting while driving, are bills that failed last session. We're particularly intrigued by a bill by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, proposing mandatory drug testing for housing and unemployment benefit applicants.
› Former USA Today General Manager Susie Ellwood has been announced as the new publisher of the Austin American-Statesman, replacing Jane Williams. Ellwood has a reputation for tough management practices like unpaid employee furloughs, which could be bad news for Statesman staff who have already seen their ranks depleted by layoffs and centralization.
› Fans, football players, and old rivals gathered at the Frank Erwin Center on Nov. 13 to celebrate the life and achievements of Longhorn coach Darrell K Royal, who died last week aged 88.
› After two months' reprieve, a burn ban is back in effect in Travis County as of Nov. 13 (through Dec. 12). The Fire Marshal's Office warns residents especially about the risks of operating machinery near dry plants and tossing cigarette butts out car windows. Barbecuing is still allowed as long as it's in a closeable or lidded grill.
› Arbor Terrace, a new housing community for low-income (less than $27,000 per year) adults including veterans and the homeless, was dedicated Wednesday morning. The $10.7 million community is off I-35 between Woodward and Oltorf, and plans include 120 efficiency apartments and substantive support services for residents, such as employment readiness and money management classes.