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Fri., Jan. 4, 2013

Local Democrats gathered at the Driskill Hotel in November to celebrate a re-election victory for President Obama and (mostly) favorable outcomes for Travis County Democratic candidates and city bond propositions.
Local Democrats gathered at the Driskill Hotel in November to celebrate a re-election victory for President Obama and (mostly) favorable outcomes for Travis County Democratic candidates and city bond propositions.
Photo by John Anderson

Austin Police are investigating the suspicious death of a 13-year-old girl who was found unconscious outside a home (not her own) in South­east Austin on Jan. 1. Police are working to determine the circumstances surrounding her death. The girl was taken to Dell Children's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy has been performed, but police said a final ruling will have to wait until toxicology results are returned.

• A father and his 13-year-old son became Austin's first two traffic fatalities of the year Jan. 1. Police say the boy was riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by his father when they hit a parked car in the 1100 block of Berger Street in East Austin. A third traffic fatality – this one of a 19-year-old man – occurred Jan. 3 on I-35. The city recorded 78 traffic fatalities in 2012.

• If you're one of 7,900 lucky customers included in the pilot program, Austin Resource Recovery this week will begin curbside pickup of "organics" – food scraps and other compost­able items – collected in a new green cart. The pilot program is slated to last a year.

KUT 90.5FM turned all talk and news this week with the launch of the NPR affiliate's sister station, KUTX 98.9FM, which will program all music.

• On Monday, Dec. 31, visiting district Judge Gary Harger declined to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the state of Texas plan to ban Planned Parenthood clinics from the new Texas Women's Health Program, saying the dispute could wait until a Jan. 11 hearing for an injunction. The ruling left PP clinics – and nearly 50,000 Texas women – in medical limbo, as the Health and Human Services Commission insisted it can serve all patients without the banned clinics. See "Texas Women's Health Program Starts – Without Planned Parenthood."

• Longtime Central Austin Constable Bruce Elfant was sworn into office Tuesday as Travis County's newest tax assessor-collector, replacing Tina Morton, who served as interim after Nelda Wells Spears' retirement in late 2011. See "Meet Your New Tax Assessor."

• Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last week accused longtime friend and political aide Buddy Bar­field of embezzling as much as $1.3 million from Dewhurst campaign accounts over the last several years. The trouble could embroil other officials charged with monitoring the funds, and the case has been turned over to the Travis County District Attorney's office for investigation.

• On New Year's Day, the U.S. House voted to concur with a Senate bill enabling some tax increases on highest incomes and a one-year extension of unemployment benefits, thereby avoiding the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts – postponed at least for a couple of months, pending the next debt ceiling battle. See "Cliff Notes: Happy New Deadline!"

• The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (aka "fiscal cliff" bill) also contained roughly $30 billion in tax pork for various private interests, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group. These last-minute gifts included one designed for "one and exactly only one facility -- the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin," according to University of Illinois Law School professor (and racing fan) Bob Lawless, writing on the academic fiscal blog www.creditslips.org ("CoTA and the Fiscal Deal," Jan. 2).

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