Fri., March 1, 2013
› City Council says farewell to February today (Thursday) with a not-terribly-long but fairly stuffed agenda, including the late-breaking consideration of an incentives deal for the expansion of National Instruments Corp. (vote expected March 7), resolutions on immigration, gun control, and short-term rentals, and at least seven public hearings ... if they ever get that far.
› Hotel developer White Lodging Services Inc. has asked the city to halt an investigation into unfair wage claims in connection with the construction of a new Downtown JW Marriott on the former Las Manitas tract on Congress Avenue. In a four-page letter to the City Council, White Lodging attorney Richard Suttle asked the city to keep intact a former city official's apparent misrepresentation of an ordinance requiring White Lodging to pay prevailing wages in exchange for $3.8 million in fee waivers. Former Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza is said to have given White Lodging the okay to pay wages below what Council had required. Garza has since resigned and now works with Bury+Partners, a design consultant on the White Lodging project.
› Although negotiations are ongoing, Council is holding a Friday meeting to consider settlement approval of the Austin Energy rate case at the Public Utility Commission, reportedly including rate breaks for big suburban consumers. Will the suburban lions lie down with the utility lambs?
› With the single-use plastic bag ban set to begin Friday, March 1 – a year after City Council enactment – the Texas Retailers Association filed a lawsuit Monday attempting to get the ban reversed, citing lack of authorization under state law. If bags are outlawed, only outlaws will festoon the landscape with bags.
› Although finding parking in the Rainey Street District is only slightly less stressful than a James Bond chase scene, starting today, we'll have to pay for the honor. Meters will be activated on the streets and at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Other mobility initiatives are still being considered, including making Rainey one-way and adding sidewalks and bike lanes.
› Praying for rain: Commissioners Court has extended the Travis County burn ban for another month, through March 27.
› State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, on Tuesday filed a bill that would expand the statute of limitations for filing with the State Bar of Texas grievances alleging prosecutorial misconduct. The bill, filed in response to the exoneration of Michael Morton, would start the clock on a four-year statute of limitations from the time a person is released from prison. See "Holding Prosecutors Accountable," Newsdesk, Feb. 26
› On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in Shelby County v. Holder – the case challenging the constitutionality of the Section 5 "preclearance" provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, a curious way to celebrate Black History Month.