Fri., June 21, 2013
› City Council meets today (June 20), facing at least a couple of likely flashpoints: a public hearing on revised helicopter/helipad regulations, and a hearing on the proposed South Lamar PUD. See "Council Preview: What Can We Afford?"
› The remaining six members were chosen June 19 for the 14-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The full body will hold their first meeting June 26 to discuss personnel hiring.
› Going underground? On June 18 Council started early feasibility discussions about a 'cut and cap' project for I-35, making the highway a tunnel between 15th and Cesar Chavez. Architect Sinclair Black argues the $550 million scheme would finally unify Downtown and East Austin.
› More upheaval at Austin's Electric Utility Commission: On June 17, three commissioners – Michael Webber, Stephen Smaha, and Phillip Schmandt – suddenly stepped down with no notification. See "EUC Trio to Council: Take This Volunteer Job and Shove It."
› The annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally rumbled into town last weekend. The Austin Police Department made 50 no-refusal drunken driving arrests and Austin-Travis County EMS units responded to 21 biker-related accidents during the four-day fest. EMS reported just one on-scene death, when a woman riding on the back of a motorcycle was thrown against a guardrail during an accident.
› In her first public appearance since her DWI conviction, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg spoke to Commissioners Court Tuesday, defending her office and its Public Integrity Unit, as commissioners considered whether to replace vetoed state funding.
› The Texas Civil Rights Project has sued Williamson County Commissioners on constitutional grounds, on behalf of a Burnet County deputy who was questioned about his views on politics, religion, abortion, and gay rights in an interview for a constable position.
› The rancorous legislative special session continues on as Republicans ramrod through conservative legislation. This week the Senate passed tough new abortion regulations, while the House Redistricting Committee took seven minutes to vote out gerrymandered voting maps. See "Perry's Vexing Vetoes."
› The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings on two cases with major implications for Texas on June 20: Fisher v. University of Texas, challenging UT's admissions policies, and Shelby County v. Holder, on the preclearance clause in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
› The city has a new format for utility bills that lets customers make voluntary contributions to one or more of three categories: Customer Assistance Program, providing emergency aid for struggling ratepayers; Parks and Libraries (donations to be divided between the two), and Public School Energy Assistance program. Gone is the tree-planting fund option.
› The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a suspect who remains silent during questioning by police without being placed in custody or without invoking their right to silence may have that silence used against them as an indication of guilt. That's what happened when Genovevo Salinas didn't claim his right against self-incrimination when being questioned about a Houston murder, but simply decided not to answer questions about a shotgun believed to be the murder weapon. A prosecutor later used that silence as an indication the murder weapon was Salinas'.