News Roundup: Law & Order
Council argues, Buehler arrested, grass green
By the News Staff,
7:30AM, Mon. Aug. 3, 2015
In this week's News Roundup: A.G. Ken Paxton feels the heat as his triple felony indictment by a Collin County a grand jury is confirmed; a police accountability activist is arrested by – surprise – the police; a controversial East Cesar Chavez hotel proposal is nixed; and more.
• Know a Good Lawyer?: Special prosecutors confirmed on Saturday that a grand jury has handed down three felony charges – two first degree and one third degree – against Attorney General Ken Paxton. The charges stem from an investigation by Texas Rangers into claims that Paxton served as an unregistered investment adviser for two companies, one of which – McKinney-based server company Servergy – is currently under SEC investigation. The indictments will be unsealed on Monday, at which time Paxton is expected to surrender himself for booking. For more, read "Paxton Indicted on Three Felony Counts," Aug. 1. – Richard Whittaker
• APD vs. Cameras: Police accountability activist Antonio Buehler was arrested for interfering with public duties early Sunday morning while filming police activity Downtown on Sixth Street. He was booked into the Travis County Jail shortly after 3am Sunday and remained there until after 7pm, when the Chronicle spoke with his attorney, Millie Thompson, who said she was on her way Downtown to bail him out of jail. According to Thompson, APD was in no rush to file a probable cause affidavit (officers have 48 hours after making an arrest to file the affidavit), and was instead willing to let Buehler spend Sunday in jail.
Footage posted to YouTube by one of Buehler's cohorts shows the 38-year-old co-founder of the Peaceful Streets Project holding a camera to the face of an officer who's clearly not happy to have the device so close to his person. He allegedly asks Buehler to step back, which he does – by maybe a foot or two. A split second later, another officer goes to handcuff Buehler, and others move to help take him to the ground.
Thompson wrote in an email Sunday morning that the arrest was "retaliation" against Buehler, who since his well-documented NYE 2012 arrest has been a vocal nemesis of APD and its officers. He was arrested three times that year — either for interfering with public duties or disobeying a lawful order – though each case has either been dismissed or decided in Buehler’s favor. – Chase Hoffberger
• Back to Work: City Council is gearing up to full speed this week, with a Tuesday work session, a Wednesday special called meeting (apparently more Climate Plan press conference), the regular Thursday meeting (Aug. 6), and intensifying budget preparation. Thursday's agenda is a manageable 72 items, although judging from recent practice at least some contracts will garner strict scrutiny from a couple of Council members. A couple of very high-profile matters have apparently not made the cut: the Springdale Farm conditional use permit appeal appeared on an early draft of the agenda but not the most recent, so will presumably wait for another day. And as Tony Cantú reported late last week (“East Side Hotel Changes Course,” July 31), the developers' request (still on the agenda as a public hearing, Item 70) for a CUP to allow a hotel on East Cesar Chavez has been withdrawn. That leaves sparks to ignite over Fun Fun Fun Fest in its negotiations with the Parks & Recreation Department over event space at Auditorium Shores. Two apparently repetitious Items (43 & 55), although with different sponsorship, would allow the Fest to use the Shores in something like its earlier configuration prior to the redesign – we'll see if somebody lets the dogs out. And Item 44 would redirect the 3% wage increase recommended in the proposed budget only to the lowest-paid civilian city employees; those higher on the pay scale would see "tiered" increases, diminishing to less than 1% at the top. – Michael King
• San Antonio Pay Hike?: Speaking of city wages, our southern neighbors appear to have leapfrogged the minimum wage proposed for Austin city employees, currently at $11.39/hour (established in 2008), although in May Council passed a resolution directing city staff to attempt a (non-specified) minimum-wage increase. Council's Living Wage Stakeholder Group had recommended a "very conservative" $13.03/hour; it turns out San Antonio's City Manager will recommend $13.00/hour for city employees in his about-to-be presented budget. Taking partial credit for the recommendation are the activists at COPS/Metro Alliance and the Service Employees International Union, which have pushed on the issue for the last couple of years. Reportedly, a majority of the SA Council will support the wage floor – roughly 3,000, or 40% of the city's work force, currently earn less than $13.00/hour. Anybody listening at Austin City Hall? – M.K.
• Mural Mural on the Wall ...: A new version of the iconic Eastside Lotería mural was unveiled this Saturday in a ceremony at the Cycleast bike shop. The original, which had been there since 1989, was painted over earlier this year for SXSW's Impossible Wall Project. Against a backdrop of wider concerns about gentrification in the lower Eastside (historically a working class latino neighborhood), a community outcry prompted the festival to apologize and donate $13,000 to a restoration effort by local high school students and Arte Texas, a new arts-based nonprofit in East Austin. – Waylon Cunningham
• Back to School: It will be a moment of sad reflection and hours of heavy work on Monday as the Austin ISD Board of Trustees holds its first meeting of the 2015-16 school year on Aug. 3.
At 7:05 pm, the board is scheduled to adopt a resolution honoring trustee Robert Schneider, who died last week at the age of 63 after 13 years on the board (see "AISD Trustee Passes," July 28). Trustees will also discuss the selection of Schneider's replacement. They can either appoint a replacement, or hold a special election in November: However, with a narrow window to call an election, a decision will likely have to be made this week.
The board will also discuss the property tax rate for the upcoming year. The administration is proposing a rate of $1.079 per $100 value for Maintenance and Operations, while the Interest and Sinking rate, covering bond and debt repayments, would drop from $0.143 to $0.123 per $100. If adopted by the board, the total tax rate will drop from $1.222 to $1.202 per $100. However, due to rising property valuations, many people may still see an increase in their actual bill.
The meeting begins at 6pm at the Carruth Administration Center, 1111 W. Sixth. – R.W.
• Trump versus Biden? For all the predictions that Donald Trump's candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination will collapse any day now, he continues to not simply lead, but actually increase his grip on the race. Latest numbers from Gravis Marketing for One America News Network put him on 30.8%, more than double nearest rivals Jeb Bush (13.3%) and Gov. Scott Walker (12.5%). Even if this is an outlier poll (which, considering Gravis' less-than-stellar reputation, seems likely), it's yet more raw material for the Trump self-promotion machine.
On the Democratic front, rumors continue to swell from Beltway that Vice President Joe Biden is being courted to consider his own presidential run. Supporters see him as a viable option to front-runner Hillary Clinton, who is seen as too confident in her ascent to the White House, and a more level-headed alternative than professional firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. – R.W.