News Roundup: Bullhooks and Bikes

Plus knives, fires, and schools

Paul Cruz speaks at the Austin ISD News Conference on School Accountability Results Released by TEA at LBJ High School on August 7, 2015
Paul Cruz speaks at the Austin ISD News Conference on School Accountability Results Released by TEA at LBJ High School on August 7, 2015 (Photo by John Anderson)

In this week's News Roundup: A man stabs one or more people during a metal show at Trailer Space Records; Council bans the use of bullhooks on elephants, a common practice for circuses; a mourning community holds a memorial for a young boy who was fatally hit while riding his bike; and more.

• Don't Stab Me, Bro: Austin Police arrested Jimmy Baylor Thursday night after a fight in the parking lot of East Austin's Trailer Space Records concluded with an undisclosed amount of stabbings. Baylor, 23, and a friend came into the shop and DIY venue during a metal show and immediately starting quarreling with the crowd. Baylor, who sports a tattoo of Adolf Hitler on his right torso and a swastika on the left side of his chest, is a recognized white supremacist, however police are saying that his arrest was not a hate crime, as he targeted no specific race. See "Stabbing at Trailer Space" for more details, and check Playback in this week’s paper for the fallout. – Chase Hoffberger

• Arlington Shooting: The FBI has been called in to investigate the Friday morning shooting death of Christian Taylor, a 19-year-old black student and football player at Angelo State University, who allegedly attempted to flee police officers responding to an Arlington car dealership because of reports of a suspected burglary. Arlington Police reported they were called to a Buick GMC dealership after 1am on Friday shortly after a Jeep crashed through the store’s front window. Taylor was on the premises, reportedly "roaming freely." According to the police, he tried to run away when they told him to lie down. Officer Brad Miller, a trainee with the Arlington Police Department, fired four shots at the teenager during the attempted escape. Taylor was declared dead on the scene. Miller, 49, has been with the Arlington Police Department since Sept. 2014 and graduated from the police academy in March. He has been working in the field under supervision of a training officer since then. His training officer fired no shots at Taylor. Miller was placed on administrative leave pending investigation, as is standard with all officer-involved shootings. Investigators determined that Taylor possessed no weapon. – C.H.

• No More Bull(hooks): The high-profile subjects at last Thursday's City Council meeting (Aug. 6) were animals and music – specifically, whether "bullhooks" should be banned in the training of elephants, and whether Fun Fun Fun Fest (Nov. 6-8) could expand its footprint on Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores), including an acre of the leash-free area in the new redesign. The final votes were not close – the bullhook ban passed 10-1 (District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman dissenting) and the vote on the FFFFest resolution was unanimous. Nevertheless, Council spent two hours on bullhooks, including an extended dais discussion on whether public testimony already taken in committee would suffice (under Council rules) or Council would hear the roughly 50 folks who had signed up for this meeting. (The eventual compromise was 10 for, 10 against, although that didn’t include the Citizens Communication speakers who showed a PETA video – of very dubious provenance – to demonstrate that yes, some trainers have viciously abused some elephants, somewhere.) After a flurry of amendments, the ban (now including all "persons," not just circuses) will take effect Oct. 1, 2016 – after two already contracted and scheduled Ringling Bros. appearances at UT-Austin’s Erwin Center.

The FFFFest discussion, which followed, was slightly less emotional although it had its own unanticipated twist. The space issue had essentially been settled in negotiations between the festival owners (Transmission Events) and the Parks and Recreation Department (encouraged by Council prodding), but coincident nonprofit events – the Settlement Home's annual charity estate/garage sale and the Lyric Opera's production of Aida – were only reluctantly signing on to the working agreement, because they fear traffic, parking, and sound-bleeding snafus (which have happened before) will overwhelm all the city’s efforts to mitigate them. Come November, we shall see and hear. – Michael King

• Ghost Honor: A memorial ride and "ghost-bike" placement took place Saturday morning in memory of Brian Silva, who was killed June 6 in a crash with a motor vehicle. Silva would have been 17 years old this week. The ride began at Jordan Elementary School, and ended at 6200 Johnny Morris Road, near the site of the collision. According to Please BE KIND to Cyclists, sponsors of the event: “From January through June of this year, there have been 86 reported bike/auto crashes in Austin. Brian was the second person on a bicycle hit and killed in Travis County in 2015. The first was Thomas Wilkinson, who was hit and killed in April while riding on Lost Creek Blvd." In a release, Please BE KIND Executive Director Al Bastidas said, "These tragedies are preventable and we, as drivers, need to do everything in our power to stop them." – M.K.

• Straus Targeted?: The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating whether a man connected to a car fire in the Capitol grounds also tried to gain access to the official apartment of Speaker Joe Straus. The unknown man was photographed trying to enter the speaker's official rooms in the back passage behind the House Chamber on Friday morning. At 2pm that afternoon, DPS and firefighters were called to deal with a burning car that the man is suspected of deliberately setting on fire. Anyone with information about either incident is asked to contact DPS and 512/472-TIPS (8477).

The two incidents are being seen as particularly disturbing in Capitol circles because Straus is often the target of violent rhetoric from the right. Although his tenure as speaker has seen the Republicans pass increased abortion restrictions, massive budget cuts, and highly restrictive voter ID regulations, he is often written off as a liberal by the Tea Party wing of the GOP. Evangelicals have also taken issue with the fact that the leading Republican in the Texas House is Jewish. – Richard Whittaker

• A Full Week's Work: Budget presentations get down to details this week, with full-day departmental presentations Monday and Wednesday (and a regular work session Tuesday for the regular meeting Thursday). Monday's departmental presentations include Community Services and Public Safety Departments, where the discussion is likely to get heated over new hiring in the Library Department (morning group) and perhaps Police (last presentation of the day). Wednesday's session is mainly devoted to the enterprise departments. (For more on Council actions, follow Daily News and this week's print edition.) – M.K.

• Austin ISD High: Broad smiles all round at Lyndon Baines Johnson Early College High School on Friday as AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz announced that the district has exceeded the minimum standards required under the state accountability standards. The real headline news was that all of the district's high schools, including LBJ and the long-suffering Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus, met standards, in some cases for the first time in years. However, eight campuses – Dobie, Martin, and Mendez middle schools, and Brooke, Govalle, Norman, Rodriguez, and Widen elementaries – were marked as Improvement Required. Cruz noted that this was done against a background of state standards rising this year from last. However, there's a big question about how these campuses will perform in the future. Last session, lawmakers moved campus assessment to an A-F scale, and so far educators and administrators have no idea what the new targets will be. – R.W.

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