Naked City

Off the Desk

That was some profile of former Austin attorney Gabrielle Kirk McDonald on the front page of the Statesman's Insight section on Sunday. The federal district court judge from Houston is one of only two women on the United Nations' Bosnia war crimes court. One wonders if she's the only member to also serve on the board of Freeport-McMoRan, a fact the daily didn't mention. Does being affiliated with a company that reportedly has its own human rights problems give one better perspective on the atrocities in Bosnia? -- A.D.

Speaking of Freeport yet again, at a Monday press conference at FM headquarters in New Orleans, company CEO Jim Bob Moffett announced that he was rescinding a $600,000 gift to Loyola University. The gift, which caused a rancorous debate on campus, was to endow a chair in environmental communications. Moffett also denounced the protestors who picketed his home last Saturday night with alleged chants of "Jim Bob Moffett murders for profit." -- R.B.

There'll be no fun `til April for Austin-based political consultants Bill Emory and Peck Young -- at least in the U.S. Senate races. As per a settlement agreement with their former client, Democrat John Odam of Houston, the two will not be allowed to work on any senate campaigns until after the primary ends in March, unless Odam drops out early. Emory and Young worked briefly on Odam's campaign before changing horses when longtime pal and U.S. Rep. Jim Chapman (D-Sulfer Springs) joined the senate race. Odam won a court injunction against the two consultants, saying they had privileged information that would be useful to Chapman. Emory said Tuesday that Odam's claims don't hold water, but they decided to settle to avoid prolonged and expensive litigation. -- L.C.B.

Tim Curtis, former director of Texas Citizen Action, has quit his post at the public advocacy group to pursue other opportunities. Curtis, who has worked the halls of the Legislature for several years, says he will likely continue lobbying at the Lege, probably on telephone-related issues. -- R.B.

She Can't Do That, Can She?

That's the question burning on a lot of people's lips this week at KAZI 88.7-FM, the black community radio station. Amid controversy over station leadership, policy, and programming, KAZI board of directors chair Pat Richards disbanded the board over which she presides.

On November 3, Richards sent a letter informing the station's 10 current board members that, as a board, "we have not been able, over the past months, to gain member consistency, delivery of the committed resources and a concerted effort in creating and prioritizing the direction necessary for helping the station to grow." With this in mind, Richards wrote, she plans to "restructure the board of directors and our functions... Therefore, I am disbanding the current board effective immediately."

While recent additions to the staff, including former KXAN sports anchor Michael Coleman as the new station manager, have given the station new energy and professionalism, board leadership, especially now, clouds KAZI's future. After 13 years on the air, KAZI seems still to suffer from unstable leadership and inconsistent station policy, which has given rise to several controversies concerning the station's role in the community, as well as its adherence to FCC rules and regulations.

The board's disbandment will likely leave the station without leadership for several weeks, but according to Richards' letter, she plans to "announce shortly the results of [a] restructuring as well as a new board of KAZI." Richards' comments imply that she will hand-pick the new members, a prospect that is unaddressed in the board's bylaws. But then, the bylaws don't provide for the disbanding of the board, either. Richards and Coleman did not return repeated phone calls from the Chronicle. Stay tuned. -- L.C.B.

Pro-Environment, Pro-Family, Pro-Business

When the state convention for the Texas Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) opens in Austin on Friday, members will contemplate issues a lot more weighty than new fundraising techniques. Delegates from Northeast and North Central Texas will offer two pro-environment resolutions, one supporting the elimination of dioxin and the other calling for a ban on incinerating hazardous waste in cement kilns in Texas. Sparks are expected to fly, as representatives of the "pro-business" position are likely to parry with "children first" advocates.

"The debate boils down to one thing: values," said Kim Phillips, president of the Midway High School PTA, just outside Waco, whose group will submit the anti-dioxin resolution. "There's one set that says our children our precious. The other set of values are economic. What we'd like to get across is that they can co-exist."

Phillips said dioxin's role as a probable human carcinogen, as well as its deleterious effects on the immune and reproductive systems of fetuses, make eliminating it a high priority for child advocates. She observed that some paper companies, whose industry is largely blamed for releasing dioxin into the food chain, have already decreased the use of chlorine (thought to yield dioxin) by as much as 60%. As demand for unbleached paper products grows, the number of jobs has increased -- by 21% at one Texarkana paper mill, Phillips said.

The other resolution, protesting cement kilns using hazardous waste as fuel, will be offered by a coalition of PTAs from the northeast region of the state. Language in the resolution indicates that two Texas cement plants are applying for federal permits to burn hazardous waste, and that the use of such waste has not been shown to be safe.

"Children have a right to live in an environment free of avoidable hazards," Phillips said. She did not speculate on the resolutions' chance for approval by the convention. If passed by the state organization, the resolutions will be forwarded to the national organization. -- R.A.

Sex Discrimination Claims at TXDoT

Three female employees allege that they were passed over for promotion in the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT)'s male-dominated construction and maintenance division. The three plaintiffs have worked for TXDoT for at least a decade. Linda Clark was a 12-year employee before she resigned and moved to San Antonio. Elizabeth Boswell has worked for the agency for more than 11 years, and Margaret Moore for about 10 years, according to the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court. Davis asserts that the sex discrimination begins in TXDoT's training arena, where male employees receive more instruction and opportunities to sharpen their skills so they'd naturally be more prepared than others to land those big promotions -- before the jobs are even posted. The lawsuit names five male supervisors who were "appointed" to their administrative positions instead of having to compete for them fair and square.

The plaintiffs also claim that TXDoT retaliated against them for filing sex discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and denied them the benefit of an internal investigation on their behalf. The state Attorney General's office wasted no time denying the allegations in its motion for dismissal as the case begins its slow journey through the legal system. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and, in the long run, damages for lost wages and promotions to higher positions.

It's no secret that TXDoT has long been criticized for its failure to promote women and minorities to top management positions within the mammoth agency. Former Gov. Ann Richards came into office with that knowledge and immediately went on a not-too-tactful housecleaning spree that resulted in a mass exodus of white male administrators, including the executive director, who decided to take the governor up on her offer to take a hike under the guise of early retirement. As luck would have it, Richards also got to pick all three of the TXDoT commissioners -- one Hispanic male, a white male, and a white woman. Gov. George Bush has since appointed a white male to the commission to replace Ruben Cardenas, whose term expired.

These days, TXDoT isn't shy about releasing any data on the race and gender makeup of its employees. Of the 13,845 workers in the agency, there are 904 minorities in administrative or professional positions. That figure includes 242 African-Americans, 545 Hispanics, 90 Asian-Americans, and 26 American Indians. Of the 102 employees in the construction and maintenance division, there are 40 women, four of whom are supervisors. -- A.S.

Maybe a Coincidence

Councilmember Max Nofziger won't bow out of office until 1996, but he's already taken to throwing in the towel, at least when colleague Eric Mitchell enters the political ring. Perhaps in response to a summer work session when Mitchell shouted "Screw You!" after Nofziger criticized his proposal for a city-funded, Eastside entertainment center, the lame duck councilmember has at times simply left the dais when Mitchell proposals are up for a vote.

During the budget deliberations in September, for example, Mitchell complained that African-American artists in Austin had traditionally received a disproportionately small allotment of the city's arts endowment and asked his colleagues to award an extra $20,000 to the Black Arts Alliance. After explaining that the small funds existed because of the disproportionately small number of black artists, Nofziger left the dais just before the vote.

The stage exits continue even when the two are philosphically aligned. Again in September, Nofziger walked shortly before the vote on Mitchell's proposal to transfer $4 million in excess sales tax revenue to emergency response services. This, despite the fact that Nofziger had frequently lambasted Mitchell for refusing to raise taxes to increase emergency services funding.

The elder statesman on the council says that departing when Mitchell has an item at stake is "not a policy of mine. It may be a coincidence, or it may just be a good time to take a break." -- A.M.

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