Off the Desk:

Chalk up another court win for the Save Our Springs Alliance. The 3rd Court of Appeals last week kicked the group's lawsuit against Austin Community College back to the courtroom of District Judge Pete Lowry, who previously threw out the case for lack of standing. In the appeal, S.O.S. attorneys Philip Durst and Pam Baron argued that the lower court erred in dismissing the suit. They alleged that ACC trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by not properly posting their intent to vote on buying the controversial Shadowridge tract -- the proposed site of a new Southwest Austin campus, located near the Barton Creek watershed. The battle doesn't stop here. ACC Board Chair Carol Nasworthy says now it's ACC's turn to appeal -- this time to the state Supreme Court...

Energy activist Paul Robbins unveils his larger-than-life Austin Environmental Directory at a noon press conference Friday, Oct. 4, at the Austin History Center. This year's edition packs in 50% more info, including an assiduous study of local grocery stores and their positions on buying organic products and supporting area farmers. Pick up free copies of the directory at Clean Water Action, 815 Brazos, #704 (474-0605), and Texas Citizen Action, 1714 Fortview Rd., #101 (444-8588)...

Texas Legislators are being asked to swear on a stack of covenants that they won't let utilities strong-arm them into sticking it to consumers. Texas Citizen Action launched its "Covenant with Constituents" campaign this week, in which residents and small business consumers will ask their state reps to pledge the following: Electric bills won't go up as a result of competition; voters won't have to pay for utility companies' bad management decisions, and power companies will be forced to decrease pollution. Copies of the covenants go to Gov. George Bush...

Whether you're an armchair sympathizer or an out-there activist, you'll want to head over to St. Austin's Catholic Church, 2026 Guadalupe, tonight (Thursday) to hear Guatemala's renowned labor leader Rodolfo Robles speak at 7pm. Donations will be accepted to support grassroots organizations in Guatemala. Call 474-5677 for more information...

Virginia Woolf taught women the importance of having a room of one's own; now a group of female physicians are putting that principle to the test with a one-stop women's hospital. The founders broke ground Sept. 27 on Renaissance Women's Center, 3003 Bee Caves Rd. "The center will be for women of all ages, not just for women having babies," says CEO Lauren Scott... -- A.S.

Champagne flowed Monday evening at the grand opening of the Cornerstone Gay & Lesbian Center, 1117 Red River. Funded entirely by private individual donations, the center is one of only five in Texas and 83 in the nation. Hundreds of well-wishers joined Councilmember Jackie Goodman, State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), and County Sheriff candidate Margo Frasier in celebrating the center, which leases office and meeting space to a diverse group of gay-friendly businesses and non-profit organizations. Also in-house are the Metropolitan Community Church offices and Out Youth Austin. -- K.V.

Torch Song Triangle

Hold the obituaries -- at least for now. The Texas Triangle, the state's largest gay and lesbian newspaper, announced last Thursday, Sept. 27, that it would cease publication with its Oct. 10 issue, citing skyrocketing printing costs. But now, editor/publisher Kay Longcope says an outpouring of community support might grant the four-year-old paper a reprieve.

"Since we announced this, there has been a large response from people in Austin and Houston who do not want to see the demise of the Triangle," Longcope said. "At this point we're open to any option to stay open." She said phone calls and e-mail have been pouring into Triangle headquarters almost nonstop, and there's been talk of a benefit to help the paper pay its bills. "The Triangle has given the [gay/lesbian] community a strong, articulate, professional voice that it never had before, and they don't want to see that voice silenced," she said.

The weekly newspaper made national headlines earlier this year when it came under fire from conservative radio talk-show host Wyatt Roberts of the American Family Association. Roberts, upset about some cartoons in the paper that he said promoted incest and pedophilia, took to reading the names of Triangle advertisers over the airwaves on his KIXL show, urging listeners to boycott them. Roberts' efforts backfired when he was dismissed from KIXL in April. Moreover, several advertisers actually increased their business with the paper, Longcope said.

"What his campaign against us did was give us the greatest unplanned marketing and visibility we could ever have. Because of the nature of his campaign, people would walk into the office from off the street and say, `I don't like what this guy's doing. I want to buy an ad.' "

Still, Roberts and the AFA sent out a press release Friday taking credit for the Triangle's presumed demise. The press release, headlined "Texas' largest gay newspaper to close down after AFA boycott of advertisers," is totally untrue, Longcope says. "The only thing that's driven us to this decision is the fact that our printing bill went up 33% in January. It's strictly the bottom line. If we get help with dealing with that, the Triangle will continue to publish."

The paper isn't out of the woods yet. Longcope estimates the Triangle owes around $30,000, and their accounts receivable come to about half that. She is quick to add, though, that the community's strong show of support has brightened her outlook considerably.

"We felt very clear in our own mind last week that the paper would have to shut down," she said. "Now, with all the phone calls and the sense of urgency in those voices saying `You've got to keep the paper open,' we would like to do exactly that." -- C.G.

Cap Met Keeps Tax

In a move that will likely keep local anti-tax sentiment alive and kicking, Capital Metro's board of directors voted Monday, Sept. 30, to keep a full one-cent share of its sales tax and nixed a proposal to earmark 1/4 cent of the tax for long-range projects, such as light rail. Board members Bobbie Barker and Susan Handy lost their bid to set aside the 1/4 cent from the rest of the $118 million budget, with board member Harry Jones and chairman Michael Von Ohlen arguing that the action would crimp financial planning.

At that point, Barker teamed up with Paul Drummond and Jill Fuller in voting against keeping the tax increase, which the board approved last year and for which it has had to fend off criticism ever since. Handy, on the other hand, argued that the transit agency's financial needs are too great for a tax rollback, and voted with Jones, Von Ohlen and Stacy Dukes-Rhone to keep the full cent. Handy warned that Capital Metro is the only organization that can slow Austin's evolution into complete automobile dependency. Dukes-Rhone agreed, adding that extra money is needed to match federal transit funds for light rail. "If we rescind this tax today the feds will laugh at us if we ask them for funds for rail in the future," she said. Von Ohlen, though, said that the full tax is needed to get the bus system running properly, and that light rail is contingent on public approval in a referendum. -- N.E.

HRC's Gatsby Gala

The evening of Sept. 28 in Central Austin was a veritable Who's Who in who's courting the lesbian and gay vote. The local chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hosted an $135-a-ticket affair on the grounds of the elegant Perry Mansion, where some 500 politicians and regular folk, dressed in their smartest outfits, schmoozed over martinis and caviar amid brilliant roses and candlelight. Former Gov. Ann Richards took the stage and urged the crowd to "get busy and do what is politically right." In other words, she said, "We're going to stop whining and we're going to get to work..."

Richards presented HRC awards to Tana Christie for her volunteer work for AIDS; First Texas Honda for refusing to pull advertising from the Texas Triangle (despite the threat of a boycott by the relentless rightist Wyatt Roberts); and Billy Ramsey, a former Richards' aide, who was honored posthumously for his political and community contributions. -- A.S.

Rights Head to Visit

For three years, she was held in Indonesian prisons without ever being charged with a crime. In fact, the only transgression Carmel Budiardjo ever committed against the dictatorial regime of Indonesian President Suharto was to freely speak her mind. For that, Budiardjo became one of thousands of political prisoners that Suharto's corrupt regime rounded up and imprisoned in the years after Suharto's bloody overthrow of the Sukarno regime.

Now the world's leading proponent of human rights in Indonesia, Budiardjo continues her criticism of Suharto and Indonesia from her home in London, where she runs TAPOL, a London-based organization which exposes the ongoing human rights problems in Indonesia. TAPOL has reported extensively on the genocide in East Timor, where some 200,000 people have been murdered by Suharto's regime since 1975, and in West Papua, New Guinea, now called Irian Jaya, which was forcibly annexed by Indonesia in 1963. Budiardjo's book, West Papua: The Obliteration of a People, written with Liem Soei Liong, may be the best single source of information on Suharto's brutal military campaign against the Melanesians who have inhabited the region for centuries.

Her latest book, Surviving Indonesia's Gulag: A Western Woman Tells Her Story, details her life spent in Indonesian prisons from 1968 to 1971. "The commonest form of torture was the electric shock, first applied on the thumbs, then on other parts of the body, including the genitals," Budiardjo writes. "Another favourite was beating the victim with the long spiked tail of the mammoth pari (stingray) fish... Torture went on all day and night. There was a term for the shrieks of the torture victims -- the lagu wajib, or `obligatory song'."

Budiardjo will be in town this weekend to promote her book and discuss human rights in Indonesia. On Saturday, she can be heard on KOOP, 91.7 FM, from 3:30-4pm. Then there will be a gathering at Ruta Maya Coffee House, Fourth & Lavaca, 6-8pm. At 2pm Sunday, Budiardjo will sign copies of her new book at Book People. And at 7pm Sunday, Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy will screen at the UT Undergraduate Library, room FAC 21. Budiardjo will present a lecture at 8:30pm following the film. Admission to the film and talk is $4; $2 for students. For more info, call 339-8265 or email: etantex@igc.apc.org. -- R.B.

Keeping the Faith

The Texas Faith Network and the Texas Freedom Network sound like organizations with radically different philosophies, but instead they are mainstream sister groups that joined in a call to all Texans last week to fight against the religious right.

The non-partisan jubilee at University Baptist Church Sept. 27-28 drew 300 participants. At a press conference preceding the two-day meet, the Texas Faith Network, made up of religious leaders, tried to set an example for other of-the-cloth folks by asking them to halt the distribution of Christian Coalition voters' guides in churches. Keynote speaker Dr. James Dunn, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Baptist Joint Committee, lashed out at the coalition's agenda -- "a rightness that is often in error, but never in doubt" -- and denounced conservative measures aimed at merging various aspects of church and state.

Dolly Madison McKenna, a Harris County Republican and founder of the non-partisan group Liberty Tree, lamented the inroads the religious right has made into the political process. Though only about 2.5% of the population votes for religious right candidates, McKenna said, these voters constitute a much larger percentage of people who actually affect the political process. What sets them apart from the majority of voters is that they go to precinct meetings, vote in primaries, and vote in the open elections. "The political process," McKenna added, "is not a spectator sport."

At least it shouldn't be, echoed Dr. Rosie Sorrells, a State Board of Education member who expressed her concerns about the religious right's presence on the board. Sorrells said at least five of the 15-member panel are identified with the extreme right. Additionally, seven board seats are being contested this election year and religious right candidates are threatening to fill the posts. In Austin, Charlie Weaver, a Republican candidate favored by the Christian Coalition, is vying for a seat held by incumbent Will Davis, a Democrat. -- M.P.

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