Naked City

Edited by Amy Smith, with contributions this week from Robert Bryce, Nate Blakeslee, Walter Cole, and Lisa Tozzi.

Off the Desk:

We're dumbfounded. They needed a slogan, one that would help the University of Texas raise $1 billion. They got the best minds in the ad business, Austin's GSD&M. The firm worked on the project for months, and finally came up with... "We're Texas." Now if that doesn't make you want to grab your wallet... -- R.B.

Don't forget the long-anticipated Triangle Design Charrette taking the spotlight this weekend (Nov. 14-17). Neighbors, business owners and the just plain curious are encouraged to attend the participatory, consensus-building workshop organized by City Councilmember Beverly Griffith. Local planners say the Triangle charrette could be a model for another controversial project gaining momentum -- the 446-acre Lakeline tract known as the "hog farm." Cencor Realty's Tom Terkel, meanwhile, showed his latest design proposal Tuesday night to neighbors of the Hyde Park development. The latest unveiling should provide new fodder for the weekend charrette taking place at the Texas School for the Blind, 1100 W. 45th. Call the charrette hotline, 467-5286, to register...

Step up to the mic next Wednesday, Nov. 12, to speak your piece on the future of the Austin/Travis County public health clinics. The Indigent Care Work Team is soliciting input on how the Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners' Court should prepare for managing and funding the clinics. The hearing will be from 5-8pm at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road, Rm 130...

Mark the wee hour of 7:03am Sunday, Nov. 23 on your calendar for a Town Lake Memorial Sunrise Service. The ceremony, sponsored by House the Homeless Inc., will remember those homeless men and women who have died on the streets of Austin; it takes place on the lake's south shore, at a spot between the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue and the Fannie Bryce Gazebo, near the South First/Riverside intersection...

Workers unite!... and drink beer and be merry at The Texas Observer's upcoming wing-ding, aptly named "Texas Observer Political Parties and Pachangas." Sen. Paul Wellstone, the progressive Demo from Minnesota, will be on hand, along with other guests -- Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Bernard Rapoport, and Joe Gunn. The Observer promises some "short-but-passionate-speeches" and notes that donations will be graciously accepted at the door. Kickoff is at 5pm Saturday, Nov. 22, at Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto... -- A.S.

Give these puppets a hand... Circo de Manos (Circus of Hands) is coming to town. The traveling puppet circus -- combining the talents of Wise Fool Puppet Intervention, a San Francisco community theatre project, and CHAOS (which may or may not stand for Clothing, Housing And Other Stuff, but wouldn't it be great if it did), a mostly women's collective that has been kicking butt with the direct action community around the country for years. The two groups are collaborating on a mission to Chiapas, where they'll bring some relief to people struggling to survive in Southern Mexico, where about two-thirds of the Mexican army has taken up residence. Ruta Maya will host a benefit show with the puppets at 7pm Friday, Nov. 14. There'll be another show Saturday at the Electric Lounge (about 1am). These are humungoid puppets -- with stilts, music, fire stunts, you name it. Bring the kids... -- N.B.

Drag Rehearsal

The dress rehearsal for the Drag revitalization project officially ended this week. Now city planners and Capital Metro officials will review traffic reports and residents' responses to determine how to proceed when the real Drag work unfolds this spring.

For the past six weeks, travelers along Guadalupe between 21st and 24th Streets have been invited to phone a comment line and voice opinion on the temporary barriers designed to mimic new curblines, narrower traffic lanes, and extended sidewalks, said Matthew Kite, assistant public works director. The comments have been equally divided between pedestrians pleased with the effort to make the Drag more foot-friendly, and drivers frustrated by slow traffic flow and no-turn lanes on Guadalupe, Kite said.

The public's comments, as well as information on traffic movement, accidents, emergency vehicle response times, and the ability of Capital Metro buses to maneuver through the 10-foot-wide lanes, will be evaluated in the days to come, said Andre Tanner, Capital Metro senior project manager. Kite said the demonstration is likely to remain in place until actual work begins in March. The $2.6 million project is the first of a three-phase effort to ease traffic and make the Drag more inviting for shoppers and students. While Capital Metro is funding the bulk of the project, the city paid the $5,000 tab for the demo project. -- L.T.

Timor's Tragedy

Casting a light onto the shadows of genocide that stretch from Indonesia to Austin and the University of Texas, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) sponsored a "teach-in" Monday that drew a connection between transnational corporations such as Freeport-McMoRan and the alleged genocidal policies of the Indonesian government.

Since Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, the small island has been closed to the world and the population has been subjected to a systematic extermination process, according to speakers who addressed an audience of about 200 on the UT campus.

An island with a population roughly equal to Austin's, East Timor has reportedly had fully one third of its population killed by the Indonesian military. "Over 200,000 people have been killed," explained Nina, a Timorese refugee since the 1975 invasion who did not want her full name published. "You will find it hard to find a family who has not lost someone... they are killing our environment. Burning vegetation with bombings. When you put the picture together, there is a genocide happening."

Max White, a Portland human rights activist, told the crowd that"multinationals are the largest threat to human rights and the environment. [Indonesian leader] Suharto makes a deal with these companies. Any profits that are made, Suharto takes half and the transnationals take half. Very little filters down to the population," he said.

Bringing the Timorese tragedy and the multinational connection closer to home was Bill Bunch, general counsel for Save our Springs Alliance and longtime opponent of Freeport-McMoRan's activities in the Austin area. Freeport -- whose CEO Jim Bob Moffett, for whom UT's new biology building is named -- was one of the first Western transnationals to enter Indonesia after Suharto's overthrow of the former Indonesian government. "They have destroyed two river systems. Destroyed two indigenous peoples," said Bunch of Freeport's activities in Indonesia. Here in Austin, "they have tried to silence professors [and] brought slander suits against myself and other activists," Bunch said of the early opposition to Moffett's name gracing the new biology building. -- W.C.

Home Hunting

Here's something we thought we'd never see: The city of Austin and the Yellow Bike Project (YBP) are negotiating a deal to furnish the bikers with a new home in a city-owned warehouse. In exchange, the bike project will supply the city with 40 reconditioned bicycles -- 20 of which will be used by city employees, while another 20 would go to four Austin high schools to establish "bike libraries" for students. If successful, the initiative could be expanded to other schools.

Assistant Public Works Director Matthew Kite said he is investigating unused city-owned buildings, but as any home hunter knows, finding the perfect spot isn't easy. Kite said that once he narrows down a location, he must then seek approval from the city department overseeing the building. The process could take several more weeks, he said.

YBP members had contacted the city with the proposal in response to the city applying for a $28,000 grant from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives to fund the purchase of 10 bikes and storage lockers. YBP initially asked the city to rewrite the grant with the plan that the bike project would supply and maintain bicycles, and the grant money could be used to cover rent and the costs of purchasing helmets, reflectors and bike locks. But YBP planning consultant Damon Rosenzweig said the grant deadline made revision impossible. He also noted that the space-for-bikes exchange with the city will have a larger scope and can be funded without outside resources.

Also, the deal forges a much-needed collaboration between the city and the community bike project, Rosenzweig said. YPB had been borrowing a Hyde Park couple's garage, but the owners of the property are remodeling their home and need the extra space. The project is temporarily working out of two old sheds at 419 West Johanna. -- L.T.

He Who Won't Be Chief

Just hours after confirming to his hometown newspapers that he was one of 46 candidates for the Austin fire chief job, Colorado Springs, Colorado Fire Chief Manuel Navarro pulled himself out of the running for the $95,000-a-year post. Seems Navarro is in some hot water back home and didn't feel it would be prudent for him to hit the road just yet.

In a Nov. 5 letter to the City of Austin's Human Resources Department, Navarro wrote that he was withdrawing his application due to "sensitive discussions" concerning emergency services in his community. Some Colorado Springs residents are calling into question Navarro's association with a private ambulance service -- a company that has featured a boosterish Navarro in some of its promotional materials -- as well as his proposal to close down a fire house as part of a belt-tightening procedure.

Navarro said the National Organization of Hispanic Firefighters encouraged him to apply for the job here. Navarro evidently doesn't lack for confidence. "Very few people have the background and experience I have," Navarro told Colorado Springs reporters last week. "If I apply, I usually make the short list."

Meanwhile, a review panel is poring over the rest of the applicants with hopes of lining up some top contenders by the end of the month. City officials hope to have a new fire chief in place by the end of December. -- A.S.

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