Off the Desk:
The Austin City Council appointed a 10-member task force Thursday to study whether Austin needs a civilian board to review allegations of police misconduct, and if so, what powers such a review board should have. The council's picks are: former mayor Roy Butler, ACLU's Ann del Llano, attorney Tom Kolker, NAACP-Austin President Parisrice Robinson, Austin Police Association President Det. Mike Sheffield, APD Det. Craig Howard , APD officer Lisa Morrill, East Austin neighborhood activist Janet Blake, Southwest Texas criminal justice professor Michael Supancic, and engineer Robert Martinez. The group is expected to have a recommendation to council by the end of the year ...
Speaking of police oversight, the Sunshine Project for Police Accountability, created in January 1999 to give citizens the opportunity to review allegations of excessive force or misconduct by the Austin Police Department, has launched its new Web site; to check out the latest goings-on see: http://www.sunshineproject.org. The Sunshine Project also hopes to open a small office soon in East Austin to coordinate its campaign. Project founder Scott Henson says that Sister Oleana Thomas of the Love Ministry for Christ has offered to let the Sunshine Project share office space at her mission site at 2932 E.12th. She is sponsoring a benefit to support the Love Ministry for Christ and the Sunshine Project from 11am-6pm Saturday, June 12 ...
So maybe they can't sing and dance like Jake and Elwood, but Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Member Daryl Slusher were honored for being "soul men" Sunday night when the Save Our Springs Alliance named the pair the recipients of the first-ever "Soul of the City Awards" during the SOS Alliance's ninth anniversary bash at La Zona Rosa. The two were honored for their "outstanding civic leadership to protect Barton Springs." The Alliance also bestowed its first Business Leadership Award to high-tech execs Peter Zandan and Steve Papermaster (Did you ever think there would be an SOS-sponsored award for business leadership?) The annual party commemorates the "Barton Springs uprising" of June 7, 1990 ...
You know you'll miss it. Good old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport is formally and finally being put out to pasture. From 6-9pm Friday, June 11, folks will gather to say "Bye Bye Bob" one last time. The event -- a benefit for Huston Tillotson's United Negro College Fund scholarships -- will feature the best and worst Mueller travels contest (submit stories at Bye_Bye_Bob@amat.com), a silent auction, and electric cart rides from Gate 12 to baggage claim. Tickets are $50; call 505-3073 to reserve. --L.T.
Austin's annual Gay Pride festival, held last Sunday at Fiesta Gardens, is unlike many other gay pride festivals. In short, there's no political parade to mark the occasion; in Austin, a parade is held every year the Texas Legislature is in session. That means that Austin's Gay Pride festival is a more "laid-back" event, though Dianne Hardy-Garcia, the executive director of the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby, estimates that 6,000 people attended this year. "A lot of people have pride events but they don't always do anything other than have the events and celebrate the day," she said. "All the money we raise goes back to fighting." --C.S.
The staff of The Working Stiff Journal will hold a picnic and barbecue this Saturday, June 12, at 4pm in Ramsey Park (42nd and Burnet). The picnic is open to anyone interested in the WSJ, an independent monthly newspaper in Austin by, for, and about working people. For more info, call 471-1990 or visit the Web site at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/wsj.htm --L.T.
Read W's Lips
Like father, like son. Eleven years ago, George H.W. Bush, the Republican nominee for President, stood at the podium at the Republican National Convention and delivered the line he would later be impaled upon:"Read my lips, no new taxes." Earlier this week, Gov. George W. Bush delivered a similar message in a letter to Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based tax reform group: "If elected president, I will oppose and veto any increase in individual or corporate marginal income tax rates or individual or corporate income tax hikes," Bush told the group's president, Grover G. Norquist. Bush's discussion of the issue came on Tuesday, the same day that he signed a bill cutting school property taxes by $1.35 billion. While signing the bill, Bush said it "will result in better schools and lower school property taxes. Dollars and actions speak louder than words, and across Texas the message is clear -- public schools are our number one priority." And last Thursday, Bush signed bills that will provide $500 million in business and consumer tax cuts.
Bush is broadcasting his anti-tax stances as he prepares to leave Austin for the first road trip in his bid for the presidency. The presidential candidate (who, by-the-way, is still not officially a candidate), is leaving for Iowa on Saturday. Bush has refused to answer many questions asking him to compare his policies to those of his father. But like his father, Bush is going to use tax cuts as one of his main issues as he heads into the presidential primaries.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the governor will emulate his father in breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. If he does, he could get the same rude treatment his father received. In 1990, just two years after he became president, the elder Bush agreed to a deficit reduction planthat included higher taxes, and his "read my lips" pledge became a bludgeon that Bill Clinton used to beat him in 1992. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, there is a video clip showing Bush's speech at the 1988 GOP convention. The "read my lips" segment is not included.--R.B.
Is Hyde Park Baptist Church on the move again? A recent letter that church pastor Dr. J. Kie Bowman sent to the Hyde Park neighborhood association seems to be a warning that indeed it is -- and it's a higher power driving the development push. "Hyde Park Baptist Church, as you may know is experiencing a fresh period of new growth," writes Bowman. "We believe it is God's will for us to reach people according to our Lord's command, to 'go, make disciples.' Therefore since we are commanded to do so, we must share our joyous message to the world around us. ... Please know that we are a church with a vision and a mission but we want to be a great neighbor in the process." The letter goes on to state that former city mayor Ron Mullen, a member of Hyde Park Baptist, has been enlisted to help the church "reach our goals."
HPBC's Dan Rogers says the church is trying to work with the neighbors as they plan "a major upgrade of our campus in Hyde Park" over the next two years, including renovation of the church's existing structures and the construction of additional structured parking adjacent to the church building at 3901 Speedway. The church -- which owns 58-acre Quarries Park in North Austin as well as its sizeable campus in Hyde Park -- has a bitter history with its neighbors, stemming from the impact its constant growth has had on the neighborhoods. The church purchased and demolished a number of Hyde Park area homes over the years, replacing them with church buildings and parking lots. And its purchase of Quarries Park in the early 1980s raised the hackles of neighbors in North Austin, particularly after they learned of the development plans for the property two years ago (as many as 11 buildings have been proposed, though the plans now call for one "family life center" which could go up over the next two to three years, says Rogers.) Flooding and traffic are among the major concerns to the neighbors there. Stay tuned. --L.T.
Foreign Policy Lessons
Beneath live oak trees filled with chirping locusts on the Colorado Street side of the scaffolded Governor's Mansion, 30 protestors gathered Saturday morning for a relatively quiet protest against U.S./NATO policy in Yugoslovia. "Once again we are protesting American imperialism abroad," said Romi Mahajan of Peace Action Texas, calling the war in Kosovo "a way of saying, 'Look, we're still the boss. We've got the military power and we're willing to slap anyone that gets out of line. We've still got the big stick of Teddy Roosevelt.' "
Organizers said Saturday's protest -- which was really more of a conversational forum to discuss and answer passersbys' questions about NATO's ongoing bombing campaign -- was designed to send a message to Gov. George W. Bush as he wades into the world of presidential politics, that "Austinites oppose U.S. imperialism in the Balkans." Protestors pointed to several recent Bush statements which, they say, highlight his "ignorance" of foreign policy issues. In the April 6 edition of the Washington Post, for example, Bush said he didn't feel he could comment about the war because he hadn't studied relevant documents, but he did say that the U.S. must "have a clear mission."Coincidentally, that same day in the Boston Globe, former president George H.W. Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft conceded that W. wasn't foreign policy savvy: "Is he comfortable with foreign policy? I would say not," said Scowcroft. Then on April 19, The New York Times ran an editorial quoting the governor's reformed position on the foreign campaign, saying his latest reservation was whether it was being carried out with enough "ferocity."
Protestors say they will continue to speak outagainst the action in Kosovo, and are planning aninformational forum to attempt to "make sense" of the situation, at 7pm on Wednesday, June 23 at Trinity United Methodist Church. --J.S.