Naked City

Off the Desk

It's been a rough year for Ronnie Earle. First, a state appeals court overturned his conviction against LaCresha Murray. Then, the D.A.'s longtime reluctance to seek the death penalty was shoved into the spotlight when arrests were made in the yogurt shop murders. Now, Earle's old Republican rival for the top prosecutor's slot in Travis County, Shane Phelps, is going to make another run for the position next year. In 1996, Earle beat Phelps by a not-so-narrow margin of 54-46% in the most expensive D.A. race in county history. "I've been a prosecutor," says Phelps, who started out in the Houston D.A.'s office and is now deputy AG for criminal justice under AG John Cornyn. "Mr. Earle has never tried a case himself as lead prosecutor, ever." But why does Phelps think he can beat a veteran D.A. who has served for 24 years (20 of those unopposed)? Besides his tough-on-crime stance, which he says appeals to the growing number of GOPs migrating to Travis County, Phelps says he has the name ID and the funding to win the race. "I think it'll take $300,000, minimum," Phelps says -- the last race cost him nearly $250,000 -- "but I just got started, and it's already in the thousands. We'll be able to raise the money, no problem." Phelps, who resigned his post with the AG to run in 1996, plans to keep his day job this time, just in case...

Jonestown mayor Sam Billings has resigned from the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, citing his disagreement with the "methods and actions of the executive officers." In an interview with the Chronicle, Billings said he's been unhappy with Cap Metro general manager Karen Rae. "I don't agree with the general manager. I don't agree with her raise, and I don't agree with her bonus." (During the last meeting of the board, Rae, who is paid $100,000 per year, was given a $5,000 performance bonus and a $5,000 per year raise). Billings also expressed displeasure with the direction Cap Metro has been taking with light rail. He says the agency has not given adequate consideration to a regional rail system that would take some of the traffic pressure off I-35. "There isn't any serious traffic on interior streets in Austin. All the traffic is on the freeways," he said. Billings also said he has had health problems which helped convince him to get off the board...

As the former chief of the state housing agency, Larry Paul Manley typically prioritized utility over beauty in subsidized housing. Maybe that's why Manley was "flabbergasted" at the behavior of his Central Austin neighbors when they objected to two homes he plans to build on an empty lot at Duval and 34th Street. Manley wanted to build the two-story houses closer to the curb than zoning allows so he could avoid knocking down a stand of elm trees. "People went berserk over it," says Manley, referring to the North University Neighborhood Association, which fought his variance request. "Their objections were unfathomable. How could anyone object to saving trees in Austin?" But NUNA president Roger Borgelt says preserving some spindly elms was a nonissue. "The houses are just oversized for the area and the lot," he says. Manley has since withdrawn the variance request. Architect Bob Kaler, a former NA officer who lives two blocks from Manley's lot, says he thought Manley's request was reasonable, but he wasn't surprised at resistance in an area that the city has allowed to be riddled with student apartments. "In these older neighborhoods, we've been bumped into and run over so many times that if you're proposing anything outside the rules," the neighbors are going to fight it, said Kaler.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Members of the state Bond Review Board and House Urban Affairs Committee push for changes in the Department of Housing and Community Affairs' tax credit subsidy process.

    Naked City

    Two 101-X deejays claim they were unfairly fired after making controversial comments in the wake of the A&M bonfire tragedy; but station management says there were deeper reasons for the decision.

    Naked City

    CAMPO prepares to undergo a controversial peer review of its transportation planning process.
  • Naked City

    The fight over the fees for the lawyers who won the state's multibillion-dollar settlement with the nation's tobacco companies appears to be over.

    Naked City

    UT students and faculty stage a rally to protest the regents' handling of Blanton museum designs.

    Naked City

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

district attorney, ronnie earle, lacresha murray, shane phelps, john cornyn, jonestown mayor sam billings, capital metro, karen rae, larry paul manley, north university neighborhood association

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