Naked City

Off the Desk

Austin police and the Travis County District Attorney's office wasted no time Tuesday denying allegations that a police detective held a gun near a suspect's head while questioning him about the 1991 yogurt shop murder case. Defense lawyer Tony Diaz, representing Michael Scott, made the claim as part of a motion to have Scott's trial moved out of Travis County so that he may have a fair trial. Scott is one of four men charged last year in the deaths of four young girls at a North Austin yogurt shop nine years ago. Three of the suspects have been indicted, while two Travis County grand juries found no cause to indict a fourth suspect, Forrest Welborn. In a press statement released by Assistant Chief of Police Michael McDonald and District Attorney Ronnie Earle, law enforcement officials vowed to oppose the change of venue motion and denied that Detective Robert Merrill placed a gun near Scott's head in order to coerce a confession, as defense lawyers claim. Police, prosectors, and defense attorneys are prohibited from talking to the press due to a judge's gag order, but Scott's father, Phil Scott, said Wednesday he believes strongly in his son's innocence. "There's no question in my mind that Michael didn't do this," he said. "The tactics the police used [during interrogation] were threatening and definitively coercing."...

Tree huggers, rejoice. The native oak tree standing in the path of progress at Town Lake Park won't be getting the axe after all. Turns out a bunch of folks rose to the challenge to spare the tall, graceful oak, and put forth some cash and in-kind contributions to cover the heap of expenses required in the delicate task of uprooting the tree and transplanting it at another location in the park. Environmental Design, a tree-removal outfit from Tomball, Texas, will be doing the honors, probably sometime in late fall. Until then, architects and contractors involved in the massive makeover of what will be the Long Performing Arts Center and a new civic center have promised to tread lightly around the tree, which currently stands west of Palmer Auditorium and in front of the Parks Police office. "It's a beautiful tree, that's the bottom line. And nobody wants to kill it," said parks advocate and stakeholder Larry Akers. He said there still some $3,500 needed to be raised to meet the $35,000 price tag for the job. Most of the donations are in the form of heavy equipment and the like needed for the project. And the tree removal is just one aspect of turning Town Lake Park into a real, live park. Akers said efforts are underway to have hundreds of trees planted and other typical park amenities installed. Tree donors may contact the Parks and Rec Department, 499-6766, while hard cash donations can be arranged through the Austin Community Foundation, 472-4483...

Rising temperatures, thriving businesses, a growing population, and thou, all contributed to record-setting usage of Austin Energy's energy last week. Ed Clark, spokesman for the local utility, said electricity use exceeded 2,000 megawatts last Wednesday, May 24. Which wouldn't be all that startling except for the fact that the 2,000 figure typically isn't reached until August. "It was a very hot, humid day," Clark said of the May 24 record-breaker, "but the bottom line is that we've had a lot of growth, and businesses are going at full tilt." Full tilt also describes the utility's customer count, currently over 365,000. That's an increase of more than 1,800 customers since October, and an even bigger jump over the 1993-'94 fiscal year when the count stood at 298,662. All told, Clark said, "It's going to be a tighter year."

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Utilities' estimates of stranded costs associated with deregulation are coming in, and they're far higher than the figures originally provided to the Texas Legislature when the law was being approved.

    Naked City

    The tragic shooting of Austin Parks Police officer William Jones highlights deficiencies in pay and staffing levels in the parks police department.
  • Naked City

    Council Watch

    Naked City

    The Springvalley Townhomes, an affordable housing project planned in Williamson County, won approval from the state housing agency despite a long history of problems with its developer.

    Naked City

    Herein, a concise explanation of all those weird and voluminous charges attached to your local, mobile, and long-distance phone bills.

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Tony Diaz, Michael Scott, Forrest Welborn, Michael McDonald, Ronnie Earle, Robert Merrill, Phil Scott, Town Lake Park, Larry Akers, Long Performing Arts Center, Austin Energy, Ed Clark

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