Naked City

Off the Desk

Helen Niesner, the city auditor who helped blow the lid off the Brackenridge Hospital accounting scandal in the early Nineties, delivered a demolition-style critique of the Austin Police Department in 1997, and raised the city manager's hackles last year with her fault-finding report on Austin Energy's efforts to implement a new billing system, has traded in her auditor's knife, er, ledger, for some old-fashioned R&R. Niesner, a no-nonsense watchdog and a favorite of many City Hall critics, retired June 30 from her auditor's post after 23 years of municipal service. Until her successor is appointed, deputy auditor Stephen Morgan will assume the interim role...

First Computer Sciences Corp., then Intel; now we hear that Austin-based Vignette Corp. is hankering for a new address downtown, where the office market is hitting full stride. Vignette currently makes its home along South MoPac near Loop 360...

Leslie Pool, long a behind-the-scenes participant in the local political process, has catapulted to the congressional level with her new position as field director in the Austin office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett. Pool is active in the Austin Women's Political Caucus and last year managed the re-election campaign of Council Member Beverly Griffith...

When Paul Robbins caught wind of what he calls the "utility secrecy resolution," which Austin Energy officials proposed and sought City Council approval on a couple of months ago, the longtime activist and energy watchdog set off a series of alarms that led to council members calling for closer examination into why, exactly, the electric utility wants to keep huge amounts of information off-limits to the press and public. In short, the utility wants a close-to-the-vest policy on fuel costs, power plant construction costs, and budgets and policies for "joint projects" (such as the South Texas nuke). The far-reaching proposal prompted Council Member Jackie Goodman to seek a review and revisions to the resolution, which is under way at this writing. To Robbins' dismay, however, utility officials were given authority to pick who they wanted to review the proposal, settling not on someone known for having a strong consumer bent, but rather on a 70-employee multifaceted energy consulting outfit -- GDS Associates Inc. A public meeting to address this secrecy business takes place at 6pm, Monday, July 10, at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road...

The city's Office of Neighborhood Services puts its money where its mouth is this month with a series of free weekly workshops designed for folks wanting more of a say on what goes on in their community. Lesson one starts Saturday, from 10am-noon, with the basics: Organizing 101. Then the following week, July 15, the focus will be on junk cars and what to do about them. The Saturday workshops are held at Austin Community College's Eastview campus, 3401 Webberville Rd. In August, Neighborhood Services takes its show on the road to various neighborhood association meetings. Call 499-7676 for more info or go to the city's Web site,, and click on "Neighborhood Academy" for a complete schedule...

This just in: Austin has captured the No. 6 spot on the list of Top 10 worst cities for bike theft in the U.S, according to the annual report put out by Kryptonite, a Massachusetts-based lockmaking company. Austin moved up from last year's No. 8 ranking. New York received dubious honors as the "bicycle theft capital of America," landing the No. 1 slot for its second consecutive year, while Chicago placed second on the list.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    The city has hired an architect known for his grand, sweeping designs to build the new City Hall, but size restrictions imposed by a contract with Computer Sciences Corporation may limit its creativity and scope.
  • Naked City

    The debate over Longhorn Pipeline's proposed gasoline pipeline between Houston and El Paso has heated up recently, moving from Austin to Washington, D.C. in advance of a decision by the federal government on whether to conduct a formal environmental impact statement.

    Naked City

    The Austin Youth Hostel, an 11-year-old facility in East Austin, may have to shut its doors to make way for office space for the Parks and Recreation Dept., which owns the building where the hostel is housed.

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