Naked City

Off the Desk

There was smiling and handshaking all around this week when the Texas Turnpike Authority made a surprise turnaround on its recommended route for State Highway 130, opting for the locally preferred eastern alignment. The announcement Tuesday followed years of the state's dogged insistence that the highway should follow a western course -- that is, west of Walter E. Long Lake -- in order to attract more vehicles. Never mind that the western route would have destroyed a sizable number of homes in its path. TTA chair Pete Winstead says the about-face was made based on environmental considerations and increased traffic projections for the eastern route. "That's what we've been telling them all along," said Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis, who doesn't want to jeopardize the deal by declaring victory on the battlefield. "It's not over until it's over," Davis went on to say. "They [transportation heavies] were hellbent on the western route, so as far as I'm concerned the western alignment is still alive. We've got to stay vigilant." In the meantime, Davis, along with Commissioner Margaret Gomez, and Council Members Beverly Griffith and Danny Thomas, will lay out what this new twist means for neighborhood leaders at a meeting set for 6:30pm, July 24, at 9301 Johnny Morris Road. Next up for SH 130: TTA must finalize an environmental impact study, which then goes to the Federal Highway Administration...

In other flips-flops this week, Max Nofziger, a former City Council member and onetime light rail supporter, has joined the anti-rail ROAD crew as a consultant on the campaign against the November referendum. Nofziger says he teamed up with Gerald Daugherty, a Capital Metro foe and founder of ROAD -- Reclaim Our Allocated Dollars -- for a couple of reasons: fiscal concerns and apprehension over rail construction in his South Congress neighborhood. "We don't want to lose it to construction and the ultimate redevelopment that will forever change the face of our city," he said...

An item in this space last week incorrectly stated that the Rev. Bill Elliott was resigning from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. He is, in fact, leaving against his wishes. The Oblates religious order has decided to withdraw from Guadalupe and will be transferring Rev. Elliot somewhere else (yet to be determined) next June. Needless to say, church members are dismayed and saddened, and met Monday night to assess the matter. According to Guadalupe member Brigid Shea, parishioners want to "explore what the options might be for extending the time frame for the Oblates' and Father Bill's departure, given the huge undertakings that the church has committed to" in the middle-to-lower-income community that it serves. Shea said the church recently voted to proceed on a $10 million center to provide what she calls cradle-to-grave solutions to poverty and teenage pregnancy in East Austin...

The University of Texas has settled on another short list of architects to design the embattled Blanton Museum of Art. No sooner had the candidates' names been announced on Monday than critics began hissing and booing the conservative, ho-hum lot. With the exception of the New Jersey-based Michael Graves & Associates, there are no what you'd call "famed stylists" in the bunch. The university chased off Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron after much haranguing over the design. So it looks like UT is going to get that box with a red-tiled roof after all...

Renetta Amadour, popular program director at OutYouth, is leaving the gay youth center to pursue a career in the film industry. She will be missed.

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    Hyde Park residents win a key Planning Commission vote preserving an alley beside Hyde Park Baptist Church's existing garage, but it's still unclear if they can win the war against a second garage proposed for an adjacent lot.

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    Saying they're tired of seeing Texas portrayed negatively by Al Gore and in the press, six prominent Texans have formed the Proud of Texas Committee to speak out against such "misrepresentations."

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