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Off the Desk

The Stars and Bars are being retired by state legislatures across the South, but they were briefly run up the flagpole in Bastrop, where a school counselor designed a poster that featured the Confederate flag. "We had all those recalled and taken down," said Bastrop ISD communications director Donald Williams. He said the posters were created by a counselor preparing material for the Building Good Citizens for Texas curriculum, and that the use of the Confederate flag was "an accident." "He was just saying 'a flag,' that's all," Williams said. "It did not dawn on him that he was utilizing that flag." According to Williams, the poster was sent out through district mail but pulled from circulation by 2:30pm on the day it went out. "Does anyone out there know it's Black History Month?" asked a teacher's spouse who called the Chronicle

Texas Civil Rights Project director James Harrington mentions Black History Month in a press release announcing a TCRP suit filed against Taco Cabana. Harrington says that Charles Byrd, Malcolm Richardson, Wan Matthews, and Jeffery Johnson Jr. were refused service at a Taco Cabana restaurant on 517 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The four African-American men, according to allegations in the lawsuit, were told to use the drive-through, though the restaurant was open and Anglo and Hispanic customers were served in the dining area. Restaurant employees called the police and the men were detained during a brief investigation. One of the men allegedly denied service, Charles Byrd, is a local rapper who goes by the name Nook -- which stands for "none of our kind"…

There is little organized opposition to this year's version of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which last legislative session was stopped in Senate committee by Republicans determined to ensure that Gov. George W. Bush would not have to sign a bill providing protections for gays and lesbians. But the Young Conservatives of Texas are still in the fight, and they kicked off their Tuesday press conference with a quote from Republican Sen. Jane Nelson recycling a Bush line: "If passing a hate crimes law would eliminate hate in our society, I would vote for it." Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, told a reporter that the burning of a cross on a white family's lawn is no different than burning a cross on the lawn of an African-American family. And San Antonio Rep. John Shields argued that minority groups are adequately protected by the U.S. and Texas constitutions and current law. Joining the Young Conservatives are the Eagle Forum, the Christian Coalition, the Concerned Women for America, the Free Market Foundation, and the American Family Association. "Just because you have a law on the books doesn't mean people aren't going to commit these crimes," said YCT vice chair Marc Levin. A House Judicial Affairs Committee hearing on the bill is set for 2pm on Monday.

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    Local news this week in Austin

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    AISD hosts a conference of public and higher education leaders to determine and discuss priorities for public education in Texas.

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    The council approves a requirement that all matters coming to a vote include a note detailing their financial impact; Austin Energy's "competitive matters" resolution, which would keep some business matters secret, angers some local activists.
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    The James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act makes a comeback in the 77th legislative session.

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    The Austin Police Department approves a $40 million pay raise for officers as part of its meet and confer contract negotiations; more contentious, however, is a police oversight provision that activists say was "gutted" in the process.

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