Naked City

Austin Stories

Instant runoff voting and single-member districts won't be the only items competing for your attention during Austin's unofficial charter election season, which is already well underway. Former Place 5 adversaries Clare Barry and Linda Curtis (who both lost the council race to Will Wynn, though by widely divergent margins) have teamed up to promote public campaign financing and to repeal the $100 limit on campaign contributions in city elections. Curtis herself is largely responsible for that limit, but has since revised her views on the subject (she now supports a $200 cap). She says the campaign, officially the Clean Campaigns for Austin petition drive, is trying to get 1,000 volunteers to carry petitions; so far, she says, they have about a quarter of the 20,000 signatures they need to get a charter amendment on the November ballot. The proposal would provide public funds to all council candidates who collect signatures and contributions of at least $5 (but no more than $200) from 500 registered voters (candidates for mayor would have to collect 1,000 donations). Once a candidate qualified, he or she would get about $16,000 from the city ($33,000 for mayoral candidates); from that point forward, all future contributions would be matched 2-to-1 by the city. Because the proposal is both confusing and potentially expensive (the cost is capped at 2.5% of the city budget, or about $1 million), Curtis says she anticipates having to "really sell" voters on public financing. But, Curtis says, "if you think about the Intel deal and all those deals that went down, [a million dollars] is nothing"…

If all goes well, Sixth Street could soon join much of the city with its own full-scale recycling program. The city and business owners are halfway through a six-month trial program, recycling cardboard and bottles from the clubs and restaurants on the north side of Sixth Street between Trinity and San Jacinto. So far, so good, says Jerry Hendrix, the city's Solid Waste Services director. "It's all about whether or not we can create enough [trash] diversion to create a whole new recycling program while still keeping the alleys clean and safe," Hendrix says. By educating club and restaurant employees on the minutiae of recycling -- such as why you can't throw plastic in with glass bottles, for example -- the city hopes to reduce contaminating materials so the recycling plan can forge ahead. Sixth Street business owners say they like the program, but wish the city would provide incentives to sweeten the deal. "It's going well and I think it's a good idea," says Michael Girard, who owns the Amazon bar at 306 E. Sixth. "But we should get something for it too, like free Dumpsters"…

Austin Energy has decided not to renew its $192,000 annual contract with Rainbow Materials, the concrete company that provoked a heated battle over its plans to locate a concrete batch plant in Spicewood, about 40 miles west of Austin. Spicewood residents, concerned about the plant's impact on traffic, air, and water in their community, inundated city offices with requests to deny the contract renewal; AE's Carole Martindale, who handles purchasing for the utility, says the protests were heard and "taken into consideration" by the utility, though "I wouldn't say [the cancellation] was caused by" the protests. However, she added, it is more typical for contracts to get extended than not; pricing was also a factor in the city's decision not to renew. The contract will now be reopened for bidding, and Rainbow will have the option of making the city a better offer…

The Central Texas ACLU's monthly Public Forum will focus on the legislative session that ends May 28, including legislation on police accountability, racial profiling, the death penalty moratorium, and criminal defense, among other issues of interest to civil libertarians. Central Texas ACLU Executive Director Will Harrell will lead the discussion at Furr's Cafeteria in Northcross Mall starting at 11:30am Friday, April 27; admission is free. For more info, call Ruth Epstein at 459-5829…

It's been just over a month since the new police contract was approved, and Austin Police Association president Mike Sheffield is already facing new challenges at the helm of the 1,000-member organization. This month, the APA rag The Police Line notes that at an April 3 membership meeting, officer Sam Bryson made a motion to use the APA office as headquarters for a petition drive to recall Sheffield. Union rules allow a recall if the president is found to have committed "willful neglect of office," which Bryson said Sheffield did by failing to consult APA membership before sitting in on meetings of Austin's Police Oversight Focus Group. The focus group was responsible in part for the inclusion of civilian oversight in the current APA contract. Of course, the POFG was going to push forward on oversight whether Sheffield sat in, which is one of the reasons, Sheffield said, that he agreed to be there in the first place. In the same article, The Police Line noted that Bryson said he is not a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, to which some APD officers belong. The head of the FOP, former APD officer Randy Malone (often fondly remembered as Backhoe Boy ever since his 1984 suspension from the force, in part for stealing a John Deere model 410 backhoe), sent out mass e-mails declaring that Sheffield "needs to step down on his own or with a little help from the members." So far, the urge to purge Sheffield is not widespread; the motion failed with just three votes in support…

Hate crimes legislation stumbled at the Capitol Wednesday, and the DNA evidence was traced to Rick Perry. The bill (HB 587) was postponed for debate by sponsor Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, because Sen. Rodney Ellis believed he had the votes to carry his companion bill (SB 87) in the Senate -- that is, until Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan told reporters he wanted to wait until the "full Senate" could address the issue (fellow Republicans Florence Shapiro and Tom Haywood were not on the floor). Duncan acknowledged he had recently discussed the issue with Gov. Perry, but wouldn't say more. But it didn't take much to conclude that Perry may be doing a Dubya, since last session Bush killed the bill with similar backroom arm-twisting.

Thompson's bill was rescheduled for House debate Thursday morning, so by the time you read this, the ball may well be back in Ellis' -- and Perry's -- court…

If you're reading this on Thursday, you may still have time to don your most glittering ensemble and sashay down to the south steps of the Capitol at 2pm to take part in a free, daytime political drag show. The Austin chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is sponsoring "Drag Queens for Kay," a performance and press conference addressing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's anti-choice voting record as well as pending bills at the Lege (for more info, call 462-1611, or e-mail…

Thursday evening, 6:30-9:30pm, Room 21 of UT's Flawn Academic Center (the Undergraduate Library), is the venue for "Amplified Voices," a public education and performance event focusing on women's reproductive rights and freedom of speech. Sponsored by a coalition of UT students, faculty, and staff, "Voices" was conceived as a response to the university's "continued selective limits on free speech, its use of police force against nonviolent protestors, [and] its unwillingness to engage in public deliberation about its speech policies," according to organizers.

Both events are part of a weeklong series in support of women's rights and free speech that grew out of February protests at UT. The week culminates Sunday, April 22, with a 2:30pm rally and march starting at the UT Tower, sponsored by Action for Abortion Rights, NOW, and several other groups. For more info, contact Jenny at

– Contributors: Michael King, Amy Smith, Jordan Smith

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Read more of the Chronicle's decades of reproductive rights reporting here.

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Clare Barry, Linda Curtis, Clean Campaigns for Austin, Sixth Street, Jerry Hendrix, Michael Girard, Austin Energy, Rainbow Materials, Carole Martindale, Central Texas ACLU, Will Harrell, National Organization for Women, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Action for Abortion Rights

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