By Lauri Apple, Fri., Oct. 12, 2001
Former City Council Member Eric Mitchell filed to run for mayor last Friday, declining public comment and announcing he would hold a press conference Tuesday to kick off his campaign. On Tuesday, a campaign aide announced that Mitchell's press conference is postponed until next Tuesday, Oct. 16.
A mayoral debate sponsored by the Martin Junior High PTA, Con Ganas Inc., the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team, and the United East Austin Coalition will be held in the Martin Junior High Cafeteria, 1601 Haskell, Wednesday at 7pm, Oct. 17. As of Oct. 3, candidates Gus Garcia, Allen Phillips, Jennifer Gale, Dean Zegub, and Leslie Cochran were scheduled to appear. No word at press time whether Eric Mitchell has been added to the bill. Call 474-8148 for more info.
Meantime, the gay and lesbian community is sweet on Gus Garcia. The mayoral candidate picked up endorsements this week from two groups -- the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus and the Stonewall Democrats of Austin. In a statement released after the ALGPC vote, co-chair Allan Baker said: "Gus knows and values the cultural diversity of Austin and understands, at a deep and abiding level, the need to preserve tolerance and respect for all the citizens of our city." SDA co-chair Stan Main shared equally glowing sentiments.
Members of the Austin City Council are asking city staff to review the management of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, currently under the aegis of the Parks and Recreation Dept. "Management of the BCP may not be perfectly suited to -- and, in fact, may detract from -- the important mission of PARD," states a memo to City Manager Jesus Garza written by Kirk Watson, Jackie Goodman, and Will Wynn. The presumed alternative would be to combine management of the BCP lands in Northwest Travis County, which protect the habitat of the black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler, with the city's water-quality conservation lands in the Southwest.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Robert and Christine Morton, self-styled naturists who have been fighting since 1995 to keep Lake Travis' Hippie Hollow (aka McGregor Park) open to kids under 18. In 1995, the Travis Co. Commissioners Court decided to ban kids from the Hollow -- Travis County's only nude beach -- claiming the measure was designed to protect kids from sexual predators. The Mortons claimed the change in the law violates their First Amendment rights.
An anthrax scare that started in Florida with the death of a photo editor from The Sun supermarket tabloid made its way to Austin on Tuesday. The city's Hazardous Materials teams were called out eight times to investigate suspicious envelopes and packages that 911 callers thought might have contained anthrax. In all, five items and 15 people were tested for the bacteria, all of which came back negative. At Service Electronics in North Austin, a computer keyboard that had been sent in for repairs -- from the same Florida offices used by The Sun -- led to an evacuation and testing. And over at the mayor's office, a suspicious package delivered sometime just before noon caused the fire department to quarantine and test 10 individuals there. No other info about the package, its contents, or its origin has been made available. "All we know and will know for some time is that all the tests done were negative," says city spokeswoman Michelle Middlebrook-Gonzalez. "All the other details remain under investigation."
Presidential daughter Jenna Bush is off the hook again. On Tuesday, the 19-year-old UT student and First Twin's "misrepresentation of age by a minor" charge was dropped from her record after she successfully completed community service and an alcohol-awareness class and paid a $100 fine. In May, Austin police charged Jenna for demonstrating underage "alcohol-awareness." Accompanied by fellow First Twin Barbara, she tried to use a fake ID to order a margarita at Chuy's.
The Hyde Park NCCD, meant to codify the area's Neighborhood Plan, has been delayed at least a week. The ordinance sounds like it's not even close to being finished; for instance, city attorneys just this week discovered that the draft's current wording would prohibit single-family homes anywhere in the neighborhood. Nevertheless, the ordinance is being rushed to second and third reading -- apparently by Mayor Kirk Watson, who wants to do the Hyde Park Baptist Church a final favor before leaving office. Watson's vote is the only thing keeping the church's holdings from being "merged and incorporated" into the neighborhood plan, as was agreed to in the infamous 1990 HPBC agreement.
Former Johnston High School principal Al Mindiz-Melton is scheduled to appear in Travis County District Court on Friday to settle his case, according to the Travis Co. District Attorney's office. Judging by what First Assistant DA Rosemary Lehmberg tells the Chronicle, the DA's office seems willing to come to the table to discuss the terms for Mindiz-Melton's case, but can't say what the possible terms of a plea would be. However, it has been reported that Mindiz-Melton's term will include six months in jail and 10 years probation on charges that he elicited sex from a teenage boy. The case began when police responded to a burglar alarm at Mindiz-Melton's house in April 2000. The alarm turned out to be false, but while at Mindiz-Melton's residence, officers discovered three ounces of marijuana and traces of cocaine. They also found pornographic materials upon further investigation. Soon thereafter, a teenage boy came forward to claim that Mindiz-Melton had paid him for sex for more than a year. Mindiz-Melton's attorney, Dain Whitworth, could not be reached for comment.
Travis County Sheriff Margo Frasier and County Commissioner Sam Biscoe are both slated to appear at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards' monthly meeting today in Amarillo, to present a detailed plan to get county jails up to snuff with state regulations. For four years running, Travis Co. has failed yearly surprise inspections performed by the Jail Standards Commission. Violations range from overcrowding and unsanitary conditions to unmanned guard stations. In August, Frasier told commissioners she wasn't sure the county would be able to get the jails up to code by the time of the October meeting. On Wednesday, Terry Julian, the commission's executive director, confirmed that the county has not. However, he says, Frasier and other county officials believe they will have all the problems corrected and county jails up to code by January 2002.
Two community building projects in the St. Johns neighborhood will take place on Saturday, Oct. 13. One is Hands on Housing, a project to restore low-income houses in the neighborhood. To help with this effort, call Hugh Sparks at 472-7627 x26. The other is a neighborhood trash cleanup. To lend a hand in this, call Atticia Dukes at 974-3170. Free refreshments will be provided. This Saturday is also the second annual NeighborhoodFest and the Raise the Roof Day housing fair, put on by the city's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office. Stop by J.J. Pickle Elementary School, 1101 Wheatley, 10am-2pm, and learn about the many fabulous prizes -- er, services -- offered by our city government.
October is National Crime Prevention Month, so don't commit any national crimes until Nov. 1. On second thought, don't commit any crimes, period.
The first three digits of most city of Austin phone numbers soon will change to a prefix of either 974 or 972. The last four digits will remain the same for most departments but not for Health and Human Services and Water/Wastewater, who will receive brand-new numbers. Not affected will be the Convention Center, Austin Energy, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and individual Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services stations. The city has also purchased 978, which will be assigned at a later time. Supposedly, this is all supposed to make things more unified and simple. We'll see.
For an intriguing history of the towers that are no more, check out Eric Darton's Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York City's World Trade Center.
Post-Sept. 11 "God Bless America-- Sighting of the Week: Hooters sign, W. Riverside.
KOOP Radio (91.7FM) will host a fundraiser for the station Monday, Oct. 15 at Emo's at 10pm, featuring live music from Jerm Pollet, Okkervil River, the Swells, Chris Black, and the Holy Ghost. Admission is $4 for legal drinkers, $7 for minors. The Daily Texan reported on Monday that the community station was among the many local nonprofits seeing shriveling donations, as charity givers redirect their funds to organizations aiding the Sept. 11 relief effort. KOOP's latest fund drive (Sept. 22-Oct. 8) raised 20% less than previous drives, the Texan said.
So the TV people are thinking about canceling the Emmys. Why stop there? Maybe they should cancel the rest of television -- it would do some people a lot of good.
Former Christian fundamentalist-turned-atheist David Clark of Round Rock is working to have the monument honoring the Ten Commandments removed from the Capitol lawn. Clark has a Web site promoting his cause at www.removethe10.com.
Friday and Saturday, UT's History Dept. presents "Violence, Community, and the Academy," a timely symposium examining violence as a historical phenomenon. Students will discuss their research on topics such as "Crowds, Police, and Prisons," "Schools and Forms of Violence," and "Violence in War." Grad student Norwood Andrews, who helped organize the symposium, calls it "an opportunity to relate some of the episodes and lessons of the past into our current predicament." Texas Union, 10am-7pm (Saturday's schedule ends at 5pm). 471-3261 or 323-0048.
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