The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2001-10-19/83382/

Naked City

News Shorts

By Lauri Apple, October 19, 2001, News

Due to the fear of potential terrorist attacks, Ninth Street, between San Jacinto and Trinity Streets, will remain closed indefinitely, says city Traffic Engineer Alan Hughes. The feds, by way of the General Services Administration (which oversees federal buildings and personnel), implored the city to close the section of Ninth that runs underneath the Homer Thornberry Judicial Building, which houses the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Social Security Administration offices. GSA officials "were pretty nervous about [the building] being a potential target," said Hughes. Drivers headed toward I-35 will have to detour to Seventh Street, and anyone conducting business in the building will have to find parking elsewhere, Hughes said.

If parking downtown weren't already a nightmare, the city has now made nearly 90 parking meters off-limits. Meters outside City Hall, the federal courthouse, and APD headquarters will be hooded indefinitely for security reasons, says Hughes. And people wonder where road rage begins.

Though little about the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is positive, photographers who captured the disaster on film have produced some of the most penetrating photos in recent memory. Recommended: photojournalist James Nachtwey's brilliant shots of the WTC aftermath, posted at www.digitaljournalist.org. Known for his photo documentation of human strife and suffering in Rwanda, Kosovo, Chechnya, and other war-torn places, Nachtwey barely escaped death by hiding in an elevator in a hotel across the street from the towers while everything crashed around him.

An envelope containing "glittery stuff" addressed to newsmaker and First Twin Jenna Bush prompted an anthrax scare Tuesday at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. The envelope, which carried the chamber's address -- 111 Congress-- contained only a blank card and some glitter, says Chamber spokeswoman Saralee Tiede. But the item was suspicious enough to prompt Chamber employees to evacuate their plaza-level offices while Austin police, EMS, and the Haz-Mat guys collected the "evidence." No one really suspected the glitter was anthrax, Tiede explains, but you just can't be too sure about anything these days. Did the disturbance rattle chamber employees? "No," Tiede replies. "Everyone's standing around right now making very bad jokes."

With concerns about terrorism and anthrax scares galore, some of the more long-standing security problems seem to have slipped off the radar screen. Back in March, for instance, a controversy ensued over the adoption of a police oversight panel into the police officers' contract. "Where did that issue go?" you ask. Well, eight months later, the city is still seeking a monitor -- the panel's only paid position and the integral staffer who will get the ball rolling. Roberta Byron of the city's human resources department is assigned to help recruit the monitor, but could not be reached for comment. City spokeswoman Michelle Middlebrook-Gonzalez says the hunt is still on. "With everything that's happened, we're a little behind," she says. "But that's not on purpose."

The city's star-crossed P.I.E.R. development-review software system (P.I.E.R. stands for "permit, inspection, enforcement, and review") can now be accessed online through the city Web site. Check the status of building plan reviews and permit applications by logging on at www.ci.austin.tx.us.

Texas A&M students were briefly banned from flying U.S. flags outside of their dorm windows, with university officials citing safety concerns. But A&M officials reversed course on Monday and said the university rule -- which prohibits hanging objects out of dorm windows -- doesn't apply the Star and Stripes.

"Can the U.S. Military Ever Bring Justice?," an anti-war panel discussion featuring speakers from Global Exchange, Austin Against War, School of the Americas Watch-Austin, and the UT Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice, will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 7pm at UT's Waggener Hall. Call 474-4864 for more info.

Artists interested in producing public artworks for the renovated and greatly expanded Carver Museum and Library project (Rosewood and Angelina, next to Kealing Middle School) must get their applications to the city by Nov. 9. The total public art budget on the project is expected to be $75,000. Visit the "Art in Public Places" section of the city Web site for details.

Following up on our story about media cutbacks and layoffs ("Thinner Reads, Fewer Reporters," Oct. 12), Belo Corporation announced on Oct. 10 that it will eliminate 160 jobs company-wide by the end of this month, and freeze the wages (i.e., no raises) of remaining employees for one year. The media conglomerate also said that wages for the five members of its management committee have been cut by 5%, effective through at least 2003. Belo owns numerous media properties, most notably The Dallas Morning News and Texas Cable News, and locally, KVUE-TV.

Also, unbeknownst to us, Fort Worth Weekly Editor John Forsyth had already been fired by the time our article ran. The Weekly itself reported on the firing (which happened Oct. 3) in the Oct. 11 edition of its anonymous "Static" media column, whose writer(s) expressed considerable anger toward new Weekly owner Lee Newquist (see fwweekly.com/issues/2001-10-11/static.html). "Static" quoted Newquist's statement that Forsyth was "not in his vision for the paper," but added: "We can only hope that Lee Newquist will make good on his promise to support the same kind of gutsy journalism that Forsyth did."

The Save Barton Creek Association is sponsoring a Barton Creek greenbelt and trail repair morning on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 8am-noon. Meet in the parking lot by Zilker Hillside Theatre and Barton Springs Pool. Call Helen Besse at 327-6915 for more info.

Lallapelosi! Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, became the highest-ranking woman to serve in Congress last week when fellow Dems voted her in as Minority Whip.

Bicycle Sport Shop owner Hill Abell recently received the 2001 Retailer Advocacy Award from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN). The award honors Abell for raising the funds necessary to thwart State Sen. Jeff Wentworth in his effort to ban cyclists from many farm-to-market roads. Abell also helped to pass the Matthew Brown Act promoting safe bike and pedestrian routes to schools. Both bills were debated during this year's 77th Texas Legislature.

Police Chief Stan Knee says the APD is receiving nearly 25 calls a day regarding possible anthrax contamination. So far, all test results have been negative. You might be relieved to know that Knee says the three departments charged with handling such calls -- Emergency Medical Services, the Austin Fire Dept., and APD -- are "getting more and more effective at it."

Also in APD news: Chief Knee announced Tuesday the formation of a "Homeland Defense" division within the department to be headed by Cmdr. Joe Putman, currently head of APD's special operations division. Among other things, the new division will oversee permanent security details spread across the city at "key installations" (which the department won't discuss for, well, security reasons). Knee said the department is seeking civilian volunteers (à la WWII-era, stateside security measures) to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the police department. Volunteers will have to submit applications and clear a standard background check before aiding officers in the patrolling of the city. They will also report to the department anything that may be "suspicious." Knee said he doesn't "anticipate that they will be armed."

Free peanut butter sandwiches, drinks, chips, fruit, and cookies are served on UT's south mall every Friday from 11am-1pm.

According to a study of FBI data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, big city dwellers are two to three times more likely to be killed by their spouses or lovers than are people in small towns. Women in the South and West are most at risk. Austin ranks among the top 20 largest U.S. cities, so beware.

Overheard at the Chronicle Drag Ball Saturday night: downtown cross-dresser and mayoral candidate Leslie Cochran on the secret to staying warm this fall season -- two pairs of panty hose.

Fans of Chron editorial cartoonist Doug Potter should check out Revolution SF's presentation of Bob the Dinosaur Goes to Disneyland, a scintillating comic collaboration among Potter, novelist Joe R. Lansdale, and scripter Rick Klaw. Warning: Major Disney disillusionment!

In November, the AISD Board of Trustees will vote on recommendations of the Academic Magnet/Neighborhood Schools Community Working Group (CWG). The group's final report, recently submitted to the board, includes a recommendation to add a sixth-grade magnet to the Kealing Junior High magnet program. The complete report is available at austin.isd.tenet.edu/about/initiatives/cwg.

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