Bushism of the Week: "We do not yet know who sent the anthrax, whether it was the same terrorists who committed the attacks on Sept. 11 or whether it was other international or domestic terrorists." Maybe the Afterlife is handily equipped with a post office ...
According to Thomas Wakely, executive director of the Economic Justice Foundation, Travis Co. election officials have once again declined to provide a handicapped-accessible voting facility up in Manor. Wakely alerted county officials that Manor had problems adhering to the Americans With Disabilities Act over a year ago, he said, "but when we started talking to them again last week, they said it was too late to move the voting site" -- even though an accessible site, in a county-owned facility, was less than four blocks away from the current site. Wakely added that the EJF is now "planning our strategy" before filing suit. A county official told us an elections official was posted at the curbside so handicapped folks could do curbside voting, and that construction is underway to make the current site accessible.
After a long search, the city has finally narrowed the field of candidates for its open "police monitor" position to two attorneys with municipal experience (the winner will direct the new police oversight group incorporated into this year's police officers contract): Iris J. Jones, a former Austin City Attorney and assistant state attorney general, and currently the city attorney of Prairie View, and Chris Wittmayer, an assistant city attorney in Dallas who served two years as a special assistant U.S. attorney. According to a Nov. 1 memo from City Manager Jesus Garza to City Council, Jones and Wittmayer have already passed through one round of interviews and will return to meet with the new mayor, council, and other community representatives at month's end. Garza added that he hopes to hire one of the candidates in early December.
After being selected as one of three finalists to become the master developer of the Mueller Airport redevelopment project, Lennar Corporation has mysteriously withdrawn its candidacy. According to the Statesman, the company wasn't very forthcoming about its reasons, baffling city staff. Jim Walker, chair of the city's Mueller advisory commission, told Naked City that he was surprised, and the pullout is "unfortunate. ... Now we're down to just two, and you always want a bigger choice." Catellus Development Corp. and the Mueller Redevelopment Team remain finalists.
City Council Member Will Wynn has formally proposed a (mock) resolution "blaming everything that has gone wrong in Austin, since I was elected, on Kirk Watson." Unfortunately for real Watson opponents (including many council regulars), the vote will be limited to council members.
From The Daily Texan's pre-election interview with perennial (and unsuccessful) candidate Jennifer Gale: "After so many years you become more frustrated with losing. It's gone from about three months to about five months to get over losing a campaign." Gale came in fifth in Tuesday's mayoral election with less than 3% of the vote.
Jump back, Barton Springs Salamander -- there's a new amphibian in town! Eurycea naufragia, or the Georgetown Salamander, has made its way onto the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of endangered or threatened species. In 1999 scientists discovered the salamander in the tributaries of the San Gabriel River. A set of very controversial development regulations passed in July by the Georgetown City Council severely curtails commercial development over the Edwards Aquifer, and should they hold, may turn out to be a salamander's best friend.
It's been nearly four months since projectile points and a handful of Caddo Nation pottery vessels were taken from UT's Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at North Austin's J.J. Pickle Research Campus. But the university has finally gone public about the theft, offering up to $5,000 for info leading to the recovery of the items and the arrest of the perpetrators. Last month, when Naked City asked TARL Director Darrell Creel why the university didn't go public as soon as the break-in occurred in July, Creel said he wasn't sure, because the decision was made by "higher powers" (see "Naked City," Oct. 12). The TARL now asks that anyone with information about the theft or the location of the Native American vessels contact the UT Police Dept. at 232-9641. More info and pictures of the stolen items are on the TARL Web site, www.utexas.edu/research/tarl/theft.html .
Why airport officials prevented Green Party USA activist Nancy Oden from leaving Bangor (Maine) International Airport on Nov. 1 remains unclear. Oden says she was singled out for extra security screening because of her opposition to the Afghanistan war, but airport officials told the Bangor Daily News Oden was probably flagged due to the manner in which she bought her ticket. Officials refused to provide details about Oden's method of purchase, saying she was "uncooperative" with security personnel. En route to Chicago for a Green Party conference, Oden had to cancel her trip.
According to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, last week researchers from the University of Miami released the results of a four-year study examining the work habits of casual drug users. Based on data taken from the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, researchers couldn't find any significant correlation between casual drug use and employment instability. In fact, researchers found that casual drug users are just as likely to find and keep employment as non-users. Representatives of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy think they know better than the Miami researchers. "It does not matter if the drug user is hard-core or casual," ONDCP spokesman Rafeal Lemaitre told DRCNet. "People who use drugs miss work, have lower productivity and have accidents." And hard-core ideologues don't let the facts get in the way of an unshakable presumption.
In other drug war news: Last month, feds raided two California clinics that dispense medical marijuana, even though voters overwhelmingly approved the practice in 1996. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized patient records, medical marijuana, and computers, but made no arrests at the clinics in West Hollywood and Cool (northeast of Sacramento). National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) National Director Keith Stroup called the raids "shameful," and denounced DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson's disdain for the chronically ill patients who rely on medical marijuana for pain relief.
Meanwhile, government officials in England announced that the country will officially decriminalize marijuana use and possession next spring. The drug will be moved to the country's weakest enforcement schedule, and users will no longer be subject to arrest.