Naked City

President George W. Bush will take time out from his Crawford "ranch" vacation to make the trip to Austin for a Capitol portrait-hanging ceremony on Friday afternoon. The former guv's likeness will take its place on the south side of the rotunda next to that of Ann Richards, who lost to Bush in 1994. To protest the ceremony, the Democracy Coalition and other local Bush opponents will hold an anti-Bush rally and art exhibit featuring "alternative" gubernatorial portraits (the best of show will receive $150.) Rally time remains "to be announced," due to the uncertain hour of Bush's appearance, and security issues may force the rally from its scheduled location on the Capitol steps to 11th and Congress, where the exhibit will run from noon to 6pm.

When you're done rallying against Bush, Austin Against War invites you to protest his war against terrorism at a peace vigil and rally they've planned for Friday at 5pm at 11th and Congress. Bring a candle.

Seventy extra officers on patrol downtown made for a "fairly quiet" New Year's Eve on Sixth Street, said Austin Police Department spokesman Paul Flaningan. APD officers arrested only 18 of an estimated 20,000 revelers: 14 for public intoxication, three for fighting, and one for assaulting an officer.

As of Jan. 1, most Texans can now choose their power company -- but most Chronicle readers cannot. The state's electricity deregulation program only applies to investor-owned utilities and allows public power providers such as Austin Energy, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and the Pedernales Electric Co-op (or San Antonio's City Public Service) to stay out of the game. However, post-dereg disruptions in the wholesale electricity market -- which brought California to the brink of collapse -- could still bring woe to your electric bill in future months.

Former Travis County Commissioner Marcos de Leon entered the race to become state house representative for District 51 last Friday. Like his competitors, Lulu Flores and Eddie Rodriguez, de Leon says if elected he would focus on education, the environment, economics, and health and human services, continuing traditions established by retiring Rep. Glen Maxey.

In Williamson County, software developer Eric Freeman has filed to run as a Democrat for the District 52 seat, currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Krusee. Freeman's platform stresses "centrist values for Central Texas," and focuses on taxes, teaching, traffic, technology, and the general state of the state. Freeman believes Krusee has been "a decent representative," but he wants to move beyond "old-school, partisan politics." "I think the district needs to have more balance and open-minded representation in the state House," Freeman said. "District 52 isn't majority Democrat or Republican, but centrist. That point of view has not been expressed by state reps from Williamson County for about 10 years."

A lawsuit filed on Dec. 26 by Environmental Defense, Neighbors for Neighbors, and Public Citizen could result in as much as $150 million in fines for the Alcoa Corporation. Filed at the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Texas, the suit charges that Alcoa's Sandow power plant, which fuels its aluminum smelter in Rockdale, is in violation of the federal Clean Air Act and other federal and state laws.

HEB has successfully obtained a change of venue for the lawsuit filed against it by the campaign reform group Independent Texans, moving the trial from Austin to HEB's corporate hometown of San Antonio. The activists are seeking to force the grocery chain to allow petitioning on its property; HEB is defending its no-solicitation policy.

Bus riders should continue collecting coins because Capital Metro's plan to install fare boxes on buses has hit a snag. Agent Systems Inc., the company contracted to produce the boxes, recently filed for bankruptcy. Furthermore, its fare boxes failed initial tests. If Agent can't fulfill its end of the deal, Cap Metro hopes to collect a $1.5 million reimbursement and find someone else to do the job. Fare boxes accept prepaid ride cards, enabling customers to forgo those embarrassing moments rifling through purses and pockets in search of that 50th cent.

Despite rising consumer confidence and a healthier Dow than in months past, State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander says Texas' state economy remains sluggish. The future is not so hazy for all state industries, however: Texas is expected to regain its title as the nation's leader in death row executions. The winner of 2001 was Oklahoma (could the urge to purge be contagious?).

Currently on France's bestseller list: A 3,200-page "rap" translation of the Bible.

The future of British chickens appears grave due to the possible closing in February of Leicestershire, England's Chicken Rescue Centre, a volunteer organization that rehabilitates cast-offs -- including featherless or beakless specimens -- from intensive chicken farming. The Centre, its literature states, "is in no way connected with any animal rights or liberation group." Its mission is simply to enable battered birds to adapt to the free-range system. Too much wet weather and Britain's foot-and-mouth crisis are to blame for the Centre's current financial travails. To help save the UK's only sanctuary for hens, check out the Centre's Web site at www.chickenrescue.org.uk.

Tom Bradfield, known in the building trade as a developer's developer, died Dec. 28 at age 80. The lifelong Austinite left a lasting imprint on his hometown, having been a key force in building MoPac, developing a number of central city subdivisions, and helping found the Humane Society of Austin and Travis County. Bradfield also sold prized property to developers in the Barton Springs Watershed, leading to the rise of environmental activism in Austin. "I'm pleased to hear Bradfield did positive things for the community in other areas," said Jon Beall of the Save Barton Creek Association. "But he fought controls for water quality ordinances and the application of those ordinances with all of the resources he had available to him. We will be dealing with the legacy of Bradfield in Barton Springs for the rest of our lives."

In its January/February 2002 issue, the Utne Reader -- a Minneapolis-based Reader's Digest of sorts for progressive/alternative journalism -- named Barton Springs one of America's 60 Best Public Places. Editor Jay Walljasper said the list recognizes hangouts "where we come together as neighbors, citizens, [and] friends."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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More by Lauri Apple
Will Council Take a Stand on PATRIOT Act?
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Capital Metro hires a planner and appoints community advisors for the rail-yard redevelopment

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