Edited By Lauri Apple, Fri., Feb. 8, 2002
On Saturday, voters approved $49 million in mold-busting bonds for the Austin Independent School District. The money will also help AISD fix leaks, improve ventilation systems, and install ADA-compliant fire alarm systems and ramps. The bonds, to be issued over a four-year period, will not increase citizens' tax rates.
In other AISD news, Trustee Loretta Edelen announced Feb. 4 she will not run for re-election once her current term expires in May. Edelen has served on the board since 1994, is board secretary, and represents District 1, which encompasses most of East Austin.
Council Member Beverly Griffith announced at her Feb. 6 birthday party/fundraiser at the Iron Cactus that she's collected more than 19,000 signatures for her bid to appear on the city's May 4 ballot. (Griffith is term-limited; for more on this, see "Austin@Large," right). If all of the signatures are valid, Griffith needs to collect only 1,000 more.
This week's City Council agenda looks very much like last week's. Council will continue discussing the Seton/Brackenridge deal (see p.20), the city housing department's lease of office space on East 11th, and city funding of the Regional Vision Project planning effort. Council did finally approve the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, including the Hyde Park Baptist Church in the neighborhood conservation combining district -- much to the church's dismay, of course. Among new business items, the most interesting may be a zoning case for a proposed SMART Housing apartment complex at MLK and Tannehill Road, just west of U.S. 183. The last time multifamily housing was proposed for this area -- a project connected with the nearby Praise Tabernacle Church -- neighbors turned out en masse and stared the Council down.
At press time, "Naked City" learned that a federal jury ruled in favor of construction company Fluor Daniel in its court battle against Travis County over delays and cost overruns in the construction of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, and ordered Travis County to pay Fluor Daniel $2.8 million for work completed.
To serve publicly intoxicated Austinites more humanely and cheaply, the Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center is exploring the possibility of creating a sobriety center similar to existing facilities in Phoenix, Denver, and Dallas. Travis County has ponied up $20,000 for the agency to develop a study, which will be released in May. According to an MHMR statement, clients would enter the sobriety center via the criminal justice or healthcare systems (or by self-referral) and, upon entry, receive medical screening and social services.
Bowing to growth and planning concerns of area residents, the Dripping Springs City Council is retaining outside legal help for second opinions on three development agreements, and on issues relating to water/wastewater matters. At a special City Council meeting on Monday, the city set aside funds to hire Austin lawyer David Brooks to review three development agreements with Cypress Realty's Rutherford Ranch project, the Foster Ranch, and the Barsana Dahm temple. They also retained counsel to examine the city's efforts to establish a water and wastewater facility to service local residents. In the past six months, area residents have called into question potential conflicts of interests involving City Attorney Rex Baker and his multiple other roles in the community.
It seems another APD officer is entering the Georgetown political fray. Former officer and Austin Police Association President Mike Lummus announced this week he will run for Georgetown mayor. If he wins, Lummus will succeed MaryEllen Kersch, who voters ousted from office in last Saturday's recall election. Current APA President Mike Sheffield is chairman of the Citizens for Georgetown political action committee, which strongly supported the recall.
From Feb. 8-12, Sixth Street will be barricaded nightly beginning at 6pm, between I-35 and Brazos, to make room for Mardi Gras revelers. APD spokesman Paul Flaningan said that anyone parked between Fifth and Seventh Streets when the barricades go up will be towed. "We want people to have a good time," he said, "so remember to move your car." APD will deploy 225 officers nightly to ensure that this year's festivities go off without a hitch.
Meanwhile, APD will issue tickets for disorderly conduct to female Mardi Gras partiers who flash their breasts. According to APD officials, bosom-baring contributed to violence during last year's revelry. Of course, it is perfectly lawful for a woman to remove her top within the city limits, so long as it doesn't incite other lawlessness. "Sure, you could go down to Sixth Street right now, at 2:30 in the afternoon, take your top off and people will probably look and go, 'hmm, that's odd,'" said Flaningan. "But most likely that's not going to end in violence. We want people to go down there and have a good time. We want them to enjoy themselves. This is just a time-and-place issue."
More on bare breasts: The U.S. Dept. of Justice caused a major stir last week by spending 8,000 taxpayer dollars on new blue curtains to cover up two semi-nude, art deco statues that stand in the Dept.'s Great Hall. The exact reason remains in dispute, but rumor has it that Attorney General John Ashcroft simply didn't like to have his photo taken in front of the statues. That's taking the phrase, "What a boob," to new heights.
To provide more "coordination and conformity," Gov. Rick Perry has asked the Dept. of Public Safety to oversee the state's 49 federally funded narcotics task forces, including the Travis County Sheriff's Office-led Capital Area Narcotics Task Force, as of Jan. 9. Perry spokesman Gene Acuña says the plan is to standardize task force operations and personnel requirements, and to coordinate their tactical operations through the DPS chain of command.
In the 1998 primaries, the Texas Republican Party asked members to support prayer at school football games. This season, the GOP asks its followers to weigh in on yet another "referendum" intended to please its hard-right members: the "Freedom of Faith" measure, which calls for legislation "that protects both individual and corporate public religious speech, on or off school property." In the wake of Sept. 11, says party chair (mullah?) Susan Weddington, it's vital that Texans have "an opportunity to voice their opinion on the attempts by liberal activists to restrict our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion."
Texas made out well in this year's sleazy pork-barrel rolling (known officially as "earmarking") of federal highway funds. Among the special federal handouts is $2.9 million for a private-plane airport in Sugar Land, home base of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Coincidentally, DeLay sat on the conference committee that passed out the money. Over 10% of the federal highway budget for fiscal 2002 was divvied up in this fashion, at a time when Texas is complaining of a shortage of federal funds for basic and long-needed road projects.
Drivers in Houston have begun noticing new, lower speed limits -- required as part of the Bayou City's clean-air improvement plan. Houston's suburban counties, among others, are challenging the new limits in court by denying any culpability in turning Houston into America's smog capital -- even though thousands of suburbanites and their vehicles pour into the city every day. Austin planners are contemplating lower limits as part of their struggle to avoid non-attainment of Clean Air Act standards.
Keep the Land, an organization that believes the city should maintain ownership of the 711-acre Mueller Airport site, will hold "The Finances of Leasing (Relieving Taxes!) and More Affordable Home Ownership," a public forum, on Saturday, Feb. 9, 1-4pm at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover. Speakers include developer Chip Buttner, Maria Brewster from Fannie Mae, and others. For more info, check out www.keeptheland.org or call 419-7000.
If keeping the land doesn't quell your progressive political thirst, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and City Council Member Daryl Slusher will host a second concert at Antone's to collect signatures for their term limit-busting bid. Performers include the Austin Lounge Lizards, Jimmy LaFave, Ginger MacKenzie, Tish Hinojosa, Steven Bruton, and Ray Benson. Sunday, Feb. 10, 6pm to midnight, 213 W. Fifth.
Eastsiders who attended the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Dept.'s Feb. 2 East MLK Planning Workshop couldn't stop raving about the delicious chocolate and orange cakes brought by NPZD's Dana Douglass Surann. Budget cutbacks mean that concessions have become rarer at city-sponsored events, Surann said, which prompted her to don her baking mitts. "It's not like they asked me to do it. I just offered. Got up this morning, did my Betty Crocker thing."
Perhaps you've already mistaken News 8 Austin for an all-weather channel, given its every-10-minutes forecasts. Nevertheless, the cable-only local news station announced on Friday that it will launch "News 8's Non-Stop Weather" channel on Feb. 8. Non-Stop Weather will only be available to Time Warner Digital Cable subscribers, on channel 358. Time Warner Cable owns News 8 Austin.
UT Journalism Professor Bob Jensen has released "Citizens of the Empire: Thoughts on Patriotism, Dissent, and Hope," a pamphlet that includes the texts of three speeches he gave in the months after Sept. 11. Download a copy at www.nowarcollective.com/citizensoftheempire.pdf, or buy a fancy 4-inch-by-11-inch version by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
And you thought they didn't care: For folks who routinely forget to pay their electric bills on time, Austin Energy has developed a new electronic funds transfer payment program that automatically deducts fees from customers' bank accounts.
Today (Thursday) at 7pm, the American Friends Service Committee will host a screening of The People and the Land, a documentary that examines U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Filmmaker Riad Bahhur will be available for discussion after the screening. Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave. RSVP at 474-2399.
After a three-month hiatus, the oil is cooking and the catfish are frying once again at the Manchaca Fire Hall Kitchen. The Manchaca Fire Dept. was supposed to take over the restaurant space, but the arrangement didn't pan out.
Temple-Inland Inc., a big shot in paper products, building materials, and financials, has elected Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, the former treasurer and chief investment officer of the World Bank, to its board of directors. On a local note, Temple-Inland, through its Guaranty Financial Services subsidiary, owns Lumbermen's Investment Corp., known in these parts for its efforts to develop property it owns near the Seaholm Power Plant north of Town Lake -- better known as the former home of the Cedar Door.