Naked City

With a passel of former council members looking on, Assistant City Manager Betty Dunkerley announced last week that she's running for City Council in May, most likely against incumbent Beverly Griffith (see "Austin@Large," p.14).

Dunkerley's boss, Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell, has filled her ACM post temporarily with Deputy Police Chief Mike McDonald -- possibly part of a plan to groom McDonald for current APD chief Stan Knee's job. "I think Mike McDonald is going to be a police chief, either here or somewhere else," Futrell said.

A city audit report on the city's SMART affordable housing initiative reveals the program is plagued by accounting, structural, and other problems. The auditor developed a set of recommendations to right the wrongs, some which seem pretty obvious to the "Naked City" eye -- for example, an entreaty to program staff to develop written internal policies and procedures.

Austin Independent School District Supt. Pat Forgione recommended Feb. 25 that the district's board of trustees reject a proposal by private school management company Edison Schools Inc., which sought a contract with the district to manage up to 15 East Austin schools. Meanwhile, Forgione urged the board to approve a contract with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which seeks a cooperative contract with AISD to operate an Eastside chartered middle school for at-risk students.

On Tuesday, March 5, Catellus Inc. and the Mueller Redevelopment Team, finalists to be Master Developer of the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport site, will present their respective proposals to the RMMA Plan Implementation Advisory Commission. The presentation is open to the public, but only Commission members may ask questions. 6:30pm, Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd. For more info, call 974-3511.

Also in city planning news, the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Dept. will hold a community workshop for the Govalle/Johnston Terrace area Saturday, March 2, 9am-noon, at Allan Elementary, 4900 Gonzales. For more info, call 974-2598.

Mayor Gus Garcia's Committee on K-12 Educational Excellence held its first public hearing Monday at East Austin's Cristo Rey Catholic Church. The committee, charged with providing recommendations to Austin ISD for raising academic standards and bridging the performance gap for students of color, will meet again March 4; check out the city Web site at www.ci.austin.tx.us for location (undetermined as of press time).

Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Jesus Olivares, several City Council members, and a representative from animal control are scheduled to attend the next meeting of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association, Tuesday, March 5, at 7pm. Expect a hot reception for Olivares, whose PARD Police have cracked down on Old West Austin dog owners who use part of West Austin Park as an off-leash area. The Old West Austin neighborhood plan, approved by the City Council almost two years ago, called for a six-month trial period for off-leash usage at the park. Mathews Elementary School Cafeteria, 906 West Lynn.

The watchdog group Texans for Public Justice has sued State Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs, as part of its effort to force lawmakers to disclose "legislative continuances." Legislators who are attorneys -- 62 of the 181, at TPJ's last count -- can, under state law, get automatic delays in court proceedings during legislative sessions. Lawmakers argue that because such requests aren't technically state business, they aren't covered by the Texas Public Information Act. Only Green claimed to have been advised as such by the Attorney General's office.

In mover and shaker news, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Elizabeth Gonzales will spend another year at her post. An insurance agent with New York Life and rep for NYSecurities, Gonzales is the only woman ever elected to serve two terms with the Chamber. Al Kauffman, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, is leaving MALDEF to pursue other opportunities. He filed Edgewood ISD v. Kirby, the landmark case that forced the Legislature to create the "Robin Hood plan" to equalize funding for rich and poor school districts. Finally, former Austin City Attorney Andy Martin is on the short list to become San Antonio's top legal eagle.

The Village of Wimberley, incorporated only in 2000, will likely vote in May whether to de-incorporate. Longtime residents of the Hill Country burg are chafing over the zoning codes and development regulations that come with cityhood, while the other side says incorporation is the only way Wimberley can hold bad builders at bay.

Houston's KPRC-TV recently broadcast a "shocking exposé" of security conditions at the South Texas Project, the long-troubled nuclear plant of which the city of Austin is part-owner. The STP hasn't had a mandated terrorism drill since 1993, KPRC claims, and an audit by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed problems more grave than plant officials seemed to believe.

First it was Austin, then Pflugerville, and now San Antonio has cut a deal with the Lower Colorado River Authority to partake of the river's water. The historic agreement, LCRA's first major transfer outside the Colorado basin, requires the San Antonio Water System to fund a study, and then spend perhaps more than $200 million to build new reservoirs on the river that would hold more than double the amount of water the Alamo City is buying. Environmentalists worry that San Antonio's thirst could destroy ecosystems in Matagorda Bay that rely on fresh river water, a topic the study will address.

A seven-member delegation from Texas traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and urge them to oppose Bush's nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Pickering has an abysmal record on civil and women's reproductive rights, and even the concept of "one person, one-vote." It gets worse: The Fifth Circuit seat is a lifetime appointment.

Former Mayor Kirk Watson, the Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general, has called for the AG's office to create a center for Texas consumers who seek investment advice. Consider this another round in Watson's Enron-inspired criticism of both current AG John Cornyn, now running for U.S. Senate, and his own challenger for the job, GOP Supreme Court Justice Greg Abbott. Abbott has, under pressure, turned contributions received from Enron over to a fund for laid-off En-ployees.

The Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus will host a meet-the-candidates reception 3-5pm Sunday, March 3, in the historic Kopperl House, 4212 Ave. F. They'll use proceeds from the fundraiser to support their endorsed candidates in the March 12 primary, and in the upcoming City Council and school board elections. Call 474-0750 for more info.

On Friday, March 1, at 6:30pm, the Austin Anarchist Black Cross, the Austin Committee to Free the Angola 3 and MonkeyWrench Books will present "The Current State of Political Prisoners in America," featuring former political prisoners Robert King Wilkerson, Chris Plummer, and Standing Deer. A discussion and benefit for the new, all-volunteer, radical bookstore MonkeyWrench Books will follow. Center for Mexican American Cultural Arts, 600 River. For more info, contact cale@austinjavelina.org.

The Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas threw a family-size farewell bash last Saturday night for Dianne Hardy-Garcia, the organization's executive director and lobbyist for the last decade. Friends and coworkers who filled South Austin's Lazy Oak Inn included two of Hardy-Garcia predecessors -- lobbyist Bettie Naylor and outgoing State Rep. Glen Maxey, who was treated to a birthday cake in honor of his 50th. Lulu Flores, a Democratic candidate for Maxey's District 51 seat, also put in an appearance. (Maxey is supporting his former aide, Eddie Rodriguez, for the post, while Hardy-Garcia is backing Flores.) Hardy-Garcia says she will take the next six months to decide what she wants to do next. For now, she intends to work in her garden and take pottery lessons.

Song Titles of the Week: "(I Think) My Baby Is a Communist," by Seattle punk rockers the Briefs, and "Your Love Is a Gentle Whip," by the Mooney Suzuki.

The Associated Press reported that Florida-based Applied Digital Solutions will seek FDA permission to market "VeriChip-- -- a rice-sized chip that could be implanted underneath a person's skin and used to track them. "Naked City" wants to know which is crazier: The people who currently roam the earth, claiming that the CIA or some other intelligence agency has embedded computer chips in their heads, or the heads of Applied Digital Solutions, who want to turn their delusions into reality?

Jane's Due Process, an organization that helps teenage girls who want to bypass Texas' new parental-notification abortion law, has issued a report claiming that girls are frequently given inaccurate information about their right to go before a judge. Of the 79 cases handled by Jane's Due Process since the law was enacted in 1999, all but three of the petitioners got waivers.

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More by Lauri Apple
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