Naked City

Despite Austin Community College's financial troubles, the school's Business Services department presented a balanced budget at the Board of Trustees' April 1 meeting. The new budget reflects cuts announced earlier in the year -- including class cancellations and a tuition increase -- and incorporates college-wide budget reductions of 15% for all administrative units, and 5% for academic and student affairs units. Board members continue to explore ways to get a better handle on the school's finances for the coming fiscal year.

Last week, officials from 12 local county and city governments signed the O3 (as in "ozone") Flex Agreement to voluntarily reduce air pollution -- the first pact of its kind in the U.S. Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties, and the cities of Austin, Bastrop, Elgin, Lockhart, Luling, Round Rock, and San Marcos, all agreed to take measures to reduce emissions. The EPA and TNRCC are also parties to the agreement.

The Lake Travis ISD Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, April 8, to discuss a proposal from the city of Austin and Travis County to place a microwave tower on LTISD property, near the high school and middle school. Concerned that the towers -- which would be part of the new police/fire/EMS radio system for Travis County -- could leak radiation into the schools, some parents, led by environmental activist Chris Wilson, have formed Parents Against the Radiation Tower (P.A.R.T.). Claiming that no one has studied the long-term effects of such towers, the group plans to speak against the placement at the LTISD meeting, which will begin at 7pm at the LTISD Central Administration Bldg., 3322 Ranch Road, 620 South. For more info on P.A.R.T., visit www.angelfire.com/darkside/part/ ; for LTISD info, call 533-6000.

The Colorado River that flows through Austin is just as much at risk as the Guadalupe. That's the opinion of Diane Wassenich, president of the San Marcos River Foundation, who advocates strict conservation measures to ensure the survival of Texas rivers. The water conservation group is currently a thorn in the side of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and its efforts to expand its service area to provide water to a growing regional population. The GBRA draws its water from the Guadalupe River system, just as the LCRA pulls water from the Colorado. Addressing the GBRA, Wassenich says the agency uses too much water, without concern for the river's future. Her argument is bolstered by the release this week of a list of the nation's top endangered waterways. In its annual report, American Rivers, a Washington-based conservation group, ranked the Guadalupe No. 10 on the list of threatened water systems. The Colorado does not appear on the list, but Wassenich says it, too, is at risk. Like the GBRA, the LCRA is moving toward expanding its service area. In a push to preserve the river, Wassenich's group has taken the unusual step of requesting 1.3 million acre-feet of water annually, a proposal pending before the TNRCC. If granted the request, the group would donate its rights to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.

The long, drawn-out controversy over the Lamar St. Bridge appears to be evolving into a long, drawn-out debate over the completion of the Pfluger Bridge and how it figures into the Seaholm Master Plan. The question centers on which design option of the bridge extension would satisfy both the city pocketbook and the Austin bike community, as well as other participants in the process. Eric Anderson of the Friends of Lance Armstrong Bikeway expressed hope that a community meeting Wednesday (as the Chronicle went to press) would at least move the process a step closer to resolution. Bike advocates fear their concerns for safety and other matters will get lost in the process. At the meeting, Greg Kiloh, a city urban designer, was scheduled to give a presentation of the Seaholm plan -- a colossal undertaking that will eventually transform Town Lake's north shore, at downtown's western end, into a pedestrian and bike-friendly destination spot. At least that's the idea. But getting there is only half the challenge. The plan is expected to land on the City Council dais some time in May.

Camp Mabry is open to the public once again, albeit on a limited basis. After Sept. 11, the Texas National Guard base was closed to civilians, depriving neighbors access to its much-prized jogging track, military museum, and credit union. As of this week, visitors with valid photo ID can receive a day pass after going through a screening station at the 35th and Pecos entrance. All vehicles entering Mabry are subject to a search.

As of April 17 (the next meeting of its Planning and Zoning Commission), the city of Georgetown will begin seeking community input on a new, unified development code that would encompass four separate existing codes -- zoning, subdivision, sign, and comprehensive -- into one package. Proponents hope the proposed code will "simplify and improve" the city's current rules. For information on dates and times of community meetings, or to see a draft of the proposal, see the city Web site at www.georgetown.org.

After losing a bid for Advance Micro Devices to build its next-generation chip plant in Austin, local business boosters turned to Plan B: persuading AMD to move its corporate headquarters here. To Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce leaders, the relocation would have made all the sense in the world, given the hometown roots of the company's new chief, ex-Motorola exec Hector Ruiz. Thanks, but no thanks, AMD officials recently told local reps, who had personally extended the invitation in a visit to the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. Visiting reps say they didn't leave Sunnyvale empty-handed, however, because the semiconductor giant is still committed to investing millions into its existing Fab 25 facility.

If you're still hazy about the folks running for the three City Council seats up for grabs, and what they would do if elected or re-elected May 4, attend the Northeast Austin candidate forum on Saturday, April 13, 10:30am-noon at 19th St. Baptist Church, 3401 Rogge. Forum organizers say they've already gotten responses from several candidates, so it should be a lively affair.

Two City Council incumbents and one first-time hopeful won endorsements of the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus this week. The group voted to support Jackie Goodman and Daryl Slusher in their re-election runs, and Brewster McCracken in his challenge to incumbent Beverly Griffith. On another matter, the group took no position on single-member districts.

Recent byline on the front page of The Daily Texan: Kirk Watson, who covered Gov. Rick Perry's visit to Fort Hood. We presume it is not the same Kirk Watson who recently resigned as Austin mayor to run for higher office, but if it is, we're glad to know he has a fallback career in case his campaign for state attorney general doesn't pan out. (Personal to both Kirks: Journalism doesn't pay too well. Ask Daryl Slusher.)

Celebrate activist Mary Arnold's 30 years of public service in Austin this Friday, April 5, at the Austin City Limits Studio (UT Communications Building, 26th and Guadalupe). Turk Pipkin will be Master of Ceremonies, and Ted Roddy & the Tearjoint Troubadors will perform. 7-11pm. Tickets cost $35 each. For more info, call the Save Our Springs Alliance at 477-2320. (See p.20 for more on Arnold.)

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is set to vote April 5 on possible changes to the federal guidelines that would close the sentencing gap for crack vs. powdered cocaine. Possession of just five grams of crack currently triggers a federal mandatory minimum of five years, while it takes 500 grams of powdered cocaine to trigger the same sentence -- a 100-to-one ratio. Civil rights groups have long bemoaned the disparity and its racial implications. African-Americans, they say, are more likely to possess crack than cocaine, and are thus more likely to receive the harsher prison sentences. Even staunch drug war proponents, like Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, have gotten behind the changes. Of course, the USSC has proposed such changes before, only to have Congress snub its recommendations. For more info, see www.ussc.gov.

Hoping to give progressives and non-creationists some representation on the mostly far-right State Board of Education, Green Party member and activist Lesley Ramsey is shooting for the SBOE District 10 seat. This Sunday, Ramsey kicks off her campaign with a party, 4-6pm, at Mother Egan's Pub, 715 West Sixth.

Up in Minnesota, Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura had some April Fools' fun when he announced to reporters at a press conference that he will seek a second term. He then called out, "April Fools'!" and left the room, adding on his way out that he hasn't really made a decision as to whether or not he will run for re-election. Unfortunately, although we waited all day, there was no such declaration by Gov. Rick Perry that his re-election bid is a similar prank.

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More by Lauri Apple
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