Beyond City Limits
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization held hearings this week on whether to expand its boundaries to include the entire five-county Austin metro area. CAMPO has to extend its boundaries somewhat; federal law requires MPOs, the local-level groups that oversee transportation planning, to cover the "urbanized area" (a term of art from the Census Bureau) around the core city, along with those areas expected to become "urbanized" in the next 20 years. Right now, CAMPO's boundaries include all of Travis Co., about one-quarter of Williamson, and a small part of Hays. Communities like Bastrop and Lockhart, which lie outside the mandated future CAMPO boundary, are weighing the pros and cons of folding their local road plans into CAMPO's master plan -- which would make them eligible for more state and federal funding, but also make them more vulnerable to political pressure, especially from Austin road foes. CAMPO's board expects to make its final decision in November. -- M.C.M.
Dripping Springs residents will be able to order some hooch with their hushpuppies, thanks to the big victory at the polls Saturday for some Hays Co. folks. Voters in Buda and Dripping Springs, and in tiny Meadowlakes in Burnet Co., overwhelmingly approved separate local referendums allowing restaurants to sell alcohol. While business boosters celebrated the prospect of more tax revenues, other residents began crying in their beer. It's just a matter of time, they lamented, before chain restaurants begin their invasion of the Hill Country. Chances are the march has already started. -- Amy Smith
Cedar Park Mayor Bob Young has called for a citizen task force to look at the city's process for acquiring property. This came on the heels of the City Council's voting to spend $1.3 million on 48 acres for a future park -- a price opponents felt was too high, for a site next to the proposed U.S. 183-A toll road, that was owned by a friend and supporter of Young and other council members. The chair of the city's parks board had quit in protest over the move. -- M.C.M.
Round Rock City Manager Bob Bennett has announced his retirement in January after 26 years at the helm, during which the Rock's population has grown about 1,365%. "He has made Round Rock Round Rock," his deputy says. Bennett, who was only 31 when he started as Round Rock's planning director in 1976 (he became city manager three years later), says he's ready to go sailing. Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell expects the council to begin discussing how to replace Bennett later this month. -- M.C.M.
Since the January demise of Texas' much-beloved open-container law, the Dept. of Public Safety has issued a record 9,079 tickets to scofflaws. Before the 2001 passage of HB 5, DPS troopers could only issue open container tickets if they actually saw a vehicle's driver drinking while operating a motor vehicle. (For those of you new to town, until this year it was perfectly legal for passengers to imbibe while riding.) Under those rules, from Sept. 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001 troopers logged a mere 980 tickets. -- Jordan Smith
San Antonio city leaders are giddy over the prospect of a new Toyota plant in the Alamo City. Toyota is reportedly considering sites near Schertz (which would also put it within commuting distance of Austin) and near Lackland Air Force Base. Toyota, which already owns plants in Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, and Canada and Mexico, is looking at sites across the South, but Detroit experts feel that San Antonio -- with its proximity to Toyota's growing Mexican market -- may have the edge. -- M.C.M.
On Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, it was announced that Attorney General John Ashcroft nominated Independent Women's Forum President Nancy M. Pfotenhauer and another IWF member to the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. A conservative organization, the IWF opposes the Violence Against Women Act. -- L.A.
West Nile news: The usually rational Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has speculated that the West Nile outbreak, which has claimed 54 lives so far, is the work of terrorists and called on federal officials to investigate. He made the claims on talk radio (naturally), but later admitted he has no evidence of such. The suspicion is not new, however -- when West Nile appeared in the U.S. in 1999, an Iraqi defector announced that Saddam Hussein had been playing around with the virus. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control note that West Nile looks like any other outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease. -- M.C.M.