Naked City

Beyond City Limits

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller earned the ire of the state's largest defense attorney group Nov. 20 after the Statesman reported she had awarded nearly $200,000 in state grant funds to a small local nonprofit, Dave's Bar Association, started by attorney David Schulman. The money is earmarked for training for lawyers who represent indigent clients; the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Assoc. says that it should get the lion's share of available dough. But the TCDLA may be the least of Keller's worries; she apparently failed to consult any of the other eight judges on the CCA before awarding Schulman the grants. -- J.S.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges: The London Mirror reported Nov. 20 that Bush administration defense advisor Richard Perle told British lawmakers the U.S. intended to attack Iraq whether or not U.N. inspectors find evidence of weapons of mass destruction. "I cannot see how [U.N. weapons inspector] Hans Blix can state more than he can know," Perle told the members of Parliament. "All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction." In response, former British defense minister and Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle commented, "America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This makes a mockery of the whole process and exposes America's real determination to bomb Iraq." -- M.K.

The Bush White House isn't the only employer of last resort for defeated and aging Republicans (Cheney, Ashcroft, Abraham, Rumsfeld, et al.). In recent weeks, two elephants long reviled by liberals have courted the American Civil Liberties Union. Outspoken Texas Rep. Dick Armey, outgoing House Majority Leader, is considering a consulting gig for the nonpartisan organization, and Georgia Rep. Bob Barr (who lost in the primary) has already signed up to work on informational and data privacy issues such as the "sneak and peek" warrant, used more frequently since passage of the USA PATRIOT Act last year. With both Congress and the White House under GOP control, the ACLU must be realistic as it seeks to influence policy in D.C., said Laura Murphy, director of its Washington legislative office. "If we're going to affect federal policy, we have to have access." Local nonprofits with similar interests have slimmer pickings, but one GOP loser stands out: ousted state Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs. We hear he's good at sales. -- L.A.

Yet more proof that there really is a difference between Democrats and Republicans: The League of Conservation Voters has noted that in its annual scorecards, the average score for the outgoing Democratic chairs of environment-related U.S. Senate committees was 70%. The average for the expected incoming GOP chairs is 10%. -- Lee Nichols

Former Austin Assistant City Manager Marcia Conner did not get fired last week from her current job as city manager in Durham, N.C., but she was slapped with various punishments (including a pay cut) and restrictions by a displeased Durham City Council. Conner drew fire after news broke that she had awarded city contracts -- including several to Austin colleagues -- without soliciting bids or executing the proper documents. Conner's stormy 18-month tenure in Durham shows no signs of respite. Also last week, the Bull City failed in its second attempt under Conner to hire a new police chief. And Carolina observers are asking questions about Scott Lyles, who rose from obscurity to run Austin's day-labor program under Conner and who now holds a key position in Durham's housing department. -- M.C.M.

As was long expected, the Bush administration last week relaxed the "New Source Review" requirements of the Clean Air Act, which had compelled power plants and factories that upgrade their facilities to meet tougher air-quality standards. EPA administrator Christine Whitman insisted the loosened regulation will "increase energy efficiency and decrease air pollution"; environmentalists slammed the move as a payoff to Bush's big-biz buddies. -- L.N.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has given the green light to two new natural gas wells in Padre Island National Seashore, the nation's longest stretch of undeveloped beach. A spokesman for Interior Secretary Gale Norton pointed out that 60 wells have been drilled in Padre over the last 50 years and told The New York Times, "There is nothing new here, and what is new is better." However, as the Times points out, over the last 20 years drilling has been lessened, and attempts to save the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle have increased. Park officials requested that heavy trucks not be allowed to drive in the park during the turtles' nesting season, but the Bush decision has no such prohibition. -- L.N.

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