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Austin Stories

Sophia King Update: In a Nov. 26 decision, District Judge Paul Davis ruled in favor of the Austin Police Assoc., blocking an independent investigation into the June shooting death of Sophia King until a contract dispute between the city and the APA, over how such an investigation is to be handled, can be worked out in binding arbitration. Davis set a Feb. 17 court date for a final disposition of the APA suit. For more on the legal wrangling see "More Disputes in King Case," Nov. 15 and "King Probe Halted," Nov. 22. -- Jordan Smith

The grand old consigliere of Texas politics, George Christian, died Nov. 27 after a yearlong battle with cancer. Early this year Christian had heroically rejected further chemotherapy, saying he wanted to enjoy his final months rather than take extreme measures to prolong his life. Best known for his years as press spokesman for President Lyndon Baines Johnson during the worst years of the Vietnam War, he was among the counselors who advised Johnson not to run for re-election in 1968. In his last decade, Christian had become the Reigning Gray Eminence of the Capitol press corps, supplying conventional wisdom on any subject to any reporter who needed a quote. In the new Republican Order, it will become much more difficult to find a "nonpartisan" source of ready-made sententiae -- should you run into a forlorn hack wandering aimlessly about the lobby with a tape recorder, shed another tear for Mr. Christian. -- Michael King

Pepsi might be the choice of a new generation, but organizing for better pay protection was the choice for 60 workers at the local Pepsi Bottling Group, who recently voted to join San Antonio-based Teamsters Local 657. Union organizers say Pepsi had switched to a new pay system that resulted in deep pay cuts for workers. The Teamsters will now help the workers negotiate their contract with management. Spokesfolks for Pepsi couldn't be reached for comment. -- Laurie Apple

The Travis Co. Commissioners Court recently interviewed eight applicants for seats on the board of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the newly created agency that will oversee construction of Central Texas toll roads and (it's said) reap cash back. Among the RMA hopefuls is former Travis Co. Commissioner Margaret Moore, ousted by Gerald Daugherty in last month's election. The commissioners are expected to choose three RMA members at their Dec. 10 meeting. Another three will come from Williamson Co., though it's one-third of Travis' size; the final member (who will chair the board) will be appointed by Gov. Perry. -- L.A.

Controversial landowner Harriet "Hatsy" Heep Shaffer has followed her nemesis Gary Bradley into bankruptcy. Shaffer has filed for Chapter 11 protection and she's blaming high-profile developer Bradley for her financial woes, just as Bradley blames others for his Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The two have sued and countersued over a land deal that went awry; Bradley says he won the legal battle and has a $1 million court judgment against Shaffer to prove it. Shaffer says the case is far from over and is demanding a new trial. Shaffer's debt is small change compared to the $77.5 million in failed loans and back taxes that Bradley owes the federal government. The trustee in his bankruptcy case has until mid-December to produce evidence showing why the developer should not have that debt dismissed. -- Amy Smith

The Texas Dept. of Transportation is studying where it might put a second Austin airport for general aviation. While Bergstrom is much larger than the old Robert Mueller airport, its GA facilities and requirements have long been criticized by the private-plane set, which tried in 1997 via the Legislature to keep Mueller open for GA use. That option is no longer available: The 2001 legislation that led to the current TxDOT study specifically prohibits reopening Mueller, but requires TxDOT and the State Aircraft Pooling Board to "establish a state airport in Central Texas that is open to the general public." The state and the GA lobby claim Austin is the only major Texas city without a second airport for small craft, although Georgetown, San Marcos, and Lockhart all have airfields. Federal funds are available for the project, which could cost from $20-40 million. -- M.C.M.

Glenn West, the former president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, has been hired by the chamber in Albany, N.Y., as a consultant and liaison with Austin techies. The Empire State capital recently landed the new Sematech North outpost of the Austin-based tech consortium and is itching to repeat the success story of the Silicon Hills. -- M.C.M.

Some people should not talk to reporters: The Associated Press reports on Austin businessman Clint Hough, showcased by prison officials in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas as the first foreign customer of their spanking new inmate-labor factory. The Mexican officials think their prospects for future deals are rosy, even though U.S. law bans the importation "under any circumstances" of prison-made products -- the inmates will even falsely label their merchandise to make it easy on Yankees like Hough. Inmates told the AP that Hough ordered furnishings for a Corpus Christi restaurant, among other items. Hough, interviewed at the prison in Ciudad Victoria, at first wouldn't admit to bringing the furniture across the border, then later denied placing any orders at all. "U.S. Customs can be really narrow-minded in its views," the AP quotes Hough. "So it's really important that this not be reported." -- M.C.M.

Lift up a glass in celebration: Celis Beer has been revived. The Austin-made brews of Pierre Celis vanished not long after he sold out to Miller Brewing Co., which shut down the brewery in 2000. Since then, the Celis line has been bought by Michigan Brewing Co., which plans to make Celis White and Celis Pale Bock available this weekend -- Grand Cru and Celis Raspberry should return in January. -- Lee Nichols

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