Naked City

TexPIRG Takes Off

The GOP's sweep of all statewide offices, takeover of the Legislature and U.S. Senate, and the poor showing of the Democratic "Dream Team," Election Night 2002 left many progressives crying in their beer (or spirulina smoothies). But the folks at the newly created Texas Public Interest Research Group have eschewed crying towels and pessimism in favor of clipboards and optimism and say the new political landscape holds much promise -- even for progressive causes.

"The elections were depressing in a lot of ways, but on a statewide level a lot of progressive issues were debated," says TexPIRG advocate Luke Metzger. "Even people like [Gov.] Rick Perry, who's not very progressive, took some strong stands on some issues. I think there's an opportunity for reform." The TexPIRG team, including four staffers and a gaggle of canvassers, plans to take on issues such as corporate accountability, improving air quality, insurance affordability, and, as Metzger puts it, "making sure our kids' schools aren't built next to toxic waste dumps."

The group will be recruiting new members -- the primary source of its funding -- and lobbying both elephants and donkeys at the Lege. In the next few weeks, TexPIRG will release a report attacking pollution caused by backup generators that run on diesel fuel, which are often used by high-tech firms, hospitals, and other nonindustrial businesses. TexPIRG will push for an inventory system to track these generators and reduce their environmental impacts, he says.

On Friday, Dec. 6, TexPIRG will host a holiday party and open house at its office at 16041/2 San Antonio. This is the second go-round for TexPIRG, says Metzger, who has spent the past few years tackling federal issues at U.S. PIRG's regional office (also in Austin). During the Seventies, TexPIRG chapters formed at several Texas universities after students agreed to charge themselves a fee that helped fund the organization. But conservatives convinced the UT Regents to take away that decision from students. In the past year, new PIRGs have opened in North Carolina and Georgia, giving the national organization a presence in 30 states. "We're pushing for all 50," he says. For more information, visit TexPIRG's new Web site at

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