Naked City

Austin Stories

Neighbors in the East Cesar Chavez planning area have succeeded in putting the brakes on Capital Metro's plans to solicit proposals to develop the transit authority's Eastside rail-yard property. The request for proposals, officially in the works since August, was supposed to go out by the end of the month. But after hearing ECC activist Lori C-Renteria voice fears about the project, the Capitol Metro board, led by members Daryl Slusher and Fred Harless, scheduled a Jan. 8 meeting to discuss the RFP and other options. Renteria and other neighbors have complained that Cap Metro's community outreach has excluded their input and that the project may run counter to their adopted neighborhood plan. -- M.C.M.

Gov. Rick Perry turned rumor into fact with his appointment Friday of Austin lawyer Patrick Keel to the 345th District Court. The brother of state Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, and a partner in the Baker Botts firm, Keel is generally well-liked on both sides of the political fence. He succeeds Scott McCown, who left the bench in September to head the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Though the governor's office had reportedly been leaning toward Keel for weeks, he was not among the 12 who formally applied for the seat. -- Amy Smith

The Central East Austin Community Organization has announced it's closing its doors, citing fiscal constraints. The Eastside nonprofit provides direct aid, including food and rent, to needy residents and supports training and education programs. Rather than enter into contracts in 2003 that the strapped organization could not fulfill, the CEACO board decided to shut down so that public dollars would be available to other nonprofits serving the same communities. -- M.C.M.

The city and the Austin Firefighters Association have jointly decided to postpone discussions of the union's meet-and-confer contract until next summer, in part due to economic conditions that make the issue of pay raises particularly hairy this time around. The meet-and-confer process, approved in 1995 by the state Legislature, helps cities supersede state civil service law and is used for both the Austin fire and police contracts. According to one source, some City Hall insiders feared that due to the upcoming City Council elections, council members would "force the staff to roll over and accept a three-year pay package way beyond what is reasonable, necessary, and that the city can afford." No need to worry about that now. -- Lauri Apple

The 13 Austin police officers who in 1999 won an age discrimination suit against the city will have to win a new trial to collect damages originally awarded them, the 3rd Court of Appeals ruled last week. The officers sued the department over a 1993 policy, instituted by then-Chief Elizabeth Watson, which transferred veterans from specialized units back to street patrol. While the officers kept the same salaries, they successfully argued that the policy was discriminatory, but the appellate court held that the officers failed to prove that they'd actually been harmed by the policy. -- Jordan Smith

Also at APD, last week the department's public info guru Paul Flaningan announced he will be leaving for San Antonio to head up Boeing's community relations office. Flaningan came to Austin last year from Victoria where he worked as a public info officer for the city. Flaningan's last day is Dec. 27. -- J.S.

The Business Section: Safeway Stores is rumored to be readying the sale of its Austin Randall's groceries to Florida's Publix -- which would be the fifth time the local chain has changed hands in the last 15 years. Cliff and Lisa Sharples, the founders of garden.com, have formed a new software company called IronGrid. And Austin's median household income went up a few cents when local resident Jeff Kent signed an $18 million deal with the Houston Astros. -- M.C.M.

Perhaps you were wondering how Time Warner Cable planned to fill up the 500-odd channels it now offers on its digital service. On Monday, the cable company will launch News 8 TrafficNow, a 24-hour traffic-report channel featuring feeds from two dozen (with more to follow) TxDOT cameras poised on your favorite freeway segments. Since the people who really need traffic information are in their cars and, uh, out of reach of cable, Naked City wonders who will be tuning in. Coming soon: the Watching Paint Dry Channel. -- M.C.M.

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