Beyond City Limits
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Jan. 3, 2003
Responding to concerns raised by citizens along the Highland Lakes -- including state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay -- the Lower Colorado River Authority has postponed a decision to permit a new Capitol Aggregates rock crusher and quarry on U.S. 281 south of Burnet. The facility would require a water-quality permit from LCRA and an air-quality go-ahead from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Fraser has also asked the TCEQ to conduct a public hearing on the project. The 570-acre C.A. site straddles two creeks that run into Lake Travis and is near two existing quarry/crusher plants on U.S. 281; the project is opposed by Burnet Co., the cities of Burnet and Marble Falls, and 1,200 county residents who petitioned Fraser to intervene. While the economy in the Highland Lakes region has lagged, local business leaders are also unhappy about the C.A. project, and Fraser says citizens are right to be wary. "Is this the kind of new business that Burnet County wants to attract?" the senator asked in a letter to constituents. "And, by extension, is the number of new jobs created by the facility enough to justify any environmental impact to air and water quality?" The LCRA does not expect to reconsider C.A.'s permit until the spring. -- M.C.M.
The bells are ringing, and the holiday dominoes are falling for state House Speaker-in-waiting Tom Craddick, R-Midland. Just before Christmas, four more Bexar Co. Democrats -- Mike Villarreal, Ruth Jones McClendon, Trey Martinez Fischer, and Joaquin Castro -- told the San Antonio Express-News they too will vote to install Craddick as speaker in place of incumbent Pete Laney, D-Hale Center. Three other San Antonio-area Dems (Robert Puente, Carlos Uresti, José Menendez) were among the initial 16 who joined the 88 Republican House members in pledging to Craddick immediately following the Nov. 5 election, and traditionally, once the position is decided, the entire House falls in line. Latecomers can't expect access to the leadership, and any mavericks who fail to join the herd by opening day can expect their bills be assigned to the Committee of No Return. -- Michael King
The Business section: Ohio-based DDR and its partners have sold their interest in La Frontera Village -- the retail component of the 328-acre La Frontera development -- to a St. Louis investor group for $78.1 million, more than the asking price. Things aren't so sweet at the Manske Roll Co.; the San Marcos-based baker filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection in Austin on Dec. 27. But the hippos of Hutto are sleepy no more; Endeavor Real Estate Group is planning a 350,000-square-foot grocery-anchored strip center for the corner of U.S. 79 and FM 685. Hutto currently has about 3,500 residents, but 9,000 new homes are planned for the area, according to Williamson Co. officials; currently, the nearest grocers are in Taylor and Round Rock. -- M.C.M.
The last remaining member of the upcoming Lege will be chosen Tuesday, when Democrat Donnie Jarvis and Republican Larry Phillips square off in a special-election run-off in Sherman's Dist. 62. Incumbent GOP Rep. Ron Clark left his name on the Nov. 5 ballot, despite having already accepted appointment as a federal judge, and defeated Jarvis. Phillips likewise finished ahead of Jarvis in the first round of the special election Dec. 14. -- M.C.M.
Gamble your troubles away! The Dallas Morning News reports that a whopping 318 lobbyists, including many A-list names, have indicated to the Texas Ethics Commission that they'll be representing various gambling interests in the next session. Bills already filed would allow Texas to join a multistate lottery like Powerball and would bring the state's Indian casinos back to life, but the fun doesn't stop there. The redoubtable Ron Wilson, D-Houston, is preparing a measure that would allow casino gambling in Houston and Dallas, telling the News "I'd like to turn the Astrodome into the world's biggest casino." And the state's horse and dog track owners are expected to push for legislation allowing them to become "racinos," offering video gambling alongside pari-mutuel wagering. (A specific "racino" plan, the News reports, is being facilitated behind the scenes by state lottery operator Gtech.) The story behind the story is, of course, the looming budget deficit, now pegged by serious people at about $10 billion. The last time Texas was in such bad fiscal shape, in 1991, was when the state finally overcame decades of opposition from the Baptists, among others, to create the Texas Lottery. Longtime anti-gambling activist Weston Ware of the Baptist General Convention of Texas says grassroots efforts will turn the gambling tide. -- M.C.M.
Weed Watch: The Tampa, Fla., City Council is currently considering passage of an ordinance that would outlaw "drug dealer behavior." Under the proposed ordinance, flagging people down on the street, exchanging packages on the street, or getting in and out of more than one car on the same street would all become behaviors that could get you arrested, according to the Drug Reform Coordination Network. In a recent story on the proposed law, the Tampa Tribune wryly noted that the ordinance would be in sharp contrast to current law, which proscribes that police "must actually see the drug deal happen." Not surprisingly, the ordinance has the backing of the city's police. The Tampa council is expected to vote on the measure Jan. 16. -- J.S.