Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Jan. 17, 2003
With no warning and little fanfare, on Monday the Austin ISD board of trustees voted 8-1 to extend Superintendent Pat Forgione's contract until June 30, 2007. Forgione has held the office since August 1999; announcing the extension, board President Doyle Valdez cited the district's "strong fund balance and solid bond rating," adding, "Stability is imperative for the success of any school district, and especially now for AISD." The board also cited Forgione's progress in improving the overall state ranking of the school district and of many of the schools within it, the successful 2000 health and safety bond campaign, and several new programs to help at-risk students in underachieving schools. Forgione's $236,900 salary remains unchanged, although the board will purchase about $38,000 in retirement credits that Forgione can receive if he stays until July 2004. -- Michael King
Need a fried-food fix? Head to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Last week saw the announcement of Great Plains Airlines' planned nonstop commuter-jet service from Austin to Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs, and Albuquerque, beginning in March. Great Plains -- a start-up partly backed by Oklahoma state economic development funds -- will proudly serve Krispy Kreme doughnuts on all flights. Meanwhile, Popeye's Fried Chicken may be headed for Bergstrom; Harlon's Bar-B-Q, which operates three restaurants at the airport, wants to convert one into a Popeye's franchise. The City Council, voicing qualms about losing Bergstrom's focus on local flavor and local business, has asked for further study of the proposal. -- M.C.M.
The City Council last week approved zoning for the controversial Plaza Amistad banquet facility proposed for East Seventh at Shady Lane. Parents from nearby Allan Elementary are adamantly opposed to plans to sell alcohol at the location. But while the council agreed to not grant the CS-1 zoning (required for bars or liquor stores) requested by owner Rosa Santis, the CS-CO they did approve would allow Santis to get a mixed-beverage permit -- and would allow Plaza Amistad patrons to bring their own, illegal under CS-1. The vote was 5-2, with Daryl Slusher and Danny Thomas (both of whom supported CS-1) voting no. -- M.C.M.
Lawyers for the city, the Austin Police Dept., and several individual officers are facing Texas Civil Rights Project lawyers in court this week over a protest gone bad outside the Governor's Mansion in April 2001. The suit is being brought on behalf of 13 individual protestors and the Austin Democracy Coalition -- a group formed in 2001 to "commonly protest ... the Bush-Cheney agenda after their unelection" -- who say they were forcefully kept from protesting, and then charged without warning by APD mounted patrols, outside the Mansion. (The by-then-President Bush had returned to Austin for the opening of the Bullock Museum.) According to a TCRP press release, the "thrust" of the suit is to get the police to implement new policies designed to protect protestors' constitutional rights to free speech and to limit the use of mounted police to "direct, rather than breaking up political protests." -- Jordan Smith
Please, save Naked City the heartache of having to write "hospital within a hospital" one more time. The city is taking suggestions for a proper name for the new women's-services facility to be created on the fifth floor of Brackenridge Hospital. The new facility, created to remove reproductive services from the purview of the Catholic-run Seton Healthcare Network, was dubbed the "pagan floor" by Statesman cartoonist Ben Sargent, but perhaps you can come up with a better name. Visit www.ci.austin.tx.us/news/2003/hospital_naming.htm for guidelines; deadline is Jan. 31. -- M.C.M.
The deportation saga of the Jamal family continues this week. Originally the Immigration and Naturalization Service had given Iranian exiles Mo and Shahla Jamal -- local artists and programmers on KOOP-FM -- and their family a Jan. 13 deadline to leave the country. That deadline has come and gone, and now, says Kristi Willis, the district director for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the family's case has gone into a "holding pattern." Doggett's office had been trying to get the Jamal family permission to re-enter Germany, which they left eight years ago to come to the U.S., but the German government said no. But since the immigration judge ruled the Jamals could not be deported back to Iran, "The ball is back in the INS's court," said Willis. Shahla Jamal also said her family has filed an appeal with the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (in Minneapolis, where the Jamals first filed their asylum request), seeking a reversal of the INS decision. -- J.S.
The Business Section: The odd and troubled Broadwing marriage appears headed for divorce. The company, formed by the 1998 merger between Austin-based broadband provider IXC and Ohio's Cincinnati Bell, is awash in red ink and looking to unload the IXC fiber-optic assets; Broadwing last year laid off several hundred Austin employees. Meanwhile, the more successful Austin business Lone Star Overnight has been snapped up by Dallas investors. And Austin-based microlabel Revenant Records, run by Dell Computer attorney Dean Blackwood out of his bedroom, copped three Grammy nominations. But the best economic news of the week, for many Austinites, was the return of the free-spending stars of the Legislative circus. Though the state has no money, the Lege itself is expected to pump $12 million into local coffers, says the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau -- and even more if they drag into a special session. -- M.C.M.