Naked City

Austin Stories

On March 20, in a powerful and peaceful display of civil disobedience, an estimated 1,500 people locked down at the intersection of 24th and the Drag in opposition to the U.S. government's war on Iraq. Many in the crowd were students from UT, ACC, and even Austin ISD schools, who had walked out of their classes to protest the full-scale opening assault of the war. The four-hour demonstration resulted in no arrests and was followed by a much larger demonstration at the Capitol and then on Congress, lasting into the evening. See "The Home Front," p.18. -- Lauri Apple

State health and toxicology experts declared Barton Springs Pool safe for swimmers a month ago, so why is the pool still padlocked? City officials are waiting on one final piece of documentation -- a "health consultation" letter -- expected any day now. The Texas Dept. of Health is writing the letter, which then goes to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for blessing. "It's no secret that we're going to concur with the letter," said TCEQ toxicologist Michael Honeycutt. "We haven't found anything that would make us think the pool should stay closed." Honeycutt is among a host of speakers who will address the issue at a community forum tonight, Thursday, March 27, at 6:30pm, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd. The city closed the pool in January following a Statesman report that toxins in the pool posed serious health threats to swimmers. -- Amy Smith

City Council last week again delayed a vote on a proposed pipeline ordinance, in deference to developers who want more flexibility in the rules. The item returns to the dais for a vote April 3. The new ordinance would then require a setback of either 200 feet (favored by developers) or 500 feet (supported by environmentalists) between a new structure and a hazardous liquid pipeline. City officials will hold a briefing on the matter April 2. At press time, staffers were meeting with stakeholders to try to reach a compromise. -- A.S.

Some neighborhood plans will require amendments more than others, which is why the City Council last week approved a new neighborhood plan amendment process. From now on, any zoning or text changes to a plan that are inconsistent with the Future Land Use Map will require an amendment. The new process creates a schedule for amendment applications but also includes a hardship exception for SMART Housing projects and other cases. -- L.A.

Attorney Richard Suttle, counsel for the Hyde Park Baptist Church, recently sent a letter to the Planning Commission asking them to suspend "all necessary rules" in order to reconsider its decision to grant a neighborhood appeal of the church's proposed five-story parking garage. According to PC rules, a request to reconsider an item must come from at least two commissioners, can't be submitted by outside parties, and has to be submitted to the PC no later than 14 days after the original decision. Since the PC considered the item months ago, Suttle's request doesn't abide by the rules on either count. "I have not received a request from any commissioners to reconsider the item and/or to suspend our rules," says PC Chair Lydia Ortiz, "so we will not take up the request for reconsideration unless a request comes from at least two commissioners." -- L.A.

It looks like the street is safe once again for the King of Sixth Street, aka Gerry Van King. He was arrested on Feb. 27, outside Jazz on East Sixth, and charged with playing music outside without a permit. Police said Van King had his bass and microphone plugged into a curbside amplifier; Van King says he was safely ensconced in his Jazz alcove and wasn't even playing at the time of the arrest. Either way, on March 17 two tickets pending against the King were dismissed, and the owners of Jazz have agreed to get an outdoor permit so that Van King can continue to do his thing on their property without hassle. According to a memo written to the council on March 6 by Council Member Daryl Slusher, the whole thing appears to have been a big misunderstanding -- the cops thought Van King was required to have a permit, while the city's Watershed Protection and Development Review Dept. repeatedly told him he didn't need one. -- Jordan Smith

KUT (90.5FM) has indefinitely postponed its on-air fund drive, scheduled to begin Friday, so as not to interfere with National Public Radio's war coverage. (Austin NPR correspondent John Burnett is among the reporters embedded within U.S. military units.) Station manager Stewart Vanderwilt said the station could postpone the drive until late April, if necessary, and still make KUT's fundraising goals. (In other KUT news, the station is apparently not joining the Dixie Chicks boycott -- "Travelin' Soldier" was heard on Eklektikos Tuesday morning.) -- Lee Nichols

Just when we thought his case might be fading away, Austin Police officer Jeff White's whistle-blower lawsuit against the department has been kicked up a notch with his hiring of a new, take-no-prisoners lawyer from Arlington. White hired former Dallas-area police officer Donald Feare earlier this year when, sources told us, it appeared that White's former attorney, Derek Howard, was aiming to settle the case before it hit a courtroom. White's lawsuit alleges that the 13-year veteran officer was the victim of a retaliatory transfer after he spoke out about allegations of departmental corruption in connection with the ill-fated mid-Nineties joint task force investigation, code-named Mala Sangre. City officials and APD Chief Stan Knee have long claimed there is no truth to any of the malodorous allegations, which Feare finds incomprehensible. "How long does the city of Austin have to be told about these problems before they'll do anything about them?" he asks. "White is looking for a resolution to this problem, not just a check to go away." -- J.S.

The Old West Austin Historic District National Register nomination project is in full swing. Organizers and proponents await final comments from the Texas Historical Commission regarding their draft plan for the district, which includes over 40 houses. Organizers hope their plan will appear on the next THC board of review meeting docket, scheduled in May; last week the group submitted a final draft of their application to the THC and to Travis Co. officials. Becoming a National Register District would mean that the city Landmark Commission would review all applications for demolition or remodeling permits for contributing properties -- potentially discouraging inappropriate remodeling and demolition in the area. -- L.A.

You'll have to get your Big 12 and Spurs basketball fixes someplace else -- the low-power KVC-TV (Channel 13), owned by Fox 7, will go off the air Saturday after losing its frequency rights to Univision Communications Inc. The Spanish-language network will take over the frequency with its KAKW station. -- L.N.

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