Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., April 25, 2003
Council Member Danny Thomas and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman expect to place on the May 8 agenda a proposal to install bike lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca. To reduce costs -- possibly by as much as $150,000 -- the proposal would direct city staff to install the lanes, between Cesar Chavez and MLK, when city crews conduct preventive maintenance. Earlier this year, city transportation Director Austan Librach estimated the lanes would cost $270,000, including over $100,000 a year in lost parking-meter revenue. Thomas and Goodman may also try to limit the number of parking spaces that would be eliminated by bike lanes. "Maybe we could forego fanciness for immediate implementation and just look for feasible, common-sense options," Goodman says. -- Lauri Apple
District Judge John Dietz may rule within the week on a number of issues pending in two civil lawsuits filed against the Texas Association of Business. Additional briefs were due from attorneys on Wednesday. Attorneys for the plaintiffs -- four Lege candidates targeted in the T.A.B.'s 2002 political ad campaign -- seek to obtain T.A.B. records pertaining to the ad blitz and to question key witnesses. They accuse the T.A.B. of using undisclosed corporate funding to pay for the ads, a violation of state law. Meanwhile, a criminal grand-jury inquiry is on hold pending T.A.B.'s appeal of a previous court ruling ordering it to release records to investigators. -- Amy Smith
Just in time for Earth Day, the Clean Air Force of Central Texas released this week a preliminary list of strategies to reduce ground-level ozone readings and, hopefully, keep Austin out of "nonattainment" of federal air-quality standards. Such strategies would be implemented under the region's Early Action Compact, an agreement between local, state, and federal agencies to make progress at cleaning up the air. The full list includes strategies to combat on-road, off-road, point-source, and area-source pollution (such as produced by cars, lawnmowers, power plants, and gas stations, respectively). Find it at www.cleanairforce.org. -- M.C.M.
Austin Community College trustees announced this week that the college's budget woes are worse than previously predicted -- tuition hikes are almost assured even if voters approve ACC's May 3 tax referendum. If they don't, the "doomsday scenario" kicks in -- a $17 million deficit leading to major tuition increases and reductions in class offerings. A group of A-list community leaders -- including the Chamber of Commerce, the Central Labor Council, the Austin City Council of PTAs, and the Austin Neighborhoods Council -- urged voters Wednesday to support the ACC propositions. Still in opposition, though, is mayoral candidate Brad Meltzer, who this week again demanded that ACC "justify" its proposed tax increase. "It must stop running from the question. The taxpayers of Austin have a right to know," Meltzer says. He gave no details about what he thinks ACC -- in the midst of a major PR campaign to, uh, justify the May 3 vote -- may be hiding from the public. -- M.C.M.
On April 22 the Children's Advocacy Center released the 2002 findings of the Travis Co. Child Fatality Review Team. According to the annual CFRT report, 130 children died in Travis Co. last year -- up from 124 reported deaths in 2001. Of the total, 75% were from natural causes, 19% accidental -- an increase of three deaths or 14% over 2001. The CFRT singled out for emphasis that of the 11 child deaths resulting from motor-vehicle accidents, nine were Hispanics, eight of them boys. For more info on the CAC or CFRT, check out www.traviscountycac.org. -- J.S.
Austin Energy has received a $166,000 grant from the Texas Public Utility Commission to install 1,400 energy-saving devices on soda machines around town. The devices, sold under the name VendingMiser, reduce a machine's electricity use by powering down the machine's lighting, compressor, and fan when the machine is idle. Austin Energy claims this actually keeps the sodas slightly colder and says the VendingMisers will save about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours annually, enough to power 125 homes year-round. -- Lee Nichols
UT officials on April 22 announced that a new UT Police Dept. advisory committee should be up and running before semester's end. UT Vice-President for Employee and Campus Services Patricia Clubb said she proposed the committee to UT President Larry Faulkner as a way to improve links between the police and campus community. "This is a common form of communication on campus," she said, "and actually the police will benefit from this." Clubb said the committee will "evolve as it goes forward," but noted that students could bring complaints against individual officers to the committee for consideration. Faulkner will select the nine-member panel, which will include three students, three faculty members, and three staff members. -- J.S.
Developer Gary Bradley, who has hired and fired some of the city's finest lawyers over the last 20 years, has pink-slipped his bankruptcy attorney and retained an out-of-towner to handle his Chapter 7 case. For now, San Antonio lawyer Ray Battaglia replaces Austin's Steve Roberts. The most formidable challenge in the case involves fending off the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which is trying to recover at least a portion of the more than $70 million that Bradley owes taxpayers as a result of failed loans he used to build Circle C Ranch. Bradley says he is no longer involved in Circle C, but that is a point of contention in separate litigation involving the Circle C Homeowners Association; residents are demanding a full accounting of the HOA's financial dealings. -- A.S.
In just a few years, James Casey Street has mushroomed from a short, sleepy stretch of wood-frame bungalows to a bustling row of medical offices that feed off their anchor at the end of the block -- South Austin Hospital. The low-profile medical facility, owned by St. David's Healthcare Partnership, has been recognized as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country. City-owned Brackenridge Hospital, managed by St. David's rival Seton Healthcare Network, also made the list, compiled annually by Solucient, an Illinois health care information firm. -- A.S.