Naked City

Austin Stories

In a surprising setback, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, on Tuesday failed to get HB 1204 to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill would require cities and counties to establish uniform development regulations in municipal extraterritorial jurisdictions and likely would have passed with little opposition -- but Wentworth added a number of changes that ultimately worked against the bill. One would have negated Sunset Valley's efforts to halt construction of a Lowe's store on environmentally sensitive land. Another provision, to give counties more regulatory authority in unincorporated areas, was strongly opposed by homebuilders. So lobbyist Jeff Heckler assembled an unlikely coalition of enviros and builders against the legislation. It was uncertain at press time whether the original HB 1204 would be revived or whether Wentworth would add his amendments to other pending bills. -- Amy Smith

The City Council, again by a 4-3 vote, approved on second reading Mayor Gus Garcia's proposed anti-smoking ordinance. The measure now includes exemptions for bingo parlors, nonprofit organizations, and billiard halls -- raising howls from bar and club owners who say such waivers give the lie to ban-backers' claims that the ordinance is designed to protect employee health. (Those businesses have employees, too.) Still unresolved are attempts to modify the ordinance to allow smoking in outdoor-seating areas and within 25 feet of the entrances to bars and clubs. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, who with Will Wynn and Raul Alvarez voted against the measure, called for creating a task force -- as advocated by ban opponents -- to resolve the stark differences between the two camps. However, the ordinance is still scheduled for final approval June 5; Garcia's last meeting as mayor is June 12. -- M.C.M.

On Tuesday, Austin ISD board President Doyle Valdez and Superintendent Pat Forgione announced the appointment of a 21-member Community Safety Task Force assigned to review AISD safety policies, develop campus- and districtwide safety plans, and monitor their implementation. The task force is a partial response to the recent killing of Reagan High student Ortralla Mosley (see p.17). Bishop John McCarthy, retired head of the Catholic Diocese of Austin, was named presiding chair of the task force; the three other co-chairs are Celia Israel, the Rev. Sterling Lands, and Anne Wynne. The first organizational meeting will be tonight (Thursday), 6-9pm, in the auditorium of the Carruth Administration Center. Earlier, the district hired a Reagan Safety Review Team, comprised of local attorneys and assigned to formally investigate the Mosley killing and related safety conditions at Reagan. That group held its second community forum on Wednesday night at the school. -- Michael King

UT-Austin announced this week that it has contracted with two consulting firms to find a buyer for the naming rights to the Frank Erwin Center. As has been done at other schools, the UT arena complex -- including both the Superdrum and the under-construction basketball practice facility next door -- would still bear the name of Erwin, former chair of the UT regents, but the Drum itself would bear the moniker of a deserving corporate citizen. No price tag has yet been set, but the consulting team recently sold the University of Maryland arena's naming rights to Comcast for $25 million. -- M.C.M.

It's shovel time for Whole Foods Market; the groundbreaking for the organic-grocery chain's new headquarters and superstore is set for Friday, June 6, at 10am, on the lot at Sixth and Lamar, due south of the existing Whole Foods. No word on whether celebratory orzo salad or free-range-chicken wings will be available. -- Lauri Apple

Looks like the Austin American-Statesman isn't quite through with its "toxic" coverage of Barton Springs. On May 9, Statesman staff writer Kevin Carmody, whose sensationalized stories led City Manager Toby Futrell to shut down the springs for three months of safety review, filed an open-records request demanding documents -- including e-mails, phone messages, calendars, notes, and city office sign-in sheets -- detailing consultants' work on "chemical and metal pollutants" in city waterways and in areas around the springs. He also seeks documents related to interactions between the city and other scientists and government officials and to the city's internal investigation regarding pollutants -- including contacts with the media. Carmody's request covers the time period since Jan. 20, the day after his springs series appeared. -- L.A.

Coinciding with Austin's first Ozone Action Day of the year -- on which Capital Metro offers free bus rides -- the transit authority announced that it has bought 40 new buses that run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. Cap Metro says the fuel emits 92.5% fewer sulfur-dioxide emissions than regular diesel and 10% less particulate matter. Six of the buses are express-route coaches that also have exhaust gas-recirculation engines and mufflers that act as particulate filters and catalytic converters. -- Lee Nichols

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