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Austin Stories

It was business as usual Monday for the Texas Association of Business -- court appearance, jail, bail, appeal, just like last week and the week before that. This time, T.A.B. President Bill Hammond was ordered to jail for refusing to turn over documents to a Travis Co. grand jury investigating the corporate financing of the association's $1.9 million political ad campaign that helped the GOP take control of the Texas House in the 2002 elections. Hammond was also fined $500 but refused to pay. T.A.B. cites the First Amendment to support its refusal to cooperate with the grand jury; T.A.B. attorney Andy Taylor hopes the Court of Criminal Appeals will hear the case when it reconvenes in September. As for Hammond's short jail time, he spent it in the judge's jury room. -- Amy Smith

Concordia University has become the first U.S. institution of higher learning to go green for all its energy needs. So proudly claims Austin Energy, which this week celebrated the Central Austin campus' choosing renewables -- solar and wind power under the utility's Green Choice program -- to supply its 5.5 million kilowatt-hours of annual electricity consumption. Like other Green Choice customers, Concordia is paying more now, but its rates are locked in for 10 years -- unlike those of traditional energy customers, whose AE bills are going up to cover the rising cost of natural gas. The first of three planned hikes of AE's fuel charge was implemented this week. -- M.C.M.

The Tavern will officially reopen its doors for business on Wednesday. Radio celeb Bob Cole and partners Stan Miller and Steve Harren bought the historic watering hole at 12th and Lamar after its former owner shuttered the pub last December in the face of costly code violations. The new owners poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into repairs and renovations, while resurrecting some of the building's original design, such as an elevated deck that once graced the 87-year-old former Enfield Grocery. The deck is where you'll likely find Cole. "I plan to sit up there and watch Smart Growth," he says. -- A.S.

What would you do with 11 vacant acres of prime East Austin real estate? Got some ideas for landmarks and uses that you think would benefit the community? (Six Flags theme parks and sludge treatment plants don't qualify.) The city and Capital Metro are looking for citizens to serve on the Community Advisory Group for the Saltillo District redevelopment project (see "Here Comes the Neighborhood," June 27). The CAG's nine members will advise the City Council and Cap Metro board, provide feedback to the Saltillo consultants, and act as a liaison between the city, the transit authority (which owns the Saltillo site), and the public. To apply, visit or the city clerk's office at 124 W. Eighth; the deadline is July 18. -- Lauri Apple

Last Friday's scheduled hearing in the case of East Austin neighborhood activist Gavino Fernandez Jr. has been rescheduled for July 11. Fernandez, leader of the El Concilio Coalition of Mexican-American Neighborhood Associations, has not yet been indicted on charges of aggravated assault and drug possession stemming from a May 22 incident at his home, says Albert Machado, his attorney. Machado adds that he "isn't sure" yet whether the feds will pursue an investigation related to allegations that Fernandez was involved in immigrant smuggling. Since his arrest, Fernandez has been incarcerated at the Travis Co. Jail. -- L.A.

East Austin residents and business owners aired contrasting opinions Monday on how East 12th should be transformed under the aegis of the Austin Revitalization Authority. For some, the meeting was much like many others that have occurred over the years. As part of its redevelopment goals for East 12th, the ARA is also proposing a number of revisions to its five-year-old urban-renewal plan for the corridor; the City Council will consider these July 31. Some business and property owners are angered that the revisions would impose new height restrictions and limit commercial uses in deference to the surrounding neighborhoods. Residents, in turn, question why affordable housing hasn't moved to the forefront of ARA's goals. ARA Director Byron Marshall says he's trying to balance the needs of the business and residential community. "We're charged with implementing the plan," he said. "But it's not our plan, it's the community's plan." -- A.S.

Citing aquifer pollution and increased traffic, four southwest Austin neighborhood associations, the Save Our Springs Alliance, and the Save Barton Creek Association staged a protest Monday against the proposed 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter at the corner of MoPac and Slaughter. Foes of the Wal-Mart, and of the equally controversial Lowe's proposed for nearby on Brodie Lane, have debuted a spiffy new Web site at (alternate URL:, which details the two projects and calls for Austinites to take action "because apathy sucks." A townhall meeting on the Wal-Mart was held Wednesday night at Bowie High School as the Chronicle went to press. -- L.A.

Travis Co. Constable Bruce Elfant has been elected president of the Justice of the Peace and Constables' Association of Texas, the state's largest group of county officials. Elfant, a longtime fixture of local Democratic and progressive politics, was first elected constable for Pct. 5 in 1992; he says he's "honored" by the esteem of his fellows. -- M.C.M.

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