Naked City

Austin Stories

Hyde Park Baptist Church has now officially won its lawsuit against the city of Austin over the City Council's attempt to stop HPBC from constructing a five-story parking garage on Avenue D. On Aug. 9, Visiting Judge Pete Lowry informed both parties that, in addition to denying the city's motion for a new trial, he had (as requested by the city's counsel) reviewed the special city zoning ordinance governing HPBC property -- itself a product of a 1990 agreement between the church and the neighborhood -- and concluded that the language is "unambiguous," the garage is legit, the initial granting of a building permit to HPBC was justified, and the City Council erred when it granted the neighborhood the right to appeal that permit. Lowry has yet to issue a formal ruling, and neighborhood leaders and city legal staff are considering whether to ask the council to appeal. -- M.C.M.

Austin police officer Michael Olsen has been placed on leave without pay after being indicted by a Travis Co. grand jury on Aug. 6 on three counts of "tampering with government records." Olsen is accused of falsifying reports related to an altercation on Sixth Street on June 20, in which Olsen allegedly roughed up 22-year-old Jeffrey Thornton, slamming him against a police car and against the ground -- hard enough that Thornton temporarily lost consciousness -- after overhearing Thornton make a comment suggesting Olsen had used inappropriate force in dealing with another Sixth Street patron. Olsen then arrested Thornton, charging him with resisting arrest and interfering with police duties. Thornton spent two days in jail, but the charges against him were subsequently dropped after evidence from city surveillance cameras mounted near Sixth and Red River disproved Olsen's account of events. Tampering with government records is a state jail felony carrying a possible punishment of two years in jail and a fine of $10,000. Olsen is also facing a civil suit, filed on Thornton's behalf by the Texas Civil Rights Project, which seeks $100,000 in damages. -- Jordan Smith

Austin lawyer Amy Johnson is encouraging parents to help their kids make the best of the sound of silence. A new state law, effective in September, requires public-school children to observe a moment of silence each day. With that mandate, Johnson is helping the Austin Zen Center organize a workshop to teach elementary kids that one minute of silence can be "peaceful, glorious, awe-inspiring -- anything but boring." The meditation session takes place at 1:30pm Saturday at the center, 3014 Washington Square (just west of Guadalupe). The workshop is free but RSVP Johnson at, or call 441-5064. -- Amy Smith

Residents of the Deep South -- that is, south of Ben White Boulevard -- like to believe their area of town is on the cutting edge of coolness. But first, neighborhood leaders want to make the place more inviting for folks on foot, and have called on Trans Texas Alliance to show them the way. The TTA will lead a Pedestrian Safety Workshop 10am-2pm Saturday (Aug. 16) at the Austin Public Library's Manchaca Branch. The study area extends north and south on Manchaca Road, from Ben White to Stassney Lane. "This is about safety, yes, but it is also about the possibility for creating a vibrant and pleasant street life here," said Stacy Evans, one of the organizers of the event spearheaded by the Southwood Neighborhood Association. Participants will include Capital Metro, Walk Austin, and Page Southerland Page, the architects designing a new Austin Community College campus at Stassney and Manchaca. Contact Evans at 444-8221 for more information. -- A.S.

Speaking of that ACC project: The vacant Albertsons store at Stassney and Manchaca still looks like a vacant Albertsons store, but a blueprint for its new life as a college campus is slowly taking shape. Citizens will have a chance to see what an advisory committee has been up to all of these months at a meeting set for 7pm Wednesday at the Austin Public Library Manchaca Branch, 5500 Manchaca Road. Project architects Page Southerland Page and advisory committee members will put their heads together on urban design issues relating to the campus. The public is encouraged to weigh in on these matters as well. -- A.S.

Two of the most prominent black women on the Austin civic scene -- Black Citizens Task Force leader Dorothy Turner and outgoing Police Monitor (and former city attorney) Iris Jones -- were showered with praise by the City Council on Aug. 7. Turner, along with the late Velma Roberts, has been honored with the renaming of the planned Colony Park Recreation Center; however, that project is slated for postponement due to budget woes, and Turner -- no stranger to combative appearances before the council -- suggested this simply won't do. "What's more important than the name is the need," she said. "Put this center on the fast track and get it done." Jones, who's on her way to a private-sector job in D.C. and received a proclamation of thanks from the council, offered her own tribute, saying the road toward police oversight "didn't start with Cedar Avenue in 1995. It started decades ago with Dorothy Turner. You should all hope to have one ounce of her commitment." She called on civic leaders to "fight for what is right" and make the still-nascent police-monitor system a success. "It's not the black thing or the white thing to do," she said. "It's the Austin thing." -- M.C.M.

From the Dept. of Grand Platitudes: On Aug. 12 police Chief Stan Knee told KVUE News that his department "welcomes" inquiry and oversight into its doings. While Knee was ostensibly addressing the officer-involved shootings of Sophia King and Jessie Lee Owens, Naked City has decided to take the chief on his word, and expects that lingering allegations of high-level corruption related to the defunct mid-Nineties Mala Sangre investigation will finally be addressed and answered. But we aren't holding our breath. -- J.S.

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