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Naked City

Austin Stories

August 22, 2003, News

Despite the recent heavy rains -- which forced the postponement of last week's drought simulation at Barton Springs Pool -- a real drought has lowered groundwater levels in the aquifer that feeds the springs, says the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. The BSEACD has invoked "Stage 1" drought measures, calling for a voluntary 10% reduction in pumpage from the 95 water suppliers regulated by the district. This is the first drought declaration in three years; the aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for an estimated 35,000 people. The district has also erased its $200,000 budget deficit, in part by substantially increasing the formerly minuscule fees charged to well owners seeking approval to changes in their pumping permits. -- M.C.M.

As the new school year began this week, Austin ISD cleared school vending machines of high-sugar and low-nutrition snacks, going beyond a statewide policy declared earlier by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. The Agriculture Dept.'s regulations limit the amount of high-sugar items in elementary and middle schools, but AISD decided to do more. "When secondary students return to school," said AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione, "they will have a wide choice of drinks and snacks, but the items will no longer be carbonated beverages or foods of minimal nutritional value. Instead, our students will find only food and drink choices like water, milk, juices, tea, and 'sports' drinks and snacks that include trail mix, pretzels, granola bars, baked chips, and dried fruit." The move is part of the AISD Initiative for Healthy Kids, a joint project begun earlier this year with the district's School Health Advisory Council. -- Michael King

Baptist Watch: Naked City hears through the grapevine that the City Council is, in fact, leaning toward appealing Judge Pete Lowry's ruling in favor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in its lawsuit over the council's and neighborhood's campaign to limit the size of HPBC's planned parking garage on Avenue D. Lowry ruled that city zoning regulations governing the church -- themselves pursuant to a 1990 agreement between the church and Hyde Park neighbors -- allow HPBC to build its desired five-story parking monolith with 100% impervious cover; neighbors say they never agreed to such a thing and that the law requires the church to build within normal site development standards. -- M.C.M.

Come October, the fifth floor of Brackenridge Hospital will take on its own identity as the Austin Women's Hospital, providing the reproductive services that the Seton Healthcare Network, which runs the rest of the facility, can't perform under orders of the Catholic Church. City officials are currently negotiating with the UT Medical Branch at Galveston to operate the "hospital within a hospital." City leaders and some public health care advocates are rooting for those talks to materialize into a contract, while others point out that UTMB doesn't exactly enjoy a flawless record on public disclosure matters -- a loud and recurring complaint that the city's hospital oversight board has had about Seton, which is a private nonprofit. -- Amy Smith

New Capital Metro route and schedule changes took effect Aug. 17, the most notable being increased nighttime service that ought to benefit Downtown entertainment venues and simultaneously curb drunk driving. The expanded evening service comprises three parts: the "Night Owl" service, new evening 'Dillo routes, and E-Buses. The Night Owl will link Downtown with portions of North, East, and Southeast Austin, running from midnight to as late as 3am, Tuesday through Sunday. The Starlight and Moonlight 'Dillos, which are free, will run Thursday-Sunday, 6pm-3am, to help Downtown patrons circulate through the area. And after last year's trial run proved extremely popular, two "E-Buses" will ferry partying students from West Campus and East Riverside down to the entertainment districts. -- Lee Nichols

More than 100 people signed up to speak during last week's City Council hearing on a proposed resolution affirming the city's commitment to civil rights and denouncing the USA PATRIOT Act. Still, the council did not bring the resolution, sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, up for a vote; action has been postponed until the Sept. 25 meeting, after the council has finished tackling its budget woes. Meanwhile, members of the Austin Bill of Rights Defense Committee are planning some "hard-core lobbying" for the PATRIOT resolution, says ABORDC coordinator Debbie Russell. Supporters of the measure will meet tonight (Thursday) at 6:30pm at Spider House coffee shop to discuss plans for the next six weeks. For a copy of Goodman's proposed resolution, co-sponsored by Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas, check out -- Jordan Smith

Travis Co. sheriff's Deputy Marc Taub has been placed on administrative leave with pay after being arrested just after midnight on Aug. 10 by Austin police. He was charged with DWI and aggravated assault after allegedly brandishing a gun after a Downtown parking valet cut in front of his car near the intersection of Fourth and Colorado. The valet took note of Taub's license-plate number, called the cops, and Taub was subsequently arrested a few blocks away. TCSO Internal Affairs officers are investigating the incident, said spokesman Roger Wade. -- J.S.

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