Naked City

Austin Stories

It's a kinder, gentler City Hall process! Today (Thursday), the City Council's budget hearing will focus on infrastructure services -- specifically, the controversial streamlining of city development review to make it faster and friendlier and move those building projects right on down the line. The city Zoning and Platting Commission and Planning Commission, along with the Austin Neighborhoods Council, got their first look at the new proposal this week. More on this next week.
It's a kinder, gentler City Hall process! Today (Thursday), the City Council's budget hearing will focus on "infrastructure services" -- specifically, the controversial streamlining of city development review to make it "faster and friendlier" and move those building projects right on down the line. The city Zoning and Platting Commission and Planning Commission, along with the Austin Neighborhoods Council, got their first look at the new proposal this week. More on this next week. (Illustration By Doug Potter)

Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Betty Dunkerley spent part of this week in New York with the bond houses -- which are understandably concerned about Austin's budget crisis. The major rating agencies -- Fitch, Standard and Poor's, and Moody's -- all met with the Austin delegation Monday and Tuesday. "I think we're showing them we're taking a serious situation very seriously," Wynn told us from New York, "and looking at the long-term stability of the city organization." In addition to Austin's general obligation bond debt, the city's enterprise funds -- especially Austin Energy -- have issued billions' worth of revenue bonds; the bond houses have long worried about local political pressure to use AE cash reserves to shore up the city's General Fund. -- M.C.M.

After months of delay, depositions in the whistleblower lawsuit of Austin police Officer Jeff White -- including testimony from police Chief Stan Knee and Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman -- have been filed at the Travis Co. Court House. White's suit alleges retaliation after the officer raised questions about the department's internal handling of charges of misconduct related to the Mala Sangre drug operation in the mid-1990s. More to come next week. -- M.C.M.

KTBC Fox 7 news reporter Jack Hirschfield was arrested at Bergstrom Airport on Aug. 22 and charged with possession of a prohibited weapon after airport-security screeners found brass knuckles in his bag. Hirschfield's attorney Bill Allison told the Statesman that the knuckles were actually given to the 29-year-old reporter by a buddy more than a decade ago. Hirschfield had been keeping the weapon in his desk drawer at the Fox station, Allison told the daily, and only recently tossed them in his bag (with the intention of disposing of them) while cleaning out his desk in anticipation of Fox's plan to remodel the station's newsroom. -- Jordan Smith

"Buddy," the Austin ISD Campus Police pooch, scored a canine colleague this week when officials introduced "Manna" -- a black retriever trained in narcotics and weapons detection -- as the newest addition to the district's police force. Manna was officially welcomed to the AISD pack on Aug. 27 at Pearce Middle School. According to a district press release, the four-legged law-enforcers are tasked with assisting with the district's "comprehensive campus safety efforts." -- J.S.

A three-alarm fire broke out around 4:30am on Aug. 26 in the former home of the Show Palace Gentlemen's Club on Ben White Boulevard. The building was under renovation and was slated to reopen next week as the Palazio Gentlemen's Club. The blaze, reportedly caused by faulty wiring, took firefighters more than two hours to contain and caused nearly $1.5 million in damages. -- J.S.

Austin blogger Richard McNairy aims to get the "Hip-Hop Generation" -- African-Americans between the ages of 18-35 -- into the voting booth next year and says his vehicle will be the Remind Me to Vote Project. McNairy says he'll contact a group of voters and ask each of them to get 10 more people to register to vote, then he'll use a computer program to keep track of when and if they vote; if they don't vote at the time they said they would, a team leader will contact them and remind them. He also intends to use other methods to keep young African-Americans involved, including panel discussions, informal dinners, and radio ads. For more info, go to www.richardmcnairy.blogspot.com or e-mail richardmcnairy@yahoo.com. -- Lee Nichols

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