Headlines and happenings from around Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Sept. 12, 2003
Quote of the Week: "On an issue like this, Texans aren't going to be persuaded by fancy television ads or political speeches. They need to hear from someone they trust. That's you -- the physician. Whether you are someone's boss, spouse, friend, neighbor, cousin, or doctor, you -- the physician -- are one of the most trusted people in town. What you say goes." -- The Texas Medical Association, firing up the troops to pass Proposition 12. The election is Saturday. See p.23.
Gov. Rick Perry has called a third special session, starting Monday, to whip up a little re-redistricting plan, among other GOP treats. The Senate Democrats -- including Perry's favorite donkey, Houston turncoat John Whitmire -- plan to be there. The Dems in the House are keeping their options open. See "Capitol Chronicle," right, and p.19.
The Austin City Council is on hiatus until Sept. 25, after finally passing the long-discussed budget from hell on Tuesday. But wait 'til next year! See "Austin@Large," p.16, and p.22.
The city Zoning and Platting Commission voted Tuesday night to create a task force to further study the issues raised by Wal-Mart's request for commercial zoning at Slaughter and I-35, needed for the retailer's Supercenter project. The struggle continues. See p.18.
Bad blood keeps gushing out of the Austin Police Department, which continues to draw fire for its handling of the latest chapter of the ongoing Mala Sangre scandal -- a perjury allegation against Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman, who on Wednesday was placed on administrative leave. Depositions continue in the whistle-blower lawsuit filed by officer Jeff White. See p.21 -- and, for a pre-emptive "official" response from City Hall, see "Postmarks."
On Sept. 3, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, announced that the Austin Police Department has scored a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which will be used to put 58 additional officers on the street. The grant comes from the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Universal Hiring Award program. The funds are earmarked for paying salary and benefits for officers involved in community-policing and homeland-security activities. Even though the C.O.P.S. grant is a done deal, because the city has not officially received written notification from DOJ, it could not include the officer positions in the new city budget. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be "new" cops on the street, as the feds see it.) City staff expects the budget -- which was amended before adoption to take out dozens of grant-funded cop slots -- to be re-amended in October to put them back in. -- M.C.M. and Jordan Smith
Also on the police beat: The Austin Police Association has resumed contract talks with the city and APD -- negotiations that had been broken off after a confidential APD internal memo, regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against Detective Howard Staha, was leaked to the Chronicle. The APA's current meet-and-confer agreement with the city, which expires this month, created the Office of the Police Monitor; access to confidential internal-investigation records has been a point of contention throughout the process of crafting civilian oversight of APD. The APA says it's willing to continue meet-and-confer talks for six months after the current contract ends. -- M.C.M.
Compared to Dallas and Houston, Austin's medical-center prowess is a mere speck on the Lone Star map, but two Central Texas legislators want to steer millions in state funding toward building the region's first medical school here, the Austin Business Journal reported in its Sept. 5 edition. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, told ABJ that he and Rep. Jack Stick, R-Austin, plan to push for $100 million to $200 million in seed money to kick-start construction of a medical teaching facility affiliated with UT. Krusee says one possible site is the old Robinson Ranch, a vast stretch of land straddling the Travis-Williamson county line. Medical-school efforts could also bode well for a proposed city-county health care district, which voters will be asked to approve in an upcoming (probably May) election. In Texas, medical schools and tax-financed hospital districts practically go hand in hand; the Central Texas health care district measure has already gained initial support from the Legislature. -- Amy Smith
Add Sunset Valley, population 400, to the list of cities that have passed resolutions on the USA PATRIOT Act. On Sept. 2, the Sunset Valley City Council passed a measure that closely mirrors the city of Austin's proposed resolution, which will come back for discussion on Sept. 25. Sunset Valley council members delivered a 3-2 vote. Had the item stalled on a tie, Mayor Terry Cowan says he would also have cast a "yes" vote. "It's antithetical to our form of government to allow secret arrests ... in the name of security," he said. -- A.S.
On Sept. 3 a Travis Co. grand jury handed down an assault indictment against Austin police officer Jason Chiappardi for allegedly striking a man in the face with a drinking glass while off-duty at an Austin bar. If convicted of the Class A misdemeanor charge, Chiappardi could face up to one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine. According to an APD press release, Chiappardi has been suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the criminal case. -- J.S.
No, you weren't hallucinating if you saw Bevo grazing in the North University grass over Labor Day weekend. Neighbors report that among the new residents in the controversial superduplex erected at 35th and Duval are members of UT's Silver Spurs, the spirit society that cares for the Longhorn mascot -- an honored guest at pregame festivities before the Horns walloped New Mexico State. (Bevo was reportedly led down Duval to the stadium and, according to residents, left his bovine residue in the bike lane.) The 7,500-square-foot superduplex, which can conceivably house 2 dozen residents (each of whom, observers say, appears to drive an oversized truck or SUV), was built within the zoning and code requirements of a single-family house. Neighbors in real single-family houses, including Travis Co. Court-at-Law Judge Gisela Triana, had unsuccessfully sued in June to prevent the structure's occupancy. The City Council has since amended the Land Development Code to avoid such outrages in the future, but city staff opted to grandfather the already-built 35th Street project and other nearby superduplexes from the new requirements. "It's their worst nightmare come true," says one neighborhood leader about the homeowners' predicament. "All they can do now is sell their houses and get out." -- M.C.M.
Beyond City Limits
One hundred sixty new Texas Department of Public Safety troopers tossed their cowboy lids skyward during trooper graduation ceremonies Sept. 5. The graduates will be filling all but 10 of the 170 new positions the Lege created this spring. In a press release, DPS officials note that "diversity is an important issue" at the state cop shop -- likely because the agency has faced past criticism for being a white-boy club. Of the 160 new grads, 60% are white and 40% minorities; only six are women. -- J.S.
"It's all business as usual in Austin -- and that's the other problem with this governor, besides his ineptitude. He's a Republican who could as easily be a Democrat. There's not, in the famous phrase, a dime's worth of difference between how state government is operated now under the GOP than how it operated under the Tory Democrats who ran the state for over 100 years." That's the tart assessment of the editorial board of Park Cities People, the newspaper serving the most affluent -- and among the most conservative Republican -- communities in the state: the Dallas enclaves of Highland Park and University Park. And who would they rather have over Rick the Reluctant? Well, the headline was "Kay Bailey, won't you please come home?" The paper described Sen. Hutchison, an area resident who openly entertained the thought of running for governor in 2002, as "a Republican to her fingertips." -- M.C.M.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Congress ... Asks "Sharp Questions": "Members of Congress said today that President Bush would get the $87 billion he requested for Iraq and Afghanistan, but that he would have to walk through a bit of fire first. Lawmakers said they expected sharp questioning of the request and a renewed debate about the effect of federal spending, taxes, and the record-setting deficit." (The New York Times, Sept. 9.) For the record, $87 billion is more than Bush requested for either education or homeland security (that is, in this country) in the federal FY 04 budget. -- Michael King
Also for the record, the U.S. has announced 288 military fatalities in Iraq since the war began March 20, with 149 of those occurring after President Bush's May 1 declaration that major hostilities had ended. There have been 84 deaths since July 2, when Bush looked into the camera and snarled, "Bring 'em on!" According to www.iraqbodycount.org, the independent attempt to confirm and track reported civilian casualties in the war, there have been an estimated minimum of 6,118 and a maximum of 7,836 "reported civilian deaths." Other independent estimates of civilian deaths reach as high as 30,000 -- excluding thousands of noncombat deaths from polluted water, lack of medical facilities, etc. If, as expected, the White House gets its $87 billion in supplementary funds, the U.S. will spend $166 billion on the Iraq war this year and next. The overall federal deficit is currently projected to reach $480 billion. -- M.K.
The Save Barton Creek Association will hold a special screening of Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town at 4pm Friday, Sept. 12, at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. The award-winning documentary chronicles a small Virginia town's battle against the world's largest retailer. Author and Chronicle columnist Jim Hightower, whose new book, Thieves in High Places, includes a chapter dedicated to Wal-Mart, will address the crowd after the screening. The event will benefit SBCA's Stop Wal-Mart! fund. Tickets are $12 and available at www.noaquiferbigbox.com. (Hightower will also appear that evening at 7pm at BookPeople.) For more on Hightower's book, see p.24.
KLRU's Austin Now with Tom Spencer includes a redistricting story this week, with a look at the potential effects of congressional redistricting on Austin and Travis Co., featuring interviews with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Texas Republican Party spokesman Ted Royer, and Capitol reporter Harvey Kronberg. Friday, Sept. 12, KLRU (Channel 18, cable 9), noon and 9pm; Sunday, Sept. 14, 5pm.
Texas United Latino Artists will sponsor a Diez y Seis parade on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 3:30pm, beginning at Riverside and Congress. The parade, consisting of horsemen, motorcycles, race cars, low riders, and bikes, will proceed to the Capitol for a three-hour festival commemorating Mexico's independence day, and an after-parade party will be held at 8:30pm at Papa Panchos, 2401 E. Cesar Chavez.
On Monday, Sept. 15, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department hosts a Diez y Seis celebration at Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe, 11am-2pm. Beginning at noon, entertainment will be provided by the A.B. Cantu/Pan Am Recreation Center folklorico dancer group, and music by Mariachi Relampago and Los Texas Wranglers.
On Tuesday, Sept. 16, the Austin Bill of Rights Defense Committee will host a town hall meeting to discuss the USA PATRIOT Act and the proposed City Council resolution denouncing it -- sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, and set for a vote on Sept. 25. The ABORDC meeting will feature guest speaker William Rivers Pitt, author and editor of the Web site www.truthout.org. The meeting is scheduled for 7pm in room 121 of UT's Jester dorm, at 21st and Speedway. For more info, check out www.texasbordc.org or call 389-0215.
South Austin residents and others with an interest in Austin Community College are invited to a community meeting on the design of ACC's new South Austin campus. ACC architect Larry Speck of Page Southerland Page will present design concepts for the new campus. Sept. 17 at 7pm, in the library of Crockett High School at Stassney and Manchaca, across the street from the new ACC site.
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries hosts "A Generation Without Hate," a symposium honoring children and young adults working to end prejudice, Thursday, Sept. 18, 5:30pm, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover. The evening begins with a light dinner, followed by presentations from Baha'i Youth Dancers, the National Coalition Building Institute, the OutYouth program, GenAustin, the Community Mentoring Network, and others. A donation of $5 per person is suggested for those wishing to attend dinner. For more info, visit www.aaimaustin.org or call 386-9145.
Alexander Cockburn, co-editor of Counterpunch, columnist for The Nation ("Beat the Devil"), and author of a half-dozen books of history, reportage, and radical politics, will be at UT next Friday, Sept. 19, for Cinematexas' Parallax View, "the political sidebar for the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival," running Sept. 16-21. Friday night's program has the Cockburnian title, "Can the Media Tell the Truth About Anything, Ever?" and features a film by Geoff Bowie, The Universal Clock (5-6:20pm), followed by Cockburn (6:30-8pm) speaking on the current political situation in the U.S. Burdine Hall, room 106. Learn more at www.cinematexas.org/2003-parallax-schedule.html.