Headlines and happenings from around Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Oct. 31, 2003
Quote of the Week: "The vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." -- President Bush, in Monday remarks with his Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer. (We know, it's out of context. But we like it anyway.)
The City Council continues to grope for a big-box retail strategy -- giving a preliminary OK to a Wal-Mart Supercenter at I-35 and Slaughter, but adopting a moratorium on such projects over the aquifer and thus mucking up city staff's proposed deal with Lowe's. See Big-Box Ban Bollixes Up Lowe's Plans.
Everybody and their Doggett is now running for Congress, even as the new Texas district map gets dragged through the courts. Our Man Lloyd says he'll run in the new McCallum-to-McAllen District 25 -- drawing ire from, among others, state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who may run for the same seat. See The Redistricting Shuffle Commences.
Life just gets worse and worse for Williamson Co. Sheriff John Maspero and APD Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman -- together and separately. See Mala Sangre: City Shoots Self in Foot, Then Reloads, Chapman's Life Gets Worse, and The Wild and Crazy Sheriff.
Also on the police beat, the homicide indictment against APD Officer Scott Glasgow may be fatally flawed. See Is There Really a Case Against Officer Glasgow?.
Take a deep breath. Now exhale. The City Council is set today to snuff out the smoking ordinance -- but replace it with a compromise plan that, like all compromise plans, should annoy both sides in equal measure. See Austin@Large.
After months of debate on the future of the stalled performing-arts project, Long Center leaders announced Tuesday they will only build two of the four venues envisioned for the transformed Palmer Auditorium -- the 2,400-seat Dell Foundation Hall and the 250-seat Rollins Hall -- thus shaving the project's price tag from $110 million to $72 million. The Long Center has already raised $66 million -- and spent $17 million, mostly on the services of world-class architects at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, whose designs may now not be usable. The center says it needs at least $25 million more before it can start construction, which pushes the completion date to 2007, 18 months after the city's major arts groups are supposed to vacate UT's Bass Concert Hall, set for a renovation of its own. -- M.C.M.
And now, a word from our sheriff: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not real. Since the remake of the 1974 horror classic, set here in Travis Co., hit theatres on Oct. 17, Sheriff Margo Frasier and her spokesman Roger Wade have been inundated by calls and e-mails from Leatherface "fans" seeking additional info on what they think is a real-life Travis Co. murder case. (One Florida police detective hoped to score a bit of memorabilia for her son; other folks want copies of the crime case file, complete with autopsy photos.) TCM is, in fact, based on the life and murderous times of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who also inspired Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs; while Wade notes there have been Travis Co. killers who chopped up their victims, there has not been a Texas chain saw massacre per se. (This issue's cover notwithstanding.) -- Jordan Smith
The City Council last week authorized staff to seal a deal with the UT Medical Branch at Galveston to manage the new Austin Women's Hospital. The UT Board of Regents is expected to approve the five-year lease agreement next month. The $9.3 million renovated facility, on the fifth floor of the city-owned Brackenridge Hospital, will open for business in January, said Trish Young, CEO of the city's Community Care Services Department. The 12-bed hospital will provide labor and delivery care, though reproductive services for low-income women will be its priority; Young estimates the hospital will perform about 600 tubal ligations a year. The Catholic Church-owned Seton Healthcare Network, which leases and operates Brackenridge, is under orders to discontinue reproductive services. -- Amy Smith
Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade store selling pottery, home decorations, coffee and tea, and other products from artisans in developing nations, will open Nov. 1 inside the Texas Folklife Resources building, 1317 S. Congress (next door to the Continental Club). The volunteer-run store will only sell goods whose producers have been paid above-market prices, hopefully providing a livable wage in countries wracked by poverty. The store's hours are Friday and Saturday, 10am-7pm, and Sunday, 1-5pm. The store is associated with the pacifist Mennonite Church; for more info, call 440-0440 or see www.villagesofaustin.org or www.tenthousandvillages.com. -- Lee Nichols
The city's "commission commission" -- the Board and Commission Process Review Task Force -- may have officially cratered last week. City legal staff presented the task force at its final meeting (more than two years after its inception), with a draft ordinance for cleaning up the city's unwieldy board-and-commission system -- but incorporated almost none of the dozens of recommendations made in the task force's 58-page report. The task force voted to reject the draft ordinance and plead directly to the council -- which created the task force, and appointed former Council Member Bill Spelman to chair it, back in 2001 -- to take its efforts a little more seriously. -- M.C.M.
APD Cmdr. Joe Putman has left the building, retiring Oct. 30 after 30 years on the job. Putman became the subject of a divisive 1997 Internal Affairs inquiry after he told federal prosecutors he had covered up an APD sex-abuse probe earlier in the decade. The feds failed to find any evidence there had been such a probe, and in October 1997, Putman was indefinitely suspended (i.e., fired) for lying to the feds -- a felony -- and for bringing discredit to the department. However, Putman never faced federal charges, and after appealing his firing to the city Civil Service Commission had his punishment reduced to a 10-day suspension. It's the APD file on Putman that contains phone records from former FBI agent and current Williamson Co. Sheriff John Maspero -- records that Maspero and APD Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman allegedly tried to have removed (also a felony). Allegations that Chapman lied about the matter in sworn testimony in the current Mala Sangre suit by APD Officer Jeff White are now likewise being probed, and Chapman has been placed on restricted duty. -- J.S.
Election season is nigh (eeeek!), and armchair officeholders' cries of "I can do better than that!" are in full fury. Put yourself to the test at the Leadership Academy for Public Service, a training camp for aspiring electeds co-sponsored by Leadership Austin and the Austin Area Research Organization. Now in its third year, LAPS will offer three evening seminar sessions -- Nov. 12 and 19 and Dec. 3 -- with instruction on how to organize a campaign, raise money, work with the media and with consultants, get out the vote, and all the rest. Previous LAPS alums -- including Council Member Brewster McCracken and AISD trustee John Fitzpatrick -- rave about the program, which costs $145; registration will be accepted right up until the first session. To learn more, contact Leadership Austin director Lee Thomson at 322-5679 or email@example.com. -- M.C.M.
Ranking Austin's water needs and a strapped budget over the hunger of minority contractors, the City Council last week handed more than $60 million worth of work to Arlington-based Archer Western Contractors Ltd. for an upgraded Ullrich Water Treatment Plant, designed to expand Austin's water utility capacity by 60 million gallons per day. The company's bid came in $3.3 million below its closest rival. The lone no vote came from Council Member Danny Thomas, dismayed that Archer Western did not meet the city's required good-faith effort to add minority subcontractors to its team. Archer Western scored a 0.0% in the MBE category of the city's purchasing matrix, and minority business owners say the city too often overlooks them for top-drawer projects like Ullrich. But city staff -- conjuring a parched landscape of mandatory water rationing and financial penalties for violators -- convinced Thomas' colleagues to overlook the absence of good-faith effort. -- A.S.
No end in sight for the Nightmare on South First Street -- the road reconstruction project that threatens to upstage Barton Springs Road as a low point in city public works history. The project, from Barton Springs Road to Ben White, has kept parts of South First reduced to two lanes for more than a year; work began in June 2002 and was originally set for completion this month, but is obviously nowhere near done. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman says she and fellow South Austinite Daryl Slusher are routinely blamed for the road mess; last week, she called on Public Works staff to provide a chronology of "where we were, where we are, and where we're going to be very soon with South First." Short answer: Midsummer of next year, due to the unexpected need to replace 11,000 feet of old water lines. The council last week handed that $3.4 million job to Cash Construction Co. of Pflugerville. -- A.S.
Beyond City Limits
Bush league no more for the Round Rock Express: Owners Nolan and Reid Ryan announced this week they have enticed a Triple-A ball club to relocate to Dell Diamond. The current Double-A Texas League franchise is slated to move to Corpus Christi; the new Express, the former Edmonton Trappers (the last minor-league team in Canada), will arrive here by 2005. The new Express -- competing in the Pacific Coast League, as does Edmonton -- will likely become the Astros' Triple-A affiliate. -- M.C.M.
Democratic presidential candidates Joseph Lieberman and Wesley Clark recently announced they'll be leaving the Iowa caucuses to the Iowans -- and the rest of the Dem field -- in order to focus on the New Hampshire primary. But the latest independent Zogby poll shows front-runner Howard Dean well-nigh obliterating the field in the Granite State. According to the Oct. 24 poll, among likely Democratic voters, Dean leads John Kerry 40% to 17%; Clark and John Edwards each have 6%, Dick Gephardt received 4%, Lieberman 3%, and the other Dems -- Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton -- didn't even register. (A Boston Globe poll released a few days later had Dean 37%, Kerry 24%.) Commented pollster John Zogby, noting that Dean leads solidly among every demographic group: "This is stunning. This qualifies as juggernaut status. Can he be stopped?" -- Michael King
Meanwhile, down is up at the White House: "The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become ... the more desperate these killers become, because they can't stand the thought of a free society." So President Bush explained the recent bloody guerrilla attacks in Iraq as signs of success. But according to The Washington Post, military officials are trying to figure out how to suppress the uprising before the general Iraqi population joins it. A senior intelligence official told the Post that U.S. forces have "three to six months" to break the resistance before it presents a viable alternative to U.S. occupation. The Pentagon did make definite progress on one front last week -- keeping the media out of its business, by banning coverage of soldiers' remains being shipped home. -- M.K.
San Antonio peace activist Charlie Jackson will return to Iraq for the second time this year, on Nov. 20, on behalf of Texans for Peace and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Jackson, whose first trip earlier this year was cut short by injuries sustained in an automobile accident north of Basra, says this trip will focus on Baghdad schools, hospitals, and homes, and he plans to visit both Iraqi citizens and U.S. troops. -- L.N.
If you want to get really close to the core of American democracy, one of only 25 surviving original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence is currently on view at UT's LBJ Library and Museum, 2313 Red River, through Nov. 9, 9am-5pm.
A Rally to Support Midwives takes place at 5pm today (Thursday, Oct. 30) on the south lawn of the state Capitol, sponsored by the Austin chapter of Texans for Midwifery and the Midwives Alliance of North America, in order to raise awareness and gather support for midwives to be able to practice in Austin hospitals. The event begins with a 4:30pm march from the Hyatt Regency Town Lake, this year's headquarters for the annual MANA conference.
Adam Shapiro, an organizer with the International Solidarity Movement, will deliver a talk on the ISM's involvement in Nonviolent Resistance in Palestine, Monday, Nov. 3, 7:30pm, in UT's Gearing Hall, Room 105. Last year Rachel Corrie, an ISM volunteer from Seattle, was attempting to stop the demolition of a home in Gaza when she was killed by an Israeli bulldozer. Shapiro has worked throughout the region and also in Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, and Serbia.
Failed 1996 presidential candidate, former Reagan functionary, and notable conservative crazy Alan Keyes will speak at 7pm Wednesday, Nov. 5, in UT's Texas Union Ballroom (24th & Guadalupe). Admission is free, but requires a pass -- available to UT ID holders at the Student Events Center Ticket Office, fourth level of the Texas Union, with a limit of two passes per UT ID. On Nov. 5, doors will open at 6:30pm; seating is on a first-come first-serve basis, and a pass does not guarantee a seat. For more info, call 475-6645 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries hosts an evening of thanks to honor AAIM volunteers, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 5:30-7:30pm, at Umlauf Sculpture Gardens, 605 Robert E. Lee Rd. The event includes a reception and dinner, music by the David Cain Duo, and an auction where you can bid on dinner with local celebrities like Sheriff Margo Frasier, Patrick Flood, Kinky Friedman, and Dr. Pat Forgione. Regular admission is $30, and sponsorships are available. For more info, call 542-9744.