Naked City

Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

Travis Co.'s old, grossly gerrymandered congressional districts (top) become new, compact districts after Republican liberation (bottom).
Travis Co.'s old, "grossly gerrymandered" congressional districts (top) become new, compact districts after Republican liberation (bottom).


Headlines

Quote of the week: "We also ensured that millions of Texans would finally be able to elect the congressman or congresswoman of their choice, ending the gross gerrymandering that has stood in the way of electing a congressional delegation that reflects the voting patterns of Texans." -- Rick Perry, in an e-mail to his supporters

"At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency? Have you no shame?" -- Joseph Welch, to Sen. Joseph McCarthy

Big boxes are back at City Council today, with scheduled votes on both the Blunn Creek Wal-Mart and the Lowe's settlement. See How Lowe's Can Brewster Go? and Up the creek with Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson got put in a big box of his own; after electing the king of Smart Growth as its chair-elect, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce joined the Real Estate Council of Austin in opposing a retail size cap over the aquifer. See Austin at Large and No size cap, RECA shrieks.

The City Council will also today hold its first -- and perhaps only -- public hearing on Austin Energy's proposed long-range strategic plan. On Tuesday, AE stunned -- and delighted -- clean energy advocates by announcing ambitious solar goals. See A Blue-Sky 'Silver' Plan for Austin Energy and AE drops a solar bomb.

Embattled Williamson Co. Sheriff John Maspero finally threw in the towel Tuesday. Still on the job -- for now -- is APD Officer Scott Glasgow, indicted in the June shooting death of Jessie Lee Owens. See below.

The Texas redistricting trial begins Monday -- in the wake of a Colorado decision this week throwing out that state's off-year GOP gerrymandering. See Capitol Chronicle.

Get ready: The Zilker Trail of Lights begins Dec. 14.


Austin Stories

On Dec. 2, in a surprise move, Williamson Co. Sheriff John Maspero resigned his office effective Friday, Jan. 9 -- three days before a lawsuit seeking Maspero's ouster was set for a jury trial. Last week, a district court judge ruled that Maspero must step down for the duration of the case against him, after Williamson County Attorney Gene Taylor spent two days presenting evidence that Maspero had been drunk in public at least 12 times and had engaged in other improper behavior during his tenure as sheriff. During six hours of questioning, Maspero testified that he couldn't recall whether he'd been drunk on most of the cited occasions, but he roundly denied other, more insidious, charges against him -- denials that would surely be challenged, in detail, had the case gone to trial. Four candidates had already announced their intent to challenge Maspero in the March GOP primary; the departing sheriff could still run for re-election. -- Jordan Smith

Stephen Kinslow has been named interim president of Austin Community College, replacing the departing Richard Fonté. The 53-year-old Kinslow, a longtime ACC administrator, is currently the college's executive vice-president for academic, student, and campus affairs. Fonté had announced earlier this year he wouldn't seek renewal of his contract, leading the ACC board to begin a national search for a replacement, which is still under way; the controversial president then announced his resignation last month to take a job in Washington, D.C., with the National Endowment for the Humanities. -- Lee Nichols

Hazel Obey, great-aunt of Jessie Lee Owens Jr. -- killed June 14 by APD Officer Scott Glasgow -- met with Police Chief Stan Knee on Dec. 1 to discuss the department's handling of the Glasgow case, according to family spokesman Bob Mann. Mann said that Knee was attentive as Obey, a longtime local activist and Democratic leader, explained her family's concerns about Glasgow remaining on the force and their feeling that Knee should terminate the officer. A Travis Co. grand jury on Oct. 20 indicted Glasgow on one count of criminally negligent homicide in connection with Owens' death; District Attorney Ronnie Earle has yet to determine whether that case will go forward. Glasgow has been suspended, as is customary in officer-involved shootings, but Knee reversed APD's original decision and has allowed Glasgow to continue to receive his pay. Mann said that Knee has asked the Texas attorney general for a waiver of the 180-day time period for making administrative disciplinary decisions as provided in the state's civil service laws. Without an extension, Dec. 11 would mark Knee's deadline for imposing any discipline in the Glasgow case. -- J.S.

The Association for India's Development held a candlelight vigil at UT Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal that killed around 20,000 people. AID used the vigil to launch a petition drive demanding the UT System board of regents turn down any contributions from Dow Chemical -- which bought Union Carbide after the leak and which has given UT $4.4 million to date -- exceeding the sum the company spent cleaning up the mess they acquired in Bhopal. AID member Nishant Jain told the crowd that student governments at the University of Michigan and Wheaton College have passed resolutions in favor of similar measures. In addition to the petition, the group planned to spend Wednesday in front of Gregory Gym staging a bit of political theatre involving gas masks and dry ice; on Friday they'll screen Hunting Warren Anderson, an Australian documentary following attempts to hold Union Carbide's then CEO criminally responsible for the damage. The film will screen at 7pm in, fittingly, the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering building, CPE 2.214, on 26th and Speedway. -- Rachel Proctor May

A group named the Young University Republicans of Texas -- which describes itself as "a satirical, flagrant, leftist front group," according to The Daily Texan -- has admitted that it created fliers that appeared to come from the Zeta Psi fraternity and which prompted an investigation of the frat by the Interfraternity Council Judicial Board. The YURT group, offended by a "Bombs Over Baghdad"-themed party planned by the frat, created fliers depicting a blood-spattered, crying child and other violent war scenes and reading, "Come party, and celebrate what we stand for." -- L.N.

Yesterday (Dec. 3) was the first day to file for a place on the ballot of the March 9 primary election. The last day to file is Jan. 2, unless you plan to run for Congress -- in that case, you have until Jan. 16. To file in Travis Co., contact the office of County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir at 854-9188 or www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election. -- L.N.

Speaking of primaries, it's fundraiser time: 345th District Court Democratic candidate Richard Anton will hold one at Threadgill's World HQ, 301 W. Riverside, 5-7pm, today, Thursday, Dec. 4. Tickets $25, sponsorships $100-1,000. For more info, call 791-9874 or e-mail elliott@ignitecs.com. And Nancy Hohengarten, Dem candidate for Travis Co. Court-at-Law No. 5, has hers on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 5:30-7:30pm, at the Allan House, 1104 San Antonio. Admission $25, entertainment by John Russell & the Tone Rangers. For more info, call 474-9004 or e-mail nancyforjudge@sbcglobal.net. Hohengarten is running to succeed Gisela Triana, who announced her candidacy this week for 200th District Court; see p.24. -- L.N.

On Tuesday, the Travis Co. Children's Advocacy Center launched the Bassinet Project, an effort by local agencies and law enforcement to raise community awareness about "Baby Moses" legislation. The 1999 state law, passed in reaction to increasing incidences of child abandonment, encourages parents who cannot or will not keep newborns to leave them at "designated emergency infant care providers" -- hospitals, fire stations, or emergency medical technicians -- instead of abandoning them. The project will encourage such parents to dial 211 for a listing of Safe Baby sites in Travis Co. For more info, call the CAC at 472-1164 or go to www.traviscountycac.org. -- L.N.

Onie B. Conley, a fixture of Eastside community life for decades, passed away last weekend after suffering a stroke. Conley, who typically declined to disclose her age (she was at least 85, friends say), spent more than 40 years as a teacher in East Austin schools; upon her retirement, "Miss Conley" became a full-time advocate for Eastside neighbors and seniors. The Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center on Nile Street, for which she lobbied the council in the 1980s, is named in her honor. -- M.C.M.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett announced on Nov. 26 that Austin Travis Co. Mental Health Mental Retardation will receive $857,200, plus five-year rental subsidies valued at $199,000 in federal money as part of the Supportive Housing for Persons With Disabilities program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "This funding will allow ATCMHMR to provide decent, safe alternatives for our neighbors who suffer from mental illness and cannot find quality affordable housing elsewhere in today's market," said Doggett. The money will help rehabilitate two properties on Guadalupe Street, totaling 15 efficiency units. -- L.N.


Beyond City Limits

TxDOT has introduced the GOTCHA! program to report roadway litterers. Write down the license plate number (Texas plates only), make of the vehicle, location, date and time, the item littered, and who (driver, passenger, or accidental) tossed it. After you've rounded up a handful of litterers, you can submit the info via the online form at www.dontmesswithtexas.org/gotcha.php or call and leave a voice message at 888/TEX-8683. TxDOT will then match the info to its vehicle registration database and send a scolding letter and a "Don't Mess With Texas" trash bag to the litterbug. (Hmmm. Why do we suspect this will only encourage more cigarette butts thrown out the window? Oh well, maybe they'll get through to somebody.) -- L.N.

As the Lege heads for an expected spring special session on public school finance, the Texas Senate is losing another old hand on the subject (and a reasonably moderate Republican) -- state Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, has been tapped by President Bush to be the new ambassador to Sweden. Bivins, a Bush Ranger and Pioneer, currently chairs the Senate Finance Committee and formerly chaired the Education Committee; he joins Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, who authored the current school finance legislation, in making an early exit. Four candidates have already expressed interest in succeeding Bivins, whose District 31 stretches from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin, setting up yet another war between the farmers and the oilers. -- M.C.M.

The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments on Dec. 8 in the death row appeal of Delma Banks Jr., sentenced to die in 1980 for a murder in Texarkana. The Supremes issued a stay in March, just minutes before Banks' scheduled execution, and this spring granted his request for a full review of his case, including claims of prosecutorial misconduct and race-based jury selection. -- J.S.

Also on the Supremes' calendar this week: Oral arguments in the Pennsylvania redistricting case Vieth v. Jubelirer, the first Supreme Court case in nearly 20 years to explore whether purely partisan gerrymandering (that is, not premised on race, in a state not subject to the full weight of the Voting Rights Act) can fail to pass constitutional muster. Though a decision in Vieth won't come for several months, the fact that oral arguments will happen one day before the Texas redistricting case's trial in federal court is seen by observers as something other than mere coincidence. Less relevant to Texas, but a moral victory for Democrats nonetheless, was this week's rejection by the Colorado Supreme Court of that state's off-year GOP-driven redistricting; justices held that the Centennial State's constitution allows redistricting once every 10 years, after the census, and that's it. The Colorado decision puts two U.S. House seats back into play for the Dems. -- M.C.M.


Happenings

The Black Women's Political Caucus 32nd Anniversary Celebration will be held Friday, Dec. 5, 5-8pm, at Midtown Live, 7408 Cameron. For more info, call 495-9088 or 929-9172.

The Austin Asset Building Coalition sponsors the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for low-income families, and is looking for volunteer tax preparers. No previous tax experience is necessary -- coalition volunteers will provide training. A training session will be held Saturday, Dec. 6, at Huston-Tillotson College. The assignment is two to four hours a week from mid-January through mid-April at tax sites. For more info, call 505-3130 or e-mail kytolden@htc.edu.

KGSR's Save South First benefit concert, benefiting businesses suffering due to road construction, will be held Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-10:30pm, at Jovita's, 1619 S. First. Entertainment includes Monte Montgomery, South Austin Jug Band, Kacy Crowley, Vallejo, Ginger Leigh, and Flaco Jimenez. $12 in advance by calling 447-7825 or $15 at the door.

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, 5-6pm, Austin Jobs With Justice will conduct an informational picket and press conference in opposition to the massive cutting, reorganization, and privatization of social services in Texas resulting from HB 2292, passed in the last Lege session. Brown-Heatly Building, 4900 N. Lamar (headquarters of the Texas Health & Human Services Commission).

The Save Our Springs Alliance will hold its annual holiday party and silent auction from 6-10pm Wednesday, Dec. 10, at the Mercury Hall, 615 Cardinal Lane in South Austin. Tickets are $10, available at the door. Austin comedian Kerry Awn will host the event and Bill Oliver will provide musical entertainment. See www.sosalliance.org or call 477-2320 for more info.

"Are American Workers Free to Join Unions?" will be the subject of a Human Rights Day symposium at 7pm Wednesday, Dec. 10, in the Sturgeon Room of the Texas State Teachers Association building, 316 W. 12th. It's free and open to the public; speakers include: Sarah Cleveland, a UT School of Law professor whose work focuses on international human and labor rights; Bill Beardall, executive director of the Equal Justice Center public-interest law center in Austin; and Louis Malfaro, president of Education Austin, the teacher and school employee union in Austin. For more info, go to www.thirdcoastactivist.org or call 458-8635.

The Travis Co. Democratic Party throws its annual holiday party Thursday, Dec. 11, 5:30-7:30pm, at Threadgill's World HQ, 301 W. Riverside. For more info, call 477-7500 or e-mail holidayparty@traviscountydemocrats.org.

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