Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Feb. 6, 2004
Quote of the Week: "I've never met a victim of force, especially a victim of lethal force, at a Commanders Forum. ... I want to meet them. I want to facilitate patrol officers meeting them years in advance." Mayor Will Wynn, who sees dead people, at last week's press conference in the wake of the Statesman use-of-force series.
The Statesman's "stunning" and inaccurate and sleazy analysis of police behavior succeeded in putting the APD brass and City Hall on the defensive a good thing, but for all the wrong reasons. See Austin@Large and The Figures Do Lie.
Gov. Rick Perry who, as of press time, appears to still be married and living in the Governor's Mansion shared his fantasies of no-cost "educational excellence" with school district leaders and his business-elite friends, who laughed at him. A spring special session to solve the school finance mess is still doubtful. See Capitol Chronicle.
It's the most wonderful time of the year for yard-sign makers! The primary season is in full swing; early voting begins Feb. 21. See A Rather Unjudicious Race for more on the hot judicial races.
The Skull and Bones Showdown looms increasingly likely, as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won Democratic primaries in five of seven states Tuesday. See our election coverage.
While FCC Chairman Michael Powell frothed himself up over Janet Jackson's nipple jewelry, hundreds of Texans were frothed up over Michael Powell and his corporate-media agenda as the commission held "localism" hearings in San Antonio. See Anger Fills the Air(waves) at FCC Hearing.
It's not too late: If you want to vote in the March 9 primaries, you still have until Monday, Feb. 9 to register. Travis County residents should call 854-9473 or register online at www.texasonline.state.tx.us. Others may contact the Texas Secretary of State's office at 800/252-VOTE (8683).
A radio ad running this week on KLBJ 590AM reminds Austin residents that Austin police officers "run toward terror in the night" to keep the city safe. The ads were written in response to the Statesman's four-day series on police use of force and were paid for by Shelley Wilkison, editor and publisher of the online police news Web site AustinPoliceNews.com, which features a link to the audio commercial. Jordan Smith
The Office of the Police Monitor's Citizen Review Panel on Jan. 29 heard testimony in connection with the June 14 shooting death of Jessie Lee Owens by Austin Police Officer Scott Glasgow, from attorney Bill Willms, who is representing Owens' family. Willms urged the CRP to recommend that Glasgow face termination as a result of Owens' death. Officials have offered three different versions of the events that led up to Owens' death, Willms said, and none make sense. "The apparent goal of all these versions is to blame Jessie Owens for his own death," Willms said. Although the department's Internal Affairs investigation is apparently complete, at press time there was no word on whether Chief Stan Knee had determined that Glasgow would be disciplined for any potential administrative violation. J.S.
Cypress Realty has gained permission to drill test wells on property planned for a residential megadevelopment on part of the old Rutherford Ranch in Hays Co. The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District last week approved the developer's request to drill the wells but not to pump water. The Save Our Springs Alliance, which describes the Cypress project as "the next Circle C Ranch," argued against the drilling, fearing what might come next: If Cypress engineers determine that wells can produce the quantity and quality of water needed for the development, they'll come back to the BSEACD board to request a permit to draw water from the Edwards Aquifer. Residents of the nearby Goldenwood subdivision fear their own water supply would be threatened if Cypress were given the green light. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has already given Cypress clearance to pump enough water from the aquifer to serve 1,500 homes, but the BSEACD board is less enthusiastic about contributing to the depletion of the sole water source for 50,000 Central Texans. Amy Smith
AISD trustee John Fitzpatrick was kind enough to call Naked City and inform us that we got it wrong on the upcoming May school board race he's not up for re-election, but his Place 8 colleague Doyle Valdez (the board chair) is, and Valdez has not yet announced his plans. Also up for May 15 will be Place 2 (Rudy Montoya is also hanging fire), Place 3 (Johna Edwards plans to run again), and Place 5 (board VP Ingrid Taylor is not standing for re-election). Candidate filing begins Feb. 16. Also, at the board's last meeting, the perennial and omnivorous candidate Jennifer Gale announced she will run for a board seat against Valdez, in addition to running as a (write-in) candidate for congressional District 10. Gale ran against Valdez in 1999, capturing about one-third of the vote, by far the best showing of her political career. You all can stop calling Fitzpatrick about the confusion we apologize for our mistake. Michael King
Austin's newest and largest neighborhood library, the Daniel Ruiz branch at Riverside and Grove Boulevard, opened for business with a well-attended and emotional ceremony Saturday, highlighted by friends and family of Ruiz, the former director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and longtime player in local Latino politics, who died in 2000. The facility near ACC's Riverside campus replaces the former Riverside Drive branch but also brings long-sought library service to neighbors in Montopolis and is the only Austin Public Library branch serving families in the Del Valle school district. Designed by local architect Lars Stanley, the Ruiz branch was the first library project approved by voters in the November 1998 bond election to open its doors. M.C.M.
Speaking of the Hispanic Chamber, the business group's annual awards banquet held Saturday night at the new Austin Hilton drew a large and animated crowd of local movers and shakers, Latino and otherwise, including congressional candidates Lloyd Doggett and Leticia Hinojosa in their first in-the-same-room Austin appearance. Award winners included businesswoman Lois Villaseñor, Judge Gisela Triana, engineer José I. Guerra, outgoing chamber Chair Flynn Nogueira, and corporate partners Time Warner Cable and Marketplace Austin. M.C.M.
In an evening marked by memories, inspiration, and solidarity, the Austin Community College chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 6249, received its official charter at the AFL-CIO Labor Temple last Friday. Texas Federation of Teachers' Secretary-Treasurer John O'Sullivan recalled helping organize, in the same meeting hall, a "very small group" of ACC teachers and staff "who would not give up on the vision that no one outside this room believed in." Following several years of activism on the ACC campuses, the chapter is now a thriving college presence, and about 70 people including several ACC board members joined union leaders Myra Bradley, Mark Goodrich, and Dan Dewberry in celebrating the formal acquisition of the charter. TFT President John Cole congratulated the group on its accomplishment and challenged them to see the charter as a beginning rather than an end. "Freedom doesn't come like the pouring rain, or like a bird on the wing," said Cole. "Freedom is a hard-won thing, and every generation has to win it again." M.K.
To the strains of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," city transportation Director Austan Librach PowerPointed the City Council last week on a favorite subject of City Hall detractors: traffic light synchronization. According to Librach, synchronization cannot solve Austin's congestion problems, cannot be accomplished on all streets in all directions, and already has been accomplished for 90% of Austin's major roadways. Contrary to the stuff of repeated and heated attacks by Texas Monthly Publisher Mike Levy and other road warriors, Librach told the council that the city has actually taken huge steps toward solving its congestion problems, although he urged citizens to remember that "Austin is not still a small town." M.C.M.
Another controversial project in the portfolio of Librach's Transportation, Planning, and Sustainability Department the Great Streets program of streetscape improvements Downtown may take a long-awaited step forward this week, as City Council considers creating incentives for Downtown developers "wishing to make public right-of-way improvements according to the Great Streets standards." Those include wider (18-foot) sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian-scale lighting, utility relocation, and other enhancements, many of them quite expensive. The city has been setting aside a portion of Downtown parking-meter revenue for Great Streets incentives for several years and now has more than $1 million in the bank; projects deemed "high priority" may be eligible for Great Streets reimbursements of up to $18 per square foot of improved sidewalk area. M.C.M.
The late very late "C. Barange," a sailor whose remains were discovered during the excavation of a 318-year-old shipwreck, received a proper burial this week in the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin. "Barange" the name on a pewter cup found near the skeleton was a crew member of La Belle, one of four ships in the 1684 expedition of Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, which foundered in Matagorda Bay. (The sailor apparently died of thirst, waiting for La Salle to return with fresh water; the explorer was eventually murdered by his own men.) The governments of the U.S., Texas, and France decided on the State Cemetery funeral service, featuring remarks from the French ambassador to the U.S and conducted in both French and English; the bones themselves have been interred in an argon-gas-filled vault to facilitate future forensic analysis. M.C.M.
Beyond City Limits
The Texas Association of Business lost yet another courthouse contest on Monday this one before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed a federal district court ruling in litigation stemming from the group's controversial 2002 political ad campaign, widely credited with the GOP takeover of the Texas Legislature. The lower court had thrown out a pre-emptive lawsuit brought by TAB against 17 unsuccessful Democratic candidates for the Texas House; TAB had sued the 17 fearing they might sue the group over its negative direct-mail ad campaign, funded with undisclosed corporate dollars and possibly in violation of Texas election law. "TAB made no allegation that any of the defendant candidates had taken or threatened action of any sort," said defense lawyer Jim Boyle. A.S.
By his friends you shall know him: Texas Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith announced this week that he has been endorsed for re-election by national anti-affirmative action frontman Ward Connerly, Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, and American Conservative Union Chair David Keene. Connerly applauded Smith's "courage and respect for constitutional values," and Schlafly praised Smith's "commitment to principles of conservative judicial restraint." While Smith insists he is a "nonactivist" justice committed to strict constructionism, last week the Dallas Morning News reported that his chief aide, Marc Levin, was issuing op-eds defending the GOP's partisan position on redistricting. Endorsing Smith's primary opponent for Place 5, Paul Green, the DMN noted, "Such overt political activity by a paid staffer on the Supreme Court is highly inappropriate." Smith told the editors that Levin was simply exercising his free speech rights which should comfort all those appearing before the court in hopes of obtaining impartial justice. M.K.
Today (Thursday) is the last day to catch The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the riveting documentary of the failed coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, at Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek, 13729 Research, 7:25pm. Tickets $7.50, students and seniors $5, at the door or at www.drafthouse.com.
Huston-Tillotson College presents a lecture by professor John Bracey Jr. as part of its Black History Month celebration. Bracey is a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and has edited a number of volumes on various aspects of the African-American experience, including Black Nationalism in America and Black Protest in the Sixties. Agard-Lovinggood Lecture Hall, Huston-Tillotson campus, 900 Chicon (on Chalmers Street, near the West Entrance), 3pm. Call 505-3100 for more info.
Hot on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission's public hearing in San Antonio, the Atheist Community of Austin will screen the 1992 documentary Manufacturing Consent Friday, Feb. 6, 8pm, at Monkeywrench Books, 110 East North Loop. Based on the Noam Chomsky/Edward Herman book of the same title, the critique of corporate media still holds up remarkably well after all these years, as big business increases its stranglehold on the world's news outlets.
UT's McCombs Business School (UT campus, 21st and Speedway) will host its Business Honors Symposium 2004 on Saturday, Feb. 7, with the theme "Responding to Change and Diversity." Speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and Austin state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, among others, discussing how students can anticipate changes in corporate America resulting from the globalization of labor, shifting demographics, and the increasing numbers of women in professional roles. Registration is open to the public via the Web at www.mccombs.utexas.edu. For more info, call 471-3314.