Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Aug. 6, 2004
Quote of the Week: "I just don't think people like Ricky are meant to be in the spotlight." Sandy Williams, mother of the football star, telling The Dallas Morning News of her shock (and also some relief) over her son's decision to retire from the NFL
Budgets, budgets, everywhere, and not a dime to spend ... well, not many dimes, at least. See "Capitol Chronicle" for the state fiscal news, "City, County Budgets Hold the (Bottom) Line" for the city and county breakdown, and "Making Ends Meet" for the AISD financial spotlight.
The Travis Co. Hospital District Board of Managers made its debut this week with a marathon cram session on the (largely dismal) state of local public health care. See "Newborn District Takes Its First Steps".
Today at City Council: Mother of mercy, is this the end of the Austin Music Network? Or of Austin Community Television? Or both? See "Austin@Large."
Also on today's council agenda: the budget hearing for the city's public-safety departments and a briefing on everyone's favorite APD topic du jour, "traffic enforcement and management strategies."
It worked! The Home Depot announced last week it is indeed locating its new 500-job data center in Austin after receiving financial incentives from the city, county, state, and school district. The retail giant is also locating a 350-job call center in New Braunfels.
This weekend Friday through Sunday is the annual sales tax holiday for most back-to-school-esque purchases. Happy shopping.
On Aug. 3 Austin police announced that they have arrested and charged four men with aggravated sexual assault and aggravated robbery following an incident last month on Wickersham Lane. The four Shawn Regan, 21; Donald Bockman, 24; Darren Gay, 21; and a 16-year-old juvenile met up with their victim, a 32-year-old gay man whose name has not been made public, on July 17 at Oilcan Harry's bar on Fourth Street in the Warehouse District. The men offered the victim a ride back to his apartment, where they then assaulted him for nearly two hours before leaving. Regan, Bockman, and Gay, each charged with two first-degree felonies, are currently in jail on $200,000 bonds; the juvenile is being held without bond. Although this has been widely reported as a hate-crime investigation, APD spokesman Kevin Buchman said that determination will ultimately be made by Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The case remains under investigation by APD's sex-crimes detectives, who ask that anyone with info related to the crime call Crime Stoppers at 472-8477 or the sex crimes tip line at 974-5095. Jordan Smith
Last week's City Council meeting ended up featuring few of the fireworks expected, as a number of the most controversial agenda items were postponed. Along with the Walgreens/Taco Xpress zoning case (see p.19), items put on the back burner included Up to Me's conditional-use permit for a transitional-housing facility for female felons on North Lamar (postponed until Sept. 2); a nearby hot-button zoning case on 51st Street (to be heard this week, due to a posting error on the agenda); a proposal to open a high-speed go-kart track at Bergstrom (on tap for this week); and consideration of the planned overhaul of the city's historic-preservation program (kicked all the way to Sept. 30, after the budget season). As well, even though the council spent much of its meeting discussing zoning issues raised by and related to the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, final approval of those changes will likewise have to wait until this week's meeting, at least. The council did vote to direct city staff to study making Cesar Chavez Street two-way through all of Downtown. M.C.M.
After great struggles in recent years, the Austin-based Schlotzsky's sandwich chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday. Recent attempts to stop the hemorrhaging included firing CEO John Wooley and his brother and vice-president, Jeff Wooley (who are now suing the company), closing 15 corporate-owned restaurants, and eliminating numerous jobs. The company's sponsorship of Austin City Limits will also come to an end. Back in the heady stock-market days of 1998, the company's stock (NASDAQ symbol: BUNZ) reached a high of $23.38 per share; after the bankruptcy announcement, it closed Tuesday at 72 cents. Lee Nichols
Californians launched a recall-election drive against their governor and ended up with the Terminator. Who knows what Austin will get if a recall effort succeeds in ousting Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Brewster McCracken for their "yes" votes on toll roads? Dubbed the "Austin Toll Party" (www.austintollparty.com), the recall effort needs 40,000 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify for an election. Toll road opponents, organized as the People for Efficient Transportation PAC, have reportedly engaged veteran petition-pusher Linda Curtis to lead the drive. At press time Wednesday, the group was set to kick off its effort with a press conference at the Austin History Center. Amy Smith
Violent crime is down, property crimes are up; Austin residents' perceptions of neighborhood safety continue to increase; both Austin and Travis Co. continue to dedicate more than 50% of general funds to public safety while spending just over 10% on health and human services. So the Austin-Travis Co. Community Action Network reports in its new Public Safety and Crime Prevention Report, released Aug. 2. The CAN report notes that after a three-year decline, there was a 7% increase in juvenile felony and class A and B misdemeanors "particularly" for assaults, including sexual assault and felony drug possession. Further, CAN notes that the number of confirmed cases of child abuse rose 24% in 2003; since 2000 there has been a 26% decrease in the number of available foster homes. To see the entire report, go to www.caction.org. J.S.
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has tapped a North Carolina economic development guru to lead the business group's five-county initiative to create 72,000 jobs over the next five years. Dave Porter, who begins his new job Sept. 1, will serve as vice-president for economic development, the same post he held in Asheville. Porter's acceptance of the post concludes the Austin chamber's eight-month search for a new VP to head the Opportunity Austin effort to recruit new companies, retain existing businesses, create new jobs, and pump $14 billion into the regional economy. A.S.
He might be done by the time you read this, but at press time, Paul Ellis environmentalist, Barton Springs lover, and chairman of Austin Business College was planning to swim the 35-mile Yucatan Channel in Mexico (from Cozumel to Cancún) to raise awareness of the ongoing threat to the world's coral reefs. Ellis says he has spent $35,000 of his own money to prepare for the swim, which could be fairly dangerous, what with sharks, jellyfish, currents, and whatnot. But a press release from Ellis says, "I am not a daredevil. I'm an educator." Go to www.swim4thereef.com to follow Ellis' progress. L.N.
Insiders are buzzing about the future of KTBC-TV anchor Dick Ellis, who has been working the Austin TV news game for 34 years, and his on-air partner, Carrie Schumacher. Both are nearing the end of their contracts and, rumor has it, will soon be looking for new TelePrompTers. KTBC station General Manager Danny Baker says the Fox affiliate has offered Schumacher and Ellis new contracts, but neither has signed; Schumacher's current contract is up on Aug. 29. Negotiations are reportedly continuing, fueling speculation that KTBC may be trying to lowball its anchors. Ellis, a grandfather who has been with KTBC since 1995, declined comment. "The station says I can't talk to anybody about anything," he said. Kevin Brass
In relation to this year's September 11 observances, Austin Area Interreligious Ministries is trying to organize a "pulpit swap" for the Sept. 10-12 weekend. AAIM wants clergy who would be willing to preach a sermon to people of a faith different than their own. Interested parties should call 386-9145 or e-mail email@example.com. L.N.
Beyond City Limits
Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle has concluded his investigation of the campaign funding activities of U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, and has found "no evidence" of violations of campaign-finance law. Earle's investigation was in response to a "formal criminal complaint" from state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, speculating that Frost's "Lone Star Fund" had commingled corporate and labor union funds and contributed those funds to Democratic candidates in 2000 and 2002 legislative races a violation of Texas campaign law. Earle said his investigators reviewed accounts and bank records for two Frost PACs "Lone Star Fund" and "Lone Star Fund-Texas," federal and state PACs which used the same IRS employer number but maintained separate bank accounts. Based on the review, Earle wrote Deuell, "we have concluded that Lone Star Fund-Texas did not accept and commingle corporate funds and did not contribute corporate or labor funds to candidates in Texas campaigns." Michael King
On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of incumbent U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, in his lengthy court battle against his narrow March primary defeat by former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar for the Democratic nomination to CD28 (which stretches from Laredo, Cuellar's hometown, all the way to Buda). Lower courts had ruled that Rodriguez had acted too late to allow evidence of fraud to be submitted at trial, although his lawyers said they could provide evidence of potentially hundreds of illegal votes in Webb and Zapata counties. M.K.
Randall Iglehart, state president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators and a classroom teacher in San Antonio, was at the Capitol Tuesday to advocate for reform of the federal laws governing Social Security. Because of an expiring regulation that allowed teachers to retain both their pensions and their Social Security payments, about 30,000 Texas teachers are retiring this year about twice the average. The association is advocating for federal reform to allow teachers henceforth to retain more of their Social Security contributions. Two bills are pending before Congress the Public Servant Retirement Protection Act and the Social Security Fairness Act and ATPE calls the former, sponsored by Texan Republicans Rep. Kevin Brady and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a helpful "compromise" that can at least be considered in the House, in order to get for teachers about half of what they're asking. M.K.
Nationally syndicated (including in The Austin Chronicle) Austin political commentator Jim Hightower will be beating the Downtown bushes tonight (Thursday) with a pair of speeches and booksignings. At Mother Egan's Irish Pub, 715 W. Sixth, he'll address the Austin for Kerry meet-up and sign copies of his new Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, at 5pm. Then he'll head down Sixth Street to BookPeople, 603 North Lamar, and do the same at 7pm. For more info, call 472-5050 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemoration Day will be observed on Sunday, Aug. 8, in a pair of events in Austin. From 2-5pm on the UT campus, in room 2.102 of the University Teaching Center (21st Street, between University and Speedway), a public forum will be held featuring Julie Enszer, executive director of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, and workshops by UT Watch and Iconmedia. Later, from 6:30pm to dusk, a picnic and interfaith remembrance ceremony will be held at Zilker Park's Peace Grove and Lou Neff Point (where Barton Creek meets Town Lake), featuring a variety of speakers and performers. Bring food, drink, blankets to sit on, folding chairs, flashlights, bug spray. For more info, go to www.utnukefree.org/events.php.
The 12th anniversary celebration of the Save Our Springs Ordinance takes place Sunday, starting at 7pm, at La Zona Rosa. The annual Soul of the City music benefit marks the historic day Aug. 8, 1992 when Austinites voted 2-to-1 to adopt the strict water-quality ordinance protecting Barton Springs. The music lineup includes Grupo Fantasma, Joe King Carrasco, and Erik Hokkanen. Tickets are $15 (or $10 with student ID) and available online at www.sosalliance.org, at Wheatsville Co-op, and at the door. Also on Sunday, Barton Springs Pool will observe the anniversary with a free day of swimming. Call the SOS Alliance at 477-2320 for more info.
Texans for Medical Marijuana will hold a volunteer advocacy meeting on Aug. 10, 7-9pm, at the ACLU of Texas offices at 1210 Rosewood. For more info, call 220-9209 or visit www.texansformedicalmarijuana.org.
A fundraiser for Casa Marianella, a shelter and support organization for immigrants and refugees, will pay tribute to the late Ed Wendler Sr., who 18 years ago donated the four-bedroom house on Gunter Street that Casa calls home. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 11, 5:30-7:30pm, at Nuevo Leon restaurant, 1501 E. Sixth. Speakers include Molly Ivins, Garry Mauro, and other Wendler friends. Suggested donation is $50, sponsorships $100-500. For event info or to buy a ticket, visit www.casamarianella.org or call 266-7952.
The grand opening of the Williamson Co. Democratic Party headquarters will take place Thursday, Aug. 12, at 102 Old Bowman Rd. Ste. C (near Mays and U.S. 79) in Round Rock. For more info, call 671-VOTE.