Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Aug. 13, 2004
Quote of the Week: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." President Bush, misspeaking (yawn) again. (Actually, we kind of agree with "Wonkette" blogger Ana Marie Cox: "Aren't the things he means to say scary enough?")
As the city-county spat over the finances (and future management) of the Travis Co. hospital district rumbles on, cooler heads are attempting to find common ground. See p.18, p.19, and "Austin@Large," at right.
The West Orange-Cove CISD v. Neeley trial i.e., the "Robin Hood" school finance case kicked off this week with testimony from Austin ISD Superintendent Pat Forgione. See p.19 and "Capitol Chronicle," p.16.
Let's be clear here: There is no known "terrorist threat" to Mansfield Dam or other Austin landmarks. A Pakistani national was picked up on immigration violations while wielding his camcorder in downtown Charlotte, N.C. His video collection includes shots of Austin locales. That's all anybody knows. Calm down, people.
It isn't officially named "The Annual ..." but yet another parade and concert will be held on Friday, Aug. 13, to honor hometown hero Lance Armstrong for yet another Tour de France victory a record sixth consecutive win. The city expects more than 60,000 attendees to flood Congress Avenue for the parade, followed by a concert at 10th and Congress. The parade begins at 7pm; afterward, music will be provided by the Steve Miller Band and Robert Earl Keen. Several streets will be closed: Suffice it to say you should steer clear of Congress, especially beginning Friday afternoon. Beginning 4pm Friday, no parking will be allowed on Congress or any cross streets between Seventh and 10th, under penalty of being towed. For Capital Metro detours, call 474-1200. Lee Nichols
The Save Our Springs Alliance and Save Barton Creek Association have filed suit against the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, alleging the agencies violated federal law in giving the construction go-ahead last month to State Highway 45 Southeast without, in the plaintiffs' view, giving due consideration to alternative routes. The state last week awarded a contract to H.B. Zachry Construction Co. to start building the toll road, part of the original Central Texas Turnpike Project (along with SH 130) approved back in 2001. (That is, not one of the new toll projects approved last month.) The southeast segment, linking I-35 to SH 130 via Creedmoor, does not itself cross the Edwards Aquifer, but SOS and SBCA fear it will eventually connect to other SH 45 segments and create a loop all the way to MoPac, which they see as a disaster for the environmentally sensitive area. The westernmost SH 45 segment, from MoPac to FM 1626, is part of the new Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority toll road plan, but in response to environmental (and political) concerns, the middle leg is on indefinite hold. M.C.M.
Much yawning and stretching at last week's long but not-so-exciting City Council meeting even with some bitter on-the-dais sparring over the Austin Music Network between Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman (pro) and Council Member Brewster McCracken (anti). The council agreed to pay out the remaining $15,000 of the AMN contract to Austin Community Television, the music channel's prospective new home, while the two public-TV entities flesh out the details. Also last week, the council gave the go-ahead (on a 4-3 vote) to high-speed go-karting at Bergstrom and was briefed on the public-safety portion of the proposed fiscal 2005 budget. Today's (Thursday) meeting should likewise be relaxed, though the budget briefing parks, libraries, housing, and health and human services might attract more citizen (and council member) interest. M.C.M.
Old West Austin residents won a reprieve Monday with the Board of Adjustment's decision to postpone action on a condo project the neighbors say is architecturally incompatible with the neighborhood and in violation of city code. On the latter point, everyone is in agreement; problem is, the five-unit complex is already built. The developer, David Minter, is backtracking to try to obtain a height variance for the four-level project at Shelley Avenue and West Ninth Street. The development was supposed to be capped at three floors, but somewhere in the development-review process, a city staffer unintentionally signed off on the four-level proposal. The city told Minter in February that he needs a variance before he can obtain a certificate of occupancy. Minter, according to neighbors, continued finishing out the project before seeking the variance. The matter returns to the board Sept. 23. Amy Smith
Can you hear the train coming 'round the bend? The Capital Metro board (and everyone else) will on Aug. 16 get the first official look at the fruits of the transit authority's "All Systems Go!" initiative that is, the rail plan that you'll almost certainly be asked to vote on in November. While the outlines of the plan have been widely shopped around town during Cap Metro's months-long outreach campaign, key details like the final Downtown destination of commuter rail, and the possibility of central-city streetcar lines still await resolution and will likely be of interest to the board. The Monday meeting is a nonvoting work session; the board's actual vote to adopt a plan and set a November ballot is anticipated for Aug. 30. M.C.M.
The Lower Colorado River Authority has lifted its stop-work order on the controversial West Cypress Hills development in Western Travis Co., based on improvements and repairs made to a malfunctioning storm water detention pond and dam. The faulty control measures resulted in the pollution of Lick Creek, a beloved waterway that nearby residents fear will never be restored to its crystal-clear state. The Guardians of Lick Creek, a group of area residents, is approaching the end of a 60-day waiting period required in filing federal lawsuits. Guardian Vice President Pepper Morris, who first noticed the pollution a year ago, said the group intends to pursue the lawsuit. A.S.
Austin police detectives are asking for help in locating two individuals suspected in a slew of armed robberies of Hispanic immigrants. APD says the suspects approach their victims and engage them in conversation, brandish a handgun, and rob them of their cash. The suspects are described as a thin Hispanic male, mid-Twenties, with a long, thin tattoo on his upper right arm and a 25- to 30-year-old black male, approximately 6 feet tall; the two were seen driving a white Chevy S-10 pickup. The two are wanted in connection with robberies that occurred Aug. 2-4 on the 1800 block of West Anderson Lane, the 6000 block of Manor Road, and the 9000 block of Northgate Boulevard. APD is asking anyone with information to call the robbery tip line at 974-5092 or Crime Stoppers at 472-8477. Jordan Smith
Beyond City Limits
Former Williamson Co. Sheriff John Maspero was back in the sheriff's offices in downtown Georgetown on Aug. 10, but not on business. Instead the ousted lawman was there as an inmate, picked up on two warrants one a class C misdemeanor assault charge, the other a class A misdemeanor criminal trespass charge, both in connection with an Aug. 9 family-violence incident. Maspero a former FBI agent before being elected sheriff in 2000 lost his badge last year when he resigned his post (under pressure from County Attorney Gene Taylor) after being caught on tape by Georgetown police, allegedly drunk while staggering down G-town's Williams Drive. And, at press time on Wednesday, Maspero had reportedly been arrested again on similar charges. J.S.
Don't paint all Texans with a single brush: A political action committee named the Texas Arts Community formed on July 12 with the goal of raising $140,000 to purchase a full-page ad in The New York Times to, in their words, "speak out, with a single united voice, against the abuses of the Bush administration and in support of preventing another Bush presidential term." Thus far, 125 Lone Star artists and creative types have signed on board, including such notables as musicians Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Nanci Griffith; former Texas Monthly Editor Bill Broyles; writers Gary Cartwright, Sarah Bird, Larry L. King, Jan Reid, and Bud Shrake; and filmmaker Richard Linklater, among many, many others. To see a full list and description of the project, go to www.txac.org. L.N.
The ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday, representing voter (and local cyber-sage) Jon Lebkowsky, demanding that the meetings of the state's voting examiners be held in public. Voting-activist groups have complained that the Texas secretary of state's panel has adopted recommendations concerning electronic voting, including the certification of possibly suspect voting machines, with insufficient review and while insisting that the panel is not subject to the state's Open Meetings Act. "Texans deserve secure, reliable voting machines, and they deserve to see that the officials charged with certifying those machines are conducting a rigorous evaluation to ensure the systems are secure and effective," said Adina Levin of the Texas ACLU. "All aspects of the voting process in a democracy should be open and transparent, to give citizens confidence in their vote. The evaluation process should not be hidden behind closed doors." Consumers Union has also objected to the nonpublic meetings; for more information, see the Texas Safe Voting Coalition Web site at www.safevoting.org. Michael King
Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting is sick of the national party's ignoring Texas this election season while eagerly trolling Texas Democrats for money. Soechting told Mike Hailey's Capitol Inside that his fellow Democrats "are suffering from anal-cranial inversion." (Translation: heads up asses.) "They have absolutely no respect for Texas. Most of these folks at the DNC couldn't find Texas without a good map." This was after the Democratic National Committee's request for Texas to provide staff and volunteer labor to send to the so-called "battleground" states, in return for a whopping $5,000. Texans have contributed more than $5 million to the cause this cycle so far, and Soechting says he's asking Dems to keep their money at home, potentially costing the national campaign $10 million. His outrage is political as well as financial; Soechting insists that with a real effort, state Democrats have a chance to pull an upset for John Kerry against favorite son George W. Bush. (More realistically, the Texas Dems also have high hopes in local, state House, and congressional races.) He was also unhappy at high-handed treatment of the Texas delegation at the national party convention in Boston. "These guys come dragging their sacks through Texas," Soechting said of the DNC, "and then when it's time to do right for Texas they act like we've got some social disease." Tell us what you really think, Charles. M.K.
Soechting didn't confine his outrage to his own party last week. Following the dissemination of the Bush-supporting "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ad charging that Sen. John Kerry had lied about his service in Vietnam, Soechting attacked Houston homebuilder and heavy Republican campaign donor Bob Perry, who helped underwrite the GOP ad campaign. Soechting called on Bush, Gov. Rick Perry, and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to tell Bob Perry to stop funding the TV spot, which is running in at least three swing states. Perry gave $100,000 to the shadowy attack group, according to news reports. "Debasing political debate is a trademark of these three politicians," Soechting said. "But Bush, Perry, and DeLay should immediately call on their friend and donor to pull his funding for this new spot, which is beneath even their low standards." M.K.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, 5-9pm, Friends of Deep Eddy will celebrate raising over $215,000 toward their goal of $1 million to renovate and restore the pool's historic bathhouse. The event will feature live music, food, and drink. Completed in 1936, the Deep Eddy bathhouse was the first Works Progress Administration project in Travis County. Today, only one-third of the bathhouse is in use. The remaining two-thirds is in extreme disrepair and in need of renovation. Admission to the event is $3 with a suggested donation of $5. Deep Eddy Pool, 401 Deep Eddy Drive. For more info, visit www.deepeddy.org.
The Texas Libertarian Party will be hosting two speakers at 3:45pm on Aug. 15 as part of its Austin Distinguished Speakers Series at the LCRA Hancock Bldg. conference room, 3700 Lake Austin Blvd. First up will be Noelle Davis, executive director of Texans for Medical Marijuana, who will discuss medi-pot and TMM's push to get the Lege to pass a medi-pot bill, followed by ACLU attorney Ann del Llano, who will discuss government surveillance and privacy concerns. Admission is free. For more info, go to www.austinliberty.org.
On Aug. 16 and 17, Austin Area Interreligious Ministries will partner with the Texas Faith Network and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund to present Through the Stained Glass: Religion and the Media at Congregation Agudas Achim on the Dell Jewish Community Campus in Austin. The two-day conference is aimed at activists and people of faith wishing to counter the extremist right. Among the speakers is the "First Lady of the Press," longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas. For registration information, visit www.tfn.org/conference/index.php or call 322-0545.
Democracy for Texas, the local chapter of the Democracy for America movement that spun out of the Howard Dean presidential campaign, says it expects more than 400 Texans and others to converge on Huston-Tillotson College Aug. 21-22 for workshop training of progressive grassroots activists, taught by the 21st Century Democrats organization. 9am-6pm both days, King Seabrook Chapel on the HTC campus, 900 Chicon. Registration is $45. Go to www.21stdems.org/training for more info.