Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Sept. 24, 2004
Quote of the Week: "We compromised and now George Bush is going to sit on Dick Cheney's lap." John Kerry, cracking wise to David Letterman about negotiations over whether Dick Cheney and John Edwards would sit or stand in their VP debate. The first presidential debate will be Thursday, Sept. 30.
Meanwhile, back on our planet, Mayor Will Wynn set foot in Katz's Deli this week, congratulating his erstwhile foe for 25 years of Never Klosing. Stay tuned for next week's proclamation of Sal Costello Day in Austin ...
It's perp-walk time for Tom DeLay's minions in the Texans for a Republican Majority, as a Travis Co. grand jury handed down 32 indictments in connection with the long-simmering "Tomstown" scandals. See "Tomstown Hits the Fan."
In the wake of District Judge John Dietz's smackdown of Texas' school finance system, everyone except Gov. We're-Making-Great-Progress realizes that things must change, and soon. See "Capitol Chronicle."
After a generation of debate, the East 11th Street revitalization effort reached a major milestone last week, with the grand opening of the first new development project in the corridor.
Gay-friendly Presbyterian pastor Jim Rigby couldn't be more pleased at the prospect of being tried for heresy. See "The Rev. Rigby Welcomes Same-Sex Showdown."
It took a while, but the city's Music and Telecommunications commissions have formally weighed in on the Austin Music Network and Austin Community Television proposals laying on the table at City Hall. The boards support ACTV's continuing to manage AMN and its Channel 15, by separate agreement with the city, come Oct. 1 when the star-crossed music channel is currently set to expire for between three and six months, until a new operator for Channel 15 is in place. But the proposal by Austin Music Partners to be that operator was adjudged by the commissions to be not ready for prime time. Specific objections to the AMP contract which, as the proposals stand now, would be the source of funds ACTV needs to manage AMN in the interim have been forwarded to the City Council's Telecom Subcommittee, which meets today (Thursday) to take one last crack at resolving this issue before AMN turns into a pumpkin. M.C.M.
Planned Parenthood will cut the ribbon on its new flagship facility today (Thursday), one year to the day after breaking ground on the project that continues to draw fire-and-brimstone protests from abortion foes. The Choice Project, which actually opens in November, was held up last year after a contractors' boycott, led by right-wing concrete supplier Chris Danze, threatened to derail the South Austin facility. The organization and supporters regrouped and work continued with subcontractors practically working undercover to avoid getting blackballed on other projects. Mayor Will Wynn will be on hand for the ribbon-cutting at 201 E. Ben White, alongside Glenda Parks, chief executive of Planned Parenthood's Texas Capital Region, and Choice Project co-chairs Robbie and Tom Ausley. Amy Smith
On Sept. 16, rookie Austin Police Officer Boren Hildebrand pleaded guilty to one count of official oppression in connection with two charges of sexual assault leveled against him. Two different women alleged that Hildebrand assaulted them in June and August 2002; last week he pled guilty to a charge that he offered to ignore a pending warrant against one of the women in exchange for sex. Hildebrand was sentenced to 120 days in jail which, with good conduct and time served will likely be cut in half and two years' probation. Jordan Smith
As we reported last month, budget woes and construction missteps have beset Austin Community College's new South Austin Campus project; this week, ACC trustees learned (much to their displeasure) that the campus would not be ready to open until fall 2006, a year behind schedule. The facility at Stassney and Manchaca will also no longer include new facilities for the college's commercial music management program, one of the initial selling points for the project. The trustees directed new President Robert Aguero to do what's necessary to avoid such bungles in the future. M.C.M.
"Emerging industry," my butt more businesses in Texas, by a wide margin, rely on renewable energy than in any other state, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Texas accounts for nearly 40% of the agency's "Green Power Partners" large-scale commercial and institutional customers of renewable energy. Between them, those customers use more than 400 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually, enough to power 40,000 homes; the resulting air-quality benefits equate to taking 50,000 cars off the road. The EPA honored its Texas friends in Austin this week, as part of the World Energy Engineering Conference being held at the Austin Convention Center. Austin Energy remains the largest purveyor, in terms of total sales, of clean energy in the nation. M.C.M.
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has donated $25 million more than 10% of the total project cost to the Seton Healthcare Network for construction of what will now be the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. The new children's hospital at Mueller is set to open in 2007; the Dell donation is a matching gift, providing $1 for every $2 Seton raises from elsewhere. (Seton has already raised enough to match one-third of the Dells' gift.) The donation is thought to be the largest ever received by a local institution other than UT. M.C.M.
Updates from the waning days of the summer budget season: Capital Metro has proposed a 5% spending increase in its fiscal 2005 plan, thanks to healthier-than-expected sales-tax collections and projected increases in fare and freight-rail revenue. Much of that money will be eaten up by higher fuel prices, along with employee raises and health benefits, but Cap Metro is also bringing new facilities online and, you may have heard, will be holding an election in November (price tag: $1.3 million) on its commuter rail plans. The proposed budget leaves Cap Metro with a $25 million surplus, which would go toward rail, should it be approved. M.C.M.
Meanwhile, Travis County has finished the always tedious, though this year not so grueling, process of marking up its FY 2005 budget, which it is slated for approval Sept. 28. On Wednesday, as we went to press, the county held required public hearings on both its proposed tax rate and for the Travis Co. Hospital District, whose rate must be approved by the Commissioners Court as part of the two entities' budgets. As the city did last week, the county must lower its own rate to accommodate the hospital district, which should leave Travis Co.'s fiscal 2005 rate at just below 49 cents per $100 assessed value. M.C.M.
The University of Texas reports that among the 6,796 freshmen entering this fall, racial minorities slightly increased their proportional representation over last fall's frosh class. African-Americans went from 4.1% to 4.5%; Hispanics from 16.3% to 16.9%; and Asian-Americans from 17.6% to 17.9%. The percentage of whites went down from 59.3% to 58.6%. Lee Nichols
Obligatory Swipe at the Statesman: Did you know that activist groups sometimes pay college kids to leaflet, canvass, phone-bank, and, you know, be activists? Apparently, when the Save Our Springs Alliance does so, it raises Ethical Issues, at least according to the daily's Wednesday piece detailing the Alliance's hiring "protesters" to work the Lowe's front lines. We eagerly await the tut-tutting editorial that's sure to follow. M.C.M.
Beyond City Limits
On Sept. 17, 61-year-old "adult-oriented" business magnate John Kenneth Coil was sentenced to 63 months in the federal pen, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, and forfeited an estimated $8.1 million in assets including real property and the contents of more than 20 adult stores (including several in and around Austin) after pleading guilty to federal racketeering, fraud, obscenity, and income-tax evasion charges. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Antonio, Coil and seven others his wife, three of his children, and three business associates cheated the feds on tax returns in an effort to hide income from Coil's various adult businesses. "Coil has been a long time pornography merchant who has made millions selling obscenity and cheating on his taxes," said U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. "Today's sentences should put those in the hard-core pornography business on notice that there will be a price to pay for violating our obscenity and tax laws." What the feds intend to do with Coil's stores including Austin's Oasis Adult Video and the Adult Video locations in Garfield and Round Rock and their contents, including a number of "rubber goods and novelties," remains to be seen. J.S.
Gov. Rick Perry last week signed reciprocity agreements with Idaho, Mississippi, and Utah, making it legal for Texans with concealed-carry handgun licenses to pack heat while out of state. The agreement also means that properly licensed visitors from those states are welcome to bring their guns to Texas an arrangement that allows residents to "enjoy the same or similar privileges" that their licenses give them at home, Department of Public Safety director Thomas Davis Jr. said in a press release. Texas now has reciprocity agreements with 12 states. J.S.
Weed Watch: On Sept. 21, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws founder and Executive Director Keith Stroup formally announced that he will retire at the end of the year. Stroup founded the organization in 1970 and has twice served as its leader, from 1970 to 1979 and from 1995 to the present. In a letter to NORML supporters, Stroup said his decision to step aside was simple. Stroup turned 60 earlier this year and began to wonder whether "someone younger, and with more energy and a more youthful perspective, should be running NORML," he wrote. "The answer was obvious." The NORML board of directors is searching for a replacement and intends to announce its choice by the end of the year. J.S.
The monthly Austin for Kerry Meetup is today, Thursday, Sept. 23, at Mother Egan's Irish Pub at 7pm. Featured speaker is author and former Austin Chronicle Politics Editor Lou Dubose, whose most recent work is The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress, co-authored with Jan Reid. Also on the bill are state Reps. Eddie Rodriguez and Elliott Naishtat. Also, physically fit (athletic?) supporters of John Kerry will have a "Race for the White House" and picnic on Saturday, Sept. 25, 9am, beginning at Auditorium Shores in front of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. They'll walk a 1-mile loop with Kerry/Edwards T-shirts and signs. For more info go to www.austin4kerry.org.
The Travis Co. clerk's office will conduct a public ballot proofing on the county's eSlate voting system that will be used during the early voting period and on Election Day. The public is invited to review the accuracy of the ballot order, the candidate names, and the propositions appearing on the ballot. All are welcome, and no appointment is necessary. Proofing is expected to be completed by 5pm. There will be no other changes accepted after that time. Friday, Sept. 24, beginning at 9am. 5501 Airport Blvd. For more info, call 854-3293 or 854-4373.
2004 Biennial Scientific Symposium on Children's Health as Impacted by Environmental Contaminants will be held Sept. 24-26, at the Mark Rose Natural Science Center at McKinney Roughs Nature Park. The Sept. 26 session, 9am-2pm, will be open to the public, with free family hiking and presentations on keeping children safe from environmental toxins. For more info, go to www.cehi.org or call 821-9971.
Democracy for Texas promises breakfast tacos and juice (but bring your own coffee) for anyone who helps them hang bags full of voter registration cards on apartment and dorm doors around Austin this weekend. Meet at former state Rep. Glen Maxey's office, 512 E. Riverside, on Saturday, Sept. 25, 9:30am. Participants must RSVP by e-mailing Fran Vincent at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 468-4127.
The ACLU of Texas will release its annual Banned Books report on Monday, Sept. 27, the first day of Banned Books Week. Scheduled events include a couple of Read-a-Thons at BookPeople at 7pm Monday, Sept. 27, and at BookWoman at 7pm Wednesday, Sept. 29 plus the "Artists Interruptus" anti-censorship art show on Saturday, Oct. 2, 5-9pm, at the Old School, 1604 E. 11th, with a post-exhibit party at the Longbranch Inn at 9:30pm. See p.26 for details.
The Violet Crown Democrats, an organization of Dems from North Central Austin, will hold their first-ever meeting on Monday, Sept. 27, 7pm, at 1711 Morrow. Speakers include CD 10 write-in candidate Lorenzo Sadun and representatives of Austin for Kerry and the Greg Hamilton for Sheriff campaign. For more info, or for a membership form, go to www.main.org/vcdemocrats or e-mail email@example.com.
Bestselling biographer Kitty Kelley whose latest work is the controversial, unauthorized biography of the Bushes, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty will appear at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 7pm, where she will participate in a one-on-one public interview with Texas Monthly editor-at-large Mike Shea, followed by a booksigning.