Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Nov. 12, 2004
Quote of the Week: "Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use, and suicide." Hmm, maybe because they're despised and abused for sport by total strangers like the State Board of Education's Terri Leo, who aimed to get this sentence inserted in middle-school textbooks?
Elsewhere on the, 1-Man-'n'-1-Woman front, Texans may get to vote next year to make gay marriage really, really, really illegal. See "1 Man 'n' 1 Women 4 Ever" for your weekly moral values update.
Hope you got a chance to take that deep breath: This week marked the beginning of both the 2005 City Council election season and of bill-filing for the 79th Legislature. Man, we are so blessed.
That Legislature will, for now, officially, include Mark Strama, but not Kelly White or Talmadge Heflin. See "Election 2004: By the Numbers" and "The Smoke Clears in Lege Races" for more election mopping-up.
As Kirk Watson would say, it's a great day to be in Austin, Texas unless you're a coyote. See "Be Afraid, Coyotes – Be Very Afraid."
It's also a good day to be a "mainstream" GOP Hispanic corporate lawyer from Texas members of the breed having been placed on both the state Supreme Court and the empty throne of John Ashcroft.
There is no such thing as an election-free zone, at least in Austin: This week marked the kickoff of the 2005 City Council campaign, as candidates became able (under the requirements of the city's campaign finance code) to designate campaign treasurers and start raising money. In the ring: the hats of Council Member Betty Dunkerley, computer consultant Jennifer Kim, and former Environmental Board Chair Lee Leffingwell. (And, of course, Jennifer Gale, who plans to challenge Dunkerley.) Kim plans to run for the Place 3 seat being vacated by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, while Leffingwell aims for Daryl Slusher's Place 1 spot. Slusher officially took himself out of the running Tuesday with an e-mailed farewell address detailing (with his usual loquaciousness) the highlights of his nine-year tenure. Hats still in the air, as of press time, include former Texas House candidate Mandy Dealey, Driskill Hotel manager and Downtown Austin Alliance Chair Jeff Trigger, and 2003 council candidate Margot Clarke. Hats rumored to be staying on heads: Planning Commission Chair Chris Riley and former PC'er and Slusher aide Robin Cravey. M.C.M.
Contrary to the popular notion that the wealthy can just buy their way into office, the Associated Press reported last week that out of 22 millionaires who tried to win their first congressional election this year, only one succeeded: Austin's Michael McCaul. The CD 10 rep-to-be spent $4 million of his own cash to defeat Ben Streusand in the Republican primary, then coasted to an easy general election victory. McCaul, a former federal prosecutor and former Justice Department counterterrorism chief, is the son-in-law of Clear Channel's Lowry Mays, so there is no shortage of money in his family. Lee Nichols
The Travis Co. Sheriff's Office is currently seeking volunteers for its Victim Services Division, to become part of the office's crime scene response team. In order to provide victim services in "a fast and efficient manner" the office is seeking to add 30 new volunteers. Volunteers must be 21 or older, pass a background check, and complete a training program. For more information, call 854-9709. Jordan Smith
More than 5,000 people have now vowed to boycott Lowe's Home Centers Inc., according to the Save Our Springs Alliance, which is leading the effort to force the retailer to comply with strict water-quality standards. Lowe's is building two big-box centers in the Barton Springs watershed; one project, on Brodie Lane, is on hold pending the next steps in an SOS lawsuit against Lowe's and the city of Austin. (A trial date this week was postponed, perhaps until January.) The Alliance also opposes a Lowe's project in Bee Cave near the banks of Little Barton Creek. Amy Smith
Glenn Smith, one of the directors of DriveDemocracy.org, founder of Take Back Texas, and author of The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy From Extinction, will be holding forth through Nov. 19 at the WELL, one of the longest-running and well known live discussion forums on the World Wide Web. Unlike most of the WELL's forums, participation in Smith's discussion does not require a membership. Just go to www.well.com/inkwell and click on Smith's forum. L.N.
Austin ISD reminds parents that the deadline for submitting transfer requests for the spring semester is Monday, Nov. 15. Transfer request forms are available at school offices. Due to capacity enrollment, 26 schools are frozen to transfer requests. For more info, call 414-1726, or visit the Web site at www.austin.isd.tenet.edu. Michael King
The Travis County Democratic Party wants you to recycle your political yard sign(s) with them. "We would certainly like to reclaim as many as possible so as to have a nice inventory going into 2006 because as everyone knows, these stakes cost a great deal of money," party leaders say in their weekly newsletter. Take the signs to 92 Red River (two blocks south of Cesar Chavez). If no one's there, just leave them in back of the building. L.N.
The latest update in the Penske/Texas Disposal Systems landfill fight: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Executive Director Glenn Shankle told the Austin American-Statesman on Monday that he believes TDS is preventing Penske from following TCEQ orders to remove lead-laced waste from the TDS landfill, a removal that TDS itself has called for. TDS owner Bob Gregory says he is concerned that Penske has not produced a valid shipping manifest that shows the waste to be hazardous (Penske denies that the waste is hazardous), and that his company could later be held liable if the waste is disposed of improperly, thus he will not allow removal until the manifest is changed. Shankle says that since TCEQ has classified the waste as hazardous, TDS has nothing to worry about, and Penske has no choice but to dispose of it properly in a certified hazardous waste landfill; however, he also said that he may rescind his removal order if TDS continues to obstruct Penske. L.N.
HEB and Southwest Airlines joined forces Wednesday to deliver 1 million pounds of food to cities across Texas, including Austin, in a "Flight to Fight Hunger" campaign marking the San Antonio-based grocery store chain's 100th birthday. HEB officials said the endeavor was the largest food bank donation ever made in a single day. The Austin stop provided food for the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. A.S.
Susan Wills has resigned from her post as executive director of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, but no one is willing to speak publicly about her reasons for leaving the nonprofit group. One board member who asked not to be identified stressed that Wills' efforts to bring Wiccans into the interfaith fold had "absolutely nothing" to do with her departure. "It had more to do with organization than anything," the board member said. "But we all agreed not to talk about it." One church yanked its membership from the group in direct response to the inclusion of Wiccans, which carried the support of the board and most other members, said another person with close ties to the group. Wills had led AAIM since 2000 and is credited for expanding the group's reach into diverse religious communities. She also took the lead in helping build a more collaborative spirit with area Muslims in the wake of 9-11. AAIM is currently looking for candidates to fill the executive director vacancy. A.S.
Beyond City Limits
Among the first bills filed for the 2005 legislative session was one authorizing private-school vouchers for economically disadvantaged students in a six-district pilot program. Voucher fights have been a regular staple at the Lege for years, with the public education community consistently opposing them on the grounds that they drain much-needed funds from the public schools. Rachel Proctor May
On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named David Medina, a former state district judge from Houston and currently Perry's chief counsel, to the Texas Supreme Court. "As I searched this great state for a Texan to fill the vacancy created by my appointment of Justice Wallace Jefferson to Chief Justice," Perry said, "I looked for a person who would further the court's philosophy of judicial restraint, a person of integrity who would keep faith with the people of Texas, and a person whose courtroom experience would add new talent and continued professionalism to the Supreme Court. I found all of those qualifications and more in Judge David Medina." Medina, 46, served as judge of the 157th District Court from 1996-2000, after becoming the first Hispanic Republican elected countywide in Harris Co. He later served as the associate general counsel for international conglomerate Cooper Industries, corporate experience cited by the tort-reforming Texas Civil Justice League working for a "strong business climate" in applauding his appointment. Translation: consumer and worker advocates, and plaintiffs' lawyers, beware. M.K.
Despite allegations of DWI and of confusing a legitimate massage therapist's office with the less reputable kind (and exposing himself to the masseuse), state Rep. Scott Campbell, R-San Angelo, still managed to get 57% of the vote and will continue to represent the party of "moral values." A source in the West Texas district reports being at a Halloween costume party where "One guy got up on stage, acted really drunk, then flopped a big rubber penis out of his pants and told everyone he was Scott Campbell." L.N.
Chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall has joined more than 200 other scientists in an effort to stop efforts to weaken the government's Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Clinton-era rule offered protection for public lands from development, but now the U.S. Forest Service is moving toward allowing states to make decisions on whether to allow road-building in currently wild, roadless areas. The decision would open protected public lands to new road building for the benefit of for-profit industries like the already heftily subsidized timber industry. "There is growing consensus among the scientific community that a strong roadless conservation rule is one of the cornerstones to sustainable public lands management, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem health of national forests," reads a letter to the Service signed by 126 scientists." According to the scientists' letter, 4 million miles of roadways already crisscross the country, making it possible to drive within one mile of more than 80% of all lands within the lower U.S. Trout Unlimited a group of pro-conservation hunters and anglers has joined opposition to the proposed weakening of the rule, which has protected the "last best coldwater fish habitat left" in the country. For more information, go to www.tu.org/publiclands or to www.worldwildlife.org. J.S.
Today (Thursday) is Veterans Day, and talk radio station KLBJ (590AM) will sponsor a daylong fundraising effort called Operation Call Home benefiting the Fort Hood Fourth Infantry Division serving in Iraq. KLBJ's Morning Show will be at Covert Cadillac (183 and Duval Road) for a live broadcast asking for support and accepting donations. The donations received will be used to purchase prepaid calling cards for the soldiers so they can call home during the holidays. KLBJ will be accepting donations at other locations including Round Rock Donuts (106 West Liberty in Round Rock), and the Colony (16 miles east of the Airport on Highway 71), 5:30am-7pm. Also, Austin Parks & Recreation and KLBJ staffers will collect donations at Zilker Park (south side of Barton Springs Road in Zilker Park by the Zilker Christmas Tree). Checks and cash will be accepted; checks should be made payable to Emmis Austin Radio.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is seeking public input on her proposal to push back school district start dates until after Labor Day. Her appointed task force is holding a public forum Friday, Nov. 12, 1-4pm in Room 1-104 the William B. Travis State Office Building, 1701 Congress. There will be no microphones or speeches the public is invited to drop in, speak with task force members directly, or submit written comments. There is also an interactive survey available at the agency's Web site, www.window.state.tx.us/survey/schoolstart.
The First Texas Clean Energy Congress convenes at the Austin Marriott at the Capitol Nov. 14, 15, and 16. Representatives of the renewable energy industry, environmentalists, consumer activists, and others will join together to draft and adopt a Clean Energy Declaration for Texas. Speakers include former PUC Commissioner and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Karl Rabago and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen, Mark Yznaga of Austin's Livable City, and former Austin City Council member and SOS founder Brigid Shea will lead sessions on activism and working the Legislature. Tuesday's sessions will focus on the latest topics of interest to the clean energy industry with highlights of some of the exciting renewable energy projects under way in Texas. For more information or to find out how to become a delegate, visit the Web site of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association at www.treia.org.