Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Nov. 26, 2004
Quote of the Week: "Continuing their announced strategy to forgo the battle of ideas and instead personally attack Republican leaders, the Democrat Party has confirmed its utter contempt for the boundaries of political discourse." U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, talking out his hind end. See p.26.
Did the controversial Longhorn Pipeline already spring a leak out by Bastrop? See p.23.
The Great Big Mueller Master Development Agreement hits the streets with a thud, and will hit the City Council Dec. 2. See "Austin @ Large," right.
Hyde Park Baptist Church has likely won in court but will it ever build its parking garage? See p.21.
As the Mala Sangre game rolls on, the city's best pitcher has been yanked from the mound. See p.26.
The yearlong historic zoning saga finally comes to a happy ending. See p.28.
It's raining like hell as we write this. Newbies, welcome to your once-every-decade-or-so Big Austin Flood Event. We now have a Thanksgiving Flood to go with the Memorial Day and Christmas floods of yore. We hope everyone is safe.
State inspectors are continuing to monitor a Bee Cave construction site future home of the controversial Shops at the Galleria where sediment controls failed to prevent polluted runoff from spilling into Little Barton Creek. Acting on a complaint and a videotape of the discharges, inspectors from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality visited the site in October and ordered developers to reinforce and correct control measures that heavy rains had rendered useless. Another deluge early this week has reportedly caused the same set of problems. "TCEQ's recommended corrective action is either not being followed or is not adequate to prevent pollution of the creek," says the Save our Springs Alliance's Colin Clark. "These discharges are proof that engineered controls can and do fail, and when they fail, our water gets dirty." Amy Smith
Austin Police Officer Jason Lockaby was arrested Nov. 18 and charged with official oppression (a class A misdemeanor) and "violation of the civil rights of a person in custody" in connection with allegations of "improper conduct" (a state jail felony) made by two female victims, according to an APD press release. In March, while arresting a woman for outstanding warrants, the second-year officer allegedly touched her breasts and pressed her nipples while patting her down; in October, Lockaby allegedly told a second woman that he wouldn't take her to jail if she showed him her breasts. The department's Integrity Crimes Unit is still investigating "the possibility of other incidents involving improper conduct" by Lockaby; anyone with information concerning "inappropriate conduct" by Lockaby should call the ICU detectives at 974-6840. Jordan Smith
The Austin Association of Professional Firefighters has by a resounding margin voted to approve a new one-year contract with the city, including a 2% pay raise for the fire department's nearly 1,000 sworn staff. The contract the first to be crafted under the union's new collective bargaining rights, approved by voters in May got the nod from 97% of members, according to union President Mike Martinez, a far broader margin of victory than either the AAPFF or the Austin Police Association has seen in contract votes. Firefighters have been working without a contract since 2002; Martinez expects to go back into talks with the city in 2005 for a future multiyear contract. M.C.M.
In more union news, the Travis Co. Sheriff's Officers Association is also collecting signatures for a collective-bargaining election, the political newsletter In Fact Daily reports. The TCSOA one of two unions representing Travis Co. sheriff's deputies currently doesn't have any official bargaining right with the county (in contrast to the "meet and confer" rights of the city police union), but would be eligible for the same rights as Austin's firefighters should voters approve. However, one of the goals of incoming Sheriff Greg Hamilton is to see a reunion between the TCSOA (primarily representing corrections officers) and the Travis County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Association; it's unclear whether collective bargaining for TCSOA would help or hinder that goal. M.C.M.
One fewer bachelor in the swingin' Texas Lege: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez tied the knot last week with Natasha Rosofsky, legislative budget analyst and president of Austin Pets Alive! At least he waited until after the election, unlike Tom Slick or whatever his name was. (How quickly we forget.) M.C.M.
In between wrangling with old houses and old landfills, the City Council adopted new Land Development Code provisions making it easier to build New Urbanist-style projects (small-lot homes, condos and row houses, etc.) in both residential and commercial (mixed-use) zoning. The amendments were brought forth by the city housing office, which seeing an opportunity to spawn more smaller, and thus cheaper, housing units dubbed them "gentrification amendments." Meaning, of course, anti-gentrification amendments, but the mere presence of the G-word at least briefly caught the not-unjaundiced eye of Council Member Raul Alvarez, who is already doing heavy lifting on the G-front. The council also approved occupancy limits and other barriers to what's been dubbed "super-twos" massive houses with massive garage apartments in back, designed like superduplexes to cram a bunch of renters into single-family zoning. The creativity of student slumlords will once again be tested. M.C.M.
Beyond City Limits
On Monday, the campaign of state Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, called for a recount, likely to take place next week, of his now certified 32-vote loss to Vietnamese-American businessman Hubert Vo. The election, except for a small number of mailed ballots, was all electronic, and election authorities will first have to determine the precise nature of the recount. A Heflin spokesman said, "The narrow margin dictates that we have a recount, but the process in this election will be complicated. We are looking into all issues as to how this recount will be performed." And Heflin has still not ruled out challenging the vote in the House, which could result in a new election. The House leadership has moved on, at least publicly; Heflin's office has been reassigned, and last week Speaker Tom Craddick appointed Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, to chair the Appropriations Committee. But Vo supporters say privately they are concerned that the Heflin campaign is working behind the scenes to find a way to reverse the vote, and a Houston Democratic group called Communities United for Hubert Vo issued a statement acknowledging Heflin's public service but calling on him to concede. "Now, it is time for the opposition to concede the race," read the statement, "so that the progress of the district can continue." Michael King
Sherry Sylvester made it official this week. The former San Antonio Express-Newsreporter, who has spent the last couple of years online impersonating a "non-partisan Texas media monitoring project" called Texas Media Watch (underwritten by the right-wing Lone Star Foundation), has accepted the job of communications director for the Texas Republican Party. Accepting the appointment from party Chair Tina Benkiser, Sylvester said the GOP "has a winning message and a great story to tell. I am excited about working with the dynamic leadership of the majority party." Sylvester shouldn't miss a beat, since she's been happily flogging that "winning message" while pretending to analyze objectively the political coverage of the state's major dailies and finding "liberal bias" everywhere she looked. Most recently, she tied herself into post-modernist knots attempting to explain why all the state's supposedly liberal newspapers endorsed the re-election of President George W. Bush. Sylvester's explanation? The publishers made them do it. She's finally free to speak directly in the voice of her GOP paymasters, but Naked City will fondly miss such journalistic Sylvester wisdom as "Most of the time, the editorial pages of the big Texas papers make no attempt to reflect popular opinion. They challenge the predominant Texas view on social and economic policies almost daily." About time we put an end to that nonsense. M.K.
CBS News was reporting Monday that an unnamed official in Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle's office told them that U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will not be indicted, because there is insufficient evidence of his direct, local involvement in the corporate fundraising activities of the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC. But on Tuesday, Earle appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times in a withering diatribe against the congressional GOP rule change that would allow House members to remain in leadership positions even if indicted. Questioning the attempt to "read the minds of a grand jury," Earle speculated, "Apparently Tom DeLay's colleagues expect him to be indicted." Calling soberly to account the "moral values" reflected in the GOP vote, Earle also noted, "No member of Congress has been indicted in the [TRMPAC] investigation, and none is a target unless he or she has committed a crime." M.K.
Take a deep breath, kids. AISD wants to request a waiver from the state rule that starts all Texas schools the week of Aug. 21, and set the AISD books a-crackin' the week of Aug. 16. Fight for your right to spend another week in the pool (or tell 'em the early start is a great idea) at a public hearing Monday, Nov. 29 at 7pm at the Carruth Administration Center at 1111 W. Sixth. More info at www.austin.isd.tenet.edu.
The Northeast Travis Co. Democrats will hold their next meeting at Casa Garcia Restaurant in Windermere Center at the corner of Windermere and FM 1825 on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 7pm. Members are requested to bring a canned good or nonperishable food item. For more info, e-mail email@example.com or call 990-7500.
The League of Women Voters Austin Area will honor the members of the Austin City Council and Travis Co. Commissioners Court with a reception at Firehouse Lounge, 605 Brazos, 5:30-8pm on Wednesday, Dec. 1. Each elected official will give a brief talk, followed by a chance for citizens to talk with them in an informal atmosphere. The event includes live music, hors d'oeuvres, and a cash bar. Tickets are $25; to purchase, call 451-6710 or send a check to the League of Women Voters Education Fund, 1011 W. 31st, Austin, TX 78705.
Democracy for Texas will hold a fundraiser on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Ruta Maya (3601 S. Congress, inside Penn Field). $10 minimum suggested contribution. The event begins at 7pm (with a preview of silent auction items at 6:30pm) and includes "very special musical guests." For more info, including how to donate items for the auction or volunteer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fundraiser for Constable Maria Canchola and roast of former County Commissioner Richard Moya will be held Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 6pm at Fiesta Gardens. For more info, call 947-6354 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Black Women's Political Caucus' 33rd anniversary will be held on Friday, Dec. 3, beginning at 5pm at MidTown Live, 7408 Cameron. The event will also celebrate BWPC Chairperson Mae Marion's birthday. For more info, call 495-9088.
Two public hearings on the proposed East Austin Community Preservation and Revitalization Zone have been set for Dec. 7 and 14 at Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St.