Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Lee Nichols, Fri., Feb. 4, 2005
Quote of the Week"If she makes a decision on her own to move on, then I am in that race, no ifs, ands, or buts."
U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, on Lubbock's KFYO radio, announcing that he'll run for U.S. Senate if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison steps down to run for governor
At press time, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth filed a bill to repeal the Top 10 Percent Law regarding college admissions; Wentworth said the law is moot since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Hopwood decision.
Also at press time, anti-smoking activist group O2nward Austin submitted 48,000 petition signatures to put an ordinance on the ballot that would ban smoking in almost all public places in Austin.
The Transit Oriented Development Ordinance comes before the Austin City Council tonight; expect affordable housing activists in force. See "TOD."
This spring's City Council races are starting to shape up; see "Council Candidates Take Their Places."
Austin police Officer Timothy Little has his job back, and Chief Stan Knee has some questions to answer regarding his own conduct in Little's firing; see "APD."
As AISD starts to spend the $519.5 million bond issue to build new schools and fix the ones it has the first 11 projects, totaling $100 million, have been approved it's also taking steps to make sure that spending is all on the level. Trustees on Monday approved the 22-member Citizens Bond Oversight Committee to make sure the projects happen on time and within budget, and to make sure the folks who use the schools are happy with the projects. Donetta Goodall, David Stevens, and Vince Torres will lead the committee; Torres was also a chair of the citizen committee that helped develop the bond package in the first place, and as such should be considered punishment-glutton of the year. Rachel Proctor May
You, too, can share the joy of My Pet Goat and other classics of children's literature with bright-eyed elementary school students. Austin Partners in Education, a nonprofit funded by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and AISD, needs volunteers for its new Literacy Champions program, which helps AISD students get up to grade level in reading. Tutors receive structured training and support from AmeriCorps for Community Engagement and Education, a UT-based program that has developed a system for improving reading and comprehension. While the program is currently only in four schools, APIE Executive Director Kathrin Brewer said it's only the beginning: "We intend to expand to the entire system. It's just a matter of volunteers and funding." Opportunities are also available to mentor middle schoolers or to lead study groups at Reagan High that help kids get through chemistry, algebra, or other core courses, and teach them the group study skills that help ensure success for first-generation college students. To volunteer, contact Marjon Kamrani at 637-0975 or firstname.lastname@example.org. R.P.M.
Take this sourdough and eat it; this is my body: On a recent visit to the UT campus area Schlotzsky's Deli, Naked City was surprised to read the receipt and find that we had ordered a "Reg Original JESUS SAVES Sourdough." (Hold the red onion.) Wondering if such point-of-purchase proselytizing was perhaps new policy under the new Schlotzsky's ownership the entire corporation was recently auctioned off to Fort Worth-based Bobby Cox Companies Inc. or maybe a truly blessed new menu item, we called Schlotzsky's HQ in downtown Austin. A spokeswoman investigated and reported that, "There was an error in judgment by one of our employees, but it certainly is not corporate policy for us to do something like that. So we're speaking to the employee about his behavior." Apparently, the cash register has a message function normally used for writing "thank you" or the customers' name, but one worker decided to spread the Good News of the Deli Deal Combo. L.N.
Beyond City Limits
The Senate Natural Resources Committee talked a lot of trash on Tuesday, both the radioactive kind, and the merely toxic. First, they discussed how the state and county should be compensated if Waste Control Specialists LLC gets all the state permits it needs to accept radioactive waste at its hazardous waste disposal facility in Andrews County, near New Mexico. The committee wants to make sure that if Waste Control accepts, say, the contents of a bunch of glow-in-the-dark silos up in Cincinnati, that the public gets a cut of the profits. Closer to home, they discussed the impasse over 900 containers of smashed TV tubes that have been leaking lead at Creedmoor municipal landfill since a trucking accident in 1997. At the time of the accident, the landfill operators accepted the waste, not realizing it was hazardous the trucking company Penske knew, but didn't tell the driver of the truck. But even though the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ruled in September that the waste couldn't stay in a regular landfill, the operators won't release it unless Penske accepts responsibility, which Penske so far won't, so there the tubes sit. Senators warned that if TCEQ couldn't solve the problem, they would. R.P.M.
Williamson Co. will roll out the barrel for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, when she appears in Round Rock Feb. 24 to headline the county GOP's annual Reagan Dinner, a major fundraising event. Hutchison is certain to be a top-dollar draw this year, what with suspense mounting over whether she'll run for governor. Hutchison and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn are both considering challenging Gov. Rick Perry in 2006. The county Republican Web site names only Hutchison as a "special guest." The regular old guest list includes an assortment of local elected officials, including the legislative delegation, and members of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, currently under criminal investigation for potential conflicts. Adding fuel to the will-she-or-won't-she-run situation is U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla's announcement this week that he'll run for Hutchison's seat if she decides to take on Perry. The San Antonio Republican, who represents a fair chunk of West Texas, stated his possible intentions this week during phone interviews with Lubbock radio stations. Amy Smith
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, last week filed a spate of bills aimed at reforming the state's criminal justice system. SB 223 would establish a Texas Innocence Commission to examine cases of wrongful conviction, search for the causes of those convictions, and recommend changes to prevent future cases of wrongful imprisonment. (The revenue-neutral proposition has been made before, but died in committee.) "The bottom line is [that] an Innocence Commission is good law enforcement," Ellis said. "It ensures the protection of the innocent and the conviction of the guilty." Ellis has also added several bills that would offer aid to the wrongfully convicted SB 227 would simplify the pardon process for exonerated defendants, and SB 225 would increase compensation available to the wrongfully convicted up to $50,000 per year for most exonerated inmates and $100,000 per year for inmates exonerated from death row. Jordan Smith
State Rep. Jim Dunnam, who in 2003 led House Democrats on a mass walkout to thwart GOP redistricting efforts, has been re-elected for a second term as head of the House Democratic Caucus. The Waco Democrat is an outspoken critic of both House Speaker Tom Craddick and Gov. Rick Perry. The caucus also re-elected Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes to a second term as vice chair. She was among the first Democrats to back Craddick's re-election as speaker. A.S.
San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth and his former aide, Austin Rep. Todd Baxter, have each filed bills that would require elected and appointed officials to get training on open government laws. The two Republicans filed the bills in response to Attorney General Greg Abbott's quest to educate state officials on the ins and outs of open records and open meetings laws. The AG's office would administer training through online and video courses, and training seminars around the state. "Making this kind of training available early can help prevent inadvertent compliance problems and ensure our government remains open to the interests of all Texans," Baxter said. A.S.
Texas Public Interest Research Group released a new report, Pollution on the Rise: Local Trends in Power Plant Pollution, last Thursday at the Capitol, calling on the 79th legislature to toughen up air-quality laws and enforcement. Based on pollution data collected since 1995, the report reviews the ups and downs of the struggle against air pollution, specifically citing some of Texas' "oldest and dirtiest" power plants that have actually increased polluting emissions. "The good news is most plants are cleaner for ozone and soot pollution than they were eight years ago. The bad news is despite overall emission decreases, some plants like the Sam Seymour, owned by LCRA and Austin Energy, actually increased emissions of soot forming pollution since 1997. The ugly news is that global warming emissions are skyrocketing at a time when the world's top climate scientists say the window of opportunity to stop the problem is quickly closing," said TexPIRG Field Organizer Stephanie Carter. More info at www.texpirg.org. Daniel Mottola
Mayor Will Wynn introduces a Salute to Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 4, honoring African-American families and their impact on the city. Mary Wilson of the Supremes, whose dress is on display as part of the "Sign of the Times" exhibit, will be in attendance. Also featured is a performance by the Huston-Tillotson College choir. 10am. LBJ Library & Museum, 2313 Red River. 721-0216.
Washington Post Watergate reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward will star at a symposium marking the opening of their papers to researchers, scholars, and the public at UT's Hogg Auditorium (24th & Guadalupe, east of the Texas Union) on Friday, Feb. 4, 1:30-5pm. Other celebrity panelists too numerous to mention. Free tickets are available at the Performing Arts Center Box Office. The papers themselves become available at UT's Harry Ransom Center (21st & Guadalupe) at 9am, and select items will be on display there through Sunday, Feb. 27. UT acquired Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate papers in 2003 for $5 million.
Austin PARD and the Austin Public Library will host a grand opening of the George Washington Carver Campus at 1162 Angelina on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 11am. The campus includes a 1926 historic building, which is the African-American Genealogy Center; a new 30,000 square-foot museum and cultural center; and a 16,000 square-foot renovated community branch library. 1:30pm open house, followed at 2pm by a celebration of the work of children's author Angela Shelf Medearis. Having attended a couple of meetings at Carver lately, Naked City can attest that the facilities are quite spiffy. Call 974-7400 or visit www.cityofaustin.org/library.
eBay is getting on the electronics recycling bandwagon by offering consumers a chance to sell their working, portable consumer electronics at a series of events titled "Don't Trash It, Cash It!," including one in Austin on Saturday, Feb. 5 at Barton Creek Square Mall, 11am-6pm. Only working portables (items easily carried by a single individual) will be accepted. Goods not fitting those criteria will be directed to alternate selling, donation, or recycling services.
On Saturday, Feb. 5, at 3pm, author Bee Pederson will sign copies of Women Write the War: The Voices of Women Behind Operation Iraqi Freedom, at the north Austin location of Borders, 10225 Research. For more info, call 795-9553.
Activists demanding that Taco Bell ensure that its tomato suppliers pay a fair wage and respect human rights are holding a Taco Bell Boycott Forum Monday, Feb. 7, 7pm, at Faith Presbyterian Church, 1304 E. Oltorf. Call 420-8050 for more info.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, is Senior Day at the Lege; AARP has arranged special transportation through Capital Metro. Pickup service will be available at 9:45am at: NW Terminal, Lakeline Blvd., north of 620; North Central Terminal, Lamar & 183; Manchaca Senior Center, 3900 block of Manchaca Road. 10:30am-2pm. 250-5060 for info.
The 20th Annual Keep Austin Beautiful Awards Luncheon will be held Thursday, Feb. 10, 11am-1pm at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 208 Barton Springs Rd. Tables are $500 for eight seats, individual seats are $30. For info or to buy tickets, visit www.keepaustinbeautiful.org.
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries holds its annual Unity Gala Thursday, Feb. 10, 6-9pm, at the Caswell House, 1404 West Ave. Music by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Angelic Strings with Harpist Michael Morris, plus a silent auction and dinner. Tickets $75, sponsorships available. Call 542-9744 or e-mail email@example.com.
Two major seminars next Thu.-Fri., Feb. 10-11: "Working Borders: Linking Debates about Insourcing and Outsourcing of Labor and Capital" presented by UT Law; register online at www.utexas.edu/law/conferences/
workingborders/agenda.html. And "For Love and Justice: Breaking the Cycles of Intimate Violence" at Southwestern University in Georgetown; see www.southwestern.edu/brownxxvii.