Headlines and happening from Austin and beyond
Edited By Lee Nichols, Fri., Feb. 11, 2005
Quote of the Week"I call for the unconditional surrender of Rick Perry."
Kinky Friedman, announcing his independent candidacy for governor in front of the Alamo last week
On Saturday, Pflugerville voters passed a $70 million school bond election, which will allow the Pflugerville ISD to pay for new school construction, renovations and maintenance on existing facilities, new equipment and technology, and set aside some dough for future land acquisition. They also rejected a proposed horse race track, but that referendum was nonbinding. See "Beyond City Limits."
After a public hearing in which both proponents and detractors asked for more time, the City Council postponed any decision on the Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance for one month; the new discussion date and possible first reading will be March 3. See "Point Austin" and elsewhere in Naked City.
State Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, has filed House Bill 2 under the pretense of cleaning up the school finance mess, but teachers unions and others smell the scent of further moves toward school privatization. See "On the Lege."
Check out PBS affiliate KLRU tonight at 7:30pm for its new state politics show, Special Session, hosted by Emmy-winning filmmaker Paul Stekler, creator of the brilliant political documentary Last Man Standing. For more, see "Beyond City Limits."
Houston's Talmadge Heflin is now a former state representative on Monday, the Republican former chair of the Appropriations Committee gave up his challenge to his November loss to Democrat Hubert Vo, who now becomes the first Vietnamese-American ever to serve in the Texas Legislature. See "Heflin Surrenders."
The woman who made Austin real pretty died on Tuesday, but Roberta Crenshaw's spirit remains very much alive on the Town Lake hike-and-bike trail, in the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, Reed Park in West Austin, and even a bare tract of Town Lake property that she unsuccessfully fought to have preserved as city parkland. "That was her last unfinished wish," said friend Shudde Fath, referring to the Lumbermen's Investment Corp. property, which, by virtue of its location, figures prominently into the city's Seaholm District Master Plan. The open-space advocate's successes far outweigh her last land battle, however. Crenshaw, who was 90, devoted several decades of her life to some of Austin's most valuable resources and institutions, giving time, money, and land to further her two greatest loves the good earth and the arts. She'll be remembered and celebrated at a memorial service at 11am Sunday at Reed Park, which wouldn't exist if not for the land Crenshaw donated. Amy Smith
Formal filing has begun for the May 7 City Council election. As of Wednesday morning, Mandy Dealey, Jennifer Kim, and Gregg Knaupe have filed for Place 3, and Jennifer Gale has filed for Place 4. Place 1 candidate Lee Leffingwell held a campaign kickoff party this week at Nuevo Leon, Place 4 incumbent Betty Dunkerley did the same at Threadgill's, and Place 3 candidate Margot Clarke has her kickoff party this evening, 5:30-7pm at Doa Emilia's. Michael King
After an extended briefing and public hearing, City Council postponed for a month a formal vote on the proposed Transit Oriented Development Ordinance. In the interim, city staff has been asked to schedule one or more public forums to spread information about the commuter rail plan and the related development plan, by which the city hopes to increase density and transit-friendly development along the rail line, especially at the seven station areas where the ordinance will take strongest effect. Both the briefing and the hearing made it clear that while development plan has general council and public support, there is still disagreement over particular issues and sites. Council Member Raul Alvarez and people from the Saltillo neighborhood want to make certain that Capital Metro land in the area is explicitly included in the new zoning overlay, and business owners in several station areas hope that new use limitations will not be too restrictive. By far most of the public testimony concerned planning for affordable housing; the draft ordinance encourages such as a part of the package, but a new umbrella group called the Austin Transit Communities Coalition pressed for mandatory percentages of affordable housing for each TOD area, along the lines of the 25% affordable housing built into the development plan for the Mueller airport. M.K.
Almost obscured amidst other business at last week's City Council meeting, the council performed its annual personnel review of City Manager Toby Futrell during executive session, restructured her contract, and then announced the results in public session, largely in order to endorse what Mayor Will Wynn described as Futrell's "remarkable, dedicated service to the city." The restructuring involved adjusting Futrell's deferred compensation she declined any raise to her base salary of $196,000 and each council member took a turn at praising the city manager for her nearly three-year tenure during hard economic times, "two and a half of the most challenging years for the city in the last decade." Daryl Slusher echoed other members in saying Futrell's foremost achievement was her management of the city budget cuts: "Toby brought us through that crisis [and] the city is in strong shape." Futrell briefly thanked the council for their support, saying, "All of us should be very proud of what we've done." M.K.
As reported by InFactDaily.com, city of Austin Urban Design Officer Jana McCann, who has figured prominently in the Mueller and Transit-Oriented Development projects, among many others, is leaving the city to open an Austin office for San Francisco-based ROMA Design Group which city politics followers will quickly recognize as the company that created the Mueller master plan and other "New Urbanism" projects. McCann leaves the city's employment on Feb. 25. L.N.
The Texas Department of Public Safety this week released a report detailing the department's probe into the Dec. 11 motorcycle wreck that killed Austin Police Cmdr. Shauna Jacobson and her husband, retired Detective Malcolm "Kurt" Jacobson. According to the report, prepared by Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Campos, Kurt Jacobson headed out to Lockhart to join a benefit poker run on his bike shortly before noon and made two stops before picking up Shauna at their Dripping Springs home shortly before 3pm. From there the two headed out to Cedars Bar and Grill on Highway 71, where, Campos wrote, "at this point, I believe [the Jacobsons] consumed alcohol." Campos wrote that "it was obvious" to several people at Cedars that the Jacobsons became "heavily intoxicated," and noted that one off-duty APD officer "admitted that there were 'several' empty/full beer bottles" on the Jacobsons' table however, Campos did not indicate who offered those telling details. Meanwhile, the APD's independent investigation into the fatal crash is still ongoing. (For more on the story see, "Many Unanswered Questions in Officers' Deaths," Dec. 17.) Jordan Smith
El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission has received a grant of nearly $72,000 from the March of Dimes to fund its prenatal education program, Comenzando Bien (Healthy Beginnings). Comenzando Bien aims at low-income Hispanic women who are medically underserved. The grant will fund the program from March 2005 through February 2006. For more information, visit www.elbuen.org. L.N.
Austin Police made a total of 87 arrests over the Mardi Gras weekend on a variety of charges including "interfering with police officer duties," public intoxication, urinating in a public place, pot possession, and evading arrest. In addition, police detained 132 juveniles for curfew violations. J.S.
Beyond City Limits
Texas politics is so big and colorful that it has landed its own TV show. A new statewide series, Special Session, debuts at 7:30pm tonight (Thursday) on Austin PBS affiliate KLRU-TV. Locally produced and hosted by filmmaker Paul Stekler, the series will feature journalists, politicos, and others discussing the issues and politics that figure into the 79th legislative session. The show will air every Thursday, with a repeat showing at 12:30pm on Sundays in Austin. Special Session is not your standard talking-heads fare; it will weave documentary film into the discussion as Stekler takes viewers across Texas to capture different perspectives on the Lone Star state. The series will also air in Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Harlingen, Houston, Killeen, Lubbock, San Antonio, and Waco. Stekler's credits include George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire and Last Man Standing, about the bruising 2002 legislative race between Dripping Springs Rep. Patrick Rose and then-incumbent Rick Green. A.S.
On Feb. 6, Pflugerville residents hit the ballot boxes strong to vote "neigh" on a proposal to bring a 200-acre pari-mutuel racetrack to town. The Pflugerville city council late last year set up the nonbinding referendum vote in an attempt to gauge local support for the Austin Jockey Club's bid to transfer their track license from Austin to Pflugerville. On Saturday, more than 3,000 voters turned out at the polls, and just over 71% voted no. Of course, the final decision will be made by the Texas Racing Commission, which is slated to decide the matter in August. Meanwhile, racetrack foes are contemplating a recall effort to oust Mayor Cat Callen and other members of the council who voted for the AJC proposal, and the anti-track group Pflugerville Pfamilies Pfirst is hoping to run at least two anti-track candidates in the city's May council elections. (For more on the racetrack, see "Pfurious in Pflugerville," Jan. 14.) J.S.
In another area election, Cedar Park voters approved $30 million in bonds to build a multipurpose events center that will become the new home of the Austin Ice Bats minor league hockey team. L.N.
State Rep. Lon Burnam is pushing a tax proposal that most Texans might be able to swallow: Tax the rich so that poor and middle-income families can better afford to put food on the table. Sounds well and good, but the "Millionaire Tax" (HB 756) won't be nearly as popular with the state's elected officials, especially those lawmakers whose political careers depend on the kindness of wealthy donors. But Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, takes a different view. He points out that a 3% tax on Texans whose reported annual income is $1 million or more would generate $1.2 billion that could be used for property tax relief and public school funding. The tax would apply to less than 1% of the state population, he said. "So far, Republicans propose to pay for property tax cuts by further increasing taxes on the millions of hardworking Texans who are struggling to get by," Burnam said. "I can understand why they want to protect their largest contributors, but it's wrong to raise taxes on the working poor, middle-class families, college kids, and small businesses, without providing the most fortunate Texans with the opportunity to pay their fair share to our schools." A.S.
The Travis Co. Commissioners Court has come up with a draft leash law for dogs in unincorporated parts of the county. It would beef up an exisiting "dangerous dog" law that had the fairly major flaw of being toothless until after a dog had attacked. The draft law would keep the dangerous-dog provisions requiring owners to register and confine dogs that have attacked in the past; in addition, it would require all dogs to be leashed when they are off an owner's property and allow the county to round up loose dogs when residents complain about them. By not specifying how owners must ensure dogs stay on their own property, the law tries to accommodate county residents with large lots and no fences, who are used to allowing their dogs to roam free on their land, while giving neighbors a way to protect themselves from menacing dogs before an attack. The county will take public hearing on the proposed law on Feb. 22 and make a decision on March 8. Rachel Proctor May
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.
United Students Against Sweatshops holds its national conference in Austin, Thu.-Sun., Feb. 10-13. Learn how to run a living wage campaign, what unions are and why they're important, the service worker solidarity campaign, trends in outsourcing, and how to disassociate your school from sweatshops. www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org.
A conference titled "to loose the chains of injustice " American Churches and the Palestinians will be held Fri.-Sat., Feb. 11-12, at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 100 E. 27th. For more info, call 708-8293 or go to www.fosna.org.
On Thursday, Feb. 17, 7pm, journalist and author P. Sainath discusses "Globalizing Inequality." Sainath wrote Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories From India's Poorest Districts in 1996. Bass Lecture Hall (in SRH building), at the southwest corner of 26th and Red River. 458-8635 or www.thirdcoastactivist.org.