Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond
Edited By Lee Nichols and Cheryl Smith, Fri., June 3, 2005
Quote of the Week"This ruling will hasten the end of DeLay's white-collar crimes against democracy. It sends a strong message to all the Tom DeLays who act as if they are above the law: Don't mess with Texas elections." Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald, commenting on the TRMPAC ruling. See "Judge Hart Rules: TRMPAC Broke the Law."
Headlines You can come out of hiding the 79th Legislature has adjourned. Rumors abound of a special session to solve education funding legislators were too busy beating up gays and protecting us from lascivious cheerleaders to get around to fixing such lesser problems as educating children but Gov. Perry is saying he won't call one. See "Forgotten but Not Quite Gone" and "Lege Wrap-Up."
The Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee was found guilty of breaking state campaign finance law on Thursday. Lawyers for the Tom DeLay-affiliated PAC say they'll appeal. See "Judge Hart Rules: TRMPAC Broke the Law."
The City Council officially received the African-American quality of life report last Thursday, detailing disparities between black and white Austinites in terms of social infrastructure, economic institutions, and interactions with city officials, especially police. See "Point Austin: Doing the Right Thing."
At long last, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen is a federal judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, thanks to a deal negotiated by Senate centrists to prevent a filibuster. This would be the same Judge Owen whose parental consent opinion was described as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism" by none other than U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, at the time her colleague on the state court.
Stop the presses: Jennifer Gale has announced she is running for governor. Of Texas. Because having Kinky Friedman in the race wasn't quite weird enough.
Austin Stories Two Austin attorneys hope to be the Democrats' choice to challenge Rep. Todd Baxter, R-Austin, for his District 48 seat next year. Andy Brown and Hugh Brady will face off in the Democratic primary. Baxter, who narrowly defeated a Democratic challenger in 2004, is expected to face an even more daunting challenge in 2006. Both Brown and Brady are more familiar to Democratic Party insiders than to the general voting public. Both have deep roots at the Capitol Brown is a former legislative aide for the Texas Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a former aide to ex-Speaker Pete Laney, and was campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett in 2004. Brady worked on the staff of former Rep. Glen Maxey and serves as counsel to the House Democratic Caucus. Brady, in fact, is credited with identifying many of the technical errors that served to delay or kill several bills opposed by Democrats during the recent legislative session. Amy Smith
The Oak Hill Business and Professional Association held a mixer Tuesday to welcome Advanced Micro Devices to Oak Hill. While environmentalists have been outraged by the company's decision to relocate to the Barton Creek watershed despite a long city history of encouraging development away from the sensitive area, the roughly 50 attendees saw things differently. To them, locating major employers in Oak Hill is a way to fight gridlock and air pollution by turning long commutes into short ones. "I'd like to see more employers come out here to take even more people off the roads," said OHBPA member David Richardson. Despite the event's triumphant tone, Travis Co. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty predicted the fight was not over yet. "We all know we'll have folks who won't be happy with what we're doing here," Daugherty told the assembled OHBPA members, AMD representatives, and City Council candidate Jennifer Kim. "I assure you as Precinct 3 commissioner I'll stand up for you. I'll stand up for AMD. I'll stand up for the citizens of Southwest Travis County." Rachel Proctor May
Voters are trickling into the polling booths at press time, 5,020 Austinites had voted early in the City Council race between Jennifer Kim and Margot Clarke. Another 516 mail-in ballots have been received, for a total of 5,536 a mere 1.35% of registered voters. Highest turnout has been at the mobile voting locations 673, including 134 on Tuesday at the LBJ Building in the Capitol complex. Lowest has been at the Albertsons on Riverside, a mere 67. L.N.
Look in your mailbox your household may be one of 12,000 receiving a city of Austin survey requesting feedback on how the city delivers services. The city wants to hear from these residents on everything from EMS response to biking accessiblity to library services, and a whole raft of other services. Deadline is June 10, so as to work the results into the FY 2005-06 budget. Past survey results are at www.cityofaustin.org/budget/citizensurvey.htm. L.N.
Ozone season has begun. Last Tuesday and Wednesday were both declared Ozone Action Days by Capital Metro, days on which a combination of vehicle emissions, sunshine, and lack of wind combine to form an unhealthy level of ground-level ozone. On declared Ozone Action Days, commuters are encouraged to use mass transit, carpool, bicycle, or walk, and rides on Capital Metro buses are free. Check out www.capmetro.org for updates. L.N.
The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area, in honor of its 85th birthday, has expanded its Speakers Bureau and offers speakers to the community free of charge. Speakers are available on a wide variety of democracy-related topics, including campaign finance reform; state, county, and Austin city government; education; transportation; and more. To arrange a speaker for your organization or shindig, call 451-6710 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. L.N.
UT-Austin's College of Education recently announced that it received a $233,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create an online archive of materials from the country's eleven presidential libraries. The goal of the project, dubbed "We the People," is to promote a greater understanding of American culture and history. According to a press release from UT's Learning Technology Center, the Web site "will feature an interactive timeline of the 20th century based on the administrations of American presidents and will include digitized artifacts and photographs as well as audio and video clips." For example, an archive entry on the Gulf of Tonkin crisis could include the diary of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was president at the time, as well as audio files of conversations he had regarding the crisis, said center Director Paul E. Resta in the release. UT plans to develop supplementary classroom curriculum to accompany the online timeline, which AISD teachers will pilot in their classrooms. C.S.
The DPS and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rolled out the latest phase of their AirCheckTexas campaign Wednesday, unveiling a new mandatory vehicle emission testing program for Travis and Williamson counties, set to begin Sept. 1. Gas-powered vehicles from two to 24 years old must pass the emissions test along with their annual safety inspection. The cost is $28.50, which includes both tests. The program is a voluntary compact the counties entered into as part of the larger AirCheckTexas plan originally created to address the smog-laden cities of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and El Paso, which have earned EPA non-attainment classifications. Officials hope to avoid a similar fate for Travis and Williamson counties, which frequently teeter on the brink of nonattainment. Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen said, "The program is a win-win because it involves a very small expense to make an enormous air quality impact." He said 10% of the vehicles on the road account for more than 25% of the state's pollution and the most common problems typically cost very little to fix. Smith added that AirCheck has a low-income repair and assistance program. More info at www.airchecktexas.com. Daniel Mottola
Beyond City Limits Five activists arrested in May of 2003 near President Bush's Crawford ranch for violating a local Parades and Processions ordinance since struck down as unconstitutional have settled a federal civil suit against the city of Crawford, McLennan County, and the DPS for $43,000. The Texas Civil Rights Project handled the suit, filed in Waco, which "alleged that Defendants acted together to violate the 'Crawford 5's' right to free speech and right to be free from unlawful arrests under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Bill of Rights," according to a TCRP press release. The former ordinance was "a shameless attempt to ban any adverse political protest near President Bush's ranch," said TCRP Director Jim Harrington. C.S.
A report released last week by the Sierra Club details how existing fuel-saving technology, if utilized, would've saved the U.S. $16.6 billion at the gas pump, conserved 9.3 billion gallons of gasoline, and eliminated 130 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution last year. The report, "Shifting Out of Reverse: Making Pickup Trucks Go Farther on a Gallon of Gas," says that in order to cut oil consumption and curb global warming, Detroit should apply fuel-saving technology to those vehicles with the worst fuel economy, particularly pickups and SUVs. See www.sierraclub.org/globalwarming. D.M.
Happenings Youth Activists of Austin will meet Friday, June 3, at 5:30pm at Quack's Maplewood Bakery, 1400 E. 381Ú2. For more info, call 453-3399 or go to www.yaaustin.blogspot.com.
Friends of Deep Eddy Pool will celebrate the restoration of the historic poolhouse roof on Saturday, June 4, 5-9pm at the pool. Food and free music from local businesses and bands will be available. For more info, call 477-9058 or go to www.deepeddy.org.
Come learn what's happening in Austin's anti-war movement at the Austin Spokescouncil meeting Tuesday, June 7, 8pm at Plaza Saltillo, 401 Comal. Call 727-8363 or check out www.austinspokes.org.
The Council on At-Risk Youth invite the community to an educational seminar titled Safer Community for Youth: What Will It Take?, Wednesday, June 8, 1-5pm at UT's Joe C. Thompson Center, 26th and Red River. Dr. James Garbarino, co-director of the Family Life Development Center and professor of Human Development at Cornell University, will help come up with ways to prevent and cope with violence among kids. Registration is $60 ($50 advance). For more info, call 451-4592 or go to www.councilonatriskyouth.org.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk will discuss and sign copies of her new book, Making Kind Choices, on Wednesday, June 8, 7:30pm. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar. For more info, call 472-5050 or go to www.bookpeople.com.
Enrollment for Austin's three-year Prefreshman Engineering Program at Huston-Tillotson University begins Wednesday, June 8, and runs through July 28. Junior high and high school students can enroll in the program, which emphasizes research and study in mathematics, physics, engineering and computer science, and technical writing. Call 505-3108 or e-mail email@example.com for more info.
"An Evening With Donkeys and Lizards" honoring the Travis Co. Democratic legislative delegation and raising funds for the Travis Co. Democratic Party will be held Thursday, June 9, 6-9pm at the Barr Mansion, 10463 Sprinkle Rd., featuring music by the Austin Lounge Lizards, a silent auction of Democratic memorabilia, and hors d'oeuvres. Sponsorship levels range from $250 to $1,500; general admission is $50 ($40 for sustaining members of the TCDP). For more info, call 477-7500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
DemocracyFest is coming up June 17-18. Sponsored by Democracy for Texas (a spin-off from Howard Dean's presidential campaign), the celebration will feature panels and workshops requiring registration (sign-up deadline is Friday, June 10), as well as a showcase event open to non registrants ($20 admission) at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on June 18 featuring Dean, Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and music by Joe Ely, Doyle Bramhall, and Tish Hinojosa. See www.democracyfortexas.org/Demfest for more info.