"I think his goal is to try to confuse folks about what emergency contraceptives are and aren't. This is an ideological definition of what [emergency contraception] is, that is not backed by science or by the FDA." Sarah Wheat of Austin Planned Parenthood, on GOP legislator Frank Corte's bill to define emergency contraception, see "Frank 'the Fetus' Strikes Again."
Quote of the Week
On Monday, former Austin Community Television Executive Director John Villarreal was sentenced to seven years in jail for embezzling $354,000 from the public access station. See "Former ACTV Head Gets Seven Years."
Former state Sen. Frank Madla of San Antonio died in a house fire this weekend that also claimed his mother-in-law and granddaughter; and last week, Gov. Rick Perry set a special election for Dec. 19 to fill the House seat of Rep. Glenda Dawson of Pearland, who won re-election earlier this month despite having died in September. See "Beyond City Limits," below.
Testimony (and weirdness) continued in the preliminary hearings for the rape charges against Mormon fundamentalist leader Warren Jeffs. See "Polygamous Prophet Update."
In other education news, UT-Austin has released its annual survey of community-college students around the country, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. UT researchers surveyed some 250,000 students and found that it's often factors outside of class that determine whether students succeed or fail. The results show that full-time students are more likely to be successful and engaged than part-time students. For instance, students reported that academic advising is the most important service they get at college, but 29% of part-time students said they never received any advising. Part-time students are also less likely to get career advice on campus or discuss grades or assignments with faculty. The survey shows that students are often holding down jobs, caring for dependents, or commuting long distances to school, and often don't have time to collaborate with students outside of class. It highlights schools, like Santa Fe Community College, that have built facilities to make it easier for students to collaborate and have instituted research-based approaches that encourage faculty to partner with students on projects. M.M.
Holy hot cross buns. Schlotzsky's, the Austin-based sandwich deli chain, is now part of a national food group that feasts on cinnamon buns, coffee, ice cream and now dill pickles. The homegrown sandwich concern last week changed ownership for the second time in less than two years. Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private-equity firm, bought Schlotzsky's from Bobby Cox Cos. Inc., of Fort Worth, for an undisclosed amount. Cox had picked up the company for $28.5 million in a bankruptcy sale, closing on the deal in early 2005. The one-time publicly traded darling had fallen into a deep financial hole, which ultimately led to the August 2004 firing of John and Jeff Wooley, who ran the company for two decades. Schlotzsky's spent about three months in bankruptcy court before Cox acquired the now-private chain and closed a number of failing stores. Roark controls 1,400 food franchises under its Focus Brands Inc. portfolio, including Cinnabon, Seattle's Best Coffee International, and Carvel Ice Cream. Amy Smith
Anyone interested in the rebuilding of New Orleans should head Saturday, Dec. 2, to the Carver Branch Library (1161 Angelina), one of a number of community sites throughout the country hosting, via TV link, a Unified New Orleans Plan Community Congress about putting the city back together. Nonprofit AmericaSpeaks organized the interactive meeting, which will run from 9am to 3:30pm. According to a UNOP press release, UNOP plans to finish its rebuilding plan in January and present it "to the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which is overseeing the state's recovery efforts, as well as to federal officials and other funders." To learn more about UNOP, see www.unifiedneworleansplan.com/home2. Cheryl Smith
With Democrats back in power in Congress, the well-funded liberal action group MoveOn is trying to reassert itself as the chosen grassroots group for change. On Thursday, Nov. 30, MoveOn is launching its Mandate for Change campaign event at locations around the nation. Mandate for Change is intended to push Congress to move forward on tougher issues such as getting out of Iraq, fixing the health care system, and addressing global warming. In Austin, the campaign kickoff is at 7pm at the Windsor Park Library, 5833 Westminster Dr. It's open to the public. Kimberly Reeves
Instead of giving dear Aunt Francie yet another book or CD this holiday season, why not give that same book or CD in her honor to the whole city of Austin? Through the Austin Public Library's Novel Gifts program, Austinites can make a donation of $15 or more for the library to acquire a needed book; the honoree will be recognized on a special bookplate. If Aunt Francie loves mysteries or cookbooks, designate an honorary gift in that genre or topic of interest. You also can give other kinds of library materials, designate a particular library collection or branch, or even name a specific title (subject to APL needs). The library is particularly interested in adding materials in Spanish and other languages, as well as materials on world cultures. Gifts can be made in any amount: $15-20 buys a children's book or a music CD; $25 funds a hardcover bestseller; $50 buys a book-on-tape, a video, or a magazine subscription. Participate at any library branch, or download the APL Gift Donation Form at www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/lbgift.htm. Katherine Gregor
Got ovaries, $1,000, and a philanthropic heart of gold? Impact Austin's "giving circle" provides Austin women with a way to collectively make powerful philanthropic gifts that have a real impact on the community. Now 324 women strong, Impact Austin (www.impact-austin.org) hopes to have 400 members by Dec. 31, yielding a $400,000 pot of giving gold for 2007. On Nov. 20, Impact Austin was featured on the CBS Evening News along with its first recipient, LifeWorks, which has a local Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Partnershop. The giving circle pools member donations to give "extraordinary" annual grants of $100,000 and more each year to local nonprofits, selected by its members. In 2006, $108,000 grants went to three organizations: The Children's Wellness Center, EmanciPet, and Literacy Austin. Impact Austin members can just write a check, or actively serve on committees that review grant requests in five areas: culture, environment, family, education, and health and wellness. To learn more, hear founder and President Rebecca Powers share the Impact Austin Story at 6:30pm Thursday, Nov. 30, at Grape Vine Market, or call 335-5540. See the CBS story at www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/20/
Burial services for former state Sen. Frank Madla will be at 1pm Friday at Texas State Cemetery. Madla, 69, died in a fire at his San Antonio home over the Thanksgiving weekend. Candles from a holiday display are believed to have caused the blaze, which also claimed the lives of Madla's mother-in-law, Mary Cruz, and 5-year-old granddaughter, Aleena Jimenez. Madla's wife, Helen, remains hospitalized with injuries suffered in the early-morning Nov. 24 fire. A rosary Mass for the 33-year lawmaker was held this morning (Thursday) in Helotes. The conservative Democrat and old-school gentleman represented San Antonio for 20 years in the state House and 13 years in the Senate. He resigned from the Senate in May, two months after losing a brutal primary race to Rep. Carlos Uresti, also of San Antonio. During the campaign, Uresti hammered Madla's record of siding with Republicans on critical votes, including cuts to the Children's Health Insurance Program and a constitutional ban on gay marriage. After his defeat, Madla reportedly invited Uresti to his office where the two made peace during transition talks. Madla was expected to begin a new career as a lobbyist when the next Lege opens Jan. 9. In a statement, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who campaigned for Madla during the primary, called him "a courageous lawmaker who always did what he believed was best for his district and for Texas, even if it was politically unpopular." A.S.
Beyond City Limits
Gov. Rick Perry has set Dec. 19 for a special election to determine a replacement for Rep. Glenda Dawson, R-Pearland, who died in September. Dawson's name remained on the November ballot and her fightin' spirit went on to win the election in House District 29, thanks in part to a slick mailer that her campaign sent out just before E-Day. The mailer, which featured a photo of a smiling Dawson with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, urged voters to turn out for Dawson but neglected to mention that she was dead. Dawson beat Democrat Anthony DiNovo, a physician, with 60.4% of the vote. DiNovo is the only Democrat running in this red Brazoria Co. district, while three Republicans have jumped into the race, with businessman Mike O'Day considered the party establishment's top choice over Randy Weber and John Gorman. O'Day serves on the Brazoria Co. Groundwater Conservation District and has the blessings of Dawson's daughter and son-in-law, and a number of elected officials, including House Speaker Tom Craddick. Weber, a former Pearland City Council member, already has three strikes against him: endorsements from lame duck U.S. Rep. Shelley Sekula Gibbs, Texas Eagle Forum head Cathie Adams, and angry homophobe state Rep. Robert Talton. Early voting will start Dec. 11. A.S.
With Texas the No. 1 wind-power producing state in the country, it's dumbfounding that no windmill turbines were being produced in-state until now. That situation was remedied Monday when Round Rock-based TECO-Westinghouse Motor Company announced it would partner with Composite Technology Corp. of California to begin producing wind turbines next year. According to TECO-Westinghouse spokeswoman Lana DeLeon, the turbines (known as DeWind D8.2) will begin blowing out their doors by June of next year, once some modifications are made to their facility. About 52 turbines will be built in 2007, DeLeon said, but that production will balloon to more than 200 in 2008. TECO-Westinghouse also expects to add up to 150 jobs at the Round Rock facility, she said. Daniel Mottola
Woo hoo! Six states Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Missouri, Colorado, and Ohio voted in November to raise their minimum wages above the federal level, stuck at a pathetic $5.15 an hour since 1997. Twenty-nine states the likes of which, believe it or not, do not include progressive Texas have now gone over our ineffective, inefficient Congress' head to move forward. Has their disobedience paid off? Hell yes at least according to a study released Nov. 27 by labor-focused think tank the Economic Policy Institute (www.epi.org/content.cfm/bp176). In State Minimum Wages: A Policy That Works, economist Paul Wolfson concludes that in states with minimum wages above the federal level, "wages are higher and employment is no lower" than in states with wages at the federal level. The median minimum wage in the 17 states on which he focused those who had raised their hourly wage above the federal minimum by 1995 was "more than 25 percent higher than the federal value," according to an EPI briefing. For more in the Chronicle on this issue, see "Minimum Wage Murmurs," Oct. 20, 2006. C.S.
Believe it or not, the EPA recognized the Port of Houston recently for renewing its commitment to the Performance Track program, which challenges companies and organizations to implement environmentally beneficial practices focused on measurable, beyond-regulatory-compliance results. Flanked by petrochemical facilities, with visibly funky water, the Port of Houston doesn't appear the picture of environmental utopia on the surface, but since becoming the first U.S. port to join Performance Track three years ago, POH has committed to reduce total water use by 5%, nonhazardous waste by 15%, emissions of volatile organic compounds by 15%, and energy use by 10%. It also plans to build about 70 acres of wetland from recycled construction material. Performance Track, since its inception in 2000, has grown to 417 members in 46 states who have collectively reduced their water use by 3.5 billion gallons, cut the equivalent of 88,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and conserved more than 14,000 acres of land, according to the EPA. Here in Austin, a Performance Track members include 3M, Applied Materials, and Freescale Semiconductor. For more, see www.epa.gov/region6. D.M.