Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and elsewhere

Volunteer John Sines prepares to head out on a delivery for Meals on Two Wheels.
Volunteer John Sines prepares to head out on a delivery for Meals on Two Wheels. (Photo by John Anderson)

Meals on Bike Wheels Meals prepared by nonprofit Meals on Wheels and More are now arriving at the homes of a few lucky clients via bicycle, thanks to the Meals on Two Wheels program, which began last Monday. Meals on Wheels and More provides about 2,500 homebound and disabled Austinites with five hot meals (and one frozen one) each week, with the help of 3,000 volunteers. John Sines, who has volunteered as a delivery driver with his wife for about four years, helped develop the program. "It's a lot of fun and very fulfilling," he said. "It's easy to get motivated to ride when you know people are relying on you to deliver their meal." So far, volunteers have identified and tested 12 bike-safe routes in Downtown Austin, all of which can be completed in less than an hour. A donation from an anonymous local tech company funded the purchase of three specially outfitted Trek bikes and customized cooler trailers. Among more noble reasons, Sines said he'd recommend the experience as an excellent excuse to fit a bike ride into one's busy schedule. He emphasized that applicants needn't be expert cyclists. Interested volunteers may call 476-6325 or visit www.mealsonwheelsandmore.org. – Daniel Mottola

Austin's Hottest Trend: Crime? Crime in Austin increased in 2007, according to annual FBI statistics released Sept. 15. While Austin's population increased by just under 1% last year, violent crime (including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) was up nearly 6%, and property crime (including burglary, larceny, and car theft) jumped by more than 9%, according to FBI numbers. The FBI's uniform crime reporting program compiles crime stats from individual police agencies. In 2007, that included reports from more than 17,000 law-enforcement groups, representing nearly 95% of the country's population. Nationally, crime was down in 2007, the first decline in two years. Overall, violent crime was down by just under 1%, while property crime dropped by 1.4%. In Austin, however, police reported an increase in every category: Murder led the pack with a 50% increase (30 killings in 2007, up from 20 in 2006), followed by a 7.3% rise in reported robberies (1,457 in 2007). Car thefts led the property-crime increase, up 16.4% in 2007, followed by a 9.2% increase in larceny/theft (34,461 reported in 2007) and a 7.6% jump in burglary (8,031 reported in 2007). – Jordan Smith

What's Up With GWTP? Want to hear the latest scoop on redeveloping the Green Water Treatment Plant site Downtown? The first public discussion of the project since the city selected Trammell Crow's team for the job will be this Wednesday. Sue Edwards, Austin's assistant city manager for development, and Tim McCabe, of Trammell Crow, will dish the details. They'll analyze how to balance vision with feasibility and discuss the trade-offs necessary in balancing a mix of features. The workshop is the first official meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism's new Central Texas chapter. They note of the plant: "The project will be an ambitious mix of New Urban features: mixed housing and commercial space, sustainable design features, pedestrian amenities, and public space." The Urban Workshop and Happy Hour takes place at Sullivan's Steakhouse, 300 Colorado, on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 5:30pm; $10 admission includes drink and nosh. RSVP in advance to rachelproctormay@gmail.com. – Katherine Gregor

Fanny, Freddie, and You With Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae failing and Lehman Brothers looking for a few billion in change, the time seems ripe for a more progressive discussion of finance and economics. The Center for Public Policy Priorities holds its annual William P. Hobby Policy Conference at the Austin Doubletree Hotel this Thursday & Friday, Sept. 18 & 19, where experts and citizens' advocates will discuss the current economy. CPPP Communications Director Derrick Crowe expects the discussion to cover how the recent round of bank closures and mortgage-lender collapses has hit more than just Wall Street. He explained, "That's something that's been missing from the coverage – how it will affect people who don't have massive investments." Other conference highlights will include panels on education, affordable health care, and what to expect from the Legislature this spring. Friday's schedule features a special breakout session addressing the impact of climate-change policies on Texas' low- and moderate-income families. See www.cppp.org for conference details. – Richard Whittaker


Children's Museum's New Home

Naked City

The Austin Child­ren's Museum announced it has selected Mueller as its preferred new location. The museum and Mueller's master developer, Catellus Development Group, heralded the good fit: Both are family-oriented, kid-friendly, committed to diversity, and forward-thinking. But the gain of a star attraction for Mueller's mixed-use town center – a deal just starting negotiation – would be Downtown's loss. In attracting families with young children, the museum is uniquely valuable to Downtown's mix. The museum, which draws 210,000 visitors annually, must move from its location at Second and Colorado by 2011. The city of Austin had offered a $5 million subsidy to Stratus Properties for putting the Children's Museum in Block 21 Downtown. But the museum was forced to pull out, after Stratus failed to provide for its specific space needs. Council reassigned the $5 million to its Waller Creek project rather than earmark it to help the nonprofit museum stay in high-priced Downtown. Downtown Austin Alliance Executive Director Charlie Betts said his group would take another run at persuading council to help the Children's Museum locate in the competing Seaholm project Downtown: "We've always thought Seaholm would be the perfect location," he said. – Katherine Gregor


Border Wall to Proceed (for Now)

On Sept. 11, El Paso District Judge Frank Montalvo dismissed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against extending the border wall. Filed against U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff – by plaintiffs including the city of El Paso and Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, among others – the suit objects to Chertoff's April 3 legal "megawaiver" fast-tracking further construction. But that's only the "bad news," says Border Ambassadors founder Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., on his blog Inside the Checkpoints (narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/jay-j-johnson-castro-sr). The "good news" is that "the case can now be appealed," he writes. However, he points out, while the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates on whether to hear an appeal (if filed), construction on the wall may proceed. "On the other hand, depending on who the next president is, there might well be no Secretary Chertoff" to push for the border wall anyway. – Patricia J. Ruland


Laredo Paper Sues Mayor

Naked City

Imagine Mayor Will Wynn hiding copies of the Chronicle because it contained something mean about him. That's exactly why LareDOS, the alternative newspaper in Laredo, is suing the town mayor. The paper claims that on June 5, 2007, Mayor Raul Salin­as ordered staff at Laredo International Airport to remove the May/June issue from the stands because it contained a satirical cartoon lampooning him. The publication has video footage of Salinas directing staff to remove the papers. The cover story, written by Editor María Eugenia "Meg" Guerra, addressed the close relationship between Salinas and private prison firm Geo Group. The cover image, inspired by 19th century Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada's Calaver­as print El Jarabe en Ultratumba (The Folk Dance Beyond the Grave), featured the council as skeletons dancing on money. "The mayor has a pretty thin skin," said Guerra. The bimonthly publication and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed suit on Sept. 9 in federal Southern District of Texas Court in Laredo against the city and Salinas for First Amendment violations. TCRP Director Jim Harrington called the case "about abuse of power" and added, "You see this pattern going on around in the country, where politicians will suppress free speech even though they know they'll lose the case." – Richard Whittaker


Radio Rocks Austin

Billy Bush
Billy Bush

Hordes of perky people are taking over Downtown this week for the National Association of Broad­cast­ers Radio Show, the industry's biggest annual convention (promoted with the slogan "Austincredible!"). With the business in free fall, this year's convention, which runs through Friday at the Austin Convention Center, should be a tad livelier than usual. Conferences will spotlight many key issues facing the industry, including declining revenue and programming that could make a dead man yawn. Special sessions will focus on the sputtering growth of HD radio, the new threat posed by the long-delayed merger of the Sirius and XM satellite services, and the unveiling of Portable People Meters, which allow better tracking of listening habits. A Thursday morning talk features Federal Communications Commission Chair­man Kevin Martin, one of the leaders of the Bush administration's campaign against smut. But the grand, star-studded highlight of the week likely will be Thursday's annual Marconi Radio Awards show, hosted by distant presidential relative and Access Hollywood co-anchor Billy Bush. (It speaks volumes about the star power of radio that they need to enlist Billy Bush to host an awards show.) The NAB Radio Show runs concurrently with the Radio & Records (R&R) Convention, which takes over the Hilton until Friday. – Kevin Brass


Robert Barnstone Remembrance

Naked City
Photo by Alan Pogue

A public gathering in honor of the late Robert Barnstone will be held 5:30-7:30pm Monday, Sept. 22. Judge Bob Perkins will serve as emcee. Friends and colleagues will tell stories about the well-known developer and former Austin City Council member and one-time mayoral candidate (shown here smiling after his 1991 defeat). The gathering will be held outdoors at Güero's Taco Bar, 1412 S. Congress.

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