The week's biggest little news blips
• A chilling moment under the dome: During public testimony on Senate Bill 358, Sen. Dan Patrick's anti-"sanctuary city" bill, a man identified as Clay Laird was removed from the Senate Committee on Transportation & Homeland Security hearing after swearing he would come to the home of any lawmaker who voted against it. He called this "a promise written in blood. It might be yours; it might be mine."
• Who's up for a trip to Havana? After the White House announced a thawing of relations with Cuba, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples wrote to President Obama requesting that a Texas airport be authorized as a hub for flights to the island nation.
• Highland Mall death watch: News broke this week that Dillard's is suing the mall to break its lease. The complaint says mall managers allowed Highland "to deteriorate in character and quality" to the point that "it is now approximately half vacant, has a poor tenant mix," and is "plagued by gang activity." The Austin chapter of the NAACP also protested Highland Mall last weekend, for closing early and turning away predominantly black crowds during Texas Relays weekend.
• Paper-trail proponents took heart this week when the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals affirmed the right of voters to challenge the use of electronic voting machines, allowing a suit to invalidate paperless voting to move forward.
• The city announced Wednesday that following an outside assessment, it will immediately remove 28 trees at Barton Springs thought to be "potential safety risks due to their maturity and declining health." More than two dozen more trees will be pruned and monitored, while replacements for uprooted trees, "as large and mature as feasible," will be planted this fall. A falling tree limb seriously injured a park patron last August.
• City Council continues its sparse schedule, off again this week, not to return until Thursday, April 23. Council held a special-called meeting Monday, April 13, voting to oppose a state Senate bill that would mandate Austin switch to a single-member district system, on the grounds such a law sets poor precedent for state involvement in city affairs.
• City Council is scheduled to vote on selection of a consultant team for the Comprehensive Plan at the April 23 council meeting; for more information, visit www.cityofaustin.org/compplan.
• In celebration of Earth Week, the city of Austin is encouraging everyone to turn their lights off all weekend – sounds like a good excuse for some candlelight dinners and Ouija board sessions.
Quote of the Week
"We think it's time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas."
– Gov. Rick Perry, declaring state sovereignty earlier this month – and incidentally campaigning for re-election