Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

Comprehensive Plan Team Chosen

The future of Austin's Comprehensive Plan is now in the hands of Wallace Roberts & Todd, a prominent national firm specializing in sustainable city and regional planning. City Council made the selection unanimously last week in a notable departure from the initial staff recommendation, ACP Visioning+Planning. Council had delayed its selection – at the request of Liveable City and concerned citizens – to allow for additional public input, which included a second round of public Q&A with the finalist teams and two public forums with council and staff. According to Live­able City Co-Chair Brian Donovan, some of the local subconsultants on ACP's team raised red flags. In particular, its transportation and traffic consultant, Prime Strategies, was seen as too strongly tied to toll-road advocacy and anti-rail transit positions. "The public input and the additional materials provided by the finalists allowed us to better analyze our options and make a well-informed decision," said Council Member Laura Morrison. Liveable City has called for a community advisory group as part of a "robust" public outreach plan. The current development lull offers an ideal time to get the two-year process rolling. To learn more, visit www.cityofaustin.org/compplan. – Katherine Gregor


Good News for (most) Shelter Animals

According to a new report from Mission: Orange Austin, fewer dogs and cats are dying in Austin's animal shelter system – and more are leaving it alive – than ever before. The national Mission: Orange program, an effort of the American Society for the Preven­tion of Cruelty to Animals, aims to achieve a live-release rate of 75% in partner cities by 2010, and Austin seems poised to surpass that goal. According to Mission: Orange Austin's data report for the first quarter of 2009, the local live-release rate stands very close to that mark at 73.8%, which means 3,259 dogs and cats left Austin's sheltering system alive between January and March. That also means 953 animals were still euthanized – out of the 4,418 taken in during the first quarter. But at 21.6%, the euthanasia rate is less than half what it was just 16 months ago – at the close of 2007, it stood at 48.9%. To see how Austin is achieving its progress, see "How They're Doing It," April 3. – Patricia J. Ruland


Supremes Rule on Warrentless Searches

In an unusual split, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 21 that police need to obtain a warrant before searching the vehicle of a person who has been arrested and locked in a police cruiser. Police may conduct a warrantless search in connection with an arrest "only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest," they ruled. In the case at issue (Arizona v. Gant), police arrested Rodney Gant for driving with a suspended license. After handcuffing and locking Gant in their cruiser, police searched his car and found a gun and a bag of cocaine. Gant challenged the search, arguing that he was already secured and that there was no possibility police would find evidence related to the traffic offense for which he'd been arrested. (Asked at a pretrial hearing to explain the reason for the search, one officer told the court, "Because the law says we can do it.") An unusual majority of the court – including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas joining John Paul Stevens' opinion – agreed that the search was unconstitutional. – Jordan Smith

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