News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond
• A SAD GOODBYE After a lengthy battle with cancer, District Judge Scott Ozmun (pictured) died on May 8 at age 50. A civil trial lawyer by training, Ozmun had served as a briefing attorney for the Texas Supreme Court and on a multitude of legal bodies including the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas and the Austin Young Lawyers Association. As the former Travis County Democratic Party chair, Ozmun has been praised for his inspirational approach to public service, while Rep. Donna Howard called him "one of the nicest people I ever knew." He is survived by his wife, Beth, and their two daughters. Memorial services were held Tuesday, May 12. His family requests that in lieu of flowers, mourners make a donation to Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. – Richard Whittaker
• NO MORE E-WASTE OUTSOURCING Round Rock-based Dell announced a new policy Tuesday that it will not export – directly or via any of its vendors – nonworking electronic products (aka "e-waste") from a developed nation to a developing nation. Dell came under pressure from environmental groups earlier this decade for shipping its e-waste to Third World nations where equipment is often disassembled under unsafe conditions for recycling and scrap. Dell eventually embraced calls for taking back used computers from consumers, and Tuesday's announcement takes the take-back even further. "We applaud Dell for going beyond what federal law requires," said Texas Campaign for the Environment's Robin Schneider. "Hopefully this will help us build some momentum on Capitol Hill." – Lee Nichols
• AISD FREEZE TO BE SHORT-TERM Austin Independent School District has announced a partial hiring freeze, covering only its central offices. The freeze does not affect teaching or campus staff and is only in place until Superintendent Meria Carstarphen replaces Pat Forgione on July 1. Education Austin President Louis Malfaro said he wasn't concerned at the announcement. "It's targeted at noncampus, nonessential positions," he said. "The way we're reading this is that the new super doesn't want the old super to hire new people until she's in place." However, he said there was "a secondary whiff." While the district announced that "no significant increases in state revenue are expected," Malfaro said, "It attempts to give the appearance that the district is in the same position as the city, and it's not true." Between the district's $120 million fund reserves, expected school finance reforms, and federal stimulus money, Malfaro argues that AISD is solvent. – R.W.
• ACCIDENTAL CHILD DEATHS ON THE RISE? The Travis Co. Child Fatality Review Team has released its annual findings on the causes of death of area children in the last calendar year. While most of the 139 fatalities reported in 2008 were the result of natural causes (usually infants), four were determined to be suicide, and one was a homicide. Most notably, the number of accidental deaths was 33, up from 19 in 2007. The report, compiled by the Center for Child Protection, focuses on these fatalities in particular as part of an educational effort aimed at reducing the number of preventable deaths. Of note among the accidental fatalities – which included six drownings and nine vehicle accidents – were 17 children who died of asphyxiation, 14 of them infants sleeping in unsafe arrangements. The last three years have seen a dramatic increase in such deaths (there were 17 in 2006, up from just three in 2005 and well over the 5.2 average of the previous 10 years). The CCP responded last year with a public awareness campaign about "safe sleeping" techniques, including putting children to bed on "firm, unobstructed sleep surfaces." – Jay Trachtenberg