Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

Just weeks ago, the EPA ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hasn't been following the federal Clean Air Act – who knew? Now Public Citizen has kicked off a statewide tour – with a giant, inflatable coal plant in tow – drawing yet more attention to the state agency. At a press conference in Wooldridge Park Tuesday, Tom Smitty Smith, director of Public Citizen's local office, announced plans to sue TCEQ in hopes of forcing it to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. TCEQ has long had that authority, yet it has so far refused to wield that power.
Just weeks ago, the EPA ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hasn't been following the federal Clean Air Act – who knew? Now Public Citizen has kicked off a statewide tour – with a giant, inflatable coal plant in tow – drawing yet more attention to the state agency. At a press conference in Wooldridge Park Tuesday, Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's local office, announced plans to sue TCEQ in hopes of forcing it to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. TCEQ has long had that authority, yet it has so far refused to wield that power. (Photo by John Anderson)

Justice for Mamadee

Attorney Rick Reed dropped us a line on Oct. 2 to let us know that 17-year-old high school senior Mamadee Baby Kamara has been readmitted to Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School, effective Monday morning. Kamara had been expelled from high school for allegedly participating in an aggravated robbery near Kealing Middle School. Kamara insisted he was not involved, and the Travis County District Attorney's Office ultimately dismissed the charges against him. Still, Austin ISD expelled Kamara, for a term of 730 days – a year longer than he had left in school. His court-appointed attorney, Reed, argued that the district's decision was arbitrary and did not afford Kamara the due process he was entitled to. (For more on this, see "Guilty Until Proven Innocent," Sept. 25.) – Jordan Smith


Perry Pardons Woodard

Exonerated inmate James Lee Woodard, who spent 27 years in prison for a rape-murder he did not commit, is one step closer to claiming more than $2 million in state compensation for his wrongful incarceration, thanks to a pardon for innocence issued by Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 30. Woodard had been sentenced to life for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Beverly Ann Jones. DNA testing sought by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office proved his innocence, and he was finally released from prison last year. Under state law, Woodard is eligible for $80,000 in compensation for each year he spent behind bars; now that he has an official pardon, he can apply for the compensation from the comptroller's office. "James Lee Wood­ard was wrongfully convicted for a crime he did not commit," Perry said. "My action today cannot give back the time he spent in prison, but it does end this miscarriage of justice." – J.S.


Howard Draws 2010 Challenger

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, has become the first Travis County state representative to face a challenger in next year's general election. Self-declared "fiscal and economic conservative" Glenn Bass has filed to run as a Republican in House District 48. The former banker now runs the Bass Group – the holdings of which include the Glenn Bass Productions media firm – and serves on the statewide advisory board for Carole Keeton Strayhorn's Our Texas Grandchildren Foundation. Before moving to Austin in 2000, when he served as a volunteer on the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, he produced and hosted the Christmas at the Governor's Mansion TV special with then-Gov. George W. Bush. Howard has held the seat since winning the 2006 special run-off election to finish Republican Todd Baxter's unexpired term. In 2008, she beat off a challenge from GOPer and insurance agent Pamela Waggoner 54% to 42%, with Liber­tar­ian Ben Easton bringing up the rear with 4%. – Richard Whittaker


Red All Over

Downtown Austin will be bathed in red this week as several landmark buildings turn their night lighting to crimson for HIV and AIDS awareness. It's part of the first ever Austin Red Week, organized by AIDS Services of Austin. The event kicks off Oct. 11 with a fundraising dance at the Long Center and culminates Oct. 18 with the 3-mile AIDS Walk Austin. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, the world's largest community art project, will also be on display at City Hall, Whole Foods Market (Sixth Street), and other locations around town. "Many of the quilt panels were made in memory of Austin residents, and all of them are a moving reminder of why we care," ASA Board Chair Bob Dailey said. An estimated 6,000 Central Texans are currently living with HIV or AIDS. For more info, visit www.asaustin.org. – R.W.


All 'Dillos Go to Heaven?

Naked City
Photo by John Anderson

Where have all the 'Dillos gone? Downtown Austinites said goodbye to the familiar trolley cars and their distinctive wood and brass fittings on Oct. 2 as Capital Metro officially terminated the Downtown 'Dillo routes. But what will happen to the 14 vehicles? While the service is suspended for the current fiscal year, they are still part of the fleet and are mothballed in Cap Metro's garages. The transit authority is undergoing a comprehensive operations analysis and has not ruled out bringing them back as part of a future downtown circulator system. Another option is selling them off. Cap Metro Communications Manager Adam Shaivitz said, "That's always a possibility when there are surplus vehicles that have reached the end of their lifespan." In 2008, after the transit authority cut the number of routes from five to two, a dozen surplus trolleys were sold through online auction site GovDeals.com. Buyers included Antique Limousines of Austin: Rebranded as Austin Trolley Company vehicles, the minibuses were part of the Friday afternoon shuttle service to Austin City Limits. – R.W.


Still On the Craddick Trail

Tom Craddick may no longer be the House speaker, but Texans for Public Justice is still following the Midland rep's money. In a complaint filed Oct. 5, TPJ alleges Craddick's campaign illegally used the Texas JOBS PAC to channel campaign funds to his allies in the House. According to the complaint, Craddick's campaign fund infused $250,000 into the PAC's empty coffers on Jan. 10, 2008. The next day, the PAC paid out $50,000 each to three Democratic state reps: Kevin Bailey, Aaron Peña, and Kino Flores, who is currently under indictment for unrelated campaign finance violations. All three faced primary opponents in part because of their ties to Craddick. TPJ claims Craddick's daughter, Christi Craddick, instructed the PAC on who was to receive the money, in violation of the transparency rules in the Texas Election Code. (Austin Rep. Dawnna Dukes was also an intended recipient but she told the Statesman she rejected the offer.) TPJ Director Craig McDonald said: "Craddick resurrected this PAC. What makes it clear is that they didn't have a red cent before that check." – R.W.


Jeff Rose Appointed to 353rd

After leaving the seat open for more than four months, Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 2 announced that he'd chosen Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Rose to replace Travis County District Judge Scott Ozmun, who died this spring, just six months after he'd been elected to the bench of the 353rd Judicial District Civil Court. Rose previously served as the chief of the Attorney General's civil litigation division. He will hold the seat through the November 2010 election. – J.S.


Downtown Austin Plan Town Hall

Naked City
Photo by Jana Birchum

Interested in the future of Downtown? Have a stake, an opinion, or special insight to share with the city and the urban planners at ROMA Austin? Then don't miss the big, official Downtown Austin Plan meet-up this weekend (Saturday, Oct. 10, 9am-noon, Waller Creek Center, 625 E. 10th). Everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring along folks from diverse community groups. Help imagine how Austin's urban center should look and feel, and learn about the broad vision for how Downtown could evolve. Topics to be covered include:

The nine districts (distinct plans to further strengthen the special character of each Downtown area)

Transportation (easier walking, biking, public transit, and driving)

Keeping it weird (live music, art, and creative culture)

Historic preservation

Rules and tools (urban design and zoning)

The town hall also offers a chance to better understand specific plan components drafted to date: the Transportation Framework Plan, the Density Bonus program, the Affordable Housing Strategy, and the Parks and Open Space Master Plan. Read drafts online at www.cityofaustin.org/downtown/downtownaustinplan.htm.

Questions? E-mail jorge.rousselin@ci.austin.tx.us or call 974-2975.
– Katherine Gregor

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