The Austin Chronicle


October 23, 2009, News

• The Austin City Council meets today (Thursday) with the big-ticket item – a $3.1 million contract component of the massive Water Treatment Plant No. 4 – expected to win narrow approval, with a dissenting green bloc (Laura Morrison, Bill Spelman, and Chris Riley) calling for an integrated water management plan that would position the city as a national leader on conservation. See "Beside the Point" and "City Hall Hustle."

• Meanwhile, three of the four "yes" votes on WTP4 (Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, and Randi Shade) are keeping on the sunny side with their sponsorship today of a proposal that would allow homeowners to finance rooftop solar installations and other energy-saving investments with municipal loans repayable through their property tax bills.

• A bald cypress and a Texas persimmon swept this year's highest honors in the city of Austin's 2009 Tree of the Year Award. The cypress makes its home at Red Bud Isle, while the perky persimmon tree is at Mayfield Park and Preserve. The award ceremony will be held at Mayfield Park and Preserve this Friday, Oct. 23, at 11am, just in time for Saturday's citywide celebrations of Arbor Day.

• The unemployment rate for September in Texas hit 8.2%, up from 8% in August and 5.1% in September 2008. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, nonagricultural payroll employment dropped by 44,700 jobs last month, bringing the total to 303,700 jobs lost this year.

• Travis County Commis­sion­er Margaret Gómez announced last week she will seek a fifth four-year term in the Precinct 4 seat; her sole opponent (so far) in the 2010 election is Raul Alvarez, a former City Council member and current trustee on the Austin Community College board.

• Gig 'em. President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush shared a stage at Texas A&M University on Oct. 16 to advocate for volunteer community service. Spotted in the crowd of protestors bemoaning this D.C. interference in Texas business was former Republican Party of Texas chair (now senior campaign adviser to Gov. Rick Perry) Tina Benkiser.

• Sen. John Cornyn has been branded a "Republican for Rape" after voting against an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act, which would prevent defense contractors from forcing employees to go through private arbitration rather than the judicial system if they are assaulted by co-workers. Cornyn was one of 30 senators (all male, all Republican) who opposed the measure, as did the Department of Defense.

• Early voting on the 11 Texas constitutional amendments on the Nov. 3 ballot began on Monday, Oct. 19 and runs through Friday, Oct. 30. See the Chronicle endorsements here.

Quote of the Week

"Higher water rates will discourage businesses from locating in Austin compared to other locations. There are better and more cost effective means to support Austin's growth into the future."

– Tyson Tuttle, Silicon Laboratories, in a letter to City Council opposing construction of Water Treatment Plant No. 4

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