Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

Naked City

Firefighters Union Elects New President

As adoption of a new union contract nears, Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Nicks (r) has been elected president of the Austin Firefighters Association. Previous AFA President Stephen Truesdell did not run for re-election. "We're trying to make the union a lot more inclusive of the membership and let the membership have a lot more power," said Nicks. He added that union issues "will be largely determined by what the membership wants," a process Nicks hopes to facilitate by enabling voting online. Still, Nicks has priorities, namely greater interactivity with the community and a chance to "show our professionalism and relevance to them." He added, "I think you'll see we're not going to be the type of union that is talking about the classic union issues" such as wages and benefits. Operational issues – such as four-person staffing on fire trucks – were most at issue in negotiations over the union's new contract. A union vote is scheduled Dec. 6-10, and, if the contract is approved, Nicks hopes for council approval at the Dec. 17 meeting. "I look at it as a fair deal. It's certainly not a home run, but it's not a crap deal." – Wells Dunbar

Holiday shoppers were treated to handmade wares at affordable prices at the annual Women and Fair Trade craft fair last weekend, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. At this booth, Lata Karna displays a selection of scarves.
Holiday shoppers were treated to handmade wares at affordable prices at the annual Women and Fair Trade craft fair last weekend, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. At this booth, Lata Karna displays a selection of scarves. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Texas' New Eco-Cop

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Patty Robertson has been appointed environmental crimes prosecutor, a new position within the Travis County District Attorney's Office funded by a grant from the Texas Commission on Environ­mental Quality. Robertson, who has been working as a white-collar crimes prosecutor for the office, will now have statewide jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes under the Texas Water Code and Health and Safety Code, D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg announced on Nov. 20. "Establishing a full-time presence at the Travis County [D.A.'s Office], solely for the prosecution of environmental crimes, will ensure that criminal offenses against our natural resources will be dealt with swiftly and effectively," said TCEQ Executive Director Mark Vickery in a press release. – Jordan Smith

Bike-Friendly Jobs

If you're looking for an employer supportive of your commitment to bicycling, the League of American Bicyclists (www.bikeleague.org) has a couple of Austin recommendations. In its fall 2009 Bicycle Friendly Business awards, the LAB recognized Bicycle Sport Shop (natch) and the city of Austin among 45 recognized businesses nationwide. Bicycle Sport Shop earned the top "platinum" status, while the city was in the "silver" category. The awards commend businesses that promote cycling in four areas: engineering (bike racks, showers, etc.), education (bike-safety programs, tutorials), encouragement (benefits for bike commuters, loaner bikes), and evaluation (in-house bike coordinators, targeted ridership numbers, and such). – Lee Nichols

Gig 'Em, Hook 'Em, Plant 'Em

There won't be just school spirit on the line for Thursday's UT vs. A&M football game. The Austin and College Station mayors have wagered a bet on the game, putting city pride on the line as well. The loser must provide trees to be planted in the winning city. "This is an easy opportunity for Austin to win some new trees," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "This will provide a shady spot for Austinites to lie underneath our winning trees and celebrate our 12-0 season." College Station Mayor Ben White replied, "I can't tell you how excited I am at the thought of having some of Austin's finest oak trees planted in the heart of Aggieland." The latter mayor's name might sound familiar to Austinites: He's the namesake grandson of the former Austin City Council member whose name now graces Ben White Boulevard. – L.N.

High Praise for Hightower

Naked City

Jim Hightower – the folksy, Austin-based populist behind nationally syndicated column “The Hightower Report” (which appears every issue in these very pages) – heads for New York next week to accept the 2009 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. “I’m totally shocked and amazed,” Hightower told the Chronicle last week. Chosen because of his advocacy “for everyday people whose voices are seldom heard in Washington and on Wall Street,” Hightower is following in the footsteps of such luminaries as 2006 winner Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now!) and 2004 winner Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed). “These are folks I know … for whom I have terrific respect,” said Hightower. “That pretty much makes it special for me.” Also special is the $100,000 prize that comes with the honor, which he says he’ll “probably fritter away” on continuing his work. Between his column, monthly newsletter, books, weekly radio commentaries, and regular speech engagements, Hightower keeps pretty busy – with the help of longtime partner Susan DeMarco, of whom he said, “Half of this [award] at least goes to her.” Hightower will accept the award at a Dec. 7 gala dinner in New York City. Asked if he’ll have time to stop by Wall Street while he’s in the neighborhood, Hightower said: “I think I’m not entirely welcome there. But I may knock on the door, what the hell, and ask for our money back.” – Nora Ankrum

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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A half-year after a city-led investigation began into missing money at ACTV, no answers are forthcoming. In the manner of many of the colorful programs and personalities that populate the public access airwaves, conspiracy theories abound – and not solely over the missing funds.

Wells Dunbar, July 15, 2005

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bob Nicks, Austin Firefighters Association, Patty Robertson, Austin Fire Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Bicycle Friendly Business Award, Lee Leffingwell, Ben White

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