• There's plenty of chestnuts on the fire at City Council's final meeting of the year today (Thurs­day, Dec. 17) – a new firefighter contract is on the agenda (though Council Member Bill Spel­man says he'll vote against it, citing equity issues), a texting-while-driving ban returns to the dais, as does the controversial Grayco/South Shore development, up for third reading. See "No Place Like City Hall for the Holidays."

• The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has proposed a total of $159,600 in penalties against four contractors for alleged safety violations related to the June 10 accident that killed three workers on the 21 Rio construction site; workers on the project say they have since not been paid $55,000 in wages due them. On Wednesday, construction workers and the Workers Defense Project held a vigil in memory of the three men: Wilson Joel Irias Cerritos, Raudel Ramirez Camacho, and Jesus Angel Lopez Perez.

Photo by John Anderson

• Green acres is the place to be for former City Council Member Brewster McCracken (r), who this week secured the top post at the Pecan Street Project, a business and enviro coalition looking to test and develop clean energy technologies.

• More foreclosures on the wind: Two Downtown condo construction projects appear doomed, as the Star Riverside (I-35 and Riverside) and Sabine on Fifth are posted for a Jan. 5, 2010, foreclosure auction.

• The long-serving (and struggling) East Austin environmental activist group People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources – much better known as PODER – is reaching out to Austinites for financial support under the gun of the economic recession. Last week it held a house party, but if you couldn't make it, you can still contribute at www.poder-texas.org or by mail: PODER, PO Box 6237, Austin, TX 78762-6237.

Emmis Austin Radio has announced the lineup for its 107.1FM La Z, with the 6am-noon slot taken by the syndicated El Show de Don Cheto, broadcast from Burbank, Calif. The station took over KGSR's old space on the dial, while the local station is now at 93.3FM, previously held by Austin's last and now defunct dedicated hip-hop station, Hot 93.3FM.

• So much for the recession-proof Texas economy. Comptroller Susan Combs announced Dec. 11 that sales tax collections continued their nine-month fall in November, dropping 14.4% from a year before.

• Houston hair-care tycoon Farouk Shami (he of CHI beauty products) officially filed for the Democratic nomination for governor on Dec. 15. Now it's Shami vs. Houston Mayor Bill White to head up the Democratic ticket next November.

• Speaking of Houston, voters there elected the city's first openly gay mayor on Dec. 12 as city controller Annise Parker beat former city attorney and fellow Democrat Gene Locke after a bitterly fought run-off.

• Break out the crucifixes and the holy water! Sightings of former presidential adviser-turned-Fox News talking head Karl Rove visiting the Associated Republicans of Texas office in Austin have sparked rumors that "Turd Blossom" might be getting back in the Texas campaign game.


Quote of the Week

"This election has changed the world for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community."

– Annise Parker, who will become Houston's first openly gay mayor after winning a hotly contested runoff election Dec. 12

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