Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

An overflow crowd at last week’s Central Health board meeting forced abortion foes to watch testimony on a monitor outside the room where board members voted to renew contracts with abortion providers.
An overflow crowd at last week’s Central Health board meeting forced abortion foes to watch testimony on a monitor outside the room where board members voted to renew contracts with abortion providers. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Committee Approves CAMPO Board Changes

As expected, the Policy Board Composition Committee of the Capital Area Metropol­it­an Planning Organization – the body of elected officials that drives regional transportation planning – recommended on Tuesday both to add to and slim down the CAMPO board. If accepted by the full board as well as the original six CAMPO signatories (Williamson, Travis, and Hays counties; the city of Austin; Capital Metro; and the Texas Depart­ment of Transportation), Caldwell and Bastrop counties will become members (each getting one appointment to the board), while state legislators and small-city appointees would be removed, resulting in an overall reduction from 20 members to 16 (see "Resizing the CAMPO Tent," Dec. 11). CAMPO's full board next meets Jan. 22, 2010. – Lee Nichols

FLDS Trial No. 2

Allan Keate, a member of Mormon breakaway sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, went on trial last week as one of a dozen members indicted in Eldora­do on charges related to the group's practice of polygamy, often with underage girls. The second of 12 to go to trial, Keate faces a sexual assault charge that could land him up to life in prison. The state says that in 2006 he had sex with a 16-year-old whom he took as a "spiritual" wife the year before, resulting in the birth of one of his at least 25 children, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. The Texas Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case, and, Attorney General Greg Abbott showed up for jury selection Dec. 8; he took notes, reports the Houston Chronicle, but did not participate in questioning potential jurors. The drop-by is proof that the prosecutions are purely political, charged FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop. Not true, Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland told the daily: "Any case involving these kinds of serious allegations is an important case, and the attorney general's office remains committed to seeking justice." Abbott attended the proceedings as part of the "prosecution team," said Strickland. – Jordan Smith

City in Civil Rights Suit

At press time, jurors in federal court were still hearing testimony in the civil rights lawsuit brought by former Austin Police Department probationary Officer Ramon Perez, who was fired in 2005 while still a rookie on probationary status. Perez says he was terminated because of his religious beliefs and because he refused a supervisor's order to use a Taser on a man who he thought was a candidate for heart attack. He says his supervisors and an APD psychologist turned his beliefs into a reason to get rid of him. The city says Perez was terminated not for religious beliefs but because he was not competent: He was making blunders regularly on the street, they say, and having problems with investigation techniques and, importantly, with officer safety. In short, he had become a hazard, they say – even to his own health. The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the week. – J.S.

AISD's Bright Future

Austin Independent School District's board of trustees knows where it wants to be in 2015, and it thinks it knows how to get there. On Dec. 14, trustees approved the district's 2010-2015 Stra­tegic Plan, which formalizes the long-stated goal of both the board and Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to have all students performing at or above grade level within three years of enrolling in the district. The plan sets year-by-year goals for each core subject and each student demographic. It also adds some new tasks – such as developing a specific plan to improve education outcomes in East Austin – and sets districtwide targets, including having no "academically unacceptable" schools in the district by 2011 and achieving a district rating of "exemplary" in all TAKS subjects by 2015. The board also pushed to implement one key action step ("Ensure that the district's program for English Language Learners ... includes dual language as a program option across the district") by approving two new dual-language programs and approving a $50,000-a-year professional development contract with the Edinburg, Texas-based Dual Language Training Insti­tute. The full strategic plan is online at – Richard Whittaker

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