News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond
Student Government Goes Rogue
In what some are seeing as a referendum on the student government's cozy relationship with the administration at UT Austin, Scott Parks and Muneezeh Kabir won the March 10 run-off to become the next president and vice president. The pair had actually lost the first round to the perceived establishment slate of Minator Azemi and Justin Stein, 42% to 46%, but they took the second round 55% to 45%. The role of Student Government has come under sharp criticism over current President Liam O'Rourke's relationship with the university administration, as exemplified by his rubber-stamping the decision to close the Cactus Cafe and end the informal classes program. Azemi's connection to O'Rourke – along with their shared membership in a secret society called the Eyes of Texas – became a major point of contention in the election. In a further sign of growing student discontent with "business as usual," on March 11 the Senate of College Councils voted unanimously not to support a 10-semester limit for graduation, arguing that the measure would in no way address the root causes of UT's low graduation rate. – Richard Whittaker
Who's The 'Desirous' One?
Will Ace stay, or will he go? Whether Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo will call Austin home much longer remains up in the air: Last week, City Manager Marc Ott announced that he'd offered the chief a raise and increased deferred compensation to stay put and forget about the possibility of being chosen from among six finalists for the top-cop job in Big D. The salary offered to Acevedo – a boost to $188,480 plus $11,000 deferred comp – would have made him the next-highest-paid chief in the state, second only to Houston's, who has responsibility for three times as many blues as Acevedo. No dice, Acevedo said on March 11: The offer is generous, but he wants to remain in the Dallas race. "I know that many of my friends find it hard to believe that I would leave the City of Austin, however, having been raised in Los Angeles County, I truly find Dallas to be a very desirous place to work and live," he said in a press statement. – Jordan Smith
Quintana Seeks Gag Order
On March 15, a lawyer for Austin Police Department Officer Leonardo Quintana, who fatally shot 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II in an Eastside parking lot last May, filed a motion in federal court seeking a gag order in the civil rights case Sanders' parents filed against the officer and the city last summer. At press time the court documents were not available for inspection – the motion was filed under seal by attorney Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez (whom the city has retained to represent Quintana), but it will be up to Judge Sam Sparks to decide if it will stay that way. Adam Loewy, the Sanders family attorney, was not happy about the proposed order, which he says serves only to hide from the public information that exposes the fatal missteps made by Quintana during the incident. "The City of Austin and APD are scared that the public will learn the truth about what happened on May 11, 2009, and the subsequent cover-up by APD," Loewy told the Chronicle via e-mail. "The [city] and APD were really happy to trash my clients' dead son last year, but now that we have discovered the truth about what happened in this case, they are running to Court to get a Gag order." – J.S.
New Reason To Hit The Trail
Using the Lady Bird Lake Trail is a walk in the park, thanks to a new online map launched by the Trail Foundation. Based on Google Maps, it allows users to scroll, zoom, and click around to find restrooms, drinking fountains, convenient parking, gardens, and places of interest along the trail. Markers also show trail improvement projects, with status and details, as well as temporary trail closures and events. Among the future projects shown for completion in 2010: the Pfluger Bridge Circle, a new trail "destination" due for improvements with informal seating and native Texas plants, in conjunction with extending the no-cars Pfluger Bridge over Cesar Chavez. The map is also helpful for trying out new-to-you portions of the hike-and-bike trail – such as the Eastside segments, which tend to be far less crowded. See the interactive trail map at www.thetrailfoundation.org. Katherine Gregor