Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

Walking on Water: Levi H. Gibbons, 20 months, enjoys the cool splash of water on a hot July day at the newly opened Clarksville Splash Pad at 1811 W. 11th. The new feature replaces the outdated wading pool at the Mary Francis Baylor Clarksville Park.
Walking on Water: Levi H. Gibbons, 20 months, enjoys the cool splash of water on a hot July day at the newly opened Clarksville Splash Pad at 1811 W. 11th. The new feature replaces the outdated wading pool at the Mary Francis Baylor Clarksville Park. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Creating space for the Arts A federally subsidized artists' colony for Saltillo Plaza is the first in a series of "regeneration projects" being pursued by the city's Economic Growth and Redevel­op­ment Services Office. In an approach that's novel for Austin, new EGRSO Director Kevin Johns has invited two partners – the city's Neigh­borhood Housing and Community Development division and the citizen Community Development Commission – to join EGRSO in collectively pursuing a federal grant. The proposed project would create new low-income housing and live-work space for artists and others, boosting the district while avoiding the downsides of gentrification. On a parallel track, EGRSO last week hosted a series of educational seminars on "creative space development" for Austinites in the arts and real estate. A thought-provoking July 13 talk at City Hall by national expert Matt Kwat­inetz – called "The Role of Arts in Enlivening Business Dis­tricts" – is archived on video at www.cityofaustin.org/channel6. Meanwhile, the competitive federal Brownfields Economic Development Initiative grant application for Saltillo is due in September. Guidelines require that the proposed project benefit low- to moderate-income Austinites, prevent/eliminate blight, and/or address "urgent community needs." – Katherine Gregor

Slashing UT's Other 5% More jobs are going at the University of Texas as the university announced on July 20 that it will be laying off 17 staffers at Campus Planning and Facilities Management while leaving another 60 positions vacant. The firings are part of the university's efforts to find $14.6 million in savings after Gov. Rick Perry ordered all state agencies to cut their general revenue spending by 5% and come on top of earlier job losses in Information Technology Services and widespread departmental restructurings that leave less money for lecturers and teaching assistant positions. While Campus Planning tried to absorb its required $3.1 million in cuts through cutting overtime and consolidating offices, Senior Associate Vice President Steve Kraal said, "because labor is our largest cost, all of these and other cost-cutting measures carried out or planned for the coming months don't reduce our costs enough to avoid eliminating positions." – Richard Whittaker

Naked City

The making of a Marijuana Bill The Texas Coalition for Com­pas­sionate Care is bringing its show to Austin July 27 for a presentation on the "elements of a successful 2011 Texas medical marijuana bill." The group is hoping to get a medi-pot bill off the boards during next year's legislative session, which begins in January. To date, similar bills have languished in the halls of the Capitol, but that hasn't stopped Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat from making the passage of a medi-pot bill a perennial issue, and it stands to reason he'll give it a go in 2011 as well. So far 14 states have enacted medi-pot laws, which protect from prosecution patients who use the drug on a doctor's recommendation. Steve Haag, media director for the TCCC, says his group sees a successful Texas medical-cannabis bill as similar to that enacted by Wash­ing­ton state, where qualified patients may possess and use marijuana and, along with their doctors, are protected from criminal pot-law enforcement. Haag said TCCC is looking for "input from the public" at Tuesday's meeting, including from patients and law enforcement. (The meeting starts at 7:30pm, at 5555 N. Lamar Ste. L-137; see www.texascompassion.org for more info.) Ultimately, the group is hoping to open a dialogue that will help move the bill forward next year, he said. – Jordan Smith

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