Naked City

News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond

Gay rights supporters turned out at City Hall on Aug. 4 to celebrate a federal court ruling reversing California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages.
Gay rights supporters turned out at City Hall on Aug. 4 to celebrate a federal court ruling reversing California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages. (Photo by John Anderson)

Running of the Bulls

When the Austin Toros' sixth season in the NBA's Development League tips off Nov. 27 – against the Rio Grande Val­ley Vipers – it won't be in the friendly confines of the Austin Convention Center, in the heart of Down­town. Instead, the team will play all its regular-season home games at the sleek new Cedar Park Center, best known as the home of the hockey-playing Texas Stars and host to such musical acts as Wilco, Tool, and George Strait. The Toros (affiliated with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs) played two home games at the CPC last year as part of the Showdown at Cedar Park. They'll now offer tickets starting as low as $5, with special discount offers already available at www.austintoros.com. The inconvenience of the longer trek for some fans should be offset by the added entertainment value of the state-of-the-art Cedar Park venue. Round Rock better step it up if it wants to remain the self-proclaimed sports capital of Texas. – Mark Fagan

Never Too Late To Curate

A $144,000 Art in Public Places contract to design a decorative wall around an Austin Energy substation at the Downtown Seaholm redevelopment provided unexpected controversy at last week's City Council meeting. Chris Riley offered a successful substitute motion to bring the contract back to council following a trip to the Downtown Commission. Saying the installation – a "large metallic wall," in Riley's words – would determine the character of the nascent Seaholm project, he was concerned the selection of artist Jim Isermann hadn't been adequately vetted. "This is a very significant project," he said, noting that Austin's new central library, pedestrian plazas, and the Shoal Creek greenbelt would all surround the substation. "It's anticipated that each of the four walls should address adjacent uses," says Melissa Alvarado of the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office (which oversees AIPP), adding that the images seen at the council meeting were "a sample of the artist's technique for manipulating materials ... which demonstrated ways of providing a variation of pattern on an urban scale." The wall returns to council Aug. 19. – Wells Dunbar

No Fury Like a Woman Warned

Oh Sharon, Sharon, Sharon: How can we forget about your closing the courthouse door on a death row inmate if you keep bringing it up? Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller is asking the Texas Supreme Court to toss out the public warning she was handed last month by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in connection with her blocking access to the court for condemned inmate Michael Richard on the day of his execution in 2007. The SCJC concluded that Keller had failed to follow the court's execution-day procedures by handling communications related to Richard's last appeal that instead should have been directed to the duty judge. But Keller is now arguing that the commission stepped outside its authority in issuing the warning – Keller's attorney Chip Babcock writes that the commission had authority to dismiss the charges, censure her, or recommend removal or retirement, "but the SCJC did not have authority to issue a public warning against her. Under Texas law, a public warning is not a censure; they are different forms of admonition under both the Constitution and the Government Code." – Jordan Smith

No Such Thing as a Free Ride

In their quest to bump up MetroRail Red Line ridership – which is lagging well behind projections made before it launched in March – Capital Metro staff pitched four schedule-change scenarios to the Cap Metro board's Rail Committee on Monday. The most conservative would merely adjust the Red Line's current rush-hour-only schedule. The others would add midday service; midday and Friday night service; or midday, Friday night, and Saturday service. The first scenario lowers annual operating costs from $4.2 million to $3.8 million, but staff predicted it would add only 100 additional one-way trips to the current 800 or so per day. The Saturday-service scenario would bring ridership into the 1,700-2,000 per day range that the Red Line was supposed to have already achieved, but with a hefty price tag: Annual operating costs would balloon to $7.2 million. The committee took no solid action, and committee Chair John Langmore said the options must be considered by the full board. "What are we using to gauge the success of this?" he said the board would need to ask. "Is it an absolute cost? Is it the lowest subsidy? Is it the greatest ridership?" – Lee Nichols

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