News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond
He's baaaaack! That's right, former Austin Police Department Chief Stan Knee is back in action in the ATX, where he signed on as security director for the Seton Family of Hospitals, effective Sept. 20. Knee served as chief at the Austin Police Department from 1997 to 2006, a tenure that wasn't always marked by warm and fuzzy feelings; chief among the police union's complaints was that Knee's system of officer discipline was inconsistent at best. After leaving the APD, Knee went off to Afghanistan to serve as a mentor to the minister of interior. He returned to Austin in 2009, according to a Seton press release, to work as a "criminal justice consultant." – Jordan Smith
SBOE Takes on Islam
Members of the State Board of Education step back into the culture wars Sept. 24 when they consider a resolution savaging social studies textbooks for being "tainted" with a "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias." The resolution will require textbook publishers to rewrite how they portray the history of Islam, but if the board adopts it, it will also be rewriting its own history. Texas Freedom Network Communications Director Dan Quinn noted that members' claims are based on a blatant misreading of old textbook editions no longer in classrooms. Plus, he said: "Some of them were on the board when they adopted those books. Do they honestly believe [they] adopted anti-Christian textbooks, and that even one school district in the state of Texas would buy such a book?" Much of the impetus behind the resolution comes from failed GOP primary candidates. Originally proposed by unsuccessful District 15 challenger Randy Rives, it is backed by the conservative Christian bloc of the board, including former Board President Don McLeroy (who lost his primary to the more moderate Thomas Ratliff). More than 100 religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith groups called on the board to reject the resolution because, as Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Muslim Community Center said, "Our children's textbooks must treat all religions accurately and fairly." – Richard Whittaker
The No Coal Coalition, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen reported this week that pollution from the proposed White Stallion coal plant in Bay City could lead to more than 600 deaths and 1,000 heart attacks just in Matagorda County. While supporters have noted that the plant could bring 200 permanent jobs to the area, No Coal Coalition President Allison Sliva asked in a statement, "Why should we trade the early deaths of 600 people for 200 jobs?" If permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the plant would be allowed to emit up to 4,956 tons of sulfur dioxide and 4,048 tons of nitrogen oxide annually, among other pollutants. Based on data about these toxins, the coalition concludes that the plant's public health costs could reach $5.4 billion. For more, see www.texasgreenreport.com. – Nora Ankrum
Some 12% of Central Texans age 16 and older either have difficulty reading or cannot read at all, according to a new report from the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas. In fact, says the coalition, those Texans lack even the "minimum literacy skills necessary to fill out a job application." The report, "Literacy in Central Texas: A Snapshot of Conditions," links the problem to a host of other ills – including crime rates and reliance on public assistance – consequently costing the region $20 billion annually in "lost wages, profits, and productivity." Data in the report shows that 85% of kids in the juvenile court system are "functionally non-literate" and that literacy training can lower rearrest rates for people on probation. The coalition also reports that limited literacy is the No. 1 "predictor of health outcomes" and can make everyday tasks – such as following the directions on a bottle of medicine – difficult. See more at www.willread.org. – N.A.