• If you were wondering about the sudden uptick in traffic in and around Downtown, SXSW kicked off March 11, and rocks along through March 20.

• City Council is off on spring break this week, and in the meantime a slew of council candidates (including a former council member and a former assistant city manager) have made official their intentions to challenge one of the three council incumbents running for re-election – Chris Riley, Randi Shade, and Laura Morrison. See "City Hall Hustle."

• While the world reels from the earthquake in Japan, energy industry watchers are questioning the political and economic viability of the planned expansion of the South Texas Project. Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant near Tokyo, is one of the planned investors in the Texas plant. Austin Energy currently owns 16% of the nuclear plant. For more, see "Timing Is Everything."

• Where are we going to put all the people? City Council last week approved the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which still has a way to go before there's an actual road map for determining the city's growth corridors over the next few decades.

• Texans fearful of public education cuts took over the Capitol lawn on March 12 in a nonpartisan call to lawmakers to protect schools. Organizers Save Texas Schools used stickers to keep a head count of attendees, and ran out after 11,000 people. See "Keeping Texas Smart – and on the March."

• The anti-tax folks are countering the Save Texas Schools message by pretending to care; Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has launched a ProtectTheClassroom.com ad campaign which, in the group's words, takes a "tongue-in-cheek look at the way school administrators made spending decisions and the 'disastrous' effect such actions pose to the classroom."


State Board of Education Chair Gail Lowe (r) appears to be at risk of losing her leadership post on the board, according to recent news reports, which, quoting Senate Nominations Committee Chair Bob Deuell, cited a lack of votes for Lowe to win confirmation.

• The budget war between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Rick Perry grew into a public feud over the Rainy Day Fund, with House Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, threatening to press ahead with a vote to use $4.3 billion out of the $9 billion reserve; alas, the two sides reached a $3.2 billion compromise on Tuesday as we went to press.

• On the same state budget discussion, the Texas Historical Commission was given a reprieve this week with budget writers agreeing to provide funding for the agency, despite the governor's proposal to withhold dollars – a move that would have been the death knell for the THC.

• The Federal Transit Administration and the city are in the process of preparing an environmental impact statement for Austin's proposed urban rail system, which will go before voters in 2012; a series of public meetings will be planned for April.

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