The Austin Chronicle


June 17, 2011, News

City Council is off this week; its next meeting, Thursday, June 23, will be the last for a month, and the last before the winner of Saturday's Place 3 run-off election officially takes office. Council's still tentatively set for action this week on entering into the state's Formula One trust fund, but with dozens of outstanding issues, that may well be postponed. See "Point Austin" and "City Hall Hustle."

• The avalanche of TV ads, direct mailers, and flame-wars incinerating inboxes across town will simmer down after the Saturday, June 18, Place 3 run-off between incumbent Randi Shade and Kathie Tovo. See our campaign roundup.

• All that attention, negative and otherwise, has paid off: Early voting totals have skyrocketed, with a total of 24,427 early ballots cast at local polls – up from 14,386 in the first round in May. Austinites will have to wait until election day to find out if this represents extra voter interest, or if everyone voted before the weekend.

• City Council got a tantalizing glimpse at urban rail Tuesday, as staff presented four routes with price tags ranging from $250 million to $680 million. That most expensive route combines the three others, connecting at a MetroRail stop, heading Down­town, and crossing Lady Bird Lake before turning onto Riverside and Pleasant Valley. Although crossing the water is the most expensive option, Cap Metro board chair and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez argued that since the whole city would have to pay for rail via bonds (in addition to other funding mechanisms, including federal assistance), the whole city should be able to access it.

Chronicle staff writer Jordan Smith has been awarded a 2011 Maggie Award for Media Excellence by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for her story "The War on Women's Health," April 22. The national organization will recognize Smith at its annual awards ceremony next month in Washington, D.C.

• The special session continues: As the House and Senate begin to wrap up bills on school finance, congressional redistricting, and Medicaid reimbursements, their next major tasks – sanctuary city legislation and the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association – hit committees. See Lege coverage.

• For a man who says he's not running for president, Gov. Rick Perry is certainly acting like a candidate. After refusing to attend newspaper endorsement meetings in his 2010 run for governor, he petitioned the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal for a sit-down meeting during a recent trip to New York. Meanwhile, Americans for Job Sec­ur­ity, a conservative Astroturf group run by Perry's former campaign consultant Dave Carney, is running pro-Perry Web ads in New Hampshire.

• A new poll by the nonpartisan Texas Lyceum shows that education is the No. 1 concern among likely voters in Texas; 33% of respondents called it the state's most important problem, leading immigration (11%) and the economy (6%).

• Confirming one of the worst-kept secrets in Austin politics, former District Judge Charlie Baird told the Austin-American Statesman this week that he's considering a challenge to Travis County District Attor­ney Rosemary Lehmberg in 2012.

• Two-time unsuccessful City Council candidate and former Travis GOP Chair Rebecca Motal has been named general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, as voted unanimously by the LCRA board on June 14, effective July 1. She takes over from current general manager and former environmental attorney Tom Mason.

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