The Austin Chronicle


July 22, 2011, News

City Council is still out this week; on July 27, they'll receive City Manager Marc Ott's proposed budget. Items on tap for council's full meeting July 28 – including changes to tax abatements for historic properties – are already generating discussion, as is a potential item seeking to postpone instituting expanded pay parking hours Downtown. See "City Hall Hustle."

• Potential regulation of short-term rental properties continues, with the Planning Commis­sion's Codes and Ordinances Committee taking up the topic in a packed meeting this week. Commissioners are looking for ways to regulate and weed out party properties without smothering the burgeoning practice (industry leader HomeAway is based in Austin). Final recommendations aren't expected until fall, although the Board of Adjustment recently complicated ­matters by issuing its own definition of what constitutes a short-term vacation rental.

• At press time Wednesday, the city's Downtown Commission was hearing a presentation on plans to build a new convention center hotel at Red River and Cesar Chavez streets. Representatives of the hotel developer, San Diego-based Manches­ter Financial Group, were hoping to gain the ­commission's support for the project.

• Austin police investigators are still looking for information on the homicide of local musician Chadd Thomas, found dead on South Congress on July 11. If you have information, contact the homicide tip line at 477-3588. The local rockabilly community is organizing three nights of memorial benefit concerts for his family at Uncle Billy's Brew & Que at Lake Travis for the next three Saturdays, July 23 and 30 and Aug. 6.

Betty Arena, who spent years trying to clear her son's name of a sexual assault conviction that even the victim says he didn't commit, died Wednesday morning without getting to see her son one last time. Michael Arena, who remains behind bars, had sought to be released from prison to be at his dying mother's bedside. (See "One Last Visit for Mother and Son?," July 15.)

• Mixed polling results for Gov. Rick Perry's presidential aspirations: While he continues to play a guessing game with the national press corps, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll places his nomination campaign third among national primary voters at 11%, trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (30%) and Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (16%).

• With Lt. Gov David Dewhurst making his long-awaited announcement of a U.S. Senate run on July 19, Jerry Patterson, state land commissioner, former state senator, and outspoken gun nut, has declared he wants a shot at the GOP nomination for lite gov. Talk about a change of pace in the state Senate: While both men are doctrinaire conservatives, the dour Dewhurst and the quirky Patterson (who once broke his arm doing a cartwheel into his office) could scarcely be less alike in temperament.

• Nonpartisan pressure group Save Texas Schools continued its push to make school funding the primary issue in both primary and general elections with a two-day statewide conference in Austin last weekend. The group's campaign may already be bearing fruit in Harris County: James Wilson, a self-described "strong proponent of public education," has announced a primary challenge to Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, who once famously said that public education came "straight out of the pit of hell."

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