• The City Council circus returns, filling all three rings: Wednesday, City Manager Marc Ott presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. Thursday (today, July 28), council convenes its first regular meeting since June, as well as its first full meeting with Kathie Tovo. On the agenda: action on historic property tax abatements, potential postponement on expanded pay parking hours Downtown (revenues from which are included in the 2012 budget), and a cost study of potentially shuttering Water Treatment Plant No. 4. See "City Budget," and "City Hall Hustle." And coming to council's Aug. 4 meeting: an item phasing out use of plastic grocery bags at local retailers.
• Texas teachers and students find out the fate of their schools on Friday when the Texas Education Agency is scheduled to release its accountability scores. Austin ISD is already moving ahead with restructuring the three schools most at risk of being labeled "academically unacceptable" – Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School and Pearce and Garcia middle schools.
• Today (Thursday, July 28) at Barton Springs Pool, Environment Texas and Clean Water Action announced a grassroots effort to defend new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines intended to protect small, local waterways.
• Texas Democrats are challenging Republican attempts to get federal courts in D.C. to rubber-stamp their gerrymandered redistricting maps. On July 21, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and four North Texas state reps requested to be added as defendants to Attorney General Greg Abbott's demand for a ruling on whether the maps violate the Voting Rights Act.
• Gov. Rick Perry's sponsorship of an Aug. 6 prayer/campaign rally, "The Response," will be challenged in a Houston court on July 28. The Freedom From Religion Foundation argues that Perry's use of his office to promote the event violates the separation of church and state terms of the Establishment Clause.
• Looks like Gov. Perry is running in Iowa without running in Iowa. While his name will not be on the ballot for the Republican Party's Aug. 13 presidential straw poll in Ames, ex-Bear Stearns chief economist David Malpass' Grow PAC is running ads encouraging Iowans to add Perry as a write-in candidate.
• Can't get enough Rick Perry news? Maybe you'd like to wander through the memories of the Perry Decade, such as: The governor's 155 university regent appointments brought in $6.1 million in campaign cash. What a deal! See "The Rick Perry Primer" from Texans for Public Justice, www.tpj.org.
• Various Travis County departments are boxing up their offices this week and moving into newly acquired quarters at 700 Lavaca Downtown. The county paid more than $61 million for the 15-story office building and adjacent office garage.
• The city of Austin last week opened a new enviro-friendly compressed natural gas fueling station at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Located at 3100½ Spirit of Texas Dr., off the Airport Cargo/Service Entrance exit, the station will be open 24 hours a day for public access.