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September 23, 2011, News

City Council convenes today (Thursday, Sept. 22), deciding whether to hold the city's next election in May or November 2012. (See "City Hall Hustle.") If that's not controversial enough, on Wednesday, council's Audit and Finance Committee received a full vetting on the cost of postponing completion of Water Treat­ment Plant No. 4; see "Council Opponents Concede on WTP4."

› State Sen. Kirk Watson issued an ambitious call for a local medical school this week. Linking a school to a teaching hospital, a health technology incubator, medical clinics, and more, Watson also announced an organizing committee including members from the University of Texas System, UT-Austin, the city of Austin, St. David's, Seton Healthcare, and more industry players.

› Well, you survived another Austin City Limits Music Festival and even got to check the following off your bucket list: "I saw Stevie Wonder!" Between attendees and a match from ACL organizers C3 Presents, Bastrop-bound donations totaling $35,000 were raised for the Red Cross and the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund. Zilker Park's "Great Lawn" is scheduled to reopen Sept. 23.

› Despite a jump in the murder rate of 72.7% (a figure exaggerated by a relatively low overall number), Austin's violent crime rate declined 5.8% from 2009 to 2010, according to FBI statistics. Property crimes declined 4.6%. For more on city police policy, see "One Cop, Two Cops ... How Many New Cops?"

› On Wednesday, the Lower Colorado River Authority voted to sell four of its small water and wastewater plants to a private company, and postponed a decision on selling the remaining plants; nearby communities are concerned privatization will result in higher rates and less reliable service.

› On Sept. 20, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the pending execution of Cleve Foster to review whether he received inadequate counsel; also scheduled for death this week is Lawrence Brewer, who participated in the notorious 1998 James Byrd Jr. murder in Jasper.

› The Department of Justice announced that it would not preclear the redistricting maps drawn for the U.S. House or Texas House, indicating that the new districts may violate the Voting Rights Act.

› Expect a massive shake-up in the Texas Senate next session, with two major committee chairs retiring. Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Education Chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, announced this week they will not run for re-election.

› Gov. Rick Perry took time from his busy campaign schedule on Sept. 19 to have dinner with News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch. The Fox News tycoon is still under investigation in Great Britain for his role in News Corp.'s massive phone-hacking scandal.

Solid Waste Services has been recycled into Austin Resource Recovery. The city settled on the new name following a public nomination process. (One that finished with pranksters voting Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst's name to first place. Alas.) "Material collected is now seen as a resource that is recovered for a second life, rather than a waste stream destined for a landfill," explains ARR Director Bob Gedert.

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