News from Austin, Texas, and beyond

Austin Police stand their ground on the City Hall plaza Oct. 30 before arresting dozens of Occupy Austin protesters. See <b><a href=http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-11-04/halloween-crackdown-on-occupy-austin/>Halloween Crackdown on Occupy Austin</a></b>.
Austin Police stand their ground on the City Hall plaza Oct. 30 before arresting dozens of Occupy Austin protesters. See "Halloween Crackdown on Occupy Austin." (Photo by John Anderson)

› City Council meets today, Thursday, Nov. 3, where they'll hash out remaining issues with the Downtown Austin Plan, contemplate naming the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail after Ann and Roy Butler, and more. Council meets again next week, Nov. 10, before going on hiatus until December. (See "City Council: Butler Honors and Charter Foresight.")

› You have until Friday, Nov. 4, to vote early in the state constitutional amendments and Travis County bond propositions election; Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. As of Tuesday's unofficial canvass, 12,787 voters had cast ballots – a whopping 2.2% of registered voters. Your vote counts!

› An uncertain truce remains between city officials and the Occupiers of Occupy Aus­tin after several dozen arrests last weekend and a renewed attempt to establish mutually acceptable guidelines for the City Hall protest that began in early October. (See "Halloween Crackdown on Occupy Austin.")

› Producers of Austin HolidayFest announced that the event will kick off Dec. 4 with the traditional Zilker tree lighting, but will not include the Trail of Lights due to insufficient sponsorship by the Nov. 2 build-out date. "In the end it came down to difficult economic circumstances and budgets that were tapped," said the producers' press release.

› Word comes that residents of the Wilson Street apartments – long a South Austin haven for musicians in need of cheap rent – received their walking papers this week; tenants had hoped the extended economic slump would stave off the anticipated eviction notices. (See "Suspended in Time," Aug. 13, 2010.)

› A federal court in San Antonio continues to review several congressional maps proposed by the parties to a redistricting lawsuit, with an eye on the Nov. 12 opening of the filing period for next spring's primaries. The court would propose interim maps pending a Voting Rights Act review by a D.C. federal court.

› The state Forensic Science Commission ended its inquiry into the 1991 Cameron Todd Willingham arson murder case, concluding that the finding of arson was incorrect and the cause of the fire that killed Willingham's children should have been described as "undetermined." Willingham was executed in 2004.

› East Austin families and teachers will hear more on Thursday from Weslaco, Texas-based IDEA Public Schools about its plan to turn the Eastside Memor­ial Vertical Team into one massive in-district charter school. The firm* runs over a dozen schools in the Rio Grande Valley, but nothing on the scale they propose for Austin ISD. (See "Civics 101.")

› New rates for Austin Water customers took effect Nov. 1 as the volume-usage rate rose 5.1%. Over the next five years, the utility expects to raise rates by 61% to cover increasing demand and reduced supply.

› Vaguely reported sexual harassment settlements involving Herman Cain dominated this week's GOP presidential primary news, while a strange New Hampshire speaking performance by Gov. Rick Perry went viral on YouTube and Perry began an "I'm a doer, not a talker" ad campaign in Iowa.

• The local Formula One effort took an international PR hit this week, even as construction activity ramped up at the track site. F1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in Autosport and other sources as saying, "there has been a disagreement inside the company," which may keep Austin off the 2012 race calendar. With the long-sought New York-area race now on tap for 2013, though, Ecclestone didn't seem too worried about Austin: "We can have it next year or the year after," he said. "It is not the end of the world."

*IDEA was originally described in error as a "for-profit" firm; it is apparently 501(c)3 nonprofit

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