• City Council meets today (Thursday), with proposed new Austin Energy rates very much in the air and a potential kerfuffle over short-term house rentals. See "Beside the Point" and "Sword of Escamilla Dangles Over City Hall?"
› Austin resident Esme Barrera, who was killed in her home
Jan. 1, was buried Tuesday in her hometown of El Paso; Barrera was well-known in El Paso and Austin music communities. See "Excited About Life."
› An investigation is still under way into an apparent gas leak Tuesday that caused a Brentwood* home to explode, killing a man inside. In a statement, Texas Gas Service said the homeowner called the utility Nov. 25 to report a natural gas odor, and repairs were still under way when the explosion occurred. The Texas Railroad Commission has taken over the investigation.
› Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo on Jan. 9 handed an indefinite suspension (the civil service equivalent of termination) to Officer Scott Garner for his failure to arrest a man for DWI after he'd been instructed to do so by a supervisor. Garner instead drove the man home, according to a disciplinary memo released this week.
› Citing the number of venues requesting sound permits during South by Southwest, the city of Austin has announced new application deadlines for events during the Festival: 21 days before the show for a 24-hour permit, and 30 days for a multiday permit.
› In another Texas victory for the rights of fetuses over those of women, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit ruled Jan. 10 that the new state law requiring doctor-narrated transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions is a constitutional expression of the state's interest in "informed consent." See "Court Upholds Ultrasound Law," and "Fifth Circuit Approves Mandatory Ultrasound," Newsdesk blog, Jan. 11.
› It was a big night for Wall Street at the New Hampshire GOP primaries, as "vulture capitalist" Mitt Romney won with 39%, with arch deregulator Ron Paul second at 23%. Rick Perry, who has laid his last remaining hopes on the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, limped into sixth place with 0.7% – behind "Other."
› The Texas primary season was thrown into deeper confusion Jan. 9 when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the redistricted legislative and congressional maps. Justices raised the possibility that the parties may have to abandon the planned April 3 primary date (already rescheduled from March 6) to allow for full judicial review of the contested maps. See "More Confusion in Redistricting Case."
› The Texas Supreme Court on Jan. 10 took up the case of Michael Arena, who was sentenced as a juvenile to 20 years in prison for an alleged sexual assault the alleged victim and others say never happened. The court could order a new sentencing hearing for Arena or declare him innocent. See "Criminally Innocent," Nov. 5, 2010.
› Circuit of the Americas has renewed its push for public spending to support its development, lobbying Travis County to pay for an upgraded and accelerated road plan for the lanes leading to track entrances. Former County Judge Bill Aleshire, an outspoken Formula One critic, shot off a letter to the county commissioners, saying COTA is trying to circumvent last year's road bond planning process: "[I]f they need a long 'driveway' to their racetrack now, then they should pay for it all now, or wait their turn."*Corrected location; originally read "Crestview," which is north of the home's location.