Headlines

City Council is off this week, with the next meeting set for Jan. 26, when it will consider zoning changes sought by the Hanover Co. for an upscale multifamily development on South Lamar, on what is still a sketchy draft agenda.

› After a mammoth Jan. 12 public hearing on Austin Energy's proposed rate hike, Mayor Lee Leffingwell savaged the plan to increase residential rates more than those for commercial customers. In a lengthy blog post, he wrote, "I believe we need to protect our long-held covenant that big users should help support small ones." (For more, see "Council Hears From Two Sides of EUC.")

› The Austin Music Commission met Wednesday night to hear testimony from club owners concerned about recent police enforcement of the city's sound ordinance. And in the run-up to South by Southwest, the city will host an open house today (Thursday, Jan. 19) for those wishing to host a SXSW-related event that may require a permit. See "Civics 101" for details.

› The burn ban is back on. Due to unseasonably warm and dry weather, on Jan. 17 the Travis County Commissioners Court reinstated the ban on outdoor flames until Feb. 15.

› For the first time in nearly 40 years, Austin's Downtown Planned Parenthood clinic has been shut out of federal pass-through funding to serve thousands of low-income and uninsured clients, among 22 state clinics defunded in the 2011 Legislature's draconian cuts to family planning. (For more on this, see "Targeting Planned Parenthood, State Hurts Texas Women," Newsdesk blog, Jan. 18).

› The Obama administration Wednesday rejected TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline proposal, at least in its current form. The president had agreed to make a decision on the U.S.-Canada pipeline, currently routed through environmentally sensitive areas, by Feb. 21 as part of December's payroll tax negotiations.

› As his presidential nomination campaign collapses before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, Rick Perry finds himself in third place in Texas behind Mitt Romney (24%) and Newt Gingrich (23%), with only 18% of likely Republican primary voters in his home state backing his candidacy. However, Perry has pledged to keep on at least through the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

› Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, whose district runs from Southwest Travis County to San Antonio, holds a narrow fundraising lead in his re-election run, pulling in $311,110 in the last six months against former Railroad Commissioner's Elizabeth Ames Jones' $302,133. Failed 2010 congressional candidate Donna Campbell lags with $47,477.

› The Texas Supreme Court on Jan. 13 denied Ray Wolbrecht's challenge to Hays Coun­ty's annexation into the Austin Community Col­lege district, allowing the college to issue bonds to finance a campus in Kyle's Plum Creek area.

› In other ACC news, the college's campuses now boast a total of 18 electric-vehicle charging stations, available to the public for up to four hours at a time – no ACC parking permit required. Charging costs $2 an hour, payable on-site by credit or debit card.

› If you needed another reason to back the City of Austin's proposed ban on single-use plastic and paper bags, scheduled for a March council vote, now you have it. The right wing think tank Empower Texans has smeared it as one of council's "San Francisco-style intrusions into the free market."

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