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June 15, 2012, News

Not a terribly full agenda for today's (Thurs­day) City Council meeting, with the most volatile discussion likely to be in the evening public hearing on the proposed Comprehensive Plan ("Coun­cil To Imagine Imagine Austin"). Before the month ends and summer hiatus begins on June 28, the hot-button subject will be dueling single-member district plans and the decision of which to place on the November ballot.

Council last week approved on first reading (5-2) a set of rules regulating short-term rental homes, allowing commercial rentals (the most controversial element of STRs) in up to 3% of all homesteads in any ZIP code; details are still being hammered out. Council also approved the Seaholm Power Plant redevelopment plan to allow office space, with only a small portion dedicated to retail and public use.

The new STAAR end-of-course student tests are getting failing grades after the Texas Education Agency issued the dismal first year results this week. Now up to half of AISD students may face retesting boot camp, and many blame the TEA's botched changeover from TAKS.

After Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed to allow DNA testing of evidence that could prove Hank Skinner innocent of the multiple murder that sent him to death row, the state now says it has lost a key piece of never-before-tested evidence: a blood- and sweat-stained windbreaker found near the body. See "Evidence Missing in Skinner Case," Newsdesk blog, June 13.

A federal indictment unsealed June 12 in Austin charges members of the violent Los Zetas drug cartel with laundering drug money through U.S. quarter horse racing. Among those charged is alleged Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, who is still at large and thought to be in Mexico. For more, see "Los Zetas on the Backstretch," Newsdesk blog, June 13.

There were three fatal motorcycle crashes last weekend during the Republic of Texas Biker Rally, including a man who was killed after falling from the U.S. 290 East overpass and a collision on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in East Austin. More than 40,000 bikers attended the annual rally.

According to new numbers released this week by the FBI, crime decreased in Austin in 2011. Violent crime was down 8.4% (led by a 26.3% drop in homicides) from 2010, while property crimes dropped by 8% (20% for burglaries). Of all crime, only arson increased, by 4.1% from 2010.

Angeline Allen Umlauf, poet and widow of sculptor Charles Umlauf, died on June 11, age 97. In 1991 the couple donated their house and much of Charles' collection to the city of Austin as the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

"L-i-v-i-n." Congrats to former and once again Travis County resident Matthew McConaughey, who got married to Camilla Alves in Austin this week.

The state Republican and Democratic parties held their respective conventions this weekend. In Houston, the Dems selected former Cam­eron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa as their first-ever Hispanic chair; the Fort Worth GOP gathering was overshadowed by the bitter Senate run-off between Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

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