Headlines

City Council formally returns from the holidays on Jan. 23 (with a work session Jan. 21), but in the meantime, the queue is already forming for the November council election: See "Very Early Returns."

› The city is announcing its fourth annual "family-friendly" New Year's Eve event Friday morning, Dec. 27, on City Hall's outdoor plaza, 11am: Council members, public safety folks, and entertainers will be on hand.

› President Barack Obama declared the Austin Halloween flooding a federal disaster on Dec. 20. The proclamation will make Federal Emer­gency Management Agency funds available for the continuing cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Local officials are still waiting for word on whether assistance will be available for individual victims.

› On Dec. 20, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announced that a grand jury had declined to indict Austin Police Depart­ment Officer Brandon Blanch in the Sept. 25 shooting of Maurice Paladino. Paladino (who died the next day) reportedly sped toward Blanch in a stolen vehicle that police had located in a South I-35 parking lot. Police video and eyewitnesses supported the APD summary.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was stuffed over the holidays. Because of the ever-growing passenger list, by Christmas Eve all regular parking lots at the airport were full, so management started using the overflow space in the cargo area.

› The Austin B-cycle bike sharing project rolled out Dec. 21. The initial phase includes 11 stations and more than 100 bicycles, mostly clustered Downtown. By spring, the number of kiosks is expected to grow to 40.

Travis County Commissioners Court declined last week to follow the city of Austin's example and the recommendation of its own task force to require prevailing wages on construction projects in order to receive county tax incentives. Commissioners settled on higher incentives but no requirement for prevailing wages above $11 an hour; the policy still needs to be codified for final approval.

› Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Houston-based corporate attorney Nandita Berry as the new secretary of state, effective Jan. 7. She'll replace John Steen, who unexpectedly announced his resignation on Dec. 13. Demo­crats have already voiced concerns about having a new elections boss less than two months before the primaries.

› As expected, a final rush on the Healthcare.gov website and in-person signups met the holidays, as people without insurance approached the deadline for health insurance coverage that would begin Jan. 1. The federal government stretched the deadline for those who had Web trouble, while opposing GOP governors (e.g., Perry) attempted to obstruct the law with additional requirements for nonprofit counselors.

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