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June 15, 2005

Dean in Austin

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you want to see DNC Chairman Howard "My Party is not as White as Yours" Dean this weekend, he will be at an Austin fundraiser downtown titled "Don't Mess with Dean". You can buy tickets here. He will also be in Houston and Dallas on Friday.

Posted at 12:30 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

DemFest on CSPAN

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Democracy Fest, to be held this weekend in Austin with about 900 people from all over the country (and world), will have a segment aired on C-SPAN on Saturday. Tune in around 3:50 CST for the training segment called the "DeLay Factor".

Posted at 09:24 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2005

Two More Dems Looking at HD 47

By Andrew Dobbs

With Keel's abdication of the increasingly competitive HD 47 has come a deluge of potential candidates. Initially three Democrats-- attorney and former Glen Maxey and Jim Dunnam staffer Hugh Brady, health care lobbyist and former City Council candidate Gregg Knaupe (pronounced "Nap" for the uninitiated), and Democratic activist and attorney Duffy Keever-- were rumored to be considering the hunt. Now two more have been rumored, and reporting rumors as fact is our business here at BOR .

The first is Texas DNC member David Holmes-- one of the youngest members in the history of the Committee and a tireless advocate for Texas' needs on the national Democratic level. He is also Hubert Vo's chief of staff and a great young Democrat. Having said that, as of right now 4 of the 5 rumored potential candidates are friendly acquaintences (or in a few cases, outright friends) of mine so I'll be keeping my cards close to my chest.

Second is Texas Democratic Party Vice Chair for Finance Dennis Speight. Speight is also a staffer for State Rep. Chuck Hopson and former president of the Texas Young Democrats. He lives in the district (I'm not sure about David, of the other three only Knaupe lives in the district), he and his wife are involved in local community organizations and he can raise money very well. He too would make an exciting candidate and great representative. He is also a friend of mine, so at the risk of sounding obsessive, I'll remind everyone of my caveat. I don't support anybody, I don't oppose anybody in this race at this point, particularly since no one is actually running.

Obviously my sources in regards to the GOP are rather paltry-- I have to read what the papers say. Gerald Daugherty (Travis County Commissioner) and 1992 HD 47 candidate Bill Welch (who, blast from the past, lost the GOP nomination to Susan Combs whose life in the Southwest Austin suburbs qualified her to be Ag Commissioner) are tinkering with running. We'll see how the race shapes up.

Keep tuned to BOR for all the news you could ever want on this and other developing 2006 races and be sure to let us know what you think about the proposed candidates.

UPDATE: I have been criminally remiss in not mentioning one of the biggest and earliest names floated, which slipped my mind until I was just reminded-- Jason Earle. Earle is the son of Travis County DA Ronnie Earle and head of community relations for Girling Health Care here in Austin.

Quorum Report is also dropping the name of former NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) director Jeff Clark. I am assuming that he would be a Republican (though if he is not, I'll be the first to say a Mea Culpa).

Posted at 11:01 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

June 12, 2005

Jennifer Kim elected to Council

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Election results are in for Austin City Council elections and 2nd place finished Jennifer Kim (in the first round) pulled through to become the 1st place finisher in Saturday's Run-off by a 7 point margin in a 9% turnout election. From the Elections Dept..

Jennifer Kim / 19,527 / 53.52%
Margot Clarke / 16,956 / 46.48%

I need to see tomorrow what regional patterns there are beyond the expected Margot advantage in the Central City. I'll try to make up a precinct by precint win map (if any reader can direct me to a great city of austin precint map, that will really help me with this project, link to it in the comments.)

I couldn't vote in this election as my registration was back home in Fredericksburg. I'm not particularly bound to either candidate and thought both of them would have done a fine job for the City of the Austin. Congratulations to Kim, even though Campus precincts had miserable turnout, the two oncampus did go for Kim. One of them by a 2-1 margain. As in 2 votes for Kim, one for Margot. Less than 1% turnout in an area that saw 99% turnout last November. Students are more focused on national politics over local, and were also not anywhere near polling locations in this election.

Posted at 01:55 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2005

Better Late Than Never: Margot Clarke and the Toll Road Lobby

By Andrew Dobbs

So I meant to get this up before now, seeing as there are only 20 minutes are so left before the polls close. One way or the other, I think it is important that the people of Austin are aware of what's going on in this race.

Margot Clarke has been running a race that is focused largely on her refusal to take "toll lobby money." At one forum she even expressed an openness to the Austin Toll Party's attempts to recall Mayor Will Wynn, Councilman Brewster McCracken and Councilman Danny Thomas. She has flouted her endorsement by the largely Republican and right-wing Austin Toll Party and tried to make herself out to be the sole opponent to toll road expansion in Austin (though all four original candidates and both of the runoff candidates are equally opposed to toll roads).

Her proud claim to accept no toll road lobby money would be all well and good were it actually true. The Austin American-Statesman is reporting that Clarke has admitted to taking at least $1100 in toll road money and has been forced to give the money back. Furthermore Clarke has claimed that Mandy Dealey endorsed her after the first round, a complete fabrication. Her endorsement lists have contained people who did not ask to counted as her supporters, and at least some who were actually known supporters of other candidates in the race.

The fact of the matter is that Margot Clarke has run something of a dishonest campaign. I like her positions on environmental issues, but her lack of candor and her history of instability threatens the ability of the City Council to function. I didn't support her in the first round, and I'm not supporting her this time.

Its not too late to vote, find your polling place and hurry!

Posted at 06:35 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

Austin Early Voting Starts Today

By Byron LaMasters

Today is the first day to vote in the Austin City Council Place 3 run-off between Margot Clarke and Jennifer Kim.

Early vote locations here.

I voted just about an hour ago, and I think I'll just keep yall guessing as to who I voted for. I do not intend to issue a personal endorsement in this race. I am a member of four local clubs. Of them, the Central Austin Democrats, Austin Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and the Austin Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Margot Clarke. The University Democrats have endorsed Jennifer Kim.

Posted at 03:57 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005


By Jim Dallas

I've not always had the highest opinion of CounterPunch, since they're a tad on the nutty side sometimes (then again, aren't we all?).

Still, I didn't expect they'd run a fairly good article reviewing restaraunts in Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas.

I've always wanted to stop in Lockhart on the way from Austin to Houston, but have always been deterred by time or lack of money.

Posted at 01:34 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

University Democrats Endorse Jennifer Kim

By Byron LaMasters

The University Democrats endorsed Jennifer Kim for Austin City Council at a specially called meeting today. While many students will have already left Austin by the time of the run-off election, the endorsement of Kim means that the APC (Austin Progressive Coalition) will not endorse in the run-off and no APC flyers will be handed out for the run-off. The Austin Progressive Coalition forms to support the candidates endorsed by both the University Democrats and the Central Austin Democrats during city elections and Democratic primaries. All APC endorsed candidates and ballot measures won in the election on Saturday (Leffingwell, Dunkerly, Smoking ban and ACC).

Posted at 12:29 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Austin's Real World

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Because everyone else and their dog is linking to the Austin-American Statesman article about the Real World cast leaving Austin (finally), we here at BOR would like to wish them a farewell as well. I remember once almost running over a couple of cast members on my bike on the drag, so that's about as "real" as my world gets with them.

Here's the story.

Photo Gallery

Posted at 05:35 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 08, 2005

Austin Bloggers React to the Smoking Ban

By Byron LaMasters

Pandagon, Norbizness and Urban Grounds are not happy about the new Austin smoking ban. I was genuinely conflicted about the ban. I made up my mind only about 10 minutes before I cast my vote - a rarity for me.

As a progressive and as a Democrat, I was quite conflicted. Several governmental principles that I value came into conflict. On the pro-ban side, I valued the idea of protecting bar employees from second-hand smoke. I believe that all employees should be able to work in a safe environment, and second-hand smoke is definitely harmful to one's health.

On the anti-ban side I agreed that business owners should be able to decide what is best for their business. As a Democrat, I believe that as long as a business pays their fair share of taxes, pays their employees fair wages and benefits, supports the local economy and environment - then they should pretty much be unrestricted by government in the decisions that they make regarding their business. This was the best argument that the anti-ban folks made, and I had sympathy for the their position. Another good argument against the ban was that previous anti-smoking restrictions were placed on some establishments two years ago. Many of those businesses spent thousands of dollars to comply with the new restrictions by installing separate ventilation systems. It's bad for business to force them to spend lots of money every two years to meet new requirements.

However, the selling point for me was the UD/CAD/APC endorsement meeting. At that meeting the speaker for the ban, David Butts, made a very passionate speech in favor of the ban. Butts is an Austin Democratic political consultant for which I have a great deal of respect. On the opposing side, the anti-ban speaker made several of the aforementioned arguments, but also several very un-compelling ones. The idea that live music in Austin will die, or even seriously suffer because of the ban lacked substantial proof. Furthermore, some of the anti-ban spokesmen questioned the risk of second-hand smoke. That's silly. There are good arguments and bad arguments for and against the ban, but those two were bad.

Studies have shown that smoking bans may have a short-term negative effect on some businesses, but in the long term I doubt that it will make a difference. Seriously, does anyone really believe that San Marcos will replace Austin as the live music capitol? In fact, I know a good number of non-smokers that have said they would go out more to clubs and bars if there is a smoking ban. I personally will take issue with Urban Grounds on his assertion that people who voted for the ban will not go out to bars and clubs. Well - I voted for the ban, and spent a good deal of money last night at bars and clubs on 6th and 4th street. I had a few drinks, and didn't smoke (or drive for that matter). I had a good time, and was more than happy to support the Austin economy.

Posted at 12:12 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 05, 2005

May 6 is No Pants Day

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Celebrated for years now, and an Austin invention, the first Friday of May (meaning tomorrow) is No Pants Day. Here is the schedule.

7-9 am. Capital Rally
Hanging out at the Capital, for the early-rising, hardcore celebrants. We're gonna promote No Pants Day to people early in the morning downtown. It'll be a blast to be out in no pants when those not in the know are milling about doing their work. Meet on 11th, in front of the gates, just south of the Capital.

9am-5pm. West Mall
The main event. No Pants Day Rally on the West Mall on the UT campus. Shirts, music, games, songs, handing out fliers, and just plain celebrating.

7pm- Miniature Golf
Mini Golf at Peter Pan Mini Golf. 1207 Barton Springs.

So, here's some things we need for The West Mall-
*musical instruments
*handmade signs.

Posted at 11:26 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

ACL Rumors

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Life Distilled, an austin blog, brings us what could be the preliminary ACL festival band list. While I don't agree with their characterization of Blue October as "less exciting" it is exciting to see Coldplay in the mix.

Someone “on the inside” saw the list and says confirmed acts are: Widespread Panic, Jimmy Cliff, Allman Bros. Black Crowes, Coldplay, Wilco, Oasis, Robert Randolph, Black Keys.

Here are some less exciting bands that will be there:

Fri 09/23/05 Blue October
Fri 09/23/05 Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men
Fri 09/23/05 DeSol
Fri 09/23/05 Robert Earl Keen
Fri 09/23/05 The Ditty Bops

Sat 09/24/05 Bettye LaVette
Sat 09/24/05 Buddy Guy
Sat 09/24/05 Dierks Bentley
Sat 09/24/05 Low

At least the bottom half of the list seems to be more or less true, as a friend of mine confirmed Blue.

Posted at 06:14 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Worst of Austin Poll

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I don't know where it came from, but hey, if we have the Best of Austin, why not vote on the worst.

Poll here.

It's good to see of course that Perry is leading the way in one category...

Worst Politician

1. Governor Rick Perry : 102 (76%)
2. Mike Krusee - man behind CapMetro Rail Plan : 18 (13%)
3. Leslie - our favorite transvestite mayoral candidate : 15 (11%)

Posted at 05:57 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 02, 2005

Place 4: Jennifer Gale "gets no satisfaction"

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I was wandering around the web and came upon the Austin City Council video statements at the city election site. Though I'm not going to sit through a dozen videos, I was interested in 15 (17?) time candidate Jennifer Gale, transgender homeless former Marine who many of us on campus have come to know and love (well, a few of us). Last election cycle when Gale ran in an AISD election, she carried 3 of the 6 campus precincts and her chalk advertisements and round paper ads posted on electricity boxes in West Campus are common place.

But her video. You just have to watch it. The best part is when she breaks out in song at 3:44. I've cut the 4 best clips apart for you to watch if you have limited speed and bandwith.


On the Ballot (1 Mb)
Finest Political Team (1.2 Mb)
I'm Sexy (1.3 Mb)
Gale Sings the Rolling Stones (3.8 Mb)

Full Version in WMV (28 Mb)
Full Version in MPG (37 Mb)

Transcript Highlights for the full verison-

00:00 Hi Austin, it's springtime again!
00:17 < holds up her flyer >
00:27 Really, who votes on a Saturday so please, vote early.
01:00 Remember, the first thing you do is vote for the last name on the ballot, Jennifer Gale.
01:22 I'm also going to hire a wheelchair bound student intern to complete the finest political team ever assembled.
01:34 Or you could be my mascot. Every team needs a mascot!
02:06 Now many of you are going to elect me because you feel I'm sexy, and that should go without saying. But I want you to vote for me because we are going to be there for each other.
02:44 A newspaper owned by Austin like the Green Bay Packer owns the Packers.
03:08 As a former US Marine, I will come to you, to your high school to meet with you to promote our PTAs and share a potluck dinner and discuss issues.
03:44 < sings Rolling Stones- I Can't Get No Satisfaction >
04:12 My other opponent Wes Bennidict ran 2 years ago in Place 6, in the American of African heritage place.

Posted at 03:07 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Conservative Groups Support Gregg Knaupe

By Byron LaMasters

In recent days, Austin Place 3 city council candidate Gregg Knaupe has received support from two conservative organizations - The Young Conservatives of Texas and the right-wing newspaper, The Austin Review.

YCT writes the following about the Place 3 race (via email):

Austin City Council Place 3 - The four candidates are all Democrats, but there are big differences. Endorsed by the Austin Police, centrist Gregg Knaupe opposes the smoking ban, supports building roads, and denounced the affirmative action taxpayer-funded bailout of a private nightclub. Left-wingers Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey have both been lobbyists for Planned Parenthood and can be counted on to put salamanders before humans. Jennifer Kim gave money to liberal Ann Kitchen when she ran against Rep. Todd Baxter and supports quotas in city hiring.

The editorial board of The Austin Review writes the following in their endorsement of Gregg Knaupe:

It would be a travesty if some conservatives voted for a leftist like Margot Clarke simply because she opposes toll roads. Both Clarke and Mandy Dealey have had as their lifelong occupations liberal political activism for groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club. Both support the smoking ban and will be guaranteed votes on the Council for higher taxes and more regulation. In contrast, Gregg Knaupe opposes the smoking ban, spoke out against the outrageous Midtown Live night club bailout, and will be a common sense voice for fiscal restraint on the Council.

Conservative Austin blog, Voice in the Wilderness has also endorsed Gregg Knaupe:

This is the most competitive race of the three. Clarke and Dealey are liberal ideologues and clearly out of the mainstream, even for Austin. Kim and Knaupe are more intriguing. Both seem less nutty than the others and have some economic development chops, at least for Democrats. I like Knaupe’s vision for the medical school and how it can help with both economic development and indigent health care. Pulling it off will be tricky, but he seems to have thought through the idea and his health care cache will help make it happen.

VitW endorses Greg Knaupe for City Council, Place 3.

Gregg Knaupe is not a Republican, but it is clear to me that many of his supporters represent the right-wing of Austin City politics.

Posted at 06:39 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

City Council Endorsements

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you wanted to know how all the Groups in this City have endorsed for the City Council races, see below.

Austin Progressive Coalition PAC (Central Austin Democrats & University Democrats)
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley
Smoking Ordinance -- FOR
ACC Expansion -- FOR

Austin Tejano Democrats
Place 1, Runoff vote resulted in No Endorsement
Place 3, Runoff vote resulted in No Endorsement
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley
Smoking Ordinance -- AGAINST
ACC Expansion -- FOR

Austin Lesbian Gay Political Caucus
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey
Place 4, Betty Dunkeryley

Black Austin Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Jennifer Kim
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

Capital Area Progressive Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

Central Austin Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley
Smoking Ordinance -- FOR
ACC Expansion -- FOR

Huston-Tillotson Young Democrats Coalition
Place 1, Andrew Bucknall
HTYD's will not be making endorsements in either Place 3 or Place 4.

North by North West Democrats
Place 1, No Endorsement
Place 3, No Endorsement
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

North East Travis County Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

Saint Edward's University College Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Gregg Knaupe
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

South Austin Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

South Austin Tejano Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Mandy Dealey
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

South West Austin Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

Stonewall Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, No Endorsement

Texas Environmental Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, No Endorsement
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

Travis County Democratic Women
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Dual endorsement: Margot Clarke & Jennifer Kim
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley

University of Texas Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Mandy Dealey
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley
Smoking Ordinance -- FOR
ACC Expansion -- FOR

West Austin Democrats
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerley
Smoking Ordinance -- FOR
ACC Expansion -- FOR

Posted at 06:31 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Leffingwell Stays in Race for Place 1

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Lee Leffingwell, frontrunner for Austin City Council Place 1, is staying in the race as announced at his press conference this afternoon. His wife had passed on last week.

"My wife was a wonderful woman who cared for people and who cared about her community. Losing her is a great tragedy in my life," Leffingwell said at a Thursday morning press conference. "But it cannot and will not be the end of my life . . . I know that is not what she would have wanted.

"If I am fortunate enough to be elected by the voters, I will serve in honor of her memory," Leffingwell said.

I think that every Democratic group in town is also breathing a collective sigh of relief. Partly because if he had dropped out of the race, it would have made it wide open very late in the game, forcing people to re-endorse or actually have to look at the rest of the field again. My best wishes to Lee, and I hope to see him happy on election night when gets elected to the council.

Posted at 03:44 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005


By Byron LaMasters

It's a bit ironic that Rick Perry and Elton John both attend an event in Austin a day after John made a marriage announcement, and the same day that the Texas legislature voted to make gay marriage double secret illegal. The Austin American Statesman writes:

A day after announcing plans to marry his longtime partner, Elton John performed just blocks from the Texas Capitol, where lawmakers are working to put a gay marriage ban in the state constitution.

John performed at a fundraiser for tennis star Andy Roddick's charitable foundation, with Republican Gov. Rick Perry also in attendance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, John would not discuss personal matters, including Monday's reports that he planned to marry David Furnish, his partner of 11 years, later this year.

The same day as John's marriage announcement, the Texas House of Representatives approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage. State law already bans gay marriage from being recognized.

Also from today's irony department, check out this post from Pink Dome.

Posted at 11:00 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

HJR 6 Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Ok, I had to go hunt this down on the LGRL blog to find out why today's second reading vote on HJR 6 means it was passed to the Senate without needing a third reading in the House.

Joint resolutions are used to propose amendments to the Texas Constitution, ratify proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, or request a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution require a vote of two-thirds of the total membership of each house for adoption. Other joint resolutions require a simple majority vote in each house for adoption. A joint resolution takes the same course through both houses as a bill and is like a bill in all respects, except that, in the house, if it receives the required number of votes at any reading after the first reading, the resolution is passed. Three readings are still required to pass a joint resolution in the senate.

And to think, any 2 Aye votes could have just voted present and not voting and this would have been that much closer to dieing. My personal gripe, shame on Rep. Patrick Rose. I gave money to your last campaign but don't be expecting any from me the next go round.

Posted at 11:50 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Leffingwell's Wife Found Dead

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports that the wife of Austin City Council Place 1 candidate Lee Leffingwell was found dead this morning:

Mary Lou McLain, the board president for Family Eldercare and wife of City Council candidate Lee Leffingwell, was found dead this morning inside her Northeast Austin home.

Police are investigating the death as a suicide.

Police spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said authorities received a call at 10:19 a.m. that a person had died inside a home on Bradwood Road. When they arrived, they found McLain's body. Police have not released the cause of death.

Mark Nathan, a spokesman for Leffingwell, said the campaign has suspended all activities and that a memorial service is being planned. He said Leffingwell likely won't decide for several days whether he will continue running for the Place 1 seat being vacated by Daryl Slusher.

There will certainly be political ramifications of this, especially if Leffingwell decides to drop out of the race, but at this point, it would be inappropriate to ponder such possibilities. For now, I know I speak for the entire BOR team in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with Lee Leffingwell and his family through this tragedy. I also hope that our readers, and the greater Austin community join all of us tonight as we pray for Lee Leffingwell and his family.

Posted at 06:40 PM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rally to Save Texas Families

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm floating this up since the event is in a few hours. The following is from Jake Holbrook, director of StandOut, recognized as the "Best New Organization" on campus this year.

In light of recent attacks on the LGBT community by the Texas legislature in the form of SB 6, an anti-gay foster care bill. It would seek to further solidify the place of the LGBT community’s members as second class citizens. StandOut of the University of Texas at Austin is organizing a Rally and Protest at the Texas Capitol, this Friday April 22nd.

What: Save Texas Families Rally and Protest
Where: In front of the Capitol Gates, 11th and Congress
When: Friday, April 22nd –
12:00 pm Gather and make posters,
12:30 pm Rally begins,
2:30 pm Rally ends.

StandOut has organized this Protest and Rally in reaction to SB 6 which seeks to reform the Texas Child Protective Services Agency. Rep. Robert Talton’s amendment to this bill though would do, among other things:

  • Prevent Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people from fostering children in the state of Texas
  • Take the children away from all 43,000 Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people already forming families
  • Remove these children from loving, stable families and place them back into the already overburdened Foster Care system
  • Emotionally destroy these Texas families
  • Allows the new CPS Agency to conduct “investigations” into suspect foster parents not already officially identified as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual
  • Will cost the state of Texas an additional $8 million dollars every year

We will not tolerate this kind of discrimination. We will stand together. We will fight. We will make ourselves heard.

Jake Holbrook
Director, StandOut
Young People For, 2005 Fellow

Posted at 08:07 AM to Austin City Limits | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Byron's Austin City Council Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

I figure that I might as well make endorsements for Austin City Council for what it's worth. I voted on Wednesday for Andrew Bucknall, Mandy Dealey and Betty Dunkerly in Austin City Council Places 1, 3 and 4. I also voted for the smoking ban and for ACC expansion. My endorsements:

Place 1: Andrew Bucknall and Lee Leffingwell

I've been impressed with Lee Leffingwell's civic service, progressive Democratic record, and environmental activism. The more I've seen of Leffingwell, the more I've liked him. It is extremely likely that Leffingwell will win this election to fill the seat of Daryl Slusher, and he would serve Austin well. However, Bucknall also has a progressive Democratic record of activism in east Austin. Bucknall has revitalized the Huston-Tillotson University Democrats, served as a precinct chair, and on citizens' committees addressing affordable housing. Either Bucknall or Leffingwell would serve Austin well. I voted for Bucknall, but both are a solid choice for progressive leadership.

Place 3: Mandy Dealey

Place 3 has four qualified candidates to replace Jackie Goodman. All four bring new ideas and energy to Austin politics, and any of the four would be an asset to the council.

Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey clearly have the longest record of Democratic and progressive activism. Clarke's work has been on the grassroots side of things, whereas Dealey's work has been more related to fundraising and serving on numerous boards. They've both contributed valuable work that certainly qualifies them for the council.

Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe round out the field. Kim is an impressive first time candidate, and is very well-spoken, but she lacks the experience of Clarke or Dealey. Knaupe is running an impressive campaign, but he has received a great deal of money from developer and Republican sources, and while I trust his Democratic credentials, I worry that he may be strongly influenced by his developer and Republican friends.

As the campaign has progressed, it is clear that Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey bring the best progressive credentials to the race. Of the two, I am most impressed with Dealey. Clarke is the type of anti-growth, anti-development candidate that is less likely to be able to compromise and negotiate with others on the council. Furthermore, of all four candidates, Clarke has the least comprehensive website as to her agenda on the city council. On the other hand, Dealey's background with progressive nonprofits make her the best qualified candidate to work towards consensus on the council from a progressive perspective. She also has an extensive plan of action for Austin on her website. I was proud to vote for, and I am proud to endorse Mandy Dealey for Austin City Council.

Place 4: Betty Dunkerly

I've already indicated my support for Betty Dunkerly, but I'll do it again. Dunkerly entered politics during the economic downturn, because she believed that her background in public finance and as assistant city manager of Austin put her in position to help the city through the economic downturn. She's always been very accessible and has the best interests of Austin at heart. We need more people like her in politics. I wholeheartedly endorse Betty Dunkerly for re-election.

Smoking Ban: Yes, no, maybe so, ok, I guess, yes

I debated with myself over the smoking ban for awhile. I'm pretty much indifferent to it. In the end, I found the arguments for the ban more genuine than the arguments against the ban. People who I respect have spoken passionately on both sides of the issue. I know that Andrew feels strongly about this issue, but I was also moved by David Butts's support of the smoking ban at the UD/CAD/APC endorsement meeting. I've constantly debated the merits of the bill and weighed the rights of property owners and the rights of smokers versus the rights of non-smokers and the health risks of second-hand smoke, especially for people that work at bars.

In the end, I still couldn't decide, but I broke the deadlock with the statement by one of the anti-smoking ban guys at the UD/CAD/APC meeting. He said something to the effect that there was little evidence to prove that second-hand smoke was a health risk to which a lot of us were very much taken aback. There are good arguments against the smoking ban, but questioning the health risks associated with second hand smoke is not one of them. For me, this was a tie-breaker. I voted for the ordinance.

ACC Expansion: YES

This was an easy vote. Austin Community College (ACC) expansion allows more young people the opportunity for a higher education, and forces suburbanites to help pay for it. If this isn't a no-brainer, I don't know what is.

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April 21, 2005

No Pants Day is on its Way

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

May 6th, the last day of classes, it's coming...

no pants day buddy icon

Come on, you know you want to share the No Pants Day love. Click on the icon and take it from there to save it and add it as your icon.

You Student Government types...be prepared is all I have to say.

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Latinos for Texas Endorse

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Andrew Bucknall - Place 1
Margot Clarke - Place 3
Betty Dunkerly - Place 4

Via here

Early voting at the UGL on campus today yielded 178 voters.

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April 20, 2005

The Daily Texan Endorses

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan Austin City Council Endorsements:

Place 1: Lee Leffingwell
Place 3: Mandy Dealey
Place 4: Betty Dunkerly

Smoking Ban: NO (dissenting opinion here)
ACC Expansion: YES

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April 18, 2005

More on the Kerry Event

By Byron LaMasters

For some rather snarky coverage of Saturday's Kerry event, check out In the Pink Texas. I sat near Eileen Smith in the press section, and we had the opportunity to chat a little bit afterwards. For some great pictures of Kerry at the event, check out these by frequent BOR commenter John W Walthall.

Update: More pictures from Jake McCook, here.

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Statesman Endorses Leffingwell, Kim and Dunkerly

By Byron LaMasters

Leffingwell and Dunkerly were forgone conclusions, but Kim is a bit of a surprise. You can read the Austin American Statesman endorsements here.

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April 14, 2005

Chronicle Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

Newspaper endorsements usually don't mean much, but I always follow the Austin Chronicle endorsements in Democratic primaries and city elections with interest. I think that a lot of people, especially in South and Central Austin see the Chronicle as their local paper, and take their opinions, especially their editorial page seriously. With that, check out their endorsements:

Austin City Council Place 1: Lee Leffingwell
Austin City Council Place 3: Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey
Austin City Council Place 4: Betty Dunkerly
Smoking Ban: YES and NO
ACC Expansion: YES

No major surprises in places 1 and 4. Leffingwell and Dunkerly are pretty much foregone conclusions, although I'm glad that the Chronicle had some kind words for Andrew Bucknall. Every progressive and practically everyone who supports education will vote to expand ACC. The waffling on the smoking ban is a cop-out, but I understand their wishy-washiness. I've been back and forth on the issue myself.

Finally, their dual endorsement in Place 3 is a bit of a surprise. The Chronicle endorsed Margot Clarke in her first run for city council, so I'm surprised that they strayed from her a little bit, and forced her to share an endorsement with Mandy Dealey. Needless to say, this is great news for Dealey. Her campaign got off to a slow start, but she has gained much momentum in the past weeks.

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April 12, 2005

Late Night Posting

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm a bit scared right now. Because every time I tilt my head to the side, I notice John Kerry looking at me as he leans up against my wall. Thank goodness he's just made of cardboard. And yes, he's so spending the night, considering I've already grinded with him on the dancefloor at this weekend's UDems party.

He's coming to campus this Saturday you know, and there is a place to signup (admission not guaranteed) here.

Oh, and I must have forgotten to link to this great picture of me looking like I'm about to punch myself in front of UDems endorsed City Council candidate Mandy Dealey.

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April 09, 2005

City Council Finances

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

In the realm of not all that interesting blog posts, I bring you info from the Gregg Knaupe campaign 30 finance report! (Of course, if you are like my father back home and are self-financing a much smaller city council race then there is nothing to file but anyways...)

from the Knaupe blog which is back up again...

The campaign filed it’s 30 day out campaign finance report yesterday. The campaign raised $50,685 for this reporting period, giving us a grand total of $60,733 raised from the beginning of the campaign to the present report. The campaign spent $27,870, the smallest amount of any of the campaigns.

The total cash on hand right now is $46,963, which is more than all the other place three candidates combined.

Oh, and I noticed today that the Margot Clarke campaign has changed their quote from me on their main page sidebar, from the "Margot has the momentum back post" to some of my comments about vision, when I wrote about each of the candidates a while back. But that was on April 1, not March 28 as her site says, though it's not really an issue, just something that probably wasn't updated from the other quote.

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April 08, 2005

Smoking Ban

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

A little birdie told me that polling on the Smoking Ban Proposal on the Austin Ballot May 7 shows that the group of people most in favor of the ban, are those that attend live music venues.

That's got to throw a bit of a wrench into the anti-ban crowd's arguements...

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April 06, 2005

Live Webcam!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

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Response about Chairs

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

This is for all of you freaks worried about City Council meetings turning into Springer Style Chair Throwing episodes if Margot Clarke gets elected to the city council. Thanks to Sharon for writing in.

Dear Karl -

It has been brought to my attention that a comment was made on the Burnt Orange website that "Margot Clarke had been fired from Planned Parenthood" and "threw a chair". Both statements are totally false!

I was Margot's supervisor for the majority of the time she was employed at Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region. She resigned her position as Director of Public Affairs to pursue other opportunities, and never threw a chair while an employee. In fact, Margot is one of the most loyal, dependable, hardworking people I've had ever known.

Margot is very qualified to represent Austin citizens on the City Council. She has a long history of fighting for the issues important to us as a community and will make an outstanding member of the City Council, if elected.

Thank you for posting a correction as appropriate to the false comments that were made about Margot.


Sharon Bettis
12140 Tunnel Trail
Manchaca, Texas 78652

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April 02, 2005

UDs / CAD Endorse

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Well today's 4 hour long endorsement meeting was fun. I'll cut to the chase and let you know the results.

Both the Univerisity Democrats and Central Austin Democrats endorsed Lee Leffingwell in Place 1, Betty Dunkerly in Place 4, and YES votes on the proposed Smoking Ban and ACC District Annexation.

CAD went to a run-off in Place 3 between Margot Clarke and Gregg Knaupe and endorsed Margot Clarke, though that wasn't a big suprise. UDems went to a run-off between Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey and endorsed Mandy Dealey. A lot of people's votes shifted very late in UDems, for a variety of reasons, towards Dealey, and the runoff was not one decided by just a couple votes or anything.

Of course, I'm not allowed to release the vote totals of any of the balloting because UDems has this informal agreement of not allowing it, which is no where in the constitution and when push comes to shove, I'm sure could be a FOIA issue or something that probably is a tad illegal if anyone really cared. I might draw up some language to clarify it in the constitution to all the numbers to be public later on since it's always bugged me.

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APC Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

I liveblogged the meeting earlier today, but I shut off my computer shortly before voting took place. Here are the endorsements made today by the two organization:

University Democrats:
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Mandy Dealey
Place 4, Betty Dunkerly
Smoking Ban, YES
ACC Expansion, YES

Central Austin Democrats:
Place 1, Lee Leffingwell
Place 3, Margot Clarke
Place 4, Betty Dunkerly
Smoking Ban, YES
ACC Expansion, YES

All candidates and ballot initiatives except the Place 3 endorsees are also endorsed by the Austin Progressive Coalition, so if you live in Central Austin, you'll be getting your yellow doorhanger in the coming weeks.

The Place 3 race went into a run-off with both clubs. CAD had a run-off between Margot Clarke and Gregg Knaupe, which Clarke won easily. UD's had a run-off between Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey, which Dealey won as many Clarke supporters only voted in Place 3 and left the meeting early.

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Liveblogging the APC/UD/CAD Endorsement Meeting

By Byron LaMasters

I'm liveblogging the joint city council endorsement meeting of the Austin Progressive Coalition, University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats. Andrew is sitting next to me, so he'll be adding some thoughts later as well. Also liveblogged at Alert The Inter.net.

10:55 AM: The forum started with the place 1 candidates.

Andrew Bucknall spoke first and was well received. He emphasized his work as President of the Huston-Tullitson University Democrats and with the Martin Luther King neighborhood association. Bucknall said that he was the “grassroots progressive” choice for place 1 and served in various other capacity.

Next Lee Leffingwell spoke about his background also as a lifelong Democrat, his military experience, and his passion for environmental protection. Leffingwell also spoke of the need for greater mass transit with an emphasis on light rail and bike lanes. He also noted the need to better fund city services. Finally, Leffingwell noted that every city Democratic club except for the H-T young Democrats had endorsed him.

Casey Walker spoke as a lifelong Austin resident, and spoke much on student issues. Walker noted his endorsement of toll road opponents and Independent Texans.

11:14: First question for Walker. Says that he is a registered Indepdent (ed. Note, there is no party registration in Texas). However, he noted that he voted for John Kerry

Question two for Leffingwell on his involvement with the ACLU’s project on banned books. Leffingwell worked with the ACLU to issue a report on banned books in public schools in Texas and says that it has been a great experience.

Smoking ban. Leffingwell opposes the idea, but says he is taking no public position. Bucknall and Walker oppose the ban as well.

Last question on what issues are most critical to students. Tuition and public education and mentioned as the major issues by all candidates.

11:35: Margot Clarke spoke first. Speaks of Austin background and experience with non-profit advocacy. She stresses her involvement with Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra club. States her Democratic credentials and of her canvassing in Ohio for John Kerry in the 2004 election. Speaks of investing in the future of the city, cleaner air and water, etc. States her endorsements notably Democratic one.

Mandy Dealey starts off with a laugh that she’s the first candidate here that was not a native Austinite, but that she got here as quickly as she could. Mandy is also wearing burnt orange and said that she hoped that it would send a subliminable message – to quote our president. Dealey speaks of how welcoming Austin was for her and her son many years ago. Dealey was proud of her involvement with the local and national boards of Planned Parenthood. Dealey also spoke of work with the mental health association. She long-range planning, problem solving, consensus building and developing a budget.

Jennifer Kim spoke next. She spoke of her work on environmental protection for state sen. Judith Zafferini (D-Laredo). She stated that this work in poor minority communities around the boarder was extremely rewarding. Also mentions her work on affordable housing. She mentions her work in former East Germany in the U.S. state department as part of her diverse level of experience. She wants more affordable housing for Austin. Mentions the aquifer as an important reason for the need to have an important relationship with the legislature.

Gregg Knaupe spoke last. Said that he came to Austin in 1987 and fell in love with the city. Mentions his work for State Rep. Barry Telford and his work on the 1990 Ann Richards as evidence that he is a lifelong Democrats. Stresses the importance of dealing with Austin’s growth in order to prevent people from being left out or left behind – strategic land use planning. Mentions that he works for the Texas Hospital Association as a lawyer. Notes his emphasis on health care work. Mentions his federal, statewide and local experience on various issues in addition to health care, notably affordable housing.

Question for Gregg Knaupe for his support of Prop 12 in 2003 on tort reform. Knaupe stated that he voted against Prop 12, and has problems with it, but the Hospital District had it on their agenda. Another question for Knaupe regarding Austin Police Department allegedly funneling money through the Real Estate Council spending money in his campaign. Knaupe said that he was unaware of what activities APD would be engaged in, and told the questioner that he would have to ask APD.

Next question was on the smoking ban. Kim is voting for the smoking ban. Dealey supports smoking ban as does Clarke. Knaupe doesn’t really answer the question. Says that he’ll support the will of the people.

Andrew asked if any candidates were supported by the Austin Toll Party which is seeking to recall elected Democratic officials. Dealey, Knaupe and Kim state that they have not been supported by the Austin Toll Party. Clake says that she opposes the recall efforts, but opposes toll roads and is proud to stand up against it.

12:17 PM: I started to drift off as the q&a continued on for awhile. Place 3 is completed, Place 4 is starting now with Betty Dunkerly, Jennifer Gale and John Wickham.

Dunkerly speaks first. She is running for re-election. States her background in city governments in Beaumont and Austin. She said that her experience prepared her to make the tough decisions during the recent economic downturn by cutting the budget and keeping the tax rate the lowest of any major city in Texas.

Jennifer Gale spoke next wearing a yellow shirt with Martin Luther King on it. She attacked David Butts and the Chamber of Commerce for supporting Betty Dunkerly. She attacked Wes Benedict (who was not even present) for working for the Libertarian Party. She attacks Butts again and the light rail system. Jennifer Gale certainly adds comic relief to these type of things. Once again, today, she has not disappointed. At the end she also attacked the GLBT community for supporting candidates that do not support them. I’ll be asking a question in that regard.

John Whickham spoke next. If someone was listening, post it in comments.

It was asked if the candidates were Democrats. Dunkerly stated that she supported many Democrats and Democratic causes but is an Independent. Gale mentioned that she ran for Congress as a Democrats. Wickham said that she was a swing voter.

I told Jennifer Gale that I was a board member of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, an organization that has endorsed Dunkerly. I asked if she was aware that candidates were required to fill out a questionnaire in order to speak before the organization. She attacked the organization as mean-spirited and urged candidates in the future not to attend their meetings.

Next question was on the smoking ban. Dunkerly will vote for the ban. Gale mentioned that smoking kills, but sought compromise. She complained that no one listened to her.

12:33 PM: Next was the debate on the smoking ban. David Butts spoke against the ban. Butts said the human costs of covering uninsured people of lung cancer was much higher than the amount of fees that could potentially be collected by fees. Next a small business owner with a punk rock club spoke against the ban. He stated that he didn’t smoke, but that the vast majority of his customers did. Next was a question regarding second hand smoke. The business owner stated that second hand smoke did not necessarily cause lung cancer – the same argument made by decades by cigarette manufacturers.

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April 01, 2005

City Council Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First, here is a semi-live blog post about Wednesday's Place 3 City Council Forum thanks to Tim.

As far as the forum went. It changed minds. For a race that has has 4 great candidates, it is certainly hard to set them apart. But the forum certainly rearragned my own choices, though I have some commentary about all the candidates. (btw, 25 members joined last night and voting membership is now locked thanks to our little Constitutional Amendment that was passed for this endorsement.)

Commentary below the fold!!!

Margot Clarke- If there is any candidate in this race that provides what I can call a "vision" it's Margot. It's not too hard to tell that when it comes down to it, Community and the Austin flavor are at the heart of any decision that she might make. It's comforting to know as easily as it is with Margot where her heart it, so even if I don't know how she might vote on any specific proposal, and have a sense of where she is coming from. Granted, that shouldn't be a reason to vote for a candidate by itself (see the case with Republicans and Bush), but it's nice to see in a Democrat for once. Margot has been a friend of University Democrats for a long time and certainly has support there. The big question this week is how much of the membership are naturally Margot supporters or how many Margot supporters are now suddenly part of the membership...

Mandy Dealey- If anyone was a winner of last night's forum, it was Dealey. For someone who made horrible first impressions with UDems (in her frantic, hair ruffling, my car might get towed speech) last night she connected with and audience of students (even though she's the senior candidate in the race) and came across as quite motherly. Her responses showed her depth of knowledge of the issue, as well as how she might go about solving particular problems. Her clear statement that the Smoking Ban was a public health issue, plain and simple was a total plus for me as well as her concept of a Commission of Students from area Universities to work, dialouge, and interface with the Council was awesome, and if that was an on the spot idea, even more so. All semester long I didn't think I would ever be tempted by the Dealey campaign, but that changed last night as she swayed more than one officer's vote and a number of the members.

Jennifer Kim- From the very beginning I have been a supporter of Ms. Kim. I'm not one to turn away from candidates just because they are new, young, or it's "not their time". I can tell that she's doing this for the right reasons and no matter what happens, I hope to see her name on the ballot somewhere once again. But I was a bit disappointed last night, because what I saw as youth, fresh ideas, and enthusiasm, gave way to unpreparedness and a bit of nervousness on the understanding of some issues. I would have appreciated an "I don't have enough information on that issue to give an appropriate response" to some questions than what I heard, though that goes for a couple candidates at various times. People have been challenging me all semester as to having a good reason to vote Kim over others. I have been waiting for that reason, and I do not believe I was given one last night.

Gregg Knaupe- I've been a bit hard on the Knaupe campaign here on BOR. Gregg came off well at the forum, though he has a John Kerry-esqe ability for loooong answers, running over his time limit on almost every question. It wouldn't be so bad if it also weren't for the policy wonkish density of his answers, which would be great in front of the business crowd, but not a UDems Forum. Though his (and Kim's) respecting the choice of the voters on the smoking ban is a cop-out (and likely signal that they are opposed to it) it fits with his pro-business campaign.

But it still feels like the Knaupe campaign is just another Brewster McCracken/Will Wynn white male business guy snoozefest that is attempting to attract support from Liberal organizations to balance his otherwise more moderate background. Come on, he worked for the Texas Hospital Association (compared to a more progressive groups like Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, etc. like Margot or Dealey). He didn't lose any support last night, but I don't think he gained any either.

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March 31, 2005

City Council Endorsement Meeting

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First, a new semi-old pic of me with Katie Naranjo, our newest BOR writer and possible candidate for TYD Region 6 Thingamagig (which Byron is now).

Location: GSB 2.124
Begins: Saturday 2 April 2005 10:00am
Ends: Saturday 2 April 2005 12:00pm

UDems MEMBERS: This Saturday is a very IMPORTANT meeting.

It is our endorsement meeting for City Council. We will vote on the candidates that we support for Place 1, 3, and 4 and two ballot propositions. It will determine how we are involved with city council for the rest of the year.

Please come to vote for your favorite candidate. The speakers start at 10:30 AM, but free breakfast will be provided starting at 10:00. Please don't miss this important event. It will be in our regular meeting room: GSB 2.124.

Afterwards, we will be having a party of some sort that will involve free stuff for those who attend the meeting. Please make plans to spend the day with us. See you Saturday!!!!

Please note: the constitutional ammendment to limit voting members for this Saturday's meeting to only those who became members as of this past Wednesday passed unanimously.


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March 30, 2005

Austin Place 3 Candidate Forum

By Byron LaMasters

It's tonight at 7:30 in the Jester Auditorium. Karl-Thomas and Katie will be busy performing their duties as UD officers, but Andrew and I will try and liveblog it if there's a decent wireless internet connection. You can read my thoughts on the Austin City Council races here.

Update: The forum went well. The wireless was down, so Andrew and I didn't have the chance to liveblog. I got bored 15 minutes into the forum and went outside where I chatted with Andrew, several of the campaign staffers and DNC member David Holmes. Holmes's boss, State Rep. Hubert Vo (D-Houston) attended the meeting. Another one of Vo's staffers is volunteering for Jennifer Kim, and wanted to attend the meeting, so Vo and Holmes ended up attending as well. After the meeting I decided to pick up dinner at Freebirds, and use my free burrito card that I won last time I ate at Freebirds. Interestingly enough, David Holmes and Hubert Vo were also in the mood for burritos, and after running into them again, I ended up sitting down and eating dinner with them.

It was nice to have the opportunity to chat with Representative Vo. I told him that I was looking forward to working with other bloggers to help his 2006 campaign, at which point he made a kind remark of Houston blogger Greg Wythe. Greg did a lot of voter registration work in and around Vo's district. Regardless, it was fun to sit down and chat with Hubert Vo and his staff.

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March 28, 2005

My thoughts on the Austin City Council Races

By Byron LaMasters

I wanted to follow-up on Karl-Thomas's post the other day on the Austin city council races. In preparation for the University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats (Austin Progressive Coalition) endorsement meeting on Saturday, I wanted to post some brief thoughts on the races.

Place 1: Lee Leffingwell is the frontrunner for Daryl Slusher's open seat. He's a decent Democrat, and I'm sure will make a fine councilman. However, I'm inclined to support my friend, Andrew Bucknall. Andrew was the re-founding president of the Huston-Tullitson University Democrats, and I've worked with him to integrate his chapter into the Texas Young Democrats.

Andrew calls himself the "grassroots progressive choice for place 1", and is a Democratic precinct chair in east Austin. I think that it is important to stand up and support fellow young Democrats when they run for office, so I plan on voting for Andrew at the UD/CAD/APC endorsement meeting on Saturday. You can read more about him here.

Place 3: Only in Austin would this race be possible. Here we have four more-or-less progressive Democrats fighting for a single city council seat being vacated by Jackie Goodman. On many levels, the four candidates are indistinguishable from one another. Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey clearly have the longest record of Democratic and progressive activism. Clarke's work has been on the grassroots side of things, whereas Dealey's work has been more related to fundraising and serving on numerous boards. They've both contributed valuable work that certainly qualifies them for the council.

Jennifer Kim and Gregg Knaupe round out the field. Kim is an impressive first time candidate, and is very well-spoken, but she lacks the experience of Clarke or Dealey. Knaupe is running an impressive campaign as well with endorsements by the Central Labor Council and law enforcement organizations, but Knaupe is hindered by the fact that a victory by him would leave only one woman (assuming Betty Dunkerly is re-elected) on the seven member city council. That is an issue that weighs in the minds of many voters.

Unlike Karl-Thomas and Andrew, I have no preference order. Sometimes, I think that I should just flip a four-sided die before I cast my vote - it's that silly. Seriously, flip a coin or something. This race is hard to gauge. I agree with Karl-Thomas that Clarke is probably the frontrunner at this point. However, I could see any of the three other candidates making a runoff with her. Eventually, I'll probably make my decision of who to vote for when I enter the voting booth.

Place 4: This race is the easiest for me. Betty Dunkerly is one of these public officials committed to good government above all else - the type that are in politics for all of the right reasons. She's an Independent, and in most circumstances I would be looking for a progressive Democrat to run for the seat.

However, Dunkerly entered politics during the economic downturn, because she believed that her background in public finance and as assistant city manager of Austin put her in position to help the city through the economic downturn. She's always been very accessable and has the best interests of Austin at heart. We need more people like her in politics. I wholeheartedly endorse Betty Dunkerly for re-election.

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March 27, 2005

City Council Forum

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Dear Austinites,

You are invited to attend the Place 3 City Coucil Forum sponsored by the University Democrats (and SG, and Senate of College Councils, and UT Watch) to be held this Wednesday, March 30, at 7:30 PM in the main Jester Auditorium.

As the most competitive place on the ballot, all four candidates will be attending including Margot Clarke, Mandy Dealey, Jennifer Kim, and Gregg Knaupe.

The candidates will field questions from a panel of UT students regarding issues such as housing development in the campus area, the Austin economy, and transportation, as well as take questions from audience members.

More information located here.

Also up for a vote by UDems members will be a Constituional change to extend voting rights to those having paid dues as of the end of the Wednesday Forum in an attempt to protect the endorsement meeting from being stacked by any of the campaigns.

As an aside, it feels as if Margot Clarke has regained her frontrunner status from Gregg Knaupe with her recent series of endorsements. While the UDems endorsement is far from locked down by any campaign, I sense a shift in Margot's favor among the membership at large. That and the fact she has a 139 person strong facebook group, 96 of which are in the UDems facebook group. It is filled with progressives, a number of campus leaders, former UDems officers. I'm a bit impressed.

My personal order of candidates (for the moment) is Kim, Clark, Knaupe, Dealey. This week should be interesting and I think the Forum is going to be critical for a lot of people's votes in our Saturday endorsement meeting.

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March 26, 2005

Aw Hail!

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Well, it hailed some mighty fierce tonight. Golf ball sized in some places, and it didn't take long for it to pop up with on the ground reports here on the Internets. About.com's Austin section has a report with some pictures here.

I was actually driving with some friends (after having watched one of them get a tatoo on his back) over to Kerbey Lane on Kerbey Lane when we ran into the rain front. And then the hail front. We couldn't even see the hood of the car through the windshield. So after some screaming and such we drove off the side of the road, into a parking lot, and took refuge behind the side of a building. Twice.

Talk about a flash flood, I've never seen something that fierce in Austin, the Hill Country yes, but not here. I think the streets really highlight the runoff affect. I'm hoping that my father's campaign yardsigns survived the attack out in Fredericksburg. I'll try to have a report tomorrow.

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March 24, 2005

Austin City Council Endorsement Update

By Byron LaMasters

I listed the endorsements made for Place 3 for Austin City Council made earlier this week by NxNW Democrats, ALGPC, and Stonewall Democrats. Here are some more endorsements in the past few days:

3/21: CAP-D (Capitol Area Progressive Democrats): Margot Clarke
3/21: TED (Texas Environmental Democrats): No Endorsement
3/23: Austin Neighborhoods Council: Margot Clarke

I must say that the Margot Clarke campaign has done a relatively good job of consolidating her base (progressive grassroots) considering the size of the field. If the Clarke campaign had planned a little bit better, they probably could have won the NxNW (word is that they lost that one by a single vote).

I also learned today that the St. Edward's University Democrats have endorsed Gregg Knaupe.

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Bus Survey and Election Reform

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Do you ride the busses here in Austin as a University Student? What about the campus routes in particular? Take this short survey from Parking and Transportation services to help them out. This has been a public service post.

Also, Election Reform Forum....

Could SG Elections be BETTER for you?
Got Concerns? Bring'Em On!

- Eliminate the Ticket System?
- Make it Easier for Students to Run?
- Host Debates in your College?

Thursday, March 24
WELCH 2.246 - 8:00 PM

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March 22, 2005

Protest Culture

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Monthly has a piece up about contemporary protest culture. The author concludes:

Perhaps in an age when blogs have given average people the pundit's power to bring down network anchors and Senate leaders and shape the nation's political agenda, dissenting Americans no longer need protests and marches to be heard. Yet there remains among many a need for something more—to have an adventure, to experience an historic event, to make direct connections with like-minded people. This existential desire, plus a certain nostalgia for the good old days, fuel much of contemporary march culture. Which is fine: Protesting for protesting's sake serves a market. But so do rock concerts and tractor pulls. If today's marchers want their efforts to mean a great deal more than that, they would do well to recognize the real reason why the marches of yesteryear are remembered. It wasn't just about the messengers. It was about the message.

This reminds me of an episode during my freshman year of college. I was bored one afternoon so I started walking around downtown Austin just to learn about the place. Eventually I managed to run into an anti-death penalty protest that was being organized down in Republic Park. To be honest, I've always been somewhat against the death penalty (because, frankly, there's something tacky and morally offensive about the degree to which capital punishment is employed in this state); although to be sure I've also always been more or less indifferent.

So I stopped by just to see what was going on. A couple minutes later somebody handed be a placard. It wasn't too much longer before I was more or less caught up in the moment, which I went along with mostly out of sheer Gonzo-esque curiousity. After all, we hear a lot about this great Austin protest culture, so I wanted to know what it was all about.

(At the time, I was a peon page-designer at the Texan; despite the fact I had no power over editorial copy at the time I never found it coincidental that the managing editor gave all staffers a good warning about getting involved in protests a few days later).

But my experience begs the question - how many people are involved in these things by accident, sort of like Forrest Gump?

Later on in my college career, I pushed the UDs to get active in the campus anti-war movement. There are of course somethings that are so important and likely to sway opinion (as I think a lot of people thought in the months before the war in Iraq started) that people of good conscience have to be involved. And then of course there's everything else.

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March 21, 2005

Austin City Council Update

By Byron LaMasters

My apologies for light posting recently. I have a paper due at 3 PM tomorrow, so once that's finished, along with some needed sleep, I'll be back to more regular blogging. In Austin City politics, our city council races are picking up steam with Lee Leffingwell and Betty Dunkerly the frontrunners in Place 1 and 4 respectively, while the open Place 3 is pretty much wide open. The Austin Chronicle has more on the recent developments in the race. Three progressive organizations held their endorsement meetings tonight. Their Place 3 endorsements are here:

NXNW (North by Northwest) Democrats: No endorsement
ALGPC (Austin Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus): Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey
Austin Stonewall Democrats: Margot Clarke

I have not endorsed in this race, although I did make the motion for a dual endorsement at the ALGPC meeting tonight. ALGPC rules require a 60% majority for an endorsement, and no candidate had even a simple majority on the first ballot. However, the combined vote of the top two candidates, Dealey and Clarke was 70% of those voting on the first ballot, thus a dual endorsement of the two was the logical motion.

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March 11, 2005

A Tale of Two Ciggies

By Jim Dallas

Houston and Austin are dealing with the problems of second-hand smoke in public places in slightly different ways.

The Houston city council passed a smoking ban in restaraunts - but not in bars or in outdoor areas - on Wednesday. The Houston Chronicle writes:

Under the ordinance, which goes into effect Sept. 9, the city will continue to allow smoking in bar areas within restaurants, in outdoor dining areas and in free-standing bars. Mayor Bill White proposed the measure as a compromise between the economic interests of restaurant and bar owners and anti-smoking advocates who pushed to ban smoking in all public indoor spaces.

The ordinance also bans smoking in covered bus shelters and in taxis that are not designated as smoking vehicles.

Under the previous ordinance, all public buildings could have designated indoor smoking areas, as long as they were clearly marked and properly ventilated.

"Today council acted decisively to make more of Houston smoke-free," White said after the 9-4 vote. "This is Texas, where we do balance freedoms."

Meanwhile, in Austin, which may or may not be part of Texas (it depends on what the meaning of "is" is), and where the freedom-balancing scales apparently are broken, the people will get to vote on the following ballot proposition on May 7:

"An ordinance repealing Austin's current ordinance relating to smoking in public places and replacing it with a new ordinance that maintains the current prohibition against smoking in most public places, including workplaces, and expands the prohibition against smoking to apply to all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and billiard parlors, except for restaurants with restricted permits that are renewable through September 1, 2012."

The Austin Chronicle writes:

Battle lines are now in place over the upcoming public vote on a new Austin ordinance that aims to ban smoking in nearly all public places, including bars, music venues, and bowling alleys. As anticipated, City Council voted on Thursday to place the newly proposed ordinance language on the May 7 ballot, for the voters to decide whether to strengthen the less-restrictive anti-smoking ordinance that went into effect in June of 2004. The city clerk had certified on Monday that Onward Austin, the group promoting the ordinance, had gathered enough petition signatures – more than 36,000, representing 10% of Austin's electorate – supporting a strict, new ordinance to force city action. On Tuesday, local bar and club owners, fearing a loss of business, filed a federal lawsuit against the city in hopes of heading off the ordinance, and continue to organize an opposition campaign. At the same time, anti-smoking forces say they are adding business owners and other high-profile supporters to their ranks.

Which solution to this Dreaded Cloud of Tobacco Smoke is better? Depends on who you ask.

The Daily Cougar, the student paper at UH ran a story today on student reactions to the Houston ban, which has been generally positive (although others would opt for a complete ban like in Austin). Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, however, lambasted the Houston plan as weak policy, and it looks like they'll try to push for total abolition in Houston. Will it succeed? I don't know, but considering (1) that the City Council rejected an amendment that would ban smoking in all public places by a whopping 10-3 vote, and (2) that it's not like air pollution is exactly a novel concept to Houstonians, I somehow doubt we'll see a total ban anytime soon.

Ironically, though, half-way measures create interesting incentives for some owners. The AusChron tells us the story of one local businessman:

At least one business owner has broken ranks with his colleagues. Reed Clemmons, owner of the Bitter End, Reed's Supper Club, and Mezzaluna, spoke Thursday in favor of the complete ban. He said the current ordinance puts his bar-restaurants, each ineligible for a smoking permit, at an unfair disadvantage against smoking bars, and he blames the cost-prohibitive ventilation systems required to allow smoking in bar-restaurants. "My happy hours are down 40% since the current ordinance took effect," Clemmons said. "The best-case scenario would be to let bar owners decide whether to allow smoking or not. But in reality, I know that's never going to happen in Austin again. … I have to fight for my business interests." Clemmons considers the proposed complete ban as effectively leveling the playing field among all kinds of bar venues.

Indeed, there's at least ample evidence that a laissez-faire policy works. The Daily Cougar story, for example, tells the story of Ziggy's Healthy Grill, in Houston, which banned smoking on its own initiative. And good for them.

(Keep Austin Free has some statistics of questionable veracity further backing up the claim that the free market solves; for example, they claim that over 99 percent of Austin businesses are smoke-free).

To be sure, smoking is a nasty dirty habit that I do not encourage, and as someone with family members who have impaired lung function I happen to strongly encourage those around me not to smoke, and I know for sure that we're not going to patronize businesses that have smokey, dirty atmospheres.

But Austin and Houston are hardly po-dunk places where there's only one diner, and quite frankly I am very skeptical of anyone who insists that individuals oughtn't be free to choose. On strictly pragmatic grounds, though, I see why the Houston ordinance might make sense. It is completely beyond me why such a large percentage of Austinites would vote for a complete smoking ban, though.

Then again, this is just the sort of bizarre politics that makes Austin... Austin. And as a proud owner of a "Keep Austin Weird" t-shirt, I have to heartily endorse an "aye" vote on the smoking proposition.

As an aside, Galveston and Kemah are now considering smoking bans, according to the Galveston County Daily News. The economic powers that be will probably fight any ban that's stricter than Houston's, for obvious reasons. This presents a question of agency: is it best for this to be dealt with on a municipal level? When big cities pass strict ordinances, small cities are likely to engage in "race to the bottom" behavior, with the upshot being small cities are in fact the places where there is not sufficient diversity in accomodations to allow for perfect laissez-faire competition. Perhaps this should be dealt with on a state-wide basis instead.

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March 09, 2005

Austin City Council Endorsements Roll in...

By Byron LaMasters

It's endorsement season for the Austin political clubs that make the difference in Austin City Council elections. Three clubs have held endorsement meetings in recent days. Of particular interest is their choices for Place 3 - the open seat with four major candidates. Here's their endorsements:

Capitol City Young Democrats: No endorsement
South Austin Democrats: Margot Clarke
Austin Women's Political Caucus: Dual Endorsement - Margot Clarke and Mandy Dealey

Margot Clarke
Mandy Dealey
Jennifer Kim
Gregg Knaupe

Also, don't forget to vote in the BOR Poll for Austin City Council, Place 3.

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March 06, 2005

Wonkette? Here? You have to be kidding

By Nathan Nance

I've just learned that Wonkette herself will be in Austin next Monday. I was reading a Q&A in the Austin Chronicle with Ana Marie Cox, and at the very end of the column there is a note that Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly, will be interviewing her for SXSW Interactive at the Austin Convention Center Monday, March 14th at 2 p.m., room 17AB.

I have to see this, so I'll be driving the 100 miles to Austin next Monday. I imagine it will at least be fun to meet the Wonkette and try to represent the blogging community. I'd invite you all to attend, but it's not my festival (and I want Wonkette all to myself). But I can tell you it looks like fun and you should go.

For, more info, like registration costs, you can go to SXSW's Web site, and for a quick look at my own views of Wonkette's interview, go to my blog, Common Sense.

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March 05, 2005

Burnt Orange City Council Poll

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Floating this back up to the top to get more of a sample.

Ok, so let's try a little something. Even though there is not a whole lot going on in regards to the Austin City Council Place 3 Race, it is still going on. So I'd like to find out what the initial read of Burnt Orange readership is in an Instant Run-off online poll (meaning you can rank your four choices). So below I'm going to post all 4 candidates websites (in case you havn't seen them) and the link to the poll.

(Note to campaigns: Do not try to drive your supporters to this poll to influence my read of BOR readership. I will notice and I will take it down if you do so and write bitchy comments about your campaign.)

Take the Poll.

Campaign Sites:
Margot Clarke
Mandy Dealey
Jennifer Kim
Gregg Knaupe

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Andrew Bucknall Running Underdog Campaign

By Byron LaMasters

Lee Leffingwell is clearly the frontrunner for the open Austin City Council Place 1 race, but progressives have another option with Andrew Bucknall. Bucknall is untested as a candidate and underfunded, but he's a great Democrat and progressive, and voters ought to take the opportunity to learn about his campaign.

Bucknall is a unique candidate who certainly defies stereotypes. He's a single father. He's a non-traditional 30-something year old college student. He's a White person attending the historically African-American Huston-Tillotson College. Among Bucknall's impressive record of east Austin activism incudes leading the effort to revive the H-T College Democrats which had been dormant for many years. Anyway, read the Daily Texan article on Bucknall's candidacy to learn more.

In other Austin City Council news, Greg Knappe has a lead over Jennifer Kim and the other candidates in Karl-Thomas's BOR city council poll. If you have yet to vote in the poll, click here.

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March 04, 2005

Cleaner Air Coming to Austin?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

So Austin may have cleaner air coming to it, in two different forms.

First, the Daily Texan reports on the city council passing a resolution in support of hybrid vehicle incentives. Huzzah to the locals thinking like this when the folks in DC putter around debating the existance of global climate change.

Roger Duncan, general manager for Austin Energy, pointed out the economic, environmental and national security benefits of pushing for hybrid "plug-in" vehicles. Such vehicles would reduce the city's fleet costs and help protect air quality, Duncan said. Nationally, the vehicles would wean the country from its dependency on oil, he said.

These vehicles are different than hybrid vehicles currently on the market, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, Duncan said. The vehicles available for incentives would run on mostly electricity and alternative fuel, such as hydrogen, corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, bio-diesel fuel and electricity, according to the Gas Optional Vehicles Report prepared by Austin Energy.

"It's the electrification of the transportation sector," he said.

Secondly, the Texan also reports that the Smoking Ban Ballot Initiative will indeed be on the ballot May 7.

The current city law permits bars and restaurants with permits to allow smoking. The proposed ordinance prohibits smoking in all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, billiard halls and live music venues.

Paul Silver, owner of the bar 219 West, is part of a group of entertainment business owners who filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday, questioning the legality of the ordinance's language...

He said all the "funky little places" would definitely close, especially those along South Congress and Red River.

"Small bars aren't sitting around with cash," he said. "Any blip in their sales, and that would be the end of them."

The anti-smoking petition was pushed by Onward Austin, a coalition of health and community organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The next big question here will be where do the city council candidates fall on this issue since they have to deal with it now. I don't see many of them jumping on the smoking ban bandwagon except for maybe Margot Clarke (who just won the Sierra Club endorsement btw), and certainly not Gregg Knaupe for reasons I have already mentioned.

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March 03, 2005


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just to say, Keep Austin Free is a bad choice for a name if you are group that is working against the Smoking Ban that will more than likely be on the ballot in May. Free of what? Not smoke, which is what I would think on first reaction, but Free in the terms of freedom, as in personal choice. A bit of a stretch, but whatever, it's not my website.

Can anyone verify their claim that The current ordinance has already caused The Filling Station to close down and caused Katz's to file bankruptcy. Maybe Katz's wouldn't be closed (haha, couldn't resist the pun even though bankrupt doesn't = closed) if Mr. Katz didn't charge so much or spend his time running for Mayor to get free advertising out of it.

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Another Air America in Austin Update

By Byron LaMasters

From today's Austin Chronicle:

Meanwhile, Air America is more than seriously looking at Austin as its latest market. The network will launch its progressive programming on KOKE 1600AM (recently acquired along with six other local stations by Border Media Partners) on Monday, March 14, with a live show from the State Theater.

Better yet, a greater Texas presence is coming soon as well:

It doesn't happen overnight, but we've been adding stations pretty fast lately and we are going to be adding Dallas. And Austin, as we talked about. And Brownsville. We have Corpus Christi, so, we're beginning to have a Texas presence.

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YCT, Hunting, and Activism

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

If you were wondering what all the hullabloo was about today on campus, the Aus-American Statesman is leading with an article and video on what happened today on campus.

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February 24, 2005

Air America Radio Coming to Austin

By Byron LaMasters

It's about time! The Austin Chronicle reports:

After months of rumors, radio industry sources confirm that Air America, the liberal talk format starring Al Franken, is about to find a home in Austin, where the airwaves are still dominated by tough-talking Rush Limbaugh wannabes. Air America is now heard on 48 stations around the country, but on only one in Texas, KCCT-AM in Corpus Christi. An announcement on an Austin affiliate is expected within days, according to one source.

Although details are still sketchy, speculation focuses on Border Media Partners, the Houston-based company that now owns seven Spanish-language stations in Austin (see "Austin Radio Spanish," p.36). BMP president Tom Castro was national deputy finance chair of the Kerry for President campaign, and one of the company's main investors is notable Democrat Tony Sanchez, the former candidate for governor. Asked to analyze the Austin market last week, Castro immediately pointed to the lack of a format for "intelligent and interesting dialogue." Austin, he said, seems like a place where "a lot of people want an outlet for voicing their opinion."

I'm surprised it's taken this long to get liberal talk radio in Austin. Either Air America Radio or Ed Shultz would certainly do well here. After all, Travis County gave John Kerry a 50,000 vote victory (PDF file) - by far his largest margin in Texas, yet we still have all the right-wing quacks on our radio dial with no alternatives from our side.

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February 19, 2005

Jennifer Kim wins Firefighters Endorsement

By Byron LaMasters

It's not as big as the Central Labor Council endorsement of Gregg Knaupe, but the endorsement of Jennifer Kim by the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters gives her some momentum in the race.

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Smoking Petition / City Council Politics

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Daily Texan Reports today that the Austin Smoking Ban Petition is on the edge of making on the ballot.

The campaign filed 36,000 signatures, though not all of them counted, missing the mark and only hitting 33,438 of the 36,764 required signatures. Much of this is being supported by the various Health and Cancer groups and societies AMA, Texas Lung Assoc., etc.

Now it is true that Austin political guru Glen Maxey has been aiding this campaign and usually gets petitions on the ballot when he tries. The problem this time was not that Glen didn't do it, but rather that Glen wasn't primarily in charge of getting the job done until late in the game. But I would not be surprised if he managed to pull another 3000 signatures out of the air this weekend (if he hasn't already collected them over the past week or so).

So assuming, that, we head off into the debate over whether or not the City of Austin needs a stronger smoking ban like El Paso or New York City (heck, I think Fredericksburg's is close to being that tough).

It's an issue that will split Liberals along personal freedom / public health lines and could very well play into the city council race. Ruminations have it that the Margot Clarke campaign could come out for it should it make it on the ballot (which wouldn't surprise me since Maxey's is one of her consultants and it would play well with her base turnout groups- Central and South Austin progressives).

I'm already fairly sure that the Gregg Knaupe campaign will be against it considering Mr. Vice President of Public Affairs for the Texas Hospital Association's consulting group seems to be heading up the Anti-Ban forces. As one of the members of the new Travis County Hospital District Steering Committee, it must make things more difficult because there is a very convincing case for either side, which may be why candidates are hoping that it just doesn't make it on the ballot to begin with.

Just as a side note, since it has been on my mind...and believe me, I'll write another City Council entry very soon about all the candidates so don't feel like I'm singling anyone out. It's just that the Knaupe campaign has been very aggressive in positioning itself and I wouldn't be surprised to see them in a runoff and they have a blog, so well, I spend some time on their site.

Though I'm sure that working for the Texas Hospital Association is a nice plus on the résumé, and that Knaupe isn't tied to their political expenditures departments... but since I did a study last semester on Proposition 12 related PAC donations to the Texas Legislature following the 2002 election through 2003...

HOSPAC (Texas Hospital Association PAC)

Total Donations (House): $47,700
-Republicans: $40,350
-Democrats: $7,350
-Avg. Republicans: $1,187
-Avg. Democrats: $735

HOSPAC was one of the heavy hitters in the Pro-Prop 12 Coalition (with 4 of the 10 Democrats they donated to voting for the enabling legislation, HJR 3) which Travis County gave a 62% NO vote to.

I mean, if it was my candidate, and most of the politically active people that vote in City Council elections are also the types that drag their butts out to vote in Constitutional Amendment elections, and maybe, just maybe associate the Texas Hospital Association with something bad rather than good.... I might stop mentioning it.

Otherwise snarky bloggers will write posts like this.

If you want the actual data I collected in reference to this, it is all available here in excel.

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February 15, 2005

Austin City Council Update

By Byron LaMasters

It's too early in my opinion to declare a frontrunner for the open Place 3 Austin City Council seat, but Gregg Knaupe has received a string of key endorsements including the Austin Central Labor Council most recently. View from the Left cites this as reason enough to peg Knaupe as the frontrunner for the open Place 3 seat, but I'm still going to hedge my bets - it's still a wide open race at this point.

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February 03, 2005

Austin City Council Horseracin'

By Byron LaMasters

Read the Austin Chronicle article today for the latest.

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Gregg Knaupe Blog

By Byron LaMasters

I haven't decided who I'll be supporting for the open Place 3 on the Austin City Council, but I must say that I've been impressed with the work of Rick Cofer over at the Gregg Knaupe blog. Good stuff there.

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January 29, 2005

Early Austin City Council Handicapping

By Byron LaMasters

Coming up this April are three Austin City Council races. While both Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman are term-limited, Austin has an embarrassment of riches to replace them. In the third race (Place 4), Betty Dunkerly shouldn't have too much trouble winning a second term.

One of the open seats (Place 1) will likely go to Lee Leffingwell, who has a healthy lead in money raised and name identification in one of the races. The other race (Place 3) is still rather wide open at this point. The View From the Left has this to say:

It appears the only real race (sorry, Jennifer) will be in Place 3, with Gregg Knaupe, Jennifer Kim, Mandy Dealey (who lost to Ann Kitchen in the Democratic Primary for State Rep District 48 in 2000) and the annointed front-runner Margot Clarke, who lost to current Councilman Brewster McCracken in a run-off in 2003. There's no way Clarke can pull this off without a run-off. I look for either Knaupe (who is excellently qualified for the council post having worked for the Texas Hospital Associationor and orchestrating last year's Healthcare District victory) or Kim to join her in the run-off, with Clarke probably winning in the end.

I'd say that Clarke is probably the frontrunner at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised if Knaupe leads the first round of voting. Clarke led the first round of voting two years ago largely becuase she was the only female candidate in a field of eight. She had a strong central Austin base, but she failed to expand beyond that base in the run-off. I'm skeptical of Clarke's ability to change that this year. Dealey has the ability to self-finance much of her race, so it would not surprise me if she sneaks her way into the run-off as well. Kim is a good candidate that in another year might have a decent shot, but I expect her to trail in name identification this time around even though she currently leads in fundraising. All four candidates have strong Democratic credentials, and Austin would be well served by any of the four.

Margot Clarke
Mandy Dealey
Greg Knaupe | Blog
Jennifer Kim

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January 27, 2005

Have a happy not-partisan! day

By Jim Dallas

Sure, sure, the Heflin-Vo contest hearing is at 9 a.m. in the Capitol (see it here). And for the last time, this committee will not be swayed by partisanship!!!!

In other not-partisan! news, the Houston Chronicle tells us about Rep. Martha Wong's dedication to seeing that the capitol driveway be made a shrine to Ronald Reagan, instead of someone from, you know, Texas.

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January 23, 2005


By Jim Dallas

Newsweek updates on the somewhat-overlooked story involving Judge Crain, Alberto Gonazles, and George Bush's non-answer answer on his 1996 jury information sheet.

Arguably, this is a minor issue, but if they could call Clinton's alleged indiscretions "Troopergate," well, I guess I can call this "Craingate."

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January 05, 2005

Update on the Withdraw of Jack Stick's Contest

By Byron LaMasters

KXAN has an article with more details here. Stick is still whining that too many people voted, but he's at least sort of accepting the results of the election now.

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Judge Mack Kidd

By Byron LaMasters

I didn't know him, but he was the former Travis County Democratic Party Chair, and was serving as a Justice of the 3rd District, Court of Appeals in Austin. Here's the message from the current Travis County Democratic Chair Chris Elliott on Judge Mack Kidd:

Tuesday, January 4, 2005 Travis County Loses a Great Man and a Great Democrat With the sudden passing of Mack Kidd, Justice of the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Austin, Travis County has lost one of its finest jurists and a loyal Democrat. "Justice Kidd was a great judge, a staunch Democrat and, most of all, a wonderful human being," said Travis County Democratic Party chair Chris Elliott. "It was my great pleasure to know Mack on a personal as well as a professional level. It is difficult to convey how much respect I had for him." Justice Kidd was a former chair of the Travis County Democratic Party and was active in local, state, and national Democratic Party affairs. But, says Elliott, he left his politics at the courtroom door. "While Judge Kidd was a proud Democrat, he did not let politics enter into his decisions on the 3rd Court of Appeals," said Elliott. "He had a keen sense of justice and applied that to his work on the Court. He will be greatly missed."

The makeup of the 3rd Court of appeals remained three Democrats and three Republicans after the 2004 elections where Democrat Jan Patterson and Repulican Bob Pemberton retained their seats. Rick Perry will surely appoint a Republican to shift the balance of the court to 4-2 GOP.

Update: More at Grits for Breakfast. I certainly join Grits in wishing the family of Judge Kidd my condolences.

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December 23, 2004

Dell Rocks- A Merry Christmas Type of Story

By Andrew Dobbs

I categorized this as "Austin City Limits" as Dell is one of the largest employers in the Austin area, bringing in thousands of jobs and lots of revenue for our fair city (and Dell's actual home- Round Rock). I just saw this story and it brightened my day a little bit. It's good news two days before the best day of the year (IMHO).

Dell bucks the outsourcing trend

Dell's dazzlingly efficient assembly plant here may be the best hope for keeping blue-collar jobs in the United States rather than exporting them.

Inside Dell, the world's largest computer maker, executives study the assembly process with great intensity. They wheel in video equipment to examine a work team's every movement, looking for any extraneous bends or wasted twists. (...)

"When everybody is outsourcing, Dell continues to manufacture in the United States because over two decades of fine-tuning, they've figured out how to do it cheaper and smarter," said Charles Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Co. who has been following Dell since 1991. (He has also been reaping the financial rewards as a longtime Dell shareholder, seeing a 33-fold return on his investment.) "They're truly in the 21st century when it comes to manufacturing."

No other major computer maker produces computers in the United States. Long ago, Dell's top rival, Hewlett-Packard, outsourced the assembly of its PCs to third parties, primarily based in Asia, as did International Business Machines, the world's third-largest PC maker. And IBM, which created the PC market in 1981, is leaving the business, announcing this month that it is selling its PC unit to Lenovo, the Chinese computer giant.

"It's been a long time since one of our competitors actually made a computer," said Michael Dell, the founder and chairman of Dell.

His company, by contrast, operates three giant assembly plants in the United States - two in Austin and the third near Nashville, Tennessee. Each is large enough to house six contiguous football fields. Last month, the company announced that it would build a fourth plant, twice as big as the others, near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Inside the company, executives talk about opening a fifth.

Dell's decision to expand its American manufacturing presence, however, has nothing to do with patriotism. Executives here say their decisions are based on the bottom line as well as on geography; it is simply more efficient to stamp out computer equipment closer to the customer.

Dell has run a factory in Xiamen, China, since 1998 - but to produce computer equipment that the company sells to its Asian customers. Similarly, Dell's factory in Limerick, Ireland, makes machines for Europe. This month, Dell announced that his company would probably build a second European plant soon.

Dell is also bucking global trends on another front. In an era when a call center is more likely to be in India than Indiana, the company has announced that it is building a customer assistance facility in Oklahoma City. This year, it opened a call center in Edmonton, Alberta. And while Dell's laptops are produced in Malaysia, they are built by Dell employees working inside a Dell-owned factory.

Ever since 1984, when Michael Dell began selling personal computers from his University of Texas dormitory room, his company has been able to sell cheaper PCs by cutting out the middleman, selling directly via the phone or, nowadays, the Internet. But the reason Dell continues to dominate as a low-cost leader - whether selling a PC, a server or, more recently, plasma televisions and portable music players - is its fanatical determination to save every penny it can. Dell may not quite be the Henry Ford of our time, but his company is certainly the Wal-Mart of the high-technology industry, for better or worse.

I forgot some elipses some places in there and the IHT's website is screwy so copying and pasting was weird, but read the whole thing. They produce every part of every computer sold in the US right here in the US. They have all of the US customer support right here in the US. They are creating jobs, and guess what? They are are raking in the dough. Good old fashioned business sense is trumping the reckless policies of their competitors and Austinites (not to mention Nashvillians and whatever you call people from Oklahoma City) are benefitting.

Pretty good for a guy who dropped out of the college we go (went) to...

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December 06, 2004

Retire the Debt

By Byron LaMasters

You have until December 11th to help retire the debt of State Rep.-Elect Mark Strama (D-Austin)... and don't forget he has to defend his 550+ vote election victory in the GOP state house from Jack Stick's bullshit contest. So donate online or attend the debt retirement party tomorrow night:


Fundraiser for State Representative-elect Mark Strama

Tuesday, December 7, 2004
6:00 - 8:00 pm
2802 Stratford Drive, 78746 at the home of Deborah and Larry Peel
Call 512- 832 - 9190 to RSVP
Tickets: $150 · $250 · $500 · $1000

You're invited to a fundraiser for State Representative-elect Mark
Strama to celebrate Mark's victory and help him retire a substantial
campaign debt in advance of the legislative session.

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November 22, 2004

Instant Runoff Austin?

By Byron LaMasters

I generally support the idea of instant runoff voting. It's a good way of allowing third parties (or alternative voices in the case of city elections) into the political process without being a spoiler. Also, it would avoid the need (and the cost) of runoff elections. So check out Instant Runoff Austin. Via Sarah.

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November 11, 2004

Wingnut Values in Austin, TX?

By Byron LaMasters

Say it ain't so.

Apparently, airing Saving Private Ryan on Veterans Day is controversial in this Jesusland country we live in now.

E! Online reports that Austin is among the targets. Tom Coburn out to be happy. It looks like the American Family Association is behind this FCC fear-mongering. Do they hate our veterans?

Anyway, if you want to complain to Austin's ABC affiliate KVUE, go here. Anyone have their phone number?

Update: All Belo stations decided to not air Saving Private Ryan. Contact your local station here to complain. Here's the KVUE human resources guy listed:

Austin, Texas
John McThompson

And the Belo people:

Belo Corporate Headquarters
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Sheila Hartley

Belo Interactive
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Julia Wyman

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November 06, 2004

Travis County Ballots

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Travis County Clerk's Elections Division has completed the analysis of overseas ballots that are still eligible to be received and counted in the November 2, 2004, election contests involving the State Representative, District 48, and State Representative, District 50.

In District 48 , there are 224 Overseas Ballots that are eligible to be counted if received by Sun., November 7. In District 50, there are 189 Overseas Ballots that are eligible.

As previously announced, there are additional provisional ballots being reviewed to determine their eligibility. In District 48, there were a total of 163 provisional ballots cast in Early Voting and on Election Day. In District 50, there were a total of 256 provisional ballots cast in Early Voting and on Election Day.

Thus, in District 48, there is a maximum of 387 ballots that could possibly be eligible to be counted in this contest. In District 50, there is a maximum of 445 ballots that could possibly be eligible to be counted in this contest.

District 48 Margin of defeat for Kelly White before these ballots are counted= 171. There are enough ballots to make up the margin. White is also asking and paying for a recount. Cost=$30,000. You can still donate.

District 50 Margin of victory for Mark Strama= 556. There are not enough ballots, even if all went to Stick to make up the margin.

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November 03, 2004

Patterson, Pemberton Win

By Byron LaMasters

Democrats held their ground in the 3rd Court of Appeals District. Diane Henson nearly picked off a seat, and Jan Patterson held her seat in the sprawling multicounty district. Both Patterson (D) and Pemberton (R) retained their seats by similar three-point margins.

Here's the numbers:

Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District, Place 4
Bill Green REP 361,768 48.23%
Jan Patterson (I) DEM 388,370 51.77%

Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District, Place 6 - Unexpired Term
Bob Pemberton (I) REP 385,573 51.56%
Diane Henson DEM 362,312 48.44%

Jan Patterson can thank Travis County for her victory. We gave her an 82,000 vote margin in her 27,000 vote victory.

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Democrats Sweep Travis County

By Byron LaMasters

Good news out of Travis County tonight. Once again, Democrats swept all countywide races (PDF file). Two great candidates that I've had the opportunity to get to know over the past months have won countywide races tonight -- Stephen Yelenosky and Greg Hamilton:

District Judge, 345th District:
Patrick Keel (REP) 44.29% 147,391
Stephen Yelenosky (DEM) 55.71% 185,397

Travis County Sheriff:
Duane McNeill (REP) 39.26% 131,703
Greg Hamilton (DEM) 55.56% 186,376
Allan Juranek (LIB) 5.19% 17,396

I'm a bit surprised with the Libertarian numbers in the sheriff's race. Very intersting.

Another Democratic pick-up in Travis County is the Precinct 3 Constable race - a bit of a surprise in a relatively GOP precinct:

Thornton Keel (REP) 46.80% 29,819
Richard T. McCain (DEM) 53.20% 33,901

That's good news. The Keel name doesn't mean a damn thing. Both of State Rep. Terry Keel's brothers -- Patrick and Thornton Keel went down in defeat tonight.

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November 02, 2004

Where do you Vote?

By Byron LaMasters

If you live in Travis County, it's easy. If you've misplaced your voter registration card, find out your precinct here.

To find out where your precinct votes click here.

It's pretty simple. I've already told three people where to vote today that have randomly called me, because they know I'm a political dork. One of my friends from Houston called in sick to work, and is driving to Austin today to vote after being turned away from his polling location in Houston (he thought that he had changed his registration, but the Harris County people didn't have a record of it). This guy isn't very politically involved, but there was no question that he would drive to Austin to cast his vote -- even though we're not a swing state, and he's not even in a swing district. All over, I'm reading stories of people who are dedicated to voting no matter what. That's a great thing for democracy.

Another friend of mine lives in Mark Strama's district, and I told him where his voting location is. I'm begining to think that I can run a pretty effective GOTV opperation with my cell phone and an Internet connection with AOL instant messenger.

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October 29, 2004


By Jim Dallas

It's been a few months since I've last been in Austin. I just got here on the bus from Houston and am bumming around the UT campus for a few hours.


First of all, I would like to thank Capitol Metro for your wonderful bus service. Yes, we have buses in Houston, and indeed we have a very spiffy-but-somewhat-accident-prone light rail. But you could get married and divorced - twice! - waiting for a bus to come in Houston.

Second, I saw lots of Kerry signs and that is good. I also saw some signs put out by the TCDP saying, among other things, "Republican Redistricting tore Austin Apart", "Tell Baxter and Stick to Return the Illegal Money", and "Women make the difference!"

Except, this being Austin, I'd have had the sign say:

"Women and men-who-dress-like-women make the difference!"

But there's only so much you can hope for.

As usual, there aren't too many smiling faces on the Duval #7 bus. There never were. But in positive news, I hear that some dudes up in Hyde Park are very close to building the world's first angst-powered automobile.

They finally finished some new buildings at UT. Unfortunately, they've started new useless construction projects. I think there is a univesal principle known as the "Conservation of Construction."

Whoever decided to pick that new type-face for the Daily Texan headlines made a mistake; by this I mean that skinny, curvy, sans serif font they're using. I think it's called "Lame-O Condensed" or maybe "Weenie Extra Weak."

People vote here like it's going out of style. There is a massive line here at the UGL (where I'm dropping by to make some e-mails on the public internet terminal). I voted here at the UGL in 2000. There was NOT a line four years ago.

Burnt orange-colored everything. The number one reason I love Austin.

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October 21, 2004

Redistricting Flash Mob

By Byron LaMasters

This is where I'll be headed through on my way home from class tomorrow (via email):

Protest Redistricting!!! Location: Intersection of Guadalupe and 38th Begins: Friday 22 October 2004 12:00pm Ends: Friday 22 October 2004 12:40pm

Join us and Austin For Change at noon to protest redistricting! Come with your favorite Democrat sign, make some noise, and be on the news!

We need to remind the voters of Travis County about this and GET ON
THE NEWS BEFORE THE WEEKEND to remind voters of this mess before they go
early vote this weekend.

Join us THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22 at HIGH NOON...and where you ask?

None other than the EPICENTER of the travesty that is the rape of Travis
County-the intersection of 38th and Guadalupe.


If you live in CD 10, you will meet up near the sign on the northwest
corner for CD 10.

If you live in CD 21, you will meet up near the sign on the southwest side
for CD 21.

If you live in CD 25, you will meet up near the sign on the east side for
CD 25.


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October 20, 2004

Travis County Votes Day 2

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It's really quite amazing. I can't wait to see the rest of the state's numbers to see if it's just us or not. From the County Clerk's Office...

Travis County Early Vote

Monday: 15,983
Tuesday: 15,857

Mail Ballots received

Monday: 715
Tuesday: 976

Total Daily Vote
Monday: 16,698
Tuesday: 16,833

Total Travis Vote to Date: 33,531

A full 6.06% of this county's voters have already cast their ballots. That didn't happen until Day 5 of early vote in 2000. In fact, the very fact that Day 2's vote total is almost exactly the same as Day 1 is shocking!

It's hard to compare numbers to the 2000 and 1996 races due to the fact that in both of those years, early voting did not start on a Monday. In 1996 is was a Wednesday and in 2000, a Saturday. So you have two patterns to account for which is near impossible- what the day of the week is (weekends affect turnout) and what day of early voting it is (1st, 2nd, 3rd...).

But in any case, numbers this high are still running twice as high as past presidential years. And just think, the total early vote for Travis County in 2002 was 16,771.


And the actual data formatted like yesteday. This is Tuesday specific though...

Region Location Votes % of Total
North Northcross Mall 1 1514 9.55%
Central University of Texas 1 1298 8.19%
Southwest Randalls South Mopac 1 1147 7.23%
Northwest Randalls Research 1093 6.89%
Southwest Home Depot 968 6.10%
West Randalls Bee Caves 938 5.92%
West Randalls Lakeway 755 4.76%
South HEB South Congress 719 4.53%
Northwest HEB Four Points 692 4.36%
Central Randall's 35th Street 682 4.30%
North Randalls Parmer Lane 682 4.30%
  Mobile Voting 644 4.06%
Southeast Albertsons Stassney 605 3.82%
North Highland Mall 578 3.65%
South Randalls Ben White 563 3.55%
Central Travis County Courthouse 1 543 3.42%
Northeast Albertsons North Lamar 506 3.19%
Northeast Pflugerville County Tax Office 441 2.78%
Central Travis County Airport Office 385 2.43%
Central Fiesta Mart 361 2.28%
Southeast Albertsons Riverside 264 1.66%
East HEB East 7th 254 1.60%
East Northeast Health Center 225 1.42%
  Total 15857  
  Avg. Votes per Locale 689  

The break once again is to indicate which locations are pulling more or less than their 'fair and equal' share should every location have pulled the same number of votes, 689 in today's case.

In the Top Locations today, we see no movement in the Top 6 spots but those in 3, 4, 5, 6 all strenghtening their share. Randalls Lakeway (west) moves up 3 spots while Randalls Parmer (north) falls off the top. HEB Four Points (northwest) moves up into the Top list.

In all cases, votes cast at Central locations continues to lead yesterday and today with just over 20% of the total. North has been second both days with just under 20%. Both regions have weakened though along with East, the bottom region both days making up less than 4% of the daily vote. Southwest, West, and Northwest have all gained about 1% each of the total share in the past day.

A couple of things to remember in all this. Higher turnout tends to help Democrats as a general rule. Also, Democrats historically tend to vote in larger numbers on election day than in early voting. This is even more true as a general rule for minority voters, who like to bring out the whole family to vote at once. I'd be willing to bet that on the weekends, the three Eastern regions pick up as well.

All that said, these numbers feel good. You also don't want to see the arrangement of my spreadsheets where I'm crunching numbers. I'll keep posting the daily chart, and whatever else is up to how much time I have or what looks interesting.

And by the way, do ya'll actually like seeing these numbers and analysis? Let me know, because otherwise I'll just drop them.

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October 19, 2004

Early Vote Totals in Travis for Monday

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

From Travis County Officials come the following numbers... analysis below

Early Vote Location Monday Votes % of County Total Region of County
Northcross Mall 1 1567 9.80% North
University of Texas 1 1351 8.45% Central
Randalls South Mopac 1 1068 6.68% Southwest
Randalls Research 1014 6.34% Northwest
Home Depot 947 5.93% Southwest
Randalls Bee Caves 863 5.40% West
Randalls Parmer Lane 755 4.72% North
HEB South Congress 730 4.57% South
Randall's 35th Street 713 4.46% Central
Randalls Lakeway 698 4.37% West
Highland Mall 675 4.22% North
HEB Four Points 656 4.10% Northwest
Travis County Courthouse 1 654 4.09% Central
Mobile Voting 639 4.00%  
Albertsons Stassney 566 3.54% Southeast
Randalls Ben White 541 3.38% South
Albertsons North Lamar 491 3.07% Northeast
Travis County Airport Office 414 2.59% Central
Pflugerville County Tax Office 407 2.55% Northeast
Fiesta Mart 407 2.55% Central
HEB East 7th 328 2.05% East
Albertsons Riverside 286 1.79% Southeast
Northeast Health Center 213 1.33% East
Total 15983    
Avg. Votes per Locale 694.913    

The break in the table indicates: those above it cast more than their 'equal share' of the total vote per location, those below it, less than their 'equal share' of 694 votes.

I talked to the poll worker at the Campus UGL voting location who has run it for 10 years and she said that in all that time, this is the largest first day turnout she has ever seen by far. To think that a couple cycles back, they wanted to eliminate the UGL early vote location because it was had low turnout. (Campus precincts had 20% Nader votes, in 2000. Tack that on to the about 40% Gore vote plus increased turnout and you are looking at solid Blue numbers)

The malls, Northcross and Highland, have traditionaly been high vote locations so that isn't surprising. Highland is located still in the north central city so I would assume a tendancy toward Democratic voters. Northcross is close to Kelly White's district and the Democratic/student areas of that district (remember, early votes can be cast anywhere). I wouldn't say that is the reason for it, or that that location is usually Democratic. I'd be willing one of the other BOR writers knows that.

It does seem that the top of the list is coming from the more Republican regions of the county (North and West) but it's hard to tell beccause Pflugerville is north but swing, and West really depends on how far west you go. Central west is still swing. And all of this is codespeak in reference to Strama and White's House Campaigns which are probably going to push up total votes in those areas anyways.

There just aren't as many local competitve races in the solid Democratic Central and East parts of the county. (And the Fiesta mart listed as Central, is East of I 35 and serves a lot of the residents living farther east that are minority. So there are many things you have to be able to read into this to get at the trends.

Usually Republicans love to early vote. But it is my feel, that with such a huge early vote increase, it's not because Republicans are coming out to vote. I.E. University Democrats camping out all night to be first in line to vote as well as another story of a 96 year old man who was up to vote early to make sure he cast his ballot for John Kerry and against Bush in the case that he didn't make it to November 2.

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If You Didn't Love State Troopers Before...

By Zach Neumann

You will now. Check out this front pager from today's Daily Texan...

UT alumnus John Corvino thought it was "just some innocent kissing." He and a male friend sat talking and kissing on a park bench near the Capitol on Sept. 16, when he said a state trooper strolled by.

"It wasn't heavy kissing," said Corvino in a statement. "Just an occasional kiss mixed with lots of conversation."

According to the complaint Corvino filed against the Texas Department of Public Safety a week later, the trooper returned 20 minutes later with two others and told the pair that homosexual conduct was against Texas law.

Though the trooper allegedly identified himself to Corvino as "Trooper Carlson," the DPS would not comment on investigative proceedings, the trooper's identity or the potential ramifications of official misconduct.

"We're conducting an investigation, and at its conclusion the investigators will write a report and send it up the chain of command to see what can be done," said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange.

According to his statement, Corvino questioned the officer about the legitimacy of the confrontation.

"In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down antisodomy laws, and besides, we were just kissing," Corvino said he told the trooper.

He said the trooper repeated that he would not allow such conduct on Capitol grounds, so Corvino and his friend left the area.

Corvino said the officers "clearly needed some education on the issue" and worried the troopers might detain him or call some "nonuniformed buddies" to harm him. He also recalled recent "gay bashings" in the Austin area and said he had once been attacked himself.

"That he hoped to intimidate seems evident by his remaining silent the first time he observed us, only to return with two other troopers [all armed]," Corvino said in his statement.

This story disgusts me. Trooper Carlson should be fired.

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October 15, 2004

The Austin Chronicle Endorsements Are in

By Byron LaMasters

They pretty much mirror my own. First, I'll vote straight ticket Democratic and FOR the Capital Metro Referendum, then I'll write-in Lorenzo Sadun for Congress, then I'll go through the list and vote Libertarian in the statewide races where there's no Democrat running. That's basically the approach that the Austin Chronicle took in their endorsements this year with a few minor exceptions (they endorse one Republican, Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo - who I'd probably vote for in this race if I weren't a yellow dog Democrat, so take that for what you will.)

The Chronicle's readership is solidly motivated by Bush hatred of the Dean/Kucinich mold (not that that's a bad thing, but that alone doesn't win elections), so I was a little disappointed with the focus of their Kerry endorsement merely being anti-Bush than pro-Kerry:

President: John Kerry

No surprise to regular readers, and not a tough call. As voters approach the booth, we can either pretend the last four years have not been a national and international disaster, teetering on the brink of much worse, or we can remove the man and the team who drove the country into an aggressive and unjust war, willfully bankrupted the treasury, and used both as excuses to undermine virtually every socially progressive U.S. institution, from schools to health care to Social Security. If George W. Bush is re-elected, he and his neo-conservative handlers, feckless retreads of the worst excesses of the Reagan administration, will have no incentive to moderate their ingrained policies of imperial adventurism abroad and reckless social retrogression at home.

It's astonishing to us that any sentient progressive voter would not see the urgency of summarily evicting these reactionaries who've so abused the public trust. There has been much spilled ink over the insufficient differences between Bush and Kerry, as if the electorate is too naive to know that over the long term, our two-party duopoly needs a major overhaul. We don't entirely buy the cynicism about Kerry on literal grounds, but even so, how can it justify granting four more years to Bush & Co.? We either fight one necessary battle at time, or we surrender.

I mostly agree, but would it be too difficult to say one good thing about Kerry? He's not that bad, guys. It's not like Joe Lieberman won the nomination, and everyone on the left would have to enter the voting booth with a clothespin on their nose. There's a very substantive case to make for John Kerry to just about any mainstream, moderate, independent or left/liberal leaning audience without even mentioning or attacking Bush once. Of course, criticism of Bush is a large part of the Democratic case, but I like to see endorsements that balance both a reason to vote for a candidate in addition to the reasons to vote against the other.

Downballot, the Chronicle reminds us why to vote for those Libertarians running for the Court of Criminal Appeals in the races without a Democrat on the ballot:

Court of Criminal Appeals

Place 2: Quanah Parker
Place 5: Tom Oxford
Place 6: J.R. Molina

Incumbent Republican judges Lawrence Meyers (Place 2) and Cheryl Johnson (Place 5) face token opposition from Libertarian candidates Quanah Parker and Tom Oxford; Michael Keasler (Place 6) is opposed by perennial Democratic candidate J.R. Molina. None of the challengers are particularly impressive. But voters should reject any incumbent on the CCA as a matter of principle; the current court, led by presiding judge Sharon "Who Needs Evidence?" Keller, has distinguished itself largely by its hostility to any and all appellants and its willingness to rubber-stamp any lower court decision that smacks of anti-crime absolutism, whatever the broader legal or constitutional consequences. Meyers thinks the court is "as fair as it can be," and Keasler says he looks to Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for his "textualist" models. Johnson has occasionally acted as a moderating vote on the court's worst decisions, to little avail. The opponents are valiant mavericks, hoping to make a statement about the court's reactionary intransigence and its ineffectiveness at promoting equity and simple justice in the Texas judicial system.

These races don't really offer voters a choice - All three Republicans will win in landslides without breaking a sweat. But voters do have a chance to cast a protest vote in each, and I'd encourage Texans to do so.

The Chronicle has glowing endorsements (just go here and scroll down to read them) of Mark Strama, Kelly White, Jan Patterson and Diane Henson (for the 24-county 3rd Court of Appeals), Stephen Yelenosky (running against the only Republican countywide officeholder, a Perry-appointee for the 345th District Court), Greg Hamilton (in the open sheriff's race), and also for the Capital Metro Referendum. I haven't focused too much on the Capital Metro Referendum, because it's widely expected to pass, and unlike the narrowly defeated light-rail plan in 2000, it's not very controversial. Here's what the Chronicle says:

Capital Metro Referendum: For

How do we put this nicely? If you don't vote for this rail plan, Capital Metro is doomed. Yes, this plan is excessively cautious and modest. Yes, it really sucks that Cap Metro has been put in this box. But in the box it remains, and unless rail wins, that box is going in the trash, and we can give up any hope that Austin will ever have a transportation system (or land-use pattern) that isn't totally dependent on the automobile. We believe this to the depths of our souls, and we hope you do as well.

Overall, solid picks as usual for the Chronicle. They wear their partisanship on their sleave, but their readership is primarily south and central Austin, and well, that's what we like to hear.

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October 12, 2004

Travis Voter Registration

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Just another update on the last day of voter registration here in Travis County. The latest figures I have heard now put the one day total at 12,571. In addition, of those voters, 47% are under the age of 25! (Partly due to the fact that around 3000 of that day's total were registered by University Democrats.

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October 08, 2004

F9/11 = Porn?

By Byron LaMasters

I guess one Williamson County Blockbuster was afraid that if they put Fahrenheit 9/11 on the shelf, it would rot kids teeth, corrupt their minds and turn them to satan.

At the Blockbuster Video store on Cypress Creek Road, if you want to rent "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's anti-Bush blockbuster, you've got to ask for it.

That's ruffled a few feathers even in heavily Republican Williamson County. And it's prompted local Democrats to ponder a protest of Phillip Patrick's store, which does display copies for sale.

"I think it's a form of censorship," said Jessica Stempko, an officer with the Williamson County Democrats, "and I think he should have the courage to offer the choice."

Even some Bush backers question the move.

"They're treating it like porn," said former City Council Member Phil Duprey. "I guess it's political porn, anyway. Hiding it behind the counter is not good retailing."

I did a little bit of research, and called the Blockbuster in question. If they still had F9/11 behind the counter I was going to post their phone number and urge people to call and annoy them until it was on the shelves. But, alas, the lady I spoke with told me that it had been put on the shelves. So, I'll let the issue rest.

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October 03, 2004

Protest DeLay in Austin

By Karl-Thomas Musselman


DATE: Monday, October 4, 2004
TIME: 11:00 a.m.
PLACE: The Austin Club, 110 East 9th St.

It’s almost unimaginable that Tom DeLay would have the nerve to cross
the Austin city limits, but he’s coming to town to RAISE MONEY, of all
things. He'll be meeting with fat cat donors at the Austin Club, and
we’d like to let him know just how much we appreciate all he's done for
Travis County.

Austinites are planning to show up at the Austin Club to protest DeLay
and his pest controllers at TRMPAC. Republican State Reps. Jack Stick
and Todd Baxter, who are currently running for re-election, are two of
DeLay's and TRMPAC’s beneficiaries and it's time to show them that
their corporate funded schemes will no longer be tolerated.

Let's make a bold stand against Tom DeLay and the puppet Republicans he
controls in Travis County. We must show Texas that Travis County will
never accept DeLay and the Republicans soul less politics of deceit and
help turn the tide against him and his corporate donors for good.

So let's greet Mr. DeLay as he comes out ................

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September 30, 2004

Thank You, Austin!

By Byron LaMasters

This is cool. I found out this morning that we won the Austin Chronicle: Best of 2004 for Best Political Blog by the Austin Chronicle readers. So, a very special thank you to the BOR co-bloggers, my family, my friends, our readers, our commenters (especially our right-wing friends that enliven this place with their always pithy, and sometimes snarky remarks), our linkers, my sixth grade teacher, my parents rabbit, my parents rabbit that didn't make it, and well anyone else that deserves to be thanked. Here we go:

Best Local Political Blog

Burnt Orange Report

Named (natch) for the 40 Acres' famous colors, the Burnt Orange Report has quickly risen to stand toe-to-toe with some of the Blogosphere's biggest. Its exhaustive list of progressive resources is a blessed boon for those feeling a bit "bushed" from the last four year of Republican stranglehold. Founded a year and a half ago by Byron LaMasters and Jim Dallas, with Andrew Dobbs and Karl Thomas coming onboard later, these UT Dems are a much needed anathema to the Young Conservatives of Texas.

I'll have to email them a quick correction, giving them Karl-Thomas's full name, and making sure that they know that he was the delegate, whereas I only attended the DNC Convention due to the good graces of whoever decided to credential bloggers. But anyway, thanks as always for reading BOR, and let us know what else you'd like to see from us.

More on the Best of Austin in the extended entry

Other winners of note:

Best Scandal

Governor Rick Perry Is Gay

Initially cranked out by multiple and seemingly credible sources, then running on the fumes of wishful thinking (well, he is awfully cute), this rumor far
outlived its expiration date, keeping pub and watercooler conversations lively – as well as a few news outlets. What was amazing was how fast it spread – across Austin, around Texas, and throughout the country. It ended up offering more insight on those who spread it than it did on the governor, because although it had no basis in fact that anyone could determine, some wanted it to be true so badly they spread it anyway.

My only comment here is that I may have called Governor Perry many things, but cute is not one of them. Although, I must add, he does have mighty good hair.

Best Elected Official

Lloyd Doggett

After years of being part of the local landscape Doggett really needed to feel your love this year, after redistricting put him at genuine risk for the first time in his House career. And love there was; barring an act of God, Doggett's career representing Austinites will continue into its fourth decade in November.


Best GLBT Leader

TIE: Bettie Naylor, Randall Ellis

Two of the hardest-working activists in the scope of GLBT rights, it is an incredible honor that we can call them our own. For those new to town, meet LGRL's director Randall Ellis and lobbyist Bettie Naylor, two Texas stars from two generations of Lone Star activism. Naylor's fire was lit during the early feminist movement and she's been flaming ever since. Naylor was the first lobbyist that LGRL ever hired to chat up lawmakers at the Lege, and Lord knows she can tell you some tales about those days. But right now she's too busy working on the future. Ellis joined LGRL two years ago and really hit the ground running. His mobilizing skills have been proven time and again. Of course, he was already wise to the corridors of power after serving a stint as aide to gay-friendly Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman. Though they travel in different circles, this charming, well-coiffed duo has been instrumental in the fight to retain the dignity and stature of the GLBT community in an era when Dubya is trying desperately to revoke their rights and send queer folk back into the closet as second-class citizens. With Ellis and Naylor duo in our corner, that will never happen.

Ditto to my thoughts regarding Lloyd Doggett. Randall Ellis is a tireless advocate for LGRL. I've spent time working with him up close, and he came on the job with LGRL soon before the 2003 legislative session, and managed to organize a phenomenal campaign to defeat a proposed ban on gay adoption and foster parenting. Bettie Naylor has been fighting for GLBT equality just as long as about anyone, and while I'm not sure how old she is now, she still has the energy of someone in their 20s or 30s. I absolutely have tons of respect for her.

Another winner hit close to home, as I live about 250 feet from the dividing line of three congressional districts, across the street from the Marimont Cafeteria:

Best Place to Digest Redistricting

Marimont Cafeteria

You can count on the elderly for two things: getting out the vote and getting in the dinner line before 5:30pm. The local nexus of the two lies at Austin's hallowed Marimont Cafeteria. Like a tubby kid ogling the pie cart, the newly Repub majority Lege of 2003 decided to carve up Texas' congressional districts like so much roast beef as to neuter yellow dog Lloyd Doggett, entrench Tom "Bug Man" DeLay's dominion over his district, and Perrymander themselves extra seats in the process. Therefore, Austin got Ronco'd, with Marimont Cafeteria on 38th and Guadalupe serving as the new meeting point for districts 10, 21, and 25, with none drawn in a way to truly represent the capital city. So as you enjoy their from-scratch specials, remember: The best thing about a cafeteria is the lack of DeLay.

Other bloggers recognized include:

  • Beth Westbrook (Best Local Blogger - readers) - An Austin transgender activist who passed away this summer. I hadn't read her blog before, but I'll definitely give it a look.
  • Prentiss Riddle (Best Austin Blogger - critics) - another blog I'll have to check out. It looks interesting from first glance.

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September 29, 2004

UT Ad and Democratic Ruminations

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The University of Texas has an awesome new ad they have produced. You can see it from this page.

It was made by GSD&M, a major advertising company here in Austin. Each of those letters stands of name of the major workers/players in the company, some of which are Democratic. The S is Roy Spence, quoted in the article, whose name has been bandied about the Capitol City a number of times in reference to a possible bid of Texas Governor.

His quote about that ad is what I would love to see as part of a Texas political campaign...

The spot, produced in conjunction with the strategic planning and positioning firm GSD&M Advertising, is the first in a series of seven “image” ads that will debut this year.

The series will incorporate a new theme, “What Starts Here Changes the World,” developed by the university’s Office of Public Affairs and the Center for Brand Research in concert with GSD&M, in a year-long project led by Advertising Professors Neal Burns and Deborah Morrison.

“Austin, Texas is the ‘City of Ideas’—a city that brings the doers and dreamers together to see new things, dream new dreams and create things and experiences that make a difference,” said Roy Spence, founder and president of GSD&M Advertising.

“The heartbeat of this City of Ideas is the University of Texas, a place of learning, discovery, leadership, freedom and responsibility, where everyone is a student of both our proud heritage as well as a seeker of what is next. The University of Texas and the City of Ideas, working, living and learning together. What starts here changes the world—that is what this new campaign for the University of Texas is all about.”

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September 28, 2004

Travis Co. Voter Reg. Up 64% over 4 years ago

By Byron LaMasters

More good news regarding voter registration. Democratic-leaning areas everywhere are seeing huge increases in voter registration, and Austin is no exception. The New York Times studied top Democratic and Republican precincts in Florida and Ohio a few days ago, and showed that the Democratic registration has increased considerably more than has registration in predominantly GOP districts.

I reported last week that Travis County voter registration was up significantly over 2000, and the Austin American Statesman has more this week:

With five weeks to go before the presidential election, Travis County residents are registering to vote in record numbers.

Since Sept. 1, the county tax office has received 29,865 voter registration applications, a 64 percent jump from the 18,207 received during the same period in September 2000.

The applications come from first-time voters as well as registered voters who are reporting name and address changes.

Travis County typically leans Democratic.

And from the department of *duh*:

Bystanders can only guess at reasons behind the skyrocketing numbers. The election year agenda certainly has plenty of hot-ticket items that could pique voter interest: the war, the economy and gay marriage, just to name a few. Such topics could attract voters of all ages and political persuasions.

But Dolores Lopez, director of voter registration for the Travis County tax office, suspects younger people are behind the pumped-up registration numbers.

"I suspect it's them, just from the people coming into our office," she said. "A lot of our volunteer deputy registrars who are out registering at events are young people."

Of course, it's younger voters. Younger voters move the most, and vote the least. Thus, they're most likely to not be registered, or be registered at an old address. Thus, in an election where there are clear issues that effect young people (i.e. Iraq war, tuition deregulation, jobs, etc.), young people are more likely to register to vote in larger numbers than any other group. The numbers show that 50% of new registrations are under 30, and 39% are under 25.

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September 27, 2004

Texas Vets for Kerry in Austin Tomorrow

By Byron LaMasters


Via Texas Democratic Party Press Release

Veterans from across the state of Texas are coming to Austin Tuesday, September 28, to express their support for fellow combat veteran John Kerry’s Presidential campaign.

The veterans caravan will arrive in Austin at 4 pm Tuesday at the Airport Hilton, where they will rendezvous with Austin area veterans who will escort them to Wooldridge Park at 900 Guadalupe for a 5 pm press conference. State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos will welcome the group to Austin, and they will take questions from the media. (In case of rain, the press conference will be held at the Texas AFL-CIO building, 1106 Lavaca.)

Following the press conference, the Travis County Democratic Party will host the veterans at a major rally at Scholz Garden, 1607 San Jacinto, from 6:30 to 10 pm. Many of our local Democratic legislators and Democratic candidates will be speaking at the rally, in addition to some great live music, food, and drinks.

“Our caravan is a caravan of hope for our great country,” said Rick
Bolanos of El Paso, one of the organizers of the caravan. “A caravan
of hope for peace in Iraq and hope for a stronger and more caring

In addition to other Texas veterans, Bolanos will be joined on the
caravan by his three brothers – Louis, Ben, and Bill – who have the
distinction of being the only family in America to have four brothers
serve in Vietnam at the same time. The Bolanos brothers were cited for
their patriotism by President Lyndon Johnson.

The caravan, which begins Friday, September 24, with a morning press
conference in San Antonio and an evening rally in Laredo, will hold
events in 15 Texas cities on its way to its final Texas rally October 2
in El Paso. From El Paso, the caravan will roll across New Mexico,
Arizona, and California before its final rally next month in San

The other Texas cities holding events are McAllen, Harlingen,
Kingsville, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, College Station,
Waco, Killeen, Dallas, Fort Worth, Abilene, and Midland. This is a
grass roots caravan supported by Veterans for America, Texas Democratic
Veterans, and Hispanics for America. For more information on the press
conference and rally, please call Todd Phelan at 512-443-2021.

“Senator John Kerry is a true patriot who passionately and fervently
loves this nation,” Bolanos said. “Hundreds of thousands of us are fed
up with the Bush administration’s treatment of veterans and the
maligning of patriots who served with valor. We are tired of this and
we must unite to stop it.”

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September 22, 2004

Sweep Travis County

By Byron LaMasters

I'm confident Democrats will carry Travis County for John Kerry and sweep the countywides. Right now our state house delegation is 3-3. It can be 5-1 Democratic. Travis County is a Democratic county and a fair balance of Dem vs. GOP representation in the state house would be 4-2 Democratic (it was 4-1 Democratic before the 2001 redistricting). But instead of creating a new Republican seat (the fair thing to do), Republican redistricters destroyed one Democratic seat, and created two new marginal Republican seats. Well, they overreached, and in order to create three Republican state rep seats in Travis county, they had to overstretch their Republican voters. Thus, both Republican state reps elected in 2002 are susceptible to strong Democratic challengers. And that's what both Jack Stick and Todd Baxter got.

So, check out the profiles of both races in the Austin American Statesman today:

Stick vs. Strama.
Baxter vs. White.

Show Tom DeLay's corrupt puppets the door:

Give to Mark Strama
Give to Kelly White.

Via Off the Kuff.

Update: Here's the latest on Todd Baxter Follies from a reader following the race:

Todd Baxter has lost his mind. He's going around saying that more Texas children have health insurance now than ever before. We have no idea where he's getting this information from, particularly as every responsible authority (i.e. Children's Defense Fund, Center for Public Policy Priorities) is saying the exact opposite. From what we can see, he's just pulling it right out of thin air- it's a blatant lie.

Todd Baxter has flip-flopped on just about every issue facing Travis County. Local political observers will tell you that when he was on the Travis County Commissioners Court, he voted "present" more than anyone else. I guess when you can't flip-flop, it's best to just not take a position.

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Voter Registration

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The report from this weekend's Austin City Limits fest is that we registered 876 people here in Travis County to vote.

Also, the University Democrats are now up to around 2,300 registered by organization members. (Meeting tonight at 8 pm in GAR 1 to phone bank to Arizona! Bring those phones and laptops.)

That leave 12 more days to register voters here in Texas. Now is the time, if you are not registered, register. If you can register others, do so.


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September 20, 2004

Phenomenal Voter Reg. Numbers from Travis County

By Byron LaMasters

Between March 9th and September 18th of this year 41,400 people registered to vote in Travis County.

Of those 41,400 new voters, 50% are under 30, and 39% under the age of 25.

This is nearly twice the number of voters registered in Travis during the last presidential election year. During this period in 2000, there were 25,100 voters who registered. Of those new registered voters, 59% cast a ballot.

Local Democratic organizers expect another 20,000 voter registrations in the final two weeks of registration before the October 4th deadline.

I am extremely optimistic about Democrats prospects in Travis County. In 2000, George W. Bush won Travis County 47%-43% (10% for Nader). That year, there were two key trends among voters that are absent this year. First, Ralph Nader was on the ballot, many liberals saw little difference between Bush and Gore, and thus since Texas was not a swing state, many liberal voters cast a Nader protest vote. Second, despite getting roughed up some in the 2000 campaign, many Texas Democrats still saw George W. Bush as their popular homestate governor. This year however, many longtime Austin activists will tell you that the Democratic base is more energized than they have seen in a decade or two.

It would not surprise me to see Kerry approach (or even top) 60% of the vote countywide. I'd be shocked if Democrats don't sweep the countywides as well. The real question will be the two hotly contested state representative races in the northern part of the county (Strama and White). Both are marginally Republican districts, but full of moderate suburbanites who often split their tickets.

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September 17, 2004

Run Against Bush in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

Tomorrow is National Run Against Bush Day.

Details for the Austin event:

"Run Against Bush on Saturday, September 18, 8 AM at Town Lake by the Hyatt. Participants are encouraged to wear Kerry / Edwards T-shirts (there will be Run Against Bush T-shirts available for purchase). For more info, call 281.221.1987 ot email tatroe02@yahoo.com".

I don't think I'll make it up at 8 AM tomorrow, but I'm planning on block walking later in the morning for some local candidates.

More about Run Against Bush here.

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Kelly White News

By Byron LaMasters

I wouldn't want the Kelly White campaign to feel left out after posting about Mark Strama, so here's the latest with her campaign:

Kelly White wrote a letter to incumbent state representative Republican Todd Baxter yesterday. I have a rough copy of the letter in the extended entry:

Dear Representative Baxter,

I am writing to you about a matter of great concern to myself and many concerned citizens in Texas, including the constituents of House District 48.

As you know, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is leading an ongoing criminal investigation into U.S. Representative Tom Delay and the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee (TRMPAC) and their connection to donations received by you and five other Republican candidates in the 2002 election.

Part of this investigation is to determine whether the $35,000 you received on October 2, 2002, from the Republican National Committee was part of a money-laundering scheme by TRMPAC to funnel illegal corporate contributions into the campaign coffers of Republican candidates.

You have been quoted as saying that "Public service is a wonderful honor and it means a great deal to me to have your support and trust as I serve you in the Texas Legislature." If this is true, Todd, then I maintain that you owe it to the people of District 48 to demonstrate your responsibility as a public servant and do the right thing.

Many were interested to read in the Houston Chronicle that even Congressman Delay himself has told supporters that he "fully anticipate(s)" indictments to occur. In light of the continuing controversy and questions surrounding this situation, I call on you today to take the $35,000 in question and make a donation in the name of your constituents to a charity that serves our community. A health clinic such as People's Community Clinic in Austin is certainly one such worthy organization. Your $35,000 contribution will send a clear message to the voters that you intend to run a clean campaign - devoid of contributions that are in any way connected with questionable behavior and/or possible indictments.

What is more, by giving to a health clinic, your contribution will go towards filling the gap in care that was created when you voted to take 147,000 Texas children off the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2002, more than 1.4 million Texas children were uninsured. Your vote has made the children's health matter worse. Unfortunately, $35,000 will only begin to help, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

As you are a public official who states that he holds the trust of his constituents in highest regard, I hope you will do the honorable thing to remove any hint of impropriety from your record.

I appreciate your consideration of my request.

Kelly White

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Jack Stick is Getting Desperate

By Byron LaMasters

Back to Texas State Rep races for a minute here. I just made a $20 donation to Mark Strama - you should, too. He's one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party and deserves your support. Here's the latest with his race...

State Rep. Jack Stick (R-Austin) just doesn't seem to understand why local business leaders are supporting his opponent, Democrat Mark Strama. The Austin Chronicle has the latest:

In his lengthy tenure as a mover and shaker in Texas business and politics, Lowell Lebermann has been called a lot of things, but "anti-business" is not one of them. That is, not until earlier this month, when state Rep. Jack Stick referred to Lebermann and other business leaders in that vein. It happens that the group of local boosters is supporting Democrat Mark Strama's bid to unseat Stick in the District 50 legislative race. The bunch of ne'er-do-wells, in addition to Lebermann, includes former Dell CFO Tom Meredith, GSD&M advertising President Roy Spence, PR guru and former chamber Chair Kerry Tate, and ex-mayor and chamber Chair-Elect Kirk Watson. Theirs and other names of pro-business people appear on an invitation to a meet-and-greet event for Strama, to be held Sept. 21 at the Austin Club.

In response, Stick sent a letter to many of the same lobbyists and potential donors on Strama's invitation list, warning them not to fall for his challenger's dirty tricks. "That fundraising letter," Stick pointed out, was "signed by some of the most liberal anti-job growth, anti-business, anti-conservative activists in the state." He added, "You'll learn more about some of my opponent's 'John Kerry' behaviors in the days to come."

The article notes that Strama supporting business leaders fired back with a letter citing their work to create thousands of jobs in Texas - which is true.

I mean, who are these "liberal anti-job growth, anti-business, anti-conservative activists" who are supporting Mark Strama? Let's take a look:

Former Austin Mayor and Austin Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect Kirk Watson:

During his terms of office, Forbes and Fortune named Austin the best city and best place for business in America. Texas Monthly Biz magazine named him best mayor in Texas for business. He received the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s highest award for his economic development efforts and vision. Governing Magazine recognized Austin as one of the top two cities in America for the way it was governed while Watson was mayor.

GSD&M co-founder Roy Spence:

Roy Spence isn't afraid of anything.

You can see this fearlessness in young Spence back in 1971. Barely out of short pants and holding a freshly minted UT bachelor's degree in history, he and four other brand new UT graduates launched an advertising agency, Gurasich, Spence, Darilek and McClure (GSD&M).

You can see it in him the time he appeared wearing shirt, tie, boots, and underwear in a lobby full of Fortune 500 executives assembled for a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting. "Has anybody seen my pants?" he asked. The desk clerk produced his sodden trousers. They had slipped off his hanger and been found rain-soaked in the parking lot. Spence borrowed a blow dryer and, right there in the lobby, dried the pants. He put them on, and went on to a very successful meeting. You can see it in the man who, with his partners, built little GSD&M, located in the unlikely town of Austin, into a $700-million- a-year, internationally recognized powerhouse.

Former Dell CFO Tom Meredith:

Meredith most recently served as the managing director of Dell Ventures and Dell senior vice president of business development and strategy. He joined Dell in 1992 as chief financial officer and was instrumental in refining and extending Dell's highly successful direct business model.

Prior to joining Dell, Meredith was vice president and treasurer for Sun Microsystems, Inc. He was also the co-founder and general manager of Amdahl Capital Corporation. He is currently a board member for Freemarkets, Inc., Tipping Point, and several other private portfolio companies. He is also an adjunct professor of business at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas and serves on the advisory boards of both the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas.

I could go on, but the point is made. How in the hell can anyone reasonably argue that these guys are "liberal anti-job growth, anti-business" supporters? I guess ya just have to be drinking the GOP Kool-Aid.

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September 16, 2004

Austin's Next State Representatives

By Byron LaMasters

They both spoke at the University Democrats meeting last night. Also, it was announced that Democrats have registered 1720 students to vote on campus in the past three weeks:

Mark Strama on the left. Kelly White on the right. They are two of the top pick-up opportunities for Democrats in the state house.

Donate to Mark Strama.

Donate to Kelly White.

More pictures in the extended entry...

UD President Marcus Ceniceros with Mark Strama

The UT Tower last night all lit up with our favorite color.

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September 04, 2004

How to Prevent Sprawl

By Byron LaMasters

Speaking of sprawl, the Austin city council enacted some good public policy this past week regarding west campus housing. The Daily Texan reports:

The Austin City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a plan that would allow the construction of high-rise student housing in West Campus. The council postponed voting on the plan, called the University Neighborhood Overlay District, at last week's City Council meeting.

Debated since the summer of 2002 and postponed until today, the Overlay plan finally passed with amendments concerning affordable housing, streetscape specifications and parking requirements. The amendments met very little resistance.


The new district is bordered by Guadalupe Street on the east, Lamar Street on the west, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south and 29th Street on the north. It allows developers to build as high as 175 feet, but only in the blocks west of Guadalupe.

To build that high, developers must agree to improve sidewalks and lighting and plant trees.

The council declined to include an amendment supported by the Student Government to increase the plan's minimum off-street parking requirement to 80 percent of the residential population, leaving it at 60 percent.

Jerry Harris, a lawyer representing a West Campus property owner, said the city wants to encourage pedestrian usage and reduce cars in the area.

"The cost for parking spaces is very expensive, and rent for a student would have been negatively affected," Harris said.

Having more parking would be nice, but overall, allowing high-rise housing in west campus would most likely serve to lower the cost of living, and increase the amount of housing space for most students. By increasing the supply of west campus housing, either the price of housing will go down, or the quality of housing will go up in order to attract more students to live in the area. Personally, I'm glad that the amount of parking wasn't increased, because that would only serve to increase traffic, when you really don't need a car to get around if you live in west campus - I got around just fine with my bike most of my freshman year (although having a car makes getting downtown, and going out on the weekends easier).

I think that the spirit of the proposal is what makes it very good policy. No one says that you can't have a car in west campus, it's simply not encouraged. If you need a car, and you can't afford to park a car in west campus, then live on Riverside or Far West. Requiring builders to increase the amount of parking in west campus from 60% of the residential population to 80% would drastically increase the construction costs of new units, and thus increase the rent. That's unfair to the people living in west campus that don't have cars. By keeping the parking at 60% of residency, it encourages lower rent, public transportation, walking and cycling - and from personal experience, I'll argue with anyone that cycling is the most effective way of getting around central Austin.

Finally, this proposal encourages students to live close to the university and participate more in university sporting events, activities, student organizations and other parts of college life. Without encouraging high-rise units close to campus, more students will move to areas further away with lower rent. Common sense tells us that students commuting to campus are less likely to come back for events outside their classes - thus making the university a commuter school, which for a large university like the University of Texas, would take much away from the community and culture of the institution. And having a vibrant and active central city is good policy for anywhere, especially a college town like Austin.

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September 02, 2004

Vote For AISD

By Byron LaMasters

Yesterday, I voted in favor of all six of the AISD bond initiatives. I tend to categorically support almost all education funding, because one of my fundamental beliefs in government is that after defending its people, providing strong education and strong health care are the best investments that a government can make. That belief trumps most all else, including the concerns of some of the more strident environmentalists.

I'd encourage a vote for all six propositions. Early vote locations are here.

Here's what AISD is requesting from Austin voters:

Proposition 1 Tax Rate: 1.54¢ Relief for Overcrowded Schools/ Provision of Equitable Facilities District Wide • New Schools o Elementary (6) $111,547,983 NE SC SE SW Undesignated (2) o Middle (1) 35,777,119 NE • Classroom Additions 30,280,564 • Land Acquisition o Future MS sites (2) 4,962,651 SE SW o Elementary (1) 1,029,747 Undesignated Proposition 1 Total: $183,598,064

Proposition 2
Tax Rate: 1.69¢
Academic and Building Infrastructure Renovations to Safeguard Investments in District
Campuses, Facilities and Sites and Invest in Environmental Health Initiatives and Standards
• Renovations to Campuses $187,550,897
& District-Wide Facilities
• Technology 13,553,074
Proposition 2 Total: $201,103,971

Proposition 3
Tax Rate: .45¢
Safety and Security, Environmental Health and District-wide Facilities
• Safety & Security $20,954,097
• District-Wide Facilities 17,505,352
• Low-Emission Buses 13,234,166
• Asbestos 2,205,694
Proposition 3 Total: $53,899,309

Proposition 4
Tax Rate: .11¢
Athletics and Physical Education Including the Efficient Utilization of Taxpayers’ Dollars
Through Sharing Facilities Among Governmental Entities
• Interscholastic Sports Task $10,405,729
Force recommendations
• Elementary covered play slabs 2,424,781
Proposition 4 Total: $12,830,510

Proposition 5
Tax Rate: .37¢
Relief for Overcrowding and Partial Funding for a District-Wide Performing Arts Center
• Partial Funding for $7,719,706
District-Wide Performing Arts Center (PAC)
• Site for PAC 1,102,815
• New Southwest Middle School 35,777,241
Proposition 5 Total: $44,599,762

Proposition 6
Tax Rate: .49¢
Refinancing of Contractual Obligations
• Contractual Obligations $23,495,000
Proposition 6 Total: $23,495,000
Bond Proposal $519,526,616
Total Tax Rate: 4.65¢

Many Austin environmentalists oppose Prop 5. The Austin Chronicle wrote the following in opposing Prop 5:

Proposition 5: NO

Proposition 5 includes funds for a new, districtwide performing arts center and a new southwest middle school. We would support the PAC, but we have not been convinced that the district needs another southwest middle school on the edge of the aquifer's recharge zone. We believe Proposition 5 violates the spirit of SOS because it unnecessarily reinforces, by institutional inertia, developmental growth patterns that endanger the community's best values, its health, and indeed its unique character as a city. Elected officials cannot continue to throw up their hands and say, "There's nothing we can do about sprawl" – when they endorse decisions that make sprawl inevitable.

The Chronicle urges voters to reject Proposition 5.

The only problem is that if this proposition fails, and a school is not built on the aquifer recharge zone, then it is likely that an apartment complex will be built on the land. Personally, I think that soccer fields are more environmentally friendly than are parking lots that would surely accompany an apartment complex. It's a simple choice in my eyes. Not building schools won't stop sprawl. Not building schools will only lead to school overcrowding and less educational opportunities for AISD students.

Sarah says Vote No on five, as the Austin Chronicle recommends, so check out her two cents.

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September 01, 2004

Some Things you Didn't Know

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I've been meaning to post this for some time but have been busy with school starting.

Back when we had the Grassroots training here in Austin and Dean came, there were a number of people of interest that came to our evening gatherings to talk politics and such. One of which was Tom Hughes, political director for DFA. There were others, the trainers, and at this point I'm not entirely sure who said what about each of these following discoveries. So I'll put it under the category of "Things Learned That Neither You Nor I Knew Before".

First off, the Infamous Iowa Dean Scream. I was there, many of you have heard me and just about everyone else bitch about it and how the media didn't bother to include the crowd sounds and just filtered out everything. I went on and on about how in the room you might now have even heard the scream (which is still true) and the callous media didn't bother to do a 'reality' check.

Come to find out, the entire fiasco, and especially the Cable TV clips that were run over and over 100s of times might have been the fault of the Dean Iowa campaign. That night, all of those stations were plugged into the general media Pool Feed (similar to the Democratic National Convention where there was a Pool Camera just to the right of the Texas Delegation that didn't pan on us, hence why you never saw us on TV floor flyovers). Well, the Iowa Dean staff had plugged into the Pool Feed box only the mic for Dean and no feeds that were there for background crowd noise as can be done for rally like events. (Nothing is worse than having a big applause line and then hearing quiet muffled nothingness.) So in short, we screwed up, and though the Media in the grander scheme certainly isn't absolved of being at times hostile to the Dean campaign, it's not all their fault.

Second big thing, and this one is more local to Texas. These rumors concern the DA's office and the Ronny Earle investigation into Tom Delay and illegal corporate money flowing here, there, and everywhere in and out of the state of Texas in relation to influencing the 2002 Texas House elections. Apparently, they are finding out more connections that they thought they would find and the analogy given was, "each stone turned over is revealing 5 new bugs that lead to other stones with more bugs under them".

So the problem? This is taking more time than expected. As in, possibly extending the time frame of the investigation beyond that of the election cycle this fall. Which means that some candidates might not get their indictment/guilty verdicts or otherwise before Nov. 2. Because if they stop too soon, the leads dry up, and the greater goal of bringing down influential Corporate Money in Texas once and for all will not be achieved.

And now, going even more local into a race where the Republican was aided by Delay Money Funneling, Jack Stick, being challenged by Mark Strama here in northern Travis County, apparently has only recently in the last 3 weeks gone in to get his first Voter File from the County offices. There has been no active field program as of yet according to the Stick staffer who picked up the file, who unwittingly talked to a Democratic operative that he apparently didn't recognize. So all summer, as Mark Strama and his Interns have been blockwalking, phoning, and raising money up in Pflugerville, Stick has been raising some money and doing nothing.

Doesn't that make you want to donate to Strama with .01 added for BOR? Let's swing this one our way.

And there is one other tidbit I have learned but am not ready to share quite yet if at all. Let's just say that it could fall into the category of ScHrOCKING.

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August 25, 2004

DFA Recap of Dean Rally in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

Austin SDEC member Fran Vincent has a post (along with photo) of the Dean rally on Sunday on the Democracy for America blog, so check it out.

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August 22, 2004

Dean in Austin Again

By Byron LaMasters

I've been busy moving in to my apartment and getting ready for school, so I'll be catching up on blogging over the few days here, so I wasn't able to make it to the Dean event, but here's what happened earlier today:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made a stop in Austin Sunday to motivate Texas Democrats to take back the White House.

Hundreds of supporters showed up at Huston-Tillotson College in East Austin to hear Dean's message. They call themselves Deaniacs for Kerry - supporters who believe Dean is making an impact on Texas Democrats.

"Howard Dean got us energized, and I think we are tired of what's going on and we're finally saying enough's enough. We're gonna' take it back," Austin Democrat Joene Grissom said.

The crux of Dean's message is that Democrats need to take back Texas by relying on grassroots organizing.

"We've been away from that too long, and I'm pretty optimistic. I don't want to give up on places like Texas," Dean said.

Dean showed his support for candidates on the Dean's Dozen list - people like Richard Morrison, who is running against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and David Van Os, who is running for Texas Supreme Court Judge.

The rest here.

Meanwhile, Dean stumped in Houston yesterday for Richard Morrison.

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August 17, 2004

Passing On

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

One member of the 50,000+ students of the UT-Austin community has passed from our union.

This morning I attended the funeral of one of my fellow class of 2003 graduates, Nikki B., at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg. Thousands were there as the hurch was standing room only as it is during the holiday services. We had always been one of the lucky classes because we managed to make it through high school without anyone passing on in a car wreck or anything of the sorts. But last week while jogging on Main Street in town she was hit by a pulmonary embolism which stopped her heart for about a minute. She had gone into a coma with 50/50 chances of surviving, and even if so, with severe brain damage.

She was always a sweet girl, was in debate with me one year and a number of AP classes. It was true what was said about her by those who were closer than I. She had a great sense of humor and was always cheery. She saw the best in people and even when she disagreed with you, she did it with a smile.

She will be missed and will live on in those around her whom she inspired, including me. She is survived by her brother and parents, her father having been the Justice of the Peace who married my parents over 20 years ago.

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August 13, 2004

Things that are Wow

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Today was really quite a day.

First, I watched the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics which I've never done before. I cannot imagine what it must be like to actually be there. I intend to watch coverage of it as I can and hope that all is safe and dignified.

Secondly, I just watched the evening news and saw the report on Austin's downtown tribute to Lance Armstrong. Est. 60,000-100,000 people came out which is stunning.

Third, John Kerry in Oregon today had a rally of between 50,000-60,000. This report with pictures further down blows me away. If I remember correctly, Gore didn't have those kinds of crowds until the last week in Florida where I think he had an Election night rally of 50,000. Folks, this election will truly be like no other. I predict national turnout between 55-60% and I a decisive win, none of this 50-50 jazz.

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August 07, 2004

Strama Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Over the summer I was part of the Mark Strama Campaign Academy with about 40 other interns. Like Kelly White, Mark is trying to win a Republican State House seat from the Republicans in Travis County. I got an update from the campaign, parts of which I'll pass on. If someone from the White campaign has some good stuff, e-mail me, my contact info is on the side-bar.

Our summer Campaign Academy attracted over 40 high school and college students, who spent their summer block walking, phone banking, and registering hundreds of new voters. Guest speakers at the Academy included Ann Richards and John Sharp, as well as some of Texas’ top political consultants, policy advocates, and university professors. KUT radio recently profiled the Campaign Academy; you can hear the report here.

The Academy received extensive news coverage in the Pflugerville Plag when we donated blood in July. See our news release here.

· Thanks to the generosity of my friends and supporters who want to restore balance and integrity to the Texas Legislature, we have raised over $250,000 to date. Based on the June 30 reports, we enjoy nearly a 2-to-1 cash on hand advantage over my opponent, whose funds overwhelmingly came from PAC’s and special interest lobbyists. More details on our fundraising success are available here.

KVUE profiled the fundraising dynamics of this race in a recent story
available online here:

· Our weekend block walking has begun in earnest. We have already knocked on nearly 4,000 doors this summer, and we’re just getting started.

· Capitol Inside newsletter ranks my opponent as the second-most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the Texas Legislature, and says “Strama is arguably the strongest challenger in the Democrats’ arsenal…”

His website is www.markstrama.com

To Donate, go here and add .01 to let them know it's coming from the blogs.
(Total online fundraising to date is $29,620.61)

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June 19, 2004

Vote Today!

By Byron LaMasters

If you're in Austin and have not yet voted, you have two more hours to vote in the ACC (Austin Community College) Board run-off before the polls close. The race is non-partisan, but Veronica Rivera is the Democratic candidate in the race. Her opponent is on the board of the far right-wing YCT (Young Conservatives of Texas) - notorious for their racist bake sales protesting Affirmative Action. I voted the first day of early voting as I'm in Houston for the Democratic convention, but if you're in Austin and haven't yet made it to the polls, go now!

You can find your polling location, here (and I think that results will be posted there as well). I doubt that I'll be able to post tonight, so if they don't post the results here, I'll post them tomorrow.

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June 12, 2004


By Karl-Thomas Musselman


We're looking for an unpaid summer intern who has an interest in learning more about issues affecting the City of Austin. The intern will assist the Council Member's two aides. Some responsibilities include, but are not limited to, data entry, reviewing neighborhood newsletters and updating staff on key issues, administrative duties, constituent work. We strive to create an educational environment for interns by encouraging them to attend events with Council Member McCracken, inviting them to participate in meetings and discussions and teaching them about current events. If you or someone you know are interested in working with the newest council member in Austin, email your resume to

Karen Gross
Policy Director
Office of Council Member Brewster McCracken

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June 08, 2004

Vote Today in the ACC Run-off!

By Byron LaMasters

I was in Austin for the weekend, and I stayed until Monday morning so I could vote early in the run-off election for ACC (Austin Community College) Board. The choice is about as clear as it gets. The run-off is between Democrat Veronica Rivera and Republican Marc Levin. This is an election between a candidate that represents mainstream, Austin values and a candidate that has a history of supporting far right-wing candidates and organizations. Levin is an officer in the Young Conservatives of Texas - a right-wing conservative youth organization that has sponsored bake sales where people of different races are charged different amounts. Here's what the weekly Travis County Democratic Party email had to say about the race:

Austin Community College Board of Trustee Place 6 will go to a runoff election June 19th between Democrat Veronica Rivera and Republican Marc Levin. Even though these are “non-partisan” races, Marc Levin’s experience and background speak for themselves. He currently serves as vice president of the Texas Review Society, a non-profit organization that publishes far-right public policy newspapers and journals in Texas. He has served as president of the far-right Texas Federalist Society and as state vice chairman and general counsel for the Young Conservatives of Texas. The YCT website currently lists him as Director of Governmental Affairs. The Young Conservatives of Texas are known for outrageous stunts like “bake sales” on university campuses in which members charge women, African American and Hispanic customers lower prices for pastries to protest affirmative action programs.

Veronica Rivera is a strong Democrat and education is a passion for her. It is so important that we continue to elect progressive candidates in Travis County and Veronica Rivera is such a candidate.

I'd encourage all our Austin readers to check out Veronica Rivera's website to learn more about her candidacy. Here's the early voting sites:

ACC Highland Business Center- 5930 Middle Fiskville Rd.
Rio Grande Campus- 1212 Rio Grande
Northridge Campus- 11928 Stonehollow Dr.
Eastview Campus- 3401 Webberville Rd.
Riverside Campus- 1020 Grove Blvd.
Pinnacle Campus- 7748 Hwy 290 West
Cypress Creek Campus- 1555 Cypress Creek Rd., Cedar Park

I voted at the Rio Grande campus (there's no early voting at the UGL at UT, as there usually is, so be sure to head on over to the ACC campus nearest to you and vote for a good Democrat, Veronica Rivera).

As a final thought, I would like to add that while I strongly disagree with Marc Levin's politics, he's a decent guy. I recall talking to him after our gay marriage debate at UT, and he commended me for the quality of my arguements - even if he may have disagreed with them. He also called me after the candidate that the University Democrats supported in the first round lost - Rodney Ahart. Levin asked if we'd consider not endorsing in the race. I wished him the best of luck, but that the fact that he is affiliated with an organization (YCT) that is so fundamentally opposed to so many of the values and principles in which I (and the UD's) support, I told him that I could not in good conscience not support, endorse and vote for his opponent, Veronica Rivera.

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June 01, 2004

Austin Smoking Ban Goes into Effect... Sorta

By Byron LaMasters

A much watered down smoking ordinance is going into effect in Austin today. I'm probably one of the few people that are relatively ambivalent about it. I don't smoke, but it doesn't bother me too much, so anyway, here's the story:

Austin's new smoking ordinance goes into effect today, and though it is not nearly as strong as anti-smoking advocates had hoped, the law will at least initially reduce the number of restaurants and bars where customers can light up.

The law requires restaurants to construct enclosed smoking sections with separate ventilation systems if they want to continue to allow smoking. As of last week, only 12 of the city's 245 restaurants had applied for or received a city smoking permit.

Bars, on the other hand, only have to pay the $300 annual permit fee to continue to allow smoking. As of last week, the city was processing 97 permit applications out of its estimated 1,000 bars. City officials expect to see more applications in coming weeks.


A year ago, the Austin City Council passed virtually a smoking ban in restaurants and bars. That ordinance never went into effect and was replaced with the current version in October by a new City Council.

The new ordinance requires establishments that get less than 70 percent of revenue from alcohol to construct smoking sections or ban smoking and all others to get permits if they want to allow smoking. Money from smoking permits will go to enforcement and tobacco education, officials said.

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May 28, 2004

Precinct Chairs Needed in Travis County

By Byron LaMasters

Also via Sarah at Roman Candles is a call for precinct chairs in Travis County. They're looking especially for students and young people since most of the current folks are over 50. There's 60 vacancies in the county, and I believe that some are in the University area:

The Travis County Democratic Party is trying to find volunteers to serve as Precinct Chairs for about 60 vacant positions. Precinct chairs help organize voters in their local districts and serve on the County Executive Committee of the party. At this week's Executive Committee meeting it was noted that a large number a vacancies exist for precincts located around the University.

The average age of Executive Committee members looks to be around 50 so it would be good to have some younger faces from anywhere around town as well. The County Party is asking interested persons to email them at: info@traviscountydemocrats.org.

I would have run for precinct chair of my precinct, because it was vacant after the precinct chair was redistricted into the next precinct over. Everyone was pretty confused about it - myself, the precinct chair, the County Party, etc. - because of the whole redistricting fiasco. I live about 200 feet from where the three congressional districts meet in Austin, and the precincts had to be reconfigured after redistricting. Anyway, my current precinct is pretty small with just a few apartment complexes and the other person at my precinct caucus wanted to be the precinct chair. I just told him to go ahead an do it, since I'm in Dallas for the summer, and I don't know where I'll be living after I graduate next Spring.

The precinct chairst run the party (at least in theory). It's an important job, and regardless of where you live, check with your local party office to see if you live in a precinct where there's a vacancy. More often than not, you can get appointed at the next Executive Committee meeting.

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May 16, 2004

Good News for Austin Hospitals, Firefighters

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin Firefighters have won Collective Bargaining Rights:

Austin firefighters were winning the ability to force city officials into contract negotiations concerning issues such as pay, benefits and working conditions late Saturday.

With most precincts reporting, voters were supporting by about a 60-40 margin a measure to require collective bargaining. City officials, who are responsible for launching negotiations, said they probably would begin talks with the Austin Association of Professional Firefighters by Nov. 1.

And great news for Travis County Health Care as well:

A Travis County hospital district was easily approved Saturday, despite growing distaste for property taxes and opponents' warnings that tax bills would escalate as more people come to the district for health services.

The hospital district, expected to be established later this year, would be the first broad-based taxing authority in the area since Capital Metro was born in the mid-1980s. Tax rates in the district would be capped at 25 cents per $100 of property value.

Now city and county leaders face the task of setting up the board and appointing members.


Right now, Austin residents contribute 7.3 cents per $100 of property valuation to public health: 6 cents in city taxes and 1.3 cents in county taxes. Counting exemptions, that brings the total tax bill for health care to $134 on a home valued at $191,240, the average in Travis County in 2003.

Residents outside the city pay 1.3 cents for health care, or about $20, counting exemptions, on the same value house.

If, as expected, the district sets a countywide tax rate of 7.3 cents, city residents would pay slightly less than they do now because the health care portion of their overall tax bill would enjoy the benefit of tax exemptions allowed by the county. And county residents outside the city would pay about $92 more. The average homeowner in the district would pay about $111 in total health care taxes until taxes rise.

Travis County is still growing significantly. The Health Care District will help us maintain quality health care for all Travis County residents. It's a good day for Central Texas.

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May 14, 2004

Democratic Club Endorsements

By Byron LaMasters

For those of you interested, here's the Democratic Club endorsements for the elections on Saturday in Austin:

ACC Place 4 - Jeffrey Richard (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

ACC Place 5 - Rafael Quintanilla (Capitol City Young Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats) - this race is uncontested.

ACC Place 6 - Rodney Ahart (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

ACC Place 6 - Guadalupe Sosa (South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Women)

Travis County Health Care District - FOR (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol Area Progressive Democrats, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Party, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

Proposition 1, City Fire Fighter Bargaining Rights - FOR (Austin Progressive Coalition, Capitol City Young Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, South Austin Democrats, Travis County Democratic Party, Travis County Democratic Women, University Democrats, UT Law Democrats, West Austin Democrats)

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May 08, 2004

Austinites: Remember to Vote!

By Byron LaMasters

I just returned home this afternoon from blockwalking for the endorsed candidates and issues of the Austin Progressive Coalition (an organization that puts up doorhangers in central Austin precincts for candidates / issues endorsed by both the Central Austin Democrats and University Democrats). Every Democratic Primary / Runoff election and every local election, APC will endorse candidates and put up doorhangers on the doors of thousands of central Austin precincts. All six of the candidates endorsed by APC in contested elections in the 2004 Democratic Primary were nominated (five in the primary, one - Constable Maria Conchola in the runoff).

On May 15, Austinites will elect two Board Members to the ACC (Austin Community College) and will decide two referenda. The first is a referendum for the city of Austin to grant our firefighters collective bargaining. The second is a referendum for all Travis County residents on whether to create a Hospital District.

As for the ACC election, I made some endorsements a few weeks ago. You can check out that post here. The seat four race is a clear choice. Jeffrey Richard is a Democrat with great qualifications and ought to win easily. In distirict five, incumbent Rafael Quintanilla is uncontested. We endorsed him, and he's done a good job, so vote for him if you feel inclined. I'm expecting district six to go into a runoff. The liberal / progressive community is a little divided on this race. The Austin Chronicle endorsed Democratic precinct chair, and longtime ACC activist Guadalupe Sosa. I'm confident that she would be a good servant to the ACC Board with her background of direct involvement with ACC. Having said that, however, our endorsement went to Rodney Ahart. Like Sosa, Ahart is eminently qualified to serve ACC. Ahart has worked for great Democrats in the legislature such as Dawnna Dukes and Rodney Ellis. Not only that, but he's focused much of his work on issues of higher education. What made the difference for me was the candidates ability to articulate a vision for ACC, and connect with students and young people. Ahart came to the University Democrats meeting the week before our endorsement meeting to introduce himself and speak with us individually after the meeting when we go to hang out at a local joint for burgers and beer. At the endorsement meeting, Ahart again clearly outlined a clear agenda for ACC, while Sosa was difficult to hear from the back of the room - fifteen feet away at the Mr. Gatti's on MLK by campus. The other candidates, Veronica Rivera and Marc Levin did not attend the meeting. While, Veronica Rivera seems like a decent candidate, it's difficult to take seriously a candidate that ignores the opportunity to speak to a group of people (CAD and UD's) who are willing to spend hours of time putting up thousands of doorhangers for the candidates we endorse. As for Marc Levin, he's the Republican candidate. Some progressive leaders I've talked to are concerned that he will make the runoff and could win a very low turnout runoff. Levin is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the Young Conservatives of Texas (and current staff attorney for the right-wing State Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith - who was even too conservative for GOP primary voters, as he lost in the 2004 GOP primary). Personally, I'm predicting a runoff between Sosa and Ahart, but a divided Hispanic vote could land Ahart and Levin into a runoff. The Austin American Statesman endorsed Veronica Rivera, so this is a true four-way race. It's still up in the air.

I'm expecting the Collective Bargaining for Austin Firefighters to pass relatively easily. There seems to be some token opposition - some group called "Taxpayers for Equity" ran an ad in this week's Austin Chronicle in opposition to collective bargaining, but I seriously doubt that Austinites will say no to their firefighters.

The vote on the Travis County hospital district is a different story. There is significant opposition to this. To learn more about it, check out Healthy Travis County. According to some sources working on the campaign for the hospital district, their telephone i.d.'s and early vote totals give them cause for concern. Apparently, the hospital district is winning in the City of Austin by a small margin, but the non-city residents (about 25% of the voters in the county) are going heavily against the hospital district in a large early vote turnout. This points to a very tight race, meaning that it is critical for Austin voters to turn out for the hospital district. That makes sense and all, as non-city residents currently pay five times less in taxes to support the Travis County health care system - despite the fact that some of the wealthiest communities in Travis County, such as Westlake Hills and Lake Austin are outside of the city of Austin. Anyway, if you are a city of Austin resident, the Travis County Hospital District will NOT raise your taxes. What it will do is create tax fairness for all residents of Travis County by equalizing tax rates for city and non-city residents in Travis County. It's really a simple issue of efficiency and fairness. The current Travis County Health Care Revenue System is convoluted and confusing. Creating a hospital district would make funding our county health care more efficient by simplifying the revenue process. More importantly, this is an issue of fairness. As I said, Austin taxpayers pay five times more than (non-Austin) county residents in taxes to support Travis County health care facilities, even though all Travis County residents have equal access to the facilities. The Hospital District would equalize taxes for all Travis County residents. It would bring in needed money into the system to prevent emergency room overcrowding and to extend the hours of local clinics. That's a good thing for Travis County.

In other things to support... Only one of the AISD incumbents has a challenger. I voted for Doyle Valdez over perennial candidate Jennifer Gale. Also, as Andrew noted earlier, if you're in Del Valle vote FOR Prop 3 to allow Del Valle ISD to join the ACC system.

Early voting lasts through Tuesday, so vote early, or vote on election day next Saturday! Early vote locations here.

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April 28, 2004

Early Voting Starts Today

By Byron LaMasters

I voted earlier today in the local municipal elections (ACC, AISD, Travis County Prop., and City of Austin Prop.). Early voting started today and will continue through May 11. The election date is May 15. The full list of early vote locations is here. If you're a UT student, there's no excuse not to vote. As usual, we can vote on campus in the UGL Lobby by the West Mall.

If you haven't heard of any of the candidate, or don't know who or what to vote for, I offer my recommendations (these candidates / props. have all been endorsed by the University Democrats, Central Austin Democrats, Austin Progressive Coalition and Capitol City Young Democrats):

(Partial repost from my endorsements on April 7)

ACC Place 4: - Jeffrey Richard: Jeffrey is by far the best qualified and most experienced candidate in this race. He's also a Democrat with credentials that appeal to both the business and progressive communities. He served as the vice president of education on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and has a tremendous amount of experience in education working for 17 years with educational institutions in Washington D.C. and Austin. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Texas State University.

ACC Place 5: - Rafael Quintanilla: He's the chair of the board and is unopposed. I don't have a particularly good reason to support him, but people that have been around Austin a lot longer than I have said that he's worthy of our support, so that worked for me.

ACC Place 6: - Rodney Ahart: Rodney Ahart has worked in the legislature for State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Reps. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) and Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin). During his time in the legislature, he worked on higher education issues and is well prepared to work with the legislature as a member of the ACC board.

FOR Collective Bargaining for Austin Firefighters: One of the referenda we will be voting on is whether to allow collective bargaining for the Austin Firefighters. Collective bargaining would require the city of Austin to meet in good faith with Austin Firefighters to negotiate their contracts. The process would be open and subject to public disclosure. Our firefighters work hard day and night to keep us safe. This is the least that we can do for them.

FOR Travis County Hospital District: This is a simple issue of efficiency and fairness. The current Travis County Health Care Revenue System is convoluted and confusing. Creating a hospital district would make funding our county health care more efficient by simplifying the revenue process. More importantly, this is an issue of fairness. Currently, Austin taxpayers pay five times more than (non-Austin) county residents in taxes to support Travis County health care facilities, even though all Travis County residents have equal access to the facilities. The Hospital District would equalize taxes for all Travis County residents. It would bring in needed money into the system to prevent emergency room overcrowding and to extend the hours of local clinics. That's a good thing for Travis County.

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April 20, 2004

Burnt Orange Report From the Floor

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I am here again on the floor of the first Student Government meeting with another additinon of Burnt Orange Report from the floor which will become a regular feature here on BOR each Tuesday evening during the spring and fall semesters.

Major points so far... and forgive my spelling mistakes as I am sure there will be some until I am finished.

Approved to fill President Brent Cheney's 2 year at large seat is Chris Kennedy, 3rd year student, who has haunted the Student Government forums and meetings for quite some time now. Kudos to him though I'm sure Andrew may have his own thoughts. Well, I know he has his own thoughts but I'm not going to be the one to say them.

Approved to fill the office of Executive Director is Amy Chiou (3rd year government, president of liberal arts council last year, Orange Jackets). During debate 3 spoke in favor, one against.

Approved to be Internal Finance Director is Jessica Rice, Junior, Plan II Government Major, involved with orange jackets and Student Government in some way

Approved to be Attorney General, Amber .... 3rd year Government major, FLO, Student Government Junkie. Wants to make office les reactive, not worry about attendance as much because she 'knows that each and every one of us will be here each Tuesday night."

Approved to be External Finance Director is Dan Pascal, 2nd year Government Major. Wants to improve communication with outside sources, plans on attending West campus zoning meetings, strengthen external fundraising, improve alumni relations to improve fundraising, date auction with SG President Brent Cheney as an outside the box fundraising idea in response to question from the floor.

Approved to be Secretary is Andrew Laddum, first year government major. Wants to make sure that minutes are continued online, mentioned something about social community. I'm listening to him right now and just hope he is more organized that he sounds simply because of the bill passed last week which will require Agency Directors and others to submit reports to the Secretary for posting online.

Approved to be Legislative Relations Agency Director is Ravad Bajaria who has worked within the agency for the past year. I'm guessing this is just an internal promotion. Fine by me.

Approved to be Freshman Leadership Organization Director is CJ Gin. He wants to start getting mentor program started sooner to improve student government's image across campus, publicise FLO at mooove in during the summer, increase membership. Of course, just as a personal note since FLO has been very powerful of late in making One Party wins in SG, I think that the assembly is going to approve anyone who increases FLO membership as it generally helps keep those more closly tied to SG in power. Does that mean me too now?

Dress Code: Business Causual quote-"no jeans, no t-shirts, no tennis shoes"
What Karl is Wearing: jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes

Like that is going to stop me! BOR readers should know that I am not one to dress up unless I absolutly have to.

Representative Privledge (talking time) is really long tonight. Kinda like this entry is getting.

Rep. Laura Gladney-Lemon, uber SG sctivist gave an incredibly emotional speech at the end of the forum because this morning she had someone moooo at her, due to her weight. She has been working all semester she told the assembly, on putting together a proposal that relates to attempting to get UT to imput a weight-hight ratio into it's non-discrimination policy.

8:45 We finally move into new business.

AR 1: Resolution in Opposition to UT's Los Alamos big has been tabled until next week at the request of the sponsor.

AR 2: Resolution to Support Pay Equity (for women) was proposed to be amended, watering it down to a more simple resolution of recognition of April 20 as National Pay Equity Day due to the lack of knowledge of the status if pay equity at UT. There is argument of the day on which to honor the day, even though the day is dependent on how long women would have to work into 2004 in order to reach the total earnings of an average man in 2003.

The resolution was abruptly brought to a vote to table in mid discussion. The bill was tabled 29-9. A motion to reconsider was denied as it was out of order as other business was still pending. It was made known that it would be possible if the rules were voted to be suspended and then a motion to reconsider was passed.

AB 1: Altering Internal Rules to Post Attendance and Voting Records Online

All SG Representatives will likely become sponsors to this bill so it should sail through next week. Finally.

We return to a back and forth debate on how can suspend rules for bringing back AR 2. Motions flying in more directions than can be counted. And I'm not going to try. There seems to be a Parlimentary Battle going on.

That is all from your Burnt Orange Report From the Floor.

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April 16, 2004

Why I Ride My Bike to School

By Byron LaMasters

It's pretty simple. Two reasons. It's faster and it's cheaper than driving or waiting for the bus. It takes me eight minutes to ride my bike from my apartment on 38th Street to 24th Street on campus. If I were to ride the bus, I'd spend about that time waiting for it most days. If I were to drive, it would take about the same time to drive, then an extra few minutes (on a good day) and $7 or so to park. It's a pretty easy choice. Now, I'm not going to junk the car (I'm from Dallas, and if you've ever tried getting around Dallas without a car - well just don't), but its nice to be able to travel via bike. It's one of the things I love about Austin.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's realized that riding a bike is not only cheaper, but faster when commuting in central Austin. The Austin American Statesman did a test:

To the point: LeBlanc and her bicycle beat us to the finish line at 24th Street by about 5 1/2 minutes. The final insult was that when we arrived at the finish line, she was lying on the ground. It could have been more insulting if she'd been blowing on her knuckles.

They raced from from Riverside, up Lamar and to 24th Street in rush hour. The bike: 11.5 Minutes. The car: 17 Minutes. Travelling conveniently by bike is only an option available to a small minority of Americans, but for those of us with the option, it's a great alternative to traffic, parking tickets and high gas prices.

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April 07, 2004

Some Endorsements for the May 15th Elections

By Byron LaMasters

Those of you outside of Austin probably wonder why we have so many elections. Every two years Austin voters have the opportunity to vote in up to four elections in four months. Of course, there's the March primary and April runoff. Then there's the City Council / ACC / AISD elections in May, and that run-off in June. This year, there are no city council seats up, but there are three ACC (Austin Community College) seats to fill along with two referendums.

Today, the Austin Progressive Coalition (University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats) screened the candidates and made endorsements in all of the races. The CCYD's (Capitol City Young Democrats) also made endorsements today as well. All of the candidates that I support (and I'm assuming the other posters here do as well) were endorsed today by all of the above organizations (APC, CAD, UD, CCYD).

ACC Place 4: - Jeffrey Richard: Jeffrey is by far the best qualified and most experienced candidate in this race. He's also a Democrat with credentials that appeal to both the business and progressive communities. He served as the vice president of education on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and has a tremendous amount of experience in education working for 17 years with educational institutions in Washington D.C. and Austin. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Texas State University.

ACC Place 5: - Rafael Quintanilla: He's the chair of the board and is unopposed. I don't have a particularly good reason to support him, but people that have been around Austin a lot longer than I have said that he's worthy of our support, so that worked for me.

ACC Place 6: - Rodney Ahart (this site should be up next week): Rodney Ahart has worked in the legislature for State Sen. Rodney Ellis and State Reps. Helen Giddings and Dawnna Dukes. During his time in the legislature, he worked on higher education issues and is well prepared to work with the legislature as a member of the ACC board.

YES on Collective Bargaining: One of the referenda we will be voting on is whether to allow collective bargaining for the Austin Firefighters. Collective bargaining would require the city of Austin to meet in good faith with Austin Firefighters to negotiate their contracts. The process would be open and subject to public disclosure. Our firefighters work hard day and night to keep us safe. This is the least that we can do for them.

YES on Travis County Hospital District: This is a simple issue of efficiency and fairness. The current Travis County Health Care Revenue System is convoluted and confusing. Creating a hospital district would make funding our county health care more efficient by simplifying the revenue process. More importantly, this is an issue of fairness. Currently, Austin taxpayers pay five times more than (non-Austin) county residents in taxes to support Travis County health care facilities, even though all Travis County residents have equal access to the facilities. The Hospital District would equalize taxes for all Travis County residents. It would bring in needed money into the system to prevent emergency room overcrowding and to extend the hours of local clinics. That's a good thing for Travis County.

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Daily Texan Doesn't Mention Presidential Pieing

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I had a feeling it might not happen, the Daily Texan has not mentioned the fact that the Student Body President Brian Haley got hit with a pie at yesterday's meeting in their article on actions taken at the meeting.

I plan on writing a Firing Line about this exclusion, we shall see if it gets published. Anyone else who want to do so (UT students) write one less than 250 words to firingline@dailytexanonline.com. If you want to attach to it the link to the report here on Burnt Orange it's located at https://burntorangereport.com/archives/001346.html.

Do I have anything against Brian Haley? No, I really respect the guy and he's been supportive of GLBT efforts which I care about since I'm one of the co-directors of the GLBTA Affairs Agency (part of student government). I just think that something happening along those lines might be of interest to the general population and may at least warrent a mention in the Texan since Tuition and Fee issues have certainly been part of the student interest over the past year at UT.

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Update on Press Conference

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I just wanted to post some link from some of the news being generated about the press conferece. And yes, one person did show up with a sign in opposition and she gets hald the story but that's journalism.

KXAN report

I will update this as I find more. FOX here in Austin doesn't put much up on their website and KVUE may be holding it for tomorrow's early morning show. The Statesman will be running tomorrow but it's our impression that piece won't be very flattering considering the reporter open declared that he didn't believe in social movements of any kind and just came to events like this really for the fun of it. Yeah, I can't wait, considering we didn't see him taking many notes of any kind.

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April 06, 2004

UT SG President Hit with Cream Pie

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I have a report for you straight from the floor of the Student Government meeting now progressing in the basement of the Student Services Building here at UT.

We are in the midst of the congratulatory speech section on behalf of the Executive Board, but just moments ago, in the open forum section, a speaker dressed as a Mime came up to speak. He began by saying that mimes do not usually speak, but now he had to break his silence. "First it was Student Fees, and then it was Tuition Increases and Deregulation." He had written a poem about student fees and such and that he felt someone needed to be held responsible, namely Brian Haley.

After finishing his speech he stated that he had a present for SG President Brian Haley, and proceeded to take a Cream Pie out of a box with a bow and dumped it on Haley.

Throughout the mime's speech, the assembly was chuckling, as well as during the pit throwing and after the mime ran out of the room after the pie toss. In addition, post pie, Haley made the comment of "can we not have that put into the Daily Texan tomorrow" to the reporter in the back row, who replied with a non-committal "we will see."

As a side note, in the speech section, SG External Financial Director Marc Eichenbaum made the joking comment that "SG President Brian Haley has done a great job at representing his constituents- the administration." He said that they had discussed it over lunch as a joke, but delivered it while Haley was out of the room cleaning off some of the pie.

That's your Burnt Orange Report from the Floor so far. This may be a regular feature here at Burnt Orange Report going into the future since I will be at these meetings each Tuesday for the next year.

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March 27, 2004

Over 1000 Attend Travis County Democratic Convention

By Byron LaMasters

I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout today at the Travis County Democratic Convention. There were just over 1000 delegates from Senate District 14 (Barrientos) and about 200 from the portion of Senate District 25 (Wentworth) in Travis County. Registration was a bit of a fiasco (not enough space, unorganized lines, etc.), but it all worked out. The main events were speeches by most of the elected officials in Travis County and the other candidates on the county ticket.

Senator Barrientos spoke relatively early into the convention. He received a warm reception, and gave a fiery speech to the convention, but there were many in the audience still upset with his endorsement of Leticia Hinojosa against Lloyd Doggett. Doggett spoke later, and he was greeted to the room by a minute-long standing ovation by the delegates. Later in the day, State Reps. Rodriguez, Naishtat and Dukes spoke as well.

We also broke up into precinct caucuses to elect delegates to the state convention. I was elected as an Alternate to the state convention. Our precinct had eleven delegates to the county convention today, and we were allotted two delegates and two alternates to the state convention. For those four spots, there were six of us running. The six of us were all given a chance to introduce ourselves, and then the five people not running had an opportunity to ask us questions. Of course, the one question worked to my disadvantage. One person asked if anyone had been a delegate to the state convention in the past, and I was the only one who had (I was a delegate to the Texas Democratic Convention in El Paso in 2002). Next the eleven of us cast four votes (which we could divide however we wished). I was in a tie for the third most votes (8), so we were the alternates while the two top vote getters (who won 10 and 9 votes, respectively) won the two delegate spots. I'm happy to have the opportunity to go to convention, and there's a good chance that I'll be a delegate anyway, since there are always a good number of delegates who are unable to make the convention.

The end of the convention dragged on through dozens of resolutions. At first, it went smoothly, and most of the delegates were in agreement on things like supporting labor rights, women's rights, choice, gay rights, affirmative action, etc. There was more controversy with two resolutions that passed narrowly (which I opposed). The first was a resolution calling for a 15% cut in military spending (among other things) and the second was a resolution calling for the United States to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. At this point in the convention, about two-thirds of the delegates had left, and the Kucinich delegates (about 10% of the original total) were speaking out for their resolutions. I disagree with them on those two issues, but if voting on these resolutions is what some people need to be able to vote for John Kerry and the Democratic ticket this fall, then it all works out. No one pays attention to resolutions passed by a county convention anyway.

Anyway, it was good to run into a lot of friends, and meet some people who have read BOR at the convention. Anyone have any other thoughts on the Travis County convention? Anyone else attend their county (or senate district) convention today?

Update: More accounts of the convention are here and here.

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March 10, 2004

Local Travis County Winners

By Byron LaMasters

Surprisingly, no run-offs...

Greg Hamilton easily won a four way race for sheriff.

All three contested primary races had decisive outcomes. All three candidates I supported won, Steven Yelenosky, Nancy Nohengarten and Gisela Triana.

Precinct One County Commissioner Ron Davis also avoided a run-off in a four way race.

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March 09, 2004

Races to Watch in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

I'll first be watching the 25th congressional district race. I think that Doggett will win, but it will be close. My prediction? Doggett wins with under 55% of the vote.

The County Commissioner Precinct 1 race will be interesting. I'm betting on a run-off between Celia Israel and Ron Davis. Yeah, it's a safe bet, but this race has been one of the tougher ones to call. However, an anti-Celia Israel mail piece arrived in my mail yesterday. Perhaps that could have en effect.

The Sheriff race will be interesting as well. I'm betting on a run-off between Todd Radford and Greg Hamilton, with Hamilton leading strongly. Hamilton could win outright, as he has relatively strong establishment and grassroots support, but it'll be difficult for him to win outright in a four person race.

For County Court at-Law #5, I predict that Nancy Hohengarten will win without a run-off over Lenord Saenz and Efran de la Fuente. She has very strong grassroots and legal community support.

For District Court 200 - The nastiest race of the year will probably go into a run-off between Gisela Triana and Jan Soifer. However, Triana could win outright. Then again, enough people could be upset with the negativity between Triana and Soifer supporters that Judge John Hathaway makes it into a run-off. So, I don't have much of a guess for this one.

For District Court 345 - Steven Yelonosky will win easily over Richard Anton.

Final results for all races (except for the 25th congressional race) can be found here begining at 7 PM.

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Election Night Parties in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

Here are some of them, via the Travis County Democratic Party:

The House Democratic Campaign Committee

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.
The Apple Bar
120 West 5th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, Cash Bar

Come join the HDCC as we await the results of the Texas primary elections. Your support will benefit Democratic candidates for the Texas House of Representatives.

Join Todd Radford's E-Day party!

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Speakeasy, 412 Congress Ave

Please join Todd Radford, candidate for Sheriff, for his Election

Election Party for Gisela Triana

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
7:30 p.m.
Cuba Libre, 409 Colorado

Please join Gisela Triana for the Election Night Party at Cuba Libre.

Texans for Kerry E-Night Party

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
8 p.m.
B.D. Riley's Pub, 204 East 6th Street

Come watch the primary results on the big screen with fellow John Kerry supporters!

Greg Hamilton Election Night Party

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
7:15 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Baby Acapulco, 5610 N IH 35

Please join Greg Hamilton and his supporters for an Election Night Party.

Hohengarten E-Night Party

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
7:30 p.m.
4002 Avenue H

Please join Nancy Hohengarten for an Election Night Party.

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February 23, 2004

No, I'm not Behind This

By Byron LaMasters

And no, I won't be attending. I have two exams tomorrow, but it does look as if some folks are planning a little event tomorrow morning at the governors mansion. It seems a bit silly to me, but maybe it will give the Austin Chronicle something to report.

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February 18, 2004

Undercover APD Officers Attended Anti-War Planning Meetings

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports:

Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas prove that undercover Austin police officers attended anti-war meetings in March.

The Texas ACLU obtained two memos in November discussing undercover police protest planning meetings. One of the documents details a detective's observations at a March 23 direct-action training where protesters practiced civil disobedience. On March 24, about 40 people were arrested while protesting against the war in Iraq.

"In an attempt to gather intelligence information regarding mass civil disobedience, members of the Organized Crime Division were requested to participate in training sessions and actual protests in an undercover capacity," the memo says.

Texas ACLU lawyer Ann Del Llano said police waste resources when investigating nonviolent protesters, and such police activities may be unconstitutional.

"These people intended to commit a Class C misdemeanor," said Del Llano. "Police should focus on violent crimes [instead]."

Exactly. Why are undercover police being sent to meetings of people planning peaceful demonstrations when they could be out actually doing their job, and preventing violent crime?

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February 17, 2004

Soechting to Speek at Austin Dem. Party Meetup

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting will speak at Democratic Party Meetup tomorrow night at 7 PM:

TDP Meetup

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
B.D. Riley's Pub on 6th Street

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting will be hosting a meet up of Austin Democrats next Wednesday.

Meetup is a great new tool for organizing voters all over America. Here in Austin we are testing out a pilot run of these tools so that we can use them this fall and beyond to take back Texas! Come join us for some good food, good times and a chance to talk about the future of our party with Chairman Soechting. We’ll see you all there!

You can join Democratic Party meetup, here.

Also tomorrow night is a MoveOn.org video fundraiser for the Austin Progressive Coalition (which works to help elect the candidates endorsed by both the University Democrats and Central Austin Democrats), the University Democrats meeting and a home basketball game against Texas A&M. So many choices...

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February 14, 2004

Snow In Austin

By Byron LaMasters

Well our annual snow/ice/sleet, etc. is here. It's snowing in Austin. I'll have to go throw a snowball at my neighbors. Continue for the doppler radar via Weather.com.

Update: Well all of the snow melted by the time I woke up, despite Norbizness's doomsday predictions, and there's even proof that Dallas got some snow as well.

Update: It's still snowing:

Update: And there's more!

Update: And it's finally moving out.... :-(

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January 23, 2004

Planned Parenthood Construction Continues

By Byron LaMasters

On Wednesday, one day be fore the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the constuction of a Planned Parenthood clinic in southeast Austin resumes after being temporarily disrupted by anti-abortion activists. The Daily Texan reports:

As abortion rights activists celebrate the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood is moving forward with construction of a southeast Austin clinic despite organized opposition from abortion opponents.

Construction on the clinic was temporarily halted by a boycott by local builders when Browning Construction left the project under pressure from anti-abortion activists, but work on the site has since resumed.

"When we made the announcement about Browning, we were overwhelmed with calls from contractors wanting to work on the project," said Danielle Tierney, Planned Parenthood spokesperson.

At the construction site, located on East Ben White Blvd., bulldozers moved dirt Wednesday afternoon while men talked near plain, white pickups.

"We made a promise to this community to guarantee access to affordable health care," Tierney said. "Building this clinic is our top priority right now."

Despite a contractor boycott conducted by Chris Danze and his organization, Planned Parenthood is back on track here in Austin because of the enormous outpouring of support by the Austin Community. Fortunately, women in Austin are lucky. There is widespread community support for a woman's right to choice and affordable healthcare. Unfortunately, in many places that is not the case. Still, Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capitol Region serves ten counties in Central Texas, the majority of which are primarily rural. Click here to support the services they provide for women in Central Texas.

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January 22, 2004

Voices For Choice Rally

By Byron LaMasters

Tomorrow at 5 PM on the UT Campus. Celebrate 31 years of a woman's right to choose:

Our rally on the West Mall at 5!

Speakers will include:
Lewis Black, Editor of the Austin Chronicle
Amy Hagstrom-Miller, CEO Whole Woman's Health
Dr. Jim Rigby, Pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Danielle Tierney, Director of Public Relations for Planned Parenthood of
Central Texas
Sarah Wheat, Director of Public Affairs for TARAL

We expect a great turnout, and every speaker will be excellent.

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Huston-Tillotson YD's Rally

By Byron LaMasters

This evening I spoke at a rally at Huston-Tillotson College in East Austin. Huston-Tillotson College is a historically African-American College (although open to all races) which recently chartered a Texas Young Democrats chapter. Being the regional director for the area, I helped them get all the resources they needed, so their president, Andrew Bucknell invited me to speak at the rally. It was quite an honor to be up there speaking with a lot of elected officials. I just spoke for a few minutes about how young people have been getting involved recently. I used the evidence of how thousands of young people descended upon Iowa to support their candidate in the Iowa caucuses and how we've established a lot of new TYD chapters in the previous months as examples. I added that young people can't afford to not get involved - when our president lies about going to war, when our leaders in the legislature tell us they didn't raise taxes, yet they taxed every college student in the state of Texas with tuition deregulation, and then with redistricting - that it is a disgrace that in my 8 minute bike ride to campus every day I now travel through three congressional districts. I went on to tell the students that they could make a difference. That there were seven presidential campaigns and a whole lot of local candidates that could use their help in the primary and that we would need their help to have our countywide slate again sweep Travis County. I also put in a plug for our two state rep. candidates against Republican incumbents here in Travis County: Kelly White and Mark Strama.

Speaking of Mark Strama, he was at the event, and I had a chance to talk to him for a little while. He's also got his webpage up and running. If you have some money to donate, he has a PayPal account set up. Strama is running against Jack Stick who was elected in 2002 for the first time. Stick represents North Austin, yet voted for the congressional redistricting map that divided Travis County into three congressional districts, of which none has a majority of its voters residing in Travis County. It is very possible, that Travis County will have no hometown representative in Congress next year, and that would be devestating for us. Anyway, Strama is looking for volunteers, so get in touch with the campaign if you're interested. His race is likely to be one of the party's targetted races in the fall and Strama probably has about the best chance of any of our challengers to knock off a Republican incumbent.

There was an interesting subtext to the event as well. Originally Lloyd Doggett was going to attend, and then Leticia Hinojosa (his primary opponent in the new 25th) was interested (although not originally invited). State Rep. Dawnna Dukes spoke at the rally as Doggett's surrogate, and said how Doggett had fought for Huston-Tillotson and for Austin and it was critical that we re-elected him. Next to speak was State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (who has endorsed Hinojosa). He spoke of the redistricting fight and said that redistricting would have been stopped if it were not for the "traitor" John Whitmire. Harsh words, but I agree. He spoke of how Austin was split, but didn't mention Doggett or Hinojosa. I think he was scared to mention it. Doggett's been such an advocate and fighter for Austin, and Barrientos knows that he really doesn't have much of a chance convincing Austinites to vote for someone else. He blew a lot of political capitol endorsing Hinojosa and I think that he knows it.

It was good to see all of them. State Rep. Elliott Naishtat had a good speech (which I had heard before), and State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez spoke as well, as did County Commissioner Ron Davis (who is in a tough re-election fight with Celia Israel, who I met for coffee back in the fall and agreed to support).

I also got to talk to Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County Clerk for a little bit. She was there to show off the new E-Slate Voting Machines. I asked her who had the most difficulty with the new machines. It was interesting that she said that it was not elderly people who tended to like the larger print, not having to worry about chads or small bubble-in forms and the ability to look over their votes before they cast them. Young people also had little trouble with the new machines. Rather, it was middle-aged people in their forties or so that were technically challenged that had the most trouble with the machines. Interesting...

I also sat next to Gisela Triana, who I'm supporting in her primary for 200th District Court. She's a very talented, articulate, attractive up-and-comer in the party. Her primary opponent is Jan Soifer, and has a lot establishment support such as Ann Richard's endorsement, but did work as an attorney defending the 2001 Republican Legislative Redistricting map that helped Republicans win control of the state house. She says that she only did procedural work such as consolidating lawsuits and all, and that she basically had to do the work, or quit her job with her law firm. Fine, but I'll go with the solid Democrat who is a rising star in our party. Triana was born in Miami to Cuban-American immigrants and grew up as a Republican, but she quickly learned the error of her ways and has been a solid Democrat for her entire adult career. This race, I think, will boil down to a classic establishment versus the grassroots battle with the grassroots winning. Go Gisela Triana!

As the endorsement meetings approach, I'll post my recomendations for all of the local races here in Austin. There's still a few races where I haven't yet made up my mind, such as the Sheriff's race, where I'm not really familiar with any of the candidates in the primary to succeed Margo Fraiser who is retiring. I think that I'll try and make it to the Greg Hamilton Open House next Wednesday to check him out, as he is the candidate that Fraiser has endorsed, and someone I knew from a few other campaigns who is working for him tried selling him to me tonight. I'll see. I was a little turned off to see that Hamilton had been someone in the TABC which I'm not a big fan of. I think that a lot of our alcohol laws are rather dumb, but the legislature is probably more to blame than the TABC. I'll probably support Hamilton, who's the establishment choice and will probably win, but I'd like to know more about him first.

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December 29, 2003

Anti-Choice Scare Tactics

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman did a long story today on the scare tactics employed by anti-choice activists. It's pretty outrageous what people like Chris Danze do to try to harass women and women's health care providers.

Danze now spends Saturday mornings outside Whole Woman's Health, a new abortion clinic in North Austin owned and operated by Amy Hagstrom Miller, who worked for 15 years at abortion clinics in Austin, New York and Minneapolis.


He said he sent Hagstrom Miller's landlord a letter in late August, offering the landlord the assistance of Danze's brother, a real estate attorney in Dallas, who could help the landlord "get Amy out of your building," according to the letter.

Danze sent a second letter three days later. It included photographs of aborted fetuses.

"Amy is killing children the same age and size as these photos, ON YOUR PROPERTY. While it is legal, it is terribly immoral. We are praying for you both and hope that your faith in Christ . . . will help you grow in courage and resolve to remove her and the evildoers from your property."

The landlord said he's received several letters about the clinic but declined to comment and requested that his name not be published.

Hagstrom Miller received an anonymous letter at her home in March, shortly after she opened the clinic, warning that if she did not close her business, a second mailing would be sent to 77 neighbors identifying her as a serial killer.

Shortly after, she said, several neighbors approached her with a letter that identified her as the owner of a "child killing operation in Austin. . . . currently involved in the serial killing of approximately 40 to 50 boys and girls a week." It included her home address, the clinic's address, and an 8- by 10-inch color photo of her. It was signed "A Concerned citizen."

Later, an e-mail sent to employees at the school district where she lives referred to Hagstrom Miller as a serial killer who had "ramped up" the killing operation. The e-mail closed: "Please pray for Ms. Miller, her staff of killers, the women who are scarred for life and the children who never had a chance."

Danze, when asked if he sent the letters, responded: "I'm not going to address that. They may or may not be my letters. And if I knew who wrote those letters, I wouldn't tell you." He also declined to comment on the e-mail.

He responded in a later e-mail to the Austin American-States- man: "Just as the Department of Public Safety informs communities the whereabouts of sexual predators, it is important for people to know the whereabouts of serial killers as well."

"They're harassing and intimidating in the name of Christianity," Hagstrom Miller said. "It's crazy that they're presenting the Christian perspective . . . I just don't know what we can do, and I'll be damned if I'll let him get me evicted."

The letters "did not include anything that we felt that were of an illegal nature," said Austin police spokesman Kevin Buchman. The letters and e-mail were sent from outside of Austin, but Austin police reviewed them because the clinics are located within the city. A letter would be considered illegal if it contained a threat of bodily injury or incited someone to cause bodily injury, Buchman said.

"I want her evicted, out of there," Danze said of Hagstrom Miller. "I want every abortion chamber in Austin shut down, but I'm not going to do anything illegal or unethical."

Outrageous. Just outrageous. It's not illegal, but its just one example of the tactics that the right-wing uses effectively to intimidate women and abortion providers.

Want to help? Support Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capitol Region Today.

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December 13, 2003

Central Texas Envisioned

By Jim Dallas

The Austin Chronicle has a story about the results of the Envision Central Texas survey, which asked local residents about their civic preferences vis-a-vis urban sprawl. There were over 12,000 responses.

I think I voted for option "C" (feeling that D was too radical and A and B too conservative) back when the survey was conducted, but surprisingly option "D" won in a landslide:

At the time, I reported the conventional wisdom that, while the status-quo Scenario A had no chance, neither did the most extreme alternative to it, Scenario D -- a vision built almost entirely on infill, redevelopment, and urban density. Instead, I and others thought, respondents would gravitate to Scenarios B (a "corridor plan" much like the ones we passed back in the 1970s and 1980s and then failed to follow) and C (focusing growth in new and existing towns, the way human beings used to do before they had cars).

How wrong I was. Scenario D -- the radical reversal of decades of Central Texas history -- got nearly 50% of the vote. Another 25% voted for C, which is more than A and B got combined. ("None of the above" got 10%.) Those are the results for the question asking which scenario would "provide the best overall quality of life." On other, more specific questions -- regarding transportation, land use, open space, and public investment -- Scenario D likewise reigned supreme, with two notable exceptions. Over the aquifer, ECT respondents wanted as little growth as possible, which was actually a vote for C rather than D. This was the outcome lobbied for by local greens, including the Save Our Springs Alliance, but as with most of the ECT survey findings, there's very little difference of opinion among the five counties in the metro area. So much for Austin being "out of touch" with the regional mainstream.

And as regards housing, C and D basically tied, in what ECT consultants John and Scott Fregonese call "a fairly nuanced response [that] shows a clear preference for the housing style of Scenario C with the land-use pattern of Scenario D." That means people still want single-family, owner-occupied housing, but in far more "urban" settings than they have been offered before. So much for the public voting with its wallets. (A point to consider when city leaders complain that urban neighborhoods will never accept this kind of density; what people really don't like are big, monolithic apartment complexes like, oh, the Villas on Guadalupe. Of course, any urban-core neighborhood leaders who object to density per se should likewise read the writing on the wall.)

That seems to be the rub -- everybody wants a house, but nobody wants to use the land necessary to build it on. Which is why I felt "C" was a decent compromise on that regard. Even if that means stuffing 100,000 people into Bastrop or Elgin, where presumably a lot of the new growth would occur under option "C."

(Scenario Summaries)

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December 06, 2003

Travis County Sheriff to retire

By Jim Dallas

Margo Frasier is out.

Frasier's chosen successor, Greg Hamilton, will file for the Democratic Primary soon. So far, three candidates (two Democrats, one Republican) have filed for the seat, which may be one of the toughest county-wide office for Democrats to hold next year.

(Be prepared to pound the pavement).

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December 05, 2003

Planned Parenthood Fights Back

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin Chronicle has a good article this week on Planned Parenthood's fight to build a clinic in South Austin. While anti-choice activists won a temporary victory a month ago in forcing subcontractors to boycott of the construction, Planned Parenthood is back on their feet. Not only have subcontracters from all over called the Planned Parenthood offices to offer their services, but Planned Parenthood has proceeded as their own contractor. Planned Parenthood has also exceeded its 2003 fundraising goals by a large margin, with more contributions pouring in daily from across the country. Anyway, read the article for more.

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December 02, 2003

Hillary Coming to Austin Friday

By Byron LaMasters

Get a signed copy of her book, here.

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Anti-Choice Activists to Rally in Austin Tonight

By Byron LaMasters

From a flier on campus:

"Austin City-wide Rally for Life: Uniting to oppose the building of the Planned Parenthood Abortion Facility.

Tuesday, December 2, from 7-9 PM, Doubletree Hotel, I.H. 35 & 290

Featuring Chris Danze, organizer of the Austin Contractor boycott that gained national attention by halting construction on the local $6.2 Million Planned Parenthood abortion facility, along with other dynamic pro-Life speakers, testimonials, and more.

Coalition for Life; 3300 Bee Caves Road, Suite 650; P.O. Box 183; Austin, Texas 78746 www.CoalitionForLife.com"

Will any pro-Choice activists be there? I hope so!

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November 20, 2003

Buzzflash on Blumenthal on Planned Parenthood

By Jim Dallas

Sidney Blumenthal
says Austin clinic fight is
part of "culture war"

Link -- In the Battle for Pro-Choice Rights, Bush's Texas is Ground Zero

What's happening here in Austin is not isolated, not in its efforts to close down Planned Parenthood services, or in its methods of intimidation. It is another incident in a long train of abuses. Its scope may not be widely understood, but that scope is, in fact, wide. A radical, extreme war is being waged, in my view, against the American tradition, against the separation of church and state, against long-settled law, against positive social policy whose benefits are proven, against science, against the Constitution, and even against religion, in the name of religion. This radicalism involves seemingly fringe groups and the Bush White House, eccentric billionaires with bizarre agendas and the leaders of the Republican Congress.

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November 11, 2003

Planned Parenthood Will Not be Deterred

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports:

Planned Parenthood of Austin officials said Monday they would become their own general contractors for a new Austin clinic following the original contractor's abandonment of the project last week.

"We realize that this is an unusual tactic, but unconventional times call for unconventional solutions," said Austin Planned Parenthood Executive Director Glenda Parks.

San Antonio-based Browning Construction told Planned Parenthood on Wednesday the company could not find subcontractors to build the new clinic after being assailed by a phone campaign to boycott the clinic. The boycott, begun by Chris Danze, owner of Austin concrete contractor Maldonado and Danze Inc, targeted businesses working or scheduled to work on the clinic with hundreds, sometimes thousands of phone calls.

"One subcontractor received 1,200 phone calls over the course of a week," Parks said. "A small boycott became a nationwide target list."

Parks said construction will resume on the clinic, known as The Choice Project, as soon as Planned Parenthood closes out its contract with Browning, probably within a couple of weeks.

"I know that opponents of the clinic will take this as a sign to redouble their efforts," said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Danielle Tierney. "They don't know who they're dealing with."

Parks said Planned Parenthood will not need to hire any new staff to take on the added role of contractor and that the facility is still on schedule to open in fall 2004.

Very good news. It's critical that this nonsense not deter the ability of women in the Austin area to receive the health care services provided by Planned Parenthood. This clinic will be built, and if the University Democrats have to get out there with shovels and pour concrete, we'll do it. So will thousands of other Austinites. Planned Parenthood really ought to sue the subcontracters for breaking their contracts (I'm not a lawyer, so I'll let someone else go into the legal aspects involved). Meanwhile, this whole spat has helped Planned Parenthood beat their fundraising goals:

Planned Parenthood's ann-ouncement came at its eighth annual Public Affairs Luncheon, a fund-raising event commemorating Planned Parenthood's 65th year in Austin. The group raised $180,087 at the event, exceeding their goal of $175,000.

"We've seen a lift in fund-raising since the first Texas Legislative session this year," said Tierney, referring to a law passed by the Texas Legislature that cuts federal funding to organizations that perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Austin and five other Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Health earlier this year to keep their federal funding. That suit is now pending in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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November 10, 2003

Building a Planned Parenthood Clinic

By Byron LaMasters

I know. I'm late on this one:

Construction on Planned Parenthood's South Austin clinic took a hard hit this week when the project's general contractor walked away because of intense pressure from abortion opponents.

Planned Parenthood officials said Browning Construction -- a San Antonio company that is one of the state's largest building contractors -- broke its contract to oversee construction of the 9,931-square-foot clinic.

"They were afraid their business could not survive this project," said Glenda Parks, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region.

In a written statement, company President James Browning said, "We have requested that the construction contract be terminated because we are unable to secure and retain adequate subcontractors and suppliers to complete the project in a timely manner, due to events beyond our control."

Planned Parenthood has not decided whether to take legal action and is exploring its options.

The clinic, to be located at 201 E. Ben White Blvd., would be the fourth licensed abortion provider in Austin.

It would also provide medical services such as tubal ligations, vasectomies, HIV testing and routine gynecological exams for poor or uninsured women.

Parks said two other contractors have volunteered to spearhead the construction but wouldn't give their names. Though work on the building has slowed, she said it has not stopped.

"I think in about two weeks, you'll see work as usual," she said.

On Wednesday, three former Austin mayors, a state representative and an Austin City Council member held a news conference calling on people to support Planned Parenthood.

The news conference came the same day President Bush signed a ban on a certain type of late-term abortion.

"People in Austin are tolerant," said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. "They are for affordable health care. We are not going to let a small group of radicals change that."

Browning's departure comes after hundreds and possibly thousands of people across the country participated in an Austin-led campaign to cripple the project.

In September, Chris Danze -- president of Maldonado and Danze Inc., a concrete construction contractor -- organized a boycott.

"Planned Parenthood is an organization with a health care wrapper, but it is a social movement at its core," he said. It's "a social movement that promotes sexual chaos, especially among our youth. Out of this sexual chaos comes the violence of abortion. That is the heart and soul of this movement."

The 48-year-old Austin man, who said he personally assists women who have troubled pregnancies, persuaded concrete suppliers to boycott the project. He kept a list of companies that worked on the facility, contacted churches and asked pro-life supporters to call the contractors.

Word got out.

News outlets across the country picked up the story, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Parks said. Hundreds of people called companies working on the clinic.

One contractor received 1,200 calls to his business line, Parks said. Another received several hundred at his home.

Parks said the contractors felt harassed and threatened. Danze said he has told callers to be polite and respectful.

"The calls involved two elements," Danze said. "The first is that it's wrong to build an abortion chamber. The second is that it's bad for future business."

Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd called that "economic blackmail."

"It's about tyranny," he said. "It's about harassment."

Texas Right to Life Director Elizabeth Graham called Danze a modern-day hero whose actions could inspire others to stand up against abortion. She could not recall another similar boycott in Texas.

But Kae McLaughlin of the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League called people like Danze a "tiny, vicious minority that wants its way."

Meanwhile, the battle continues. Danze says he'll continue to push the boycott. Parks says the project will move forward and that she has no plans to contact Danze.

"I don't think there's a lot of middle ground between us," she said.

Bruce Todd has it exactly right. This is "economic blackmail". A small group of radical activists have stopped constuction on a medical clinic, and it's a real shame. Off the Kuff has the story as well. I'd urge my readers to join me in following the course of action suggested by The Gunther Concept:

Okay, so all’s fair in love and war. But it seems to me that the folks behind this boycott/harassment campaign should be fair targets as well. If they think that it is their right to threaten the economic livelihood of people they don’t agree with, and call them at their home or place of business, they should be prepared to accept the same treatment. With that in mind, I’m posting below contact information for some of the individuals mentioned in the story as being behind this effort. Please use this information responsibly. Be polite but firm. Let them know that you don’t appreciate their infringement on individual rights. Call often. For businesses, let them know that you will boycott them and encourage others who do business with them to do the same.

Christopher Danze

Home Tel.: (512) 306-1326

Maldonado & Danze Inc
Business Tel.: (512) 837-9677

David Bereit

Home Tel.: (979) 690-3009

Bereit is represented by the Ambassador’s Speakers Bureaufor his role as a motivational speaker. Feel free to call them and let them know how you feel about the fact that they represent a client who has no regard for women’s rights.

Toll-Free Phone: (877) 425-4700, ext. 235
Fax: (615) 661-4344
E-mail: gloria.leyda@AmbassadorAgency.com

Mark Lynn Proeger

He lives in Austin. There is a contact number for a church he works at, but I do draw the line somewhere. However, he is in the habit of leading a series of informal meetings (“LQFA ; Lots of Questions, a Few Answers”) discussing faith type issue at a local coffee house. Call them up and let them know how you feel about the fact that they host an event run by someone who opposes women’s rights.

Spiderhouse Coffee Shop

Business Tel.: 512 480 9562

It's critical that these folks here understand that the majority of people in Austin are pro-choice and want women to be able to have access to the health care resources provided by Planned Parenthood. It's a disgrace that this had to happen in the first place. We'll build this clinic. Hand me a shovel.

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October 20, 2003

What Makes a City Cool?

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman had an interesting editorial today about what makes Austin cool:

Austin was considered one of the cooler cities in the country before cities were graded on cool. It had Willie, Hippie Hollow, Barton Springs Pool, the Broken Spoke and the Armadillo World Headquarters when no one much knew about them.

The technology boom in the 1990s gave Austin and its cool factor an international profile. Austin was gaining in reputation even as some of the institutions that made the town a center for hipness were declining and dying. But some still hang on, and other people and places have arisen as new Austin icons.


Cool cities did not become cool overnight, so creating them from scratch will be a challenge. Cool cities did not become the way they are because some person or group said they were going to make the place hip. They became that way because they had a critical mass of young people, a hot local scene and an economy to make them work.

But most of all, they were authentic. And that you can't get from a task force, think tank or formula.

The editorial was in response to the "cool cities" initiative pushed by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is pushing a "Cool Cities" initiative to make people want to live, work and shop in Michigan's cities.

"Cool cities mean hot jobs," Michigan's 43-year-old freshman governor said at the Digital Detroit conference on Wednesday.

She launched the project last month, after a Census Bureau report that listed metropolitan Detroit as first in the nation in the flight of young adults between 2000 and 2002.

The report said 33,371 people ages 25-34 -- one of every 20 in that group -- moved away in those two years.

"When young people leave Michigan, they take their talent, entrepreneurial spirit and job skills with them," Granholm said. "How is it that we can make a magnet for that kind of work force?"

The answer, Granholm said, is creating cool cities around the state.

Cool cities are places where people with talent and imagination can find work, along with rich cultural, social and recreational opportunities -- ingredients for a quality lifestyle, the governor said.

In other words, places like Austin, Texas.

The Statesman editorials says that the plan won't work, because "cool cities" are authentic, not planned:

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has launched a "Cool Cities" initiative to bring a little of Austin to the Wolverine state, according to The Associated Press. She's pushing the idea because the Detroit area leads the country in the number of young adults leaving the state.

Granholm said she wants to make Detroit a place that will attract and keep young people and their "talent, entrepreneurial spirit and job skills." And she wants to create cool cities throughout the state, where talented and imaginative young adults can work and play.

The first thing an Austinite might remind the Michigan governor is that Austin is a cool city, not a cold one. A Michigan winter is not conducive to long bicycle rides through the hills, outdoor barbecues and canoe excursions on a local river or lake.

A second reminder would be that Austin didn't set out to create a hip city; it simply allowed it. Trying too hard to be hip can easily backfire, because the first test of a cool city is its authenticity. A Six Flags-Disney-Seaworld version of Austin, San Francisco or Boston simply won't fly.

Michigan can build a Broken Spoke or a Continental Club, but they can only become local institutions after decades of showing people a good time. Michigan can court Starbucks, but it will never have the soul of a Little City or a Jo's. Michigan can create an inner-city hiking trail or a bicycle route, but walking and biking aren't the same on ice.

Well. Some of the criticism here is a little unfair. While many Texans, Floridians and others would object, it is possible to have a "cool city" where there's ice. Take New York, Boston or Chicago for example (or even Madison, Wisconsin, which is often compared to Austin), but the authenticity arguement is on the mark. "Cool cities" don't just pop up. It takes decades to make a place where people want to call home. Then again, a lot of making a place "cool" is rebuilding that authenticity. And that's what Detroit is trying to do:

"Places also are valued for authenticity and uniqueness," Florida said.

For Detroit boosters, that means fostering and publicizing its musical creativity, from the Motown sound of the 1960s to its place as the techno music capital today, officials say.

And it means encouraging entertainment magnets such as suburban Royal Oak and Ferndale and similar urban districts developing near the Wayne State University campus, they say.

In recent years, Ferndale's Nine Mile Road strip shopping district has sprouted with coffee houses, clubs and music stores.

Typical is Xhedos Cafe, with its outdoor seating and an indoor stage that features a nightly open mike for poets, singers and guitarists.

"It's nice to work here," said staffer Kevin Peyok, 30, of Detroit. After work, he frequents the area's restaurants, clubs and music stores.

"I think it's a pretty cool place," he said.

I think they're pretty much on the mark. No, Detroit will never have people biking to work in the winter, but Austin will never have people taking out their cross-country skis to get to work, so you take what you've got. I'll give Granholm credit. She's done more than just look at jobs. What good are jobs if no one wants them? What good is a job if people don't want to move to your city or state? Will Detroit ever be as cool as Austin? Hell, no, but if Granholm can make enough young people willing to stay there or come there, she's done a great service for the future of her state.

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October 16, 2003

KGSR Pokes at DeLay, Redistricting

By Jim Dallas

Local radio station KGSR 107.1 FM has started airing ads for its "Give Austin to a Friend" promotion making fun of redistricting.

In the ad, which jokingly pits morning DJs Kevin & Keven against a villainous caricature of DeLay, the promotion is threatened by Republican schemes to make Austin "cease to exist."

The DeLay character says he's "carvin' up [Austin] like so much cheap brisket", magically turning West Austin into "East Midland", North Austin into "South Waco", and South Austin into "Laredo del Norte".

Kevin and Kevin: "You're Crazy!"

DeLay: "Well boys, crazy's in the majority!"

(Pardon to KGSR if I misquoted any part of their ad).

Anyhow, it sure reflects a level of political consciousness not normally seen on FM radio morning shows these days... But then again, Austin is weird.

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September 29, 2003

How Stupid is TOO Stupid?

By Byron LaMasters

No, I'm not talking about our president, but rather about an Austin schoolbus driver who got a DWI:

An Austin school district bus driver has been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated — with children in the bus — after police said they found her at the helm of the bus in Southwest Austin on Friday afternoon.

Christina Bell Lowery, 47, has been released from the Travis County Jail on a $7,500 bond.

Police said a student on the bus called her father during the ride and said she was concerned that the bus had stopped at a fast-food restaurant. The father showed up a few minutes later and called police.

Authorities said the bus then began moving again and eventually ended up on Escarpment Boulevard, where Lowery was arrested.

There ought to be harsher penalties for people who drive schoolbuses while intoxicated. That's just obscenely irresponsible... and stupid.

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September 26, 2003

Austin City Council Opposes Patriot Act

By Byron LaMasters

In a resolution passed by the Austin City Council yesterday, the council noted its objection to the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, although it did say that it would cooperate with the provisions of the act. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Austin City Council officially put in writing its criticism of the USA Patriot Act on Thursday, joining the more than 170 cities and counties nationwide that have passed similar resolutions.

Council Members Jackie Goodman, Daryl Slusher, Danny Thomas and Raul Alvarez voted for the resolution, which also opposed the passing of the USA Patriot Act II. Mayor Will Wynn and Council Members Brewster McCracken and Betty Dunkerley abstained.

Austin's resolution expresses concern that the Patriot Act, lauded by federal lawmakers as an essential tool in fighting terrorism, might have the potential of violating fundamental liberties.

The resolution -- sponsored by Goodman, Thomas and Alvarez -- stopped short of directing police not to cooperate with federal authorities. And as Slusher requested, it does not declare any parts of the act unconstitutional.

The act was approved by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It gives the government surveillance powers that critics say could lead to the infringement of citizens' civil rights.

It changes federal officials' methods for obtaining records, search warrants and wiretaps if the investigation involves international espionage or terrorism. Agents still must convince a judge that any action is necessary.

The University Democrats endorsed this proposal at our first meeting of the semester. I supported the resolution, although in all honesty, it accomplishes little. I supported Will Wynn and Brewster McCraken in their campaigns, and I understand and respect their decision to abstain on this issue as (I think) they believe that it's not the job of a city government to pass resolutions on issues in which they have no authority.

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September 25, 2003

Precinct 1 Commissioner Race Heats Up

By Byron LaMasters

The Daily Texan reports on the Precint 1 County Commissioner race between Celia Israel and Ron Davis. The University of Texas is located in Precinct 1 (as is my apartment).

I blogged on this race a few weeks ago.

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September 07, 2003

Primary Time in Austin

By Byron LaMasters

It looks as if Democrats in Travis County will have a primary for the County Commissioner Precinct 1 seat. I live in the precinct, and I have not yet decided who I will support. The incumbent is Ron Davis (article is from his 1998 primary race. I could not find a current article/website extensively profiling him). The challenger is Celia Israel. The race is just developing. A friend of mine involved with the Israel campaign tells me that she's running because Ron Davis just doesn't do much, and Israel would be more of an activist for the district. While I don't follow commissioners court politics very closely, I rarely hear much about Ron Davis. He seems to have taken a low-profile. Then again, maybe I just don't pay enough attention. He could be doing all sorts of things that I don't know about. Israel has an impressive resume (in addition to having a good friend of mine helping her campaign), so I'll definitely highly consider supporting her regardless.

But having said all of that. It's hard to overlook the fact that Davis is Black and Israel is Hispanic. Democrats redistricted the county commissioners seats in 2001 (map, here pdf file) to create one heavily Republican seat (3) with most of the western half of the county, one Hispanic (Democratic) majority district (4 - southeast), one White Democratic majority district (2 - central and northeast) and one Black influence district (1 - east). The problem with that seat, however, is that while Blacks have held the district in recent years, there simply aren't enough Blacks in Travis County to have a majority-Black commissioners district. The district is only 21% Black Voting Age Population. (33% Hispanic and 39% White. Population breakdown for all county commissioner districts is here). While I doubt that Israel or Davis will resort to race-baiting, no doubt, some of their supporters will. Interestingly, White voters will decide which candidate wins. So, as a White Democratic Primary voter, here's my deal. The first candidate to resort to race-baiting tactics will automatically ensure my support of their opponent. Hopefully, we won't have any of that, and I'll be able to make a decision based on the merits of the candidates. We shall see...

Update: It's interesting to see the establishment support that Israel has already lined up in a race against an incumbent this early. The support includes Austin City Councilman Brewster McCracken, Bettie Naylor, former state reps. Lena Guerrero, Glen Maxey and Ann Kitchen and current State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez.

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August 15, 2003

Austin's Future

By Byron LaMasters

Liveablecity commissioned a poll of Austin residents on their thoughts on the economy and priorities for the city now, and in the future. So, go here for results and analysis. Check out the Lasso analysis, too.

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August 12, 2003

Austin is Weird

By Byron LaMasters

And we're proud of it. The Austin American Statesman reports. Link via ToT:

At first, only a few people stood in front of the Starbucks at Congress Avenue and Sixth Street with their umbrellas in hand.

The crowd grew to about a hundred, at a time when typically only a handful of people sit on benches waiting for a bus. By 7:20 p.m., it was clear something was afoot. A man in a cowboy hat passed out instructions:

"Your role: you are a member of the Austin Chapter of the International Mary Poppins Fan Club, an organization dedicated to spreading the virtue of supercalifragilistic- expialidocious," it read. "Today, you are meeting up with some other members of the club to participate in Bert's Synchronized Crosswalk."

Participants were directed to walk across the street at Sixth and Congress, singing and opening their umbrellas only while in the crosswalks. They were to cross again and again, completing two circuits, then disperse.

Some sang songs from the Julie Andrews movie while others just twirled their umbrellas and laughed.

Organizers of the stunt claim the episode, which lasted about 10 minutes, was Austin's first brush with "flash mobbing." The term has come to mean a large group of people who gather to perform some brief act, and then quickly disperse.

More info here, here, here and here. There's a reason Austin doesn't want to be represented by Republicans from Houston or San Antonio. We're too weird. They just wouldn't understand.

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July 18, 2003

Austin Smoking Ordinance Delayed

By Byron LaMasters

Last week, I wrote that the Austin City Council was considering a delay of it's smoking ban bars, restaurants and music venues. The ban was passed by a 4-3 vote last month. Two days later, the final council seat was won in a run-off by an anti-ban candidate, Brewster McCracken (who I supported, against pro-ban Margot Clarke). McCracken's addition to the council, along with the departure of pro-ban mayor Gus Garcia (replaced by anti-ban mayor Will Wynn), gave the anti-ban forces a 4-3 majority on the council. Yesterday, by a vote of 5-2, the council voted to delay the ban until January 2, 2004. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Like some horror-show monster, Austin's smoking ordinance seems to come out only after dark.

It also never seems to die.

City Council members voted 5-2 late Thursday to put off a smoking ban in most restaurants, bars and music venues until Jan. 2. It was the second late-night vote on the issue in six weeks.

And it is unlikely to be the final act. A majority of the council has voiced opposition to a ban and has been eager to find a compromise that would ease requirements on bar owners, who fear it will cut into their business.

Health groups urging a total ban have warned that a compromise probably would damage the health of waiters, waitresses, bartenders and other employees in smoky rooms.

The new rules were scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. The council is supposed to vote in late September on the city's toughest budget in well over a decade.

Mayor Will Wynn, who opposes the smoking ban, has frequently noted the city is preparing for potential tax increases, layoffs and other trappings of a budgetary nightmare.

He said Austinites do not need the distraction of the spring's biggest controversy through the summer maelstrom.

Although the council has been split throughout the debate, there was more unanimity for a delay.

Just Council Members Danny Thomas and Daryl Slusher voted against Wynn's proposal.

"I still support the ordinance, but I think it does make sense to defer the implementation of it for a few months until we decide what's going to happen to it," Council Member Betty Dunkerley said.

The council has changed since the smoking ordinance passed. Mayor Gus Garcia, who championed stricter rules, left office shortly after the measure passed.

Wynn, who was elected mayor in May, replaced Garcia.

And Brewster McCracken, whose opposition to a ban became a cornerstone of his council campaign, now has a seat on the dais.

Council Members Jackie Goodman and Raul Alvarez opposed the ban from the beginning, while Dunkerley, Slusher and Thomas supported it.

Even with opposition to the ordinance, few expect members to pull back to current rules that allow burning cigarettes at times in many restaurants and in bars almost all of the time.

Instead, most members are waiting to see what comes out of a city committee made up of health advocates and bar owners that is exploring the issue.

So far, the committee has found little room for compromise. But the council has already shown its willingness to look for middle ground, even if it's unpopular.

Although a majority favored stricter smoking regulations, the council balked at a total ban last month. The final ordinance has exemptions for bingo halls, billiard parlors and meeting halls for fraternal groups.

Both sides of the debate complained about the exemptions.

Health groups said a bartender in a pool hall deserved the same protection as one in a nonspecialty bar.

Owners warned that smokers -- the majority of their patrons -- would more likely buy their drinks in a pool hall if they could light up there.

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July 11, 2003

Austin Smoking Ban Status

By Byron LaMasters

Last month Austin passed a smoking ban for bars, restaurants and music venues by 4-3 margin. Two days later, the final council seat was won in a run-off by an anti-ban candidate, Brewster McCracken (who I supported, against pro-ban Margot Clarke). McCracken's addition to the council, along with the departure of pro-ban mayor Gus Garcia (replaced by anti-ban mayor Will Wynn), gave the anti-ban forces a 4-3 majority on the council. The majority is now seeking to delay the ban scheduled to go into effect on September 1:

They are not exactly addicted to it, but Austin City Council members are having a hard time putting down the citywide smoking ban.

The issue that ostensibly got its final resolution last month will come up for yet another vote next week, and even that might not be the last one. Mayor Will Wynn has proposed putting off the implementation of the ordinance until January.

Wynn, who opposed the ban as a council member, said there are too many questions about which businesses can continue catering to smokers.

The ordinance would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and music venues but allow it in billiard halls, bingo parlors and meeting halls for fraternal organizations.

Some bar owners have complained that the exemption provides an unfair advantage to competitors or will be a drain on their businesses. Health groups countered that the ordinance would protect the health of employees in bars and venues where smoking is now allowed relatively freely.

Wynn also said the implementation date -- Sept. 1 -- falls in the middle of the city's budget deliberations, and the smoking ordinance will be too distracting for council members trying to weigh spending cuts or tax increases.

The city needs to focus on the budget "and virtually nothing else," Wynn said. "It's not practical for us to clean up these loose ends prior to September 1."

A city committee also is considering the issue and is expected to report its recommendations this fall.

Some supporters of the ban immediately worried that the delay might be the first step in reversing the measure.

But Council Member Betty Dunkerley, part of the slim majority that installed the ban, said the new City Council might overturn the ordinance if a vote isn't put off.

"I would rather wait on the implementation than try to implement something that might be amended shortly thereafter, if not before," Dunkerley said. "I think the less confusion we have, the better."

On June 5, shortly before midnight, the council banned burning cigarettes in almost all of Austin's public buildings. Less than 48 hours later, Brewster McCracken, who campaigned against the ban, won the runoff for the last council seat.

McCracken joined Wynn and Council Members Jackie Goodman and Raul Alvarez -- who opposed the ordinance -- as part of a new majority that might overturn the ban. Dunkerley supported the ordinance with Council Members Daryl Slusher and Danny Thomas and former Mayor Gus Garcia.

Garcia said Thursday that Wynn's delay "basically is another way to kill it."

Julie Winckler, spokeswoman for the Tobacco-Free Austin Coalition, which has led the push for a total ban, said a delay isn't necessary because the council has heard arguments on both sides.

"I think we all can see the writing on the wall, that this is an effort to weaken the ordinance," she said.

Opponents of the ban, particularly bar owners worried about losing customers, said a delay would allow them to look for alternatives that might be less worrisome for business.

"I think it was kind of a rush to judgment," said John Wickham, owner of the Elysium nightclub and president of the Red River District Association. "I honestly believe that we'll be able to come up with something a little bit more thoughtful than what was passed."

I don't smoke, and I support smoking bans in most public buildings and resturaunts, but I think that smoking bans in bars go too far. The ban easily has many unintended consequences, such as helping bars with patios and hurting bars without, and also increasing pedestrian traffic, as people go outside the bars to smoke (which is an issue in and around 6th street). I do believe that part of the reason for McCracken's large margin of victory in the run-off was due to younger voters, upset about the smoking ban, turning out to support him. I know more than a few people that voted for McCracken in the run-off on that issue, that otherwise probably would not have voted.

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