Whispers

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Seton names Vasquez to run teaching hospital

Seton Healthcare has named Christann Vasquez as the first president of the Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. She will begin in August. The medical school is already under construction and scheduled to open in 2016. Most recently, Vasquez was been the executive vice president and chief operating officer of University Health System in San Antonio. In that role, she was responsible for operations for the University Hospital, Texas Diabetes Institute, Community Medicine Associates as well as 16 outpatient facilities and clinics, among other duties. Vasquez was also CEO of the Houston-area Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and chief financial officer for Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Memorials dedicated for two APD officers

The Austin Police Department unveiled memorial markers for officers John Gaines and Tom Allen Tuesday as part of the Austin Police Officer Memorial Project. Officer John Gaines, the only African-American officer on the Austin police force at the time, was shot by George Booth, a deputy constable involved in a disturbance, at Sixth and Trinity streets Nov. 19, 1913. Booth shot Gaines while the officer was on the telephone summoning help from the police station. At that time, African-American officers were not allowed to arrest whites. Officer Tom Allen, Austin’s only African-American police officer since the death of Gaines two years earlier, was shot and killed at Jennings’ drugstore on East Sixth Street. The shooting followed an argument between Allen and the editor of a San Antonio-based black newspaper. The memorials were dedicated Tuesday and will remain at the corner of Sixth and Trinity streets.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City to accept electronics recycling

Austin residents and businesses now can bring used or damaged electronics to the City of Austin’s Resource Recovery Center for recycling at no cost. Through a recycling processing contract with Dallas-company ECS Refining, the Resource Recovery Center now accepts most consumer electronics, including TVs, computers, mobile devices, printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, video consoles and digital cameras. In addition, the center also accepts appliances such as air conditioners, water heaters, dryers, stoves, refrigerators, microwaves and all types of metals. The Resource Recovery Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3810 Todd Lane.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Austin Water Public Information Meeting on policy changes for line installations is set for 6 p.m. at Waller Creek Plaza, 625 East 10th Street.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Commissioners to vote on incentives for Charles Schwab

In a late addition to its agenda, the Travis County Commissioners Court will hold a public hearing today on a proposed economic incentive agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation, which is proposing a major a expansion of its Austin operations. Last week, the Texas Enterprise Fund approved a $4.5 million investment in Schwab’s Austin expansion, which is expected to create 823 new jobs and bring $210 million in capital investment into Austin. Commissioners will consider a 48.4 percent tax rebate based on the financial services company’s job creation and capital investment over a 10-year period. County officials did not put a dollar figure on the agreement, but critics of the deal are saying it could cost as much as $8.4 million. Commissioners will not vote on the deal until next week. ChangeAustin.org, Brian Rodgers’ public interest group, plans to be on hand for today’s public hearing to protest the deal.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Michael Kanin

LCRA cracking down on water pirates

The Lower Colorado River Authority said Monday it is cracking down on people who take water from the Highland Lakes or Lower Colorado River without a valid contract. The agency is asking anyone who spots a possible violation to report it to LCRA. Many of those believed to be taking water without a contract are people who live along the Highland Lakes and pull water directly from the lakes to water their lawns. LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson said though the amount of water estimated to be illegally diverted is small in comparison to the amount of water in the Highland Lakes and the Lower Colorado River, every gallon of water is important, especially during this severe drought. Wilson is expanding LCRA’s enforcement team by bringing in additional personnel from other areas of LCRA, including Water Conservation, Water Surface Management and the LCRA Rangers. The increased lake patrols will begin Aug. 1.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Public meeting on service line installations

The Austin Water Utility is making changes to its policies and procedures that cover water and wastewater service line installations. The utility is holding a public meeting Wednesday, to discuss these changes, which include updates on changes in internal processes that govern installation of water and wastewater service lines, including providing new service to legal lots and changes in regulations on service lines being relocated and/or adjusted due to redevelopment. Austin Water is also recommending that a regulation, commonly known as the “four- lot ordinance,” be revoked. This ordinance requires the utility to install water and wastewater service for certain properties being re-subdivided. For more information, contact Alice Flora or Randi Jenkins. The meeting is set from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 104 at Waller Creek Center, 625 E. 10th Street.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Austin Water wins award for use of GIS system

Austin Water Utility has received international acclaim for its use of Geographic Information Systems technology to support a variety of water conservation activities within the city. AWU was presented the Special Achievement in GIS Award at the 2014 Environmental Systems Research Institute International User Conference in San Diego. The nomination stood out among 100,000 user sites from around the world. The GIS tool was developed to help the City of Austin manage water resources while dealing with a major drought and rapid growth of the Austin area over the last 20 years.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Ethics Review Commission meets at 6 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . The Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority will hold public hearing at 6 p.m. regarding the proposed construction of State Highway 45 Southwest in Travis and Hays counties at Bowie High School, 4103 West Slaughter Lane. The open house for this hearing begins at 5 p.m. . . .The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in Chambers at 700 Lavaca St. . . . The Williamson County Commissioners Court meets at 9:30 a.m. in the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown . . . The Hays County Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos. . . . The Austin Hotel and Lodging Association is holding a Mayoral forum from 3-5 p.m. at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 University Ave. The association asked that those interested in attending pre-register but you may still be able to sign up.


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Nerds seek more library money

Self-described nerd J.C. Dwyer and 900 other citizens have signed a petition urging the City Council to put more funding into Austin’s libraries this year. Dwyer says he and others have had productive conversations with several members of Council and their staff and feels like they have a good chance to increase the limited funds that caused libraries to cut their hours several years ago. They “run a pretty tight ship,” he said. “They just barely have enough resources to do their job.” Last year’s priority was getting enough funds to put RFID (radio frequency identification) in the books of each branch to cut down on theft. In addition to the petition, Dwyer’s group has sponsored a letter writing campaign, which produced a multitude of hand-written letters, including some from children, to get Council’s attention.


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Council returns for budget hearing

On Thursday, Council members will hold their first budget work session since May, officially ending their summer break. That’s going to be at Town Lake Center at 9:30 a.m. We hope the staff has figured out an easy way to make Wi-Fi available to everyone. That’s just one of the little things that has cropped up as a problem since City Hall has been under reconstruction.


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Former commissioner seeking to clear her name

Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez, who resigned from the city’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission after the City Auditor issued a report saying that she had improperly participated in matters before the commission regarding her employer the company she had contracted with, Texas Disposal Systems, is seeking action at Tuesday’s meeting of the city’s Ethics Review Commission. Through her attorney, Mariano Conde de Frankenberg, Ochoa Gonzalez has asked the commission to state that the City Auditor Kenneth Mory exceeded his authority. Specifically, Ochoa Gonzalez wants the commission to find that City Code does not give the auditor any authority to conclude that a City official violated conflicts of interest provisions and to publicize such findings to the City Council. According to Frankenberg, both of these responsibilities reside solely with the Ethics Review Commission. The commission already has on its agenda a staff report on the auditor’s procedures in this case and will consider whether to file their own complaint against Ochoa Gonzalez. (This post has been corrected to reflect that Ochoa Gonzalez was a contractor and not an employee of TDS.)


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Hearing on ‘Source of Income’ protections

The Austin Human Rights Commission will consider a recommendation to the City Council to add “Source of Income” protections to the city’s Housing Discrimination Ordinance at its regular meeting today. The commission will take public comments. Source of Income protections are designed to keep low-income renters from discrimination because they derive all or part of their income from public assistance. The Austin Community Development Commission will consider a similar recommendation at its regular meeting Aug. 12. Today’s meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, 1000 East 11th Street.


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Travis County HR seeks changes in personnel policies

Travis County’s Human Resources Management Department is seeking two changes to the County Code. The department wants to revise its Drug and Alcohol policy to encourage, instead of penalize, people seeking help for substance abuse through the HR department. The department also wants to revise County Code to add a Catastrophic Sick Leave Policy, which would allow eligible employees to donate and receive hours from a pool of donated hours for paid time off. Employees could get extra paid time off hours after they exhaust their sick leave balance in cases of catastrophic injury or illness. Commissioners discussed the proposed changes last week and the items will be back on the agenda Tuesday.


Monday, July 28, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Capital Metro Transportation Authority board meets at noon at Capital Metro, 2910 East Fifth Street . . . The Design Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . . The Library Commission meets at 6 p.m. at the Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe Street . . . The Historic Landmark Commission meets at 7 p.m. in One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road.


Friday, July 25, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Pass the Torch program set

The 33 individuals participating in the Austin Fire Department’s Pass the Torch program will be graduating Saturday. AFD officials say the Pass the Torch program is designed to give individuals age18 to 24 a glimpse into the life of a firefighter, and a firsthand feel for life in the fire service to decide if the career is right for them. The ceremony is set for noon Saturday at the Austin Fire Department Training Academy, 4800-B Shaw Lane.


Friday, July 25, 2014 by Michael Kanin

NAAO plans endorsement meeting

The Network of Asian-American Organizations and its member organizations will host a candidate forum Saturday. Candidates for Mayor and City Council who responded to an NAAO candidate questionnaire will be permitted to speak on a first-come, first-serve basis and as time permits. Thirty-one candidates responded to the questionnaire. The NAAO political action committee, which is a separate group, will announce candidate endorsements after the forum. The meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Asian-American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road.


Friday, July 25, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Media tour of Urban Rail route planned

The Project Connect: Central Corridor Study Team is inviting local media types (that’s us) to tour the adopted Urban Rail Locally Preferred Alternative route next week. Attendees will be driven by bus through the 9.5-mile LPA route, stopping at destinations along the way to discuss characteristics of each stop and the influence each area had on definition of the LPA. In addition to the Project Connect team, reporters and their camera-toting sidekicks will get some face time with several people involved with the rail project, including: Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Capital Metro Board Member John Langmore, Downtown Alliance Executive Director Charlie Betts, UT Sustainability Director Jim Walker and ACC President Dr. Richard Rhodes. Look for the results on your 10 o’clock news Wednesday. The tour begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Daniel E. Ruiz Branch Library, 1600 Grove Blvd.


Friday, July 25, 2014 by Michael Kanin

State to invest in Schwab expansion in El Paso, Austin

Our bespectacled governor, Rick Perry, is apparently sending more than the Texas National Guard to the border these days… Now he’s sending stockbrokers. He announced Thursday that the Texas Enterprise Fund is making two multimillion-dollar investments in the Charles Schwab Corporation, one for a new operations center in El Paso and another to boost Schwab’s presence in Austin. The TEF is providing $1.45 million for the El Paso project, which is scheduled to create 445 jobs and $21.5 million in capital investment over the next 10 years. The $4.5 million TEF investment in the Austin project would create 823 jobs and a $210 million investment over the next decade. The El Paso operation is the newest major employment center for Schwab, joining its San Francisco corporate headquarters along with Denver, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Richfield, Chicago, Orlando and Austin as cities with significant numbers of employees. The financial services company also has some 320 retail branch offices across the U.S.


Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Morrison quashes rumor

Contrary to rumors, Council Member Laura Morrison has not declared her support for District 4 candidate Laura Pressley. Morrison said she has a favorite in that race and plans to announce her choice later this summer. But she said that choice is not Pressley. So far, Morrison has endorsed her colleague Kathie Tovo over her other colleague, Chris Riley, for District 9. She also said she favors Leslie Pool in the District 7 race . . .


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