Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas on November 18, 2011 · B1
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Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas · B1

Austin, Texas
Issue Date:
Friday, November 18, 2011
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SECURITIES CHIEF QUITS State of cial served for less than a year • Business, B7 G U n S , GRE n AD ES Man implicated in scheme to bilk federal project charged with illegal rearms possession • B2 • ST WC F * FRIDAY, Novembe R 18, 2011 • SECTION b METRO & STATE By Marty Toohey and Sarah Coppola AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Austin City Council Members Mike Martinez and Bill Spelman both launched campaigns Thursday for re-election, deciding against runs for mayor. In separate announcements, Martinez and Spelman touted their accomplishments while promising to make dealing with Austin’s rising taxes and cost of living their top priority. Voters will decide on four City Council seats, including the mayor’s, in May. Martinez, a former re ghter who has held the Place 2 council seat for the past 5½ years, said at a speech in East Austin that he wants another term to help Austinites “to live in your community, stay in your community, and not be taxed out of your community.” Spelman, a public policy professor at the University of Texas, said in a statement, “Austin’s economy may be doing better than most cities’, but wages are still at and jobs are still scarce. We need to be sure we’re stretching our tax dollars just as far as they can go.” It was probably a coincidence they declared on the same day (this is the first week city candidates can begin raising money). But the symmetry was odd, given their opposing votes on some controversial issues and the natural rivalry that could grow out of their mayoral ambitions. With both of them probably facing weak or no opposition, much of the City Hall chatter leading up to their announcements centered not on re-election but on their desire to be mayor. Martinez’s interest in the top job is widely known, although he pledged not to challenge Mayor Lee Lef n - gwell, a friend and political ally who is seeking re-election. Spelman was also mulling a run for mayor before recently telling supporters this election was not the time. They may not have to wait long for another crack at the of ce. A set of possible November 2012 referendums, intended to remake the city’s election system, could mean that Martinez and Spelman cannot serve on the council past November 2013 — and a run could be even more enticing if Leffingwell chooses not to run then. Spelman, a lanky, 6-foot-7 policy wonk with a deep voice and penchant for detailed PowerPoint presenta - Martinez, Spelman roll out City Council re-election campaigns au ST in See ELECTION , B G EORGETOWN — The century-old Williamson County Courthouse never has hosted anything quite like the Wednesday scene featuring District Judge Ken Anderson. Through him, the county where tough justice is meted out admitted it messed up in sending Michael Morton to prison. “In hindsight, the verdict was wrong,” Anderson said outside the courthouse where Morton, recently freed after 25 years in prison, was convicted in 1987. “Mr. Morton was, and is, innocent of murdering his wife.” Anderson looked down at his text three times as he said this: “As district attorney at the time, and as woefully inadequate as I realize it is, I want to formally apologize for the system’s failure to Mr. Morton and to every other person adversely affected by this verdict.” But, he added, “in my heart I know there was no misconduct whatsoever.” Ongoing investigations will judge the accuracy of that statement. Though the Morton case was not a capital case, it offers an Justice system’s fallibility on display See Herman , B KEN HERMAN Ken a nderson Former DA apologized for ‘failure.’ By Andrea Ball AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF A resident at the Austin State Supported Living Center has been hospitalized for more than two weeks after her mouth was sprayed with hazardous chemicals during a routine dental visit at the facility. Earlier this month, a dental hygienist accidentally cleaned the female patient’s teeth with a chemical compound used to remove tartar and stains, according to an internal investigation conducted by the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which runs the state living centers. That solution, which is not intended for use in the mouth, is a 15 percent dilution of sulfamic acid and is used to clean dentures. Hours after the incident, the woman was taken to the University Medical Center Brackenridge, where she experienced respiratory problems and other complications. She was in good condition Thursday. “This was a heartbreaking mistake — one that clearly demanded a serious, thorough response from us,” department spokeswoman Allison Lowery said. But disability rights advocates said they’re frustrated with the way the incident is being handled. Another state agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services, which investigates abuse and neglect at the living centers, declined to investigate, saying it was an administrative matter, and referred the case back to the Department of Aging and Disability Services. A separate disability services department investigation to determine whether regulations were violated has yet to be completed. An administrative review by the department indicates that the state might not discipline any of the center employees involved in the incident. “That to me, it implies a lack of accountability of the whole system,” said Dennis Borel, with the Coalition for Texans With Disabili - Mistake at dental visit puts client in hospital See DENTAL , B Acid solution sprayed accidentally in woman’s mouth, report says STATESMAN EXCLUSIVE STATE L IVIN g CENTE r The Georgetown City Council has voted to consider buying 16 houses that lie within a ood plain. During storms, water ows under Maple Street and through the openings in this bridge, ooding this low-lying area and the homes in the background. Some homes on the buyout list were inundated with 3 feet of water in 2010’s Tropical Storm Hermine. Laura Skelding photos Americ A n-st A tesm A n centra L texa S By c laire Osborn Americ A n- s t A tesm A n s t A ff GEORGETOWN — T he City of Georgetown is considering spending more than $3 million to buy 16 homes ooded during Tropical Storm Hermine in September 2010. The plan approved by the City Council was the cheapest one offered in a city-ordered study by an engineering rm of the Smith Branch creek area, and the homes there that have had a persistent problem with ooding, said city Transportation Director Ed Polasek, whose office also handles city drainage issues. The homes on the voluntary buyout list are in the San Jose and Quail Valley neighborhoods near downtown Georgetown. “The buyout option is the surest way of getting those residents out of the ood plain,” said City Council Member Tommy Gonzalez. “Many of these residents would not be able to purchase a similar property based on income and value. Many of these homes have been in the family for years, so homes are paid.” It is the first time the city has considered a buyout, which is being pursued this time because the study showed the flooding of the houses cannot be stopped just by making improvements to the creek, Polasek Georgetown might o er to buy 16 homes situated in flood plain See BUYOUT , B 6 Hector Rodriguez, 25, lives with his parents on 22nd Street. The last time it ooded, the water was about 3 feet high in their home, and Hector had to help his disabled parents out of the home, which is one of the 16 on the buyout list. Purchases could begin as early as 2014 if city receives federal funding By Brenda Bell american-statesman staff Joe Gracey, a seminal gure in the development of Austin’s eclectic music scene, died Thursday in Houston, nally succumbing to the disease that took his voice decades ago. Gracey, who turned 61 on Monday, was a music producer, writer and bass guitar player with wife Kimmie Rhodes’ band. He began making his mark in Austin in the 1970s as a young radio disc jockey with a preternaturally deep voice who took a new music format called progressive country and ran with it. “To me, his heart resonated to the ears of Austin,” said longtime friend, Austin attorney and musician Bobby Earl Smith. “He could make you feel like he was playing that song for you.” In his book, “The Incredible Rise of Redneck Rock,” author Jan Reid called Gracey a visionary who “played a compelling mix of Texas Gracey’s voice, playlist helped mold Austin’s music scene See MUSIC , B JOE GRACEY • 1950-2011 Jay Janner american - statesman Joe Gracey was called a visionary for his progressive country format. U.S. o cials want more data from state before ruling on minority bias By Mike Ward AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF In a clear signal that Texas’ March primaries might take place without new, stringent voter identification requirements, federal officials are warning that “incomplete information” provided by state elections of - ficials has left them unable to determine whether the controversial law discriminates against minorities. In a letter to state Elections Director Ann McGeehan on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice’s voting- rights chief made it clear that unless Texas provides the requested data soon, the new law could be stalled. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeau - voir, who oversees local elections, said time is running short. “If I don’t have everything decided and ready to go by Feb. 1, there won’t be time to get the manuals updated, get people trained, do what we have to do for the election,” DeBeauvoir said. “It’s not clear what we’re supposed to do in that law. There are so many questions.” The law requires voters to show a photo ID or alternative identi cation before they can cast a ballot. Championed by conservative Re - publicans who said it was needed to curb voter fraud, the hotly debated law has been opposed by Democrats and civil rights groups who said it would thwart minority voting. It was approved by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature in the spring and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, who declared it an emergency issue to expedite its passage. According to the letter from T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the Voting Rights Section of the Justice No photo ID law for primaries? TEXAS ELECTIONS See ID , B I NSIDE Temporary district maps issued for 2012 Legislature elections, B3

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