Top local stories of the week – Austin American

Published: 11:04 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011


Trackless tracts: A Statesman investigation revealed that the ownership of tens of thousands of Central Texas home loans could be in question because proper documents haven’t been filed with county clerks. The Mortgage Electronic Registration System has been used by lenders to track the bundling and selling of mortgage loans as commodities, but those transactions haven’t been recorded in county courthouses.


A fresh look, a fresh story: A new analysis by the University of Texas system found that UT-Austin faculty members are extremely productive as measured by teaching loads and attract twice as much in grants as they cost taxpayers in salaries. The conclusions conflict sharply with an analysis of the same data by a former UT System adviser that was released four months ago, primarily because of different methods for analyzing the raw data.

An island no more: Sometimes Island is a peninsula for the first time since the 1960s. At 626 feet above sea level, Lake Travis is 42 feet below average for this time of the year, the third-worst year for lake levels since it was built.


Friends with benefits? Despite the objections of the Texas Railroad Commission, every state and local official representing Montgomery County — and an administrative law judge — the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an industrial waste injection well permit for TexCom Inc., whose top investors include friends and campaign contributors of Gov. Rick Perry.

F1 hits wall: The future of a Formula 1 race in Austin is anything but certain after construction was halted on the racetrack. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said the race won’t happen if he can’t have a guarantee on payment from Circuit of the Americas, which is financing the track. The state then said it wouldn’t pay $25 million in incentives until after the first race.

What is that stuff? Austinites can be forgiven for being confused by the presence of rainfall, but with less than an inch falling in Austin, it won’t put an end to the drought this go-around.


Allegations of abuse: A longtime child psychiatrist for the Austin State Hospital has been accused of sexually abusing at least one child in his care, and possibly more, according to the state Department of Family and Protective Services.

Anderson’s apology: Former prosecutor Ken Anderson offered a public apology to Michael Morton at the Williamson County Courthouse. Morton spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, a crime he didn’t commit.

On the boardwalk:The Trail Foundation’s efforts to raise $3 million to assist the city in building a boardwalk extension of the Lady Bird Lake hike-and-bike trail have been so successful so quickly, with $2.4 million already raised, that the group has upped its fundraising goal to $5 million.


The race is on: Austin council members Mike Martinez and Bill Spellman made it official: They’ll seek re-election to their respective seats rather than challenge Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who announced Wednesday he’s also seeking re-election.

Dangerous mistake: A resident at the Austin State Supported Living Center has been hospitalized for more than two weeks after a dental hygienist accidentally cleaned the female patient’s teeth with a chemical compound used to remove tartar and stains from dentures, according to an internal investigation conducted by the Department of Aging and Disability Services.


Back to the drawing board: In early December, city officials will hold an open house to determine what the public really wants to see in Butler Park, which was pitched as a bond measure to voters in 1998 as a sort of Central Park along the shore of Lady Bird Lake. In June, after an American-Statesman report detailing the city’s missteps in finishing the park, the City Council ordered city staff to get the languishing project moving.

Hidden cost of vaccine: This year, the Texas Legislature expanded the meningitis vaccine requirement to all students under age 30 entering college, including those who live off campus. With the change, a huge swath of nontraditional college students were swept into the mandate, many of whom are low-
income students without health insurance who are attending community college.