Austin


Iran democracy vigil 012

Tex & I managed to stay silent for the entire minute of silence, but, o be perfectly fair, no one else at tonight’s Austin vigil was silent either.

iran-democracy-vigil-019

Most of the 700+ people who protested with candles were Iranian, and they all seemed to know each other.  Between me and Betsy, we knew three other people, but everyone was there for peaceful purposes.  In addition to the protesters, there were police officers on bicycles and a few regular joggers and bicycle riders who happened to be using the same bridge.

I spoke with a 19-yr-old student who has family in the South of Iran and a grandmother in Teheran.  She says that her grandmother hasn’t left her apartment at all in the past 10 days, but she feels safe living on the 19th floor of a large apartment building.

iran-democracy-vigil-005Tex spoke with a family that was in Iran in 1977-79 and the mom left with her infant daughter four days before Iranians took over the U.S. Embassy there.  The whole family are dual citizens and want their votes counted in both countries.

Austin has six TV stations, and five of them had satellite trucks at the vigil.  There were also print reporters and a few radio stations.

iran-democracy-vigil-019We walked back to the parking lot with a family from Iran, and the father of the family said that he missed Wednesday’s rally but was glad that he made it tonight.  He said that he’d have to stay better tuned in because we’ll be needing more vigils and protests, but I sincerely hope that we don’t need any more.

Iran democracy vigil 018

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animated texas flagSometimes I think I live in an entirely backwards state that does more harm than good. Other days I read stories like these that make me proud to be a Texan:

El Paso denies feds access to road for border fence

EL PASO, Texas — The country’s largest border city has decided to block efforts by federal authorities to use an access road that cuts across city property to work on existing border fencing.

The El Paso City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque district, from using the access road.

The vote, which City Councilman Steve Ortega described as “symbolic,” is the latest salvo by cities and property owners opposed to plans to build several hundred miles of new fencing in Texas.

“They haven’t made a case of why we need a new fence,” City Councilwoman Susie Byrd said after the vote.

Byrd said she was most concerned by what she described as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s lack of cooperation with local communities.

“The first time we’ve heard from them was today,” Byrd said.

In El Paso, Homeland Security officials have proposed replacing stretches of fencing near the city’s downtown that have been in place for well over a decade. There is also a plan to add new fencing that would cover more than a half-mile near one of the city’s international bridges.

…..Councilman Steve Ortega said the vote sends an important message about the city’s opposition to what he said was a symbolic attempt to secure the border.

“We met symbolism with symbolism,” Ortega said.

Austinites protest ICE presence in Travis Co. jail

Austinites protested federal immigration agents presence inside Travis County jails Tuesday on the front steps of the building.

The group says giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, an office inside the county jail isn’t fair. So along with protesting, the group delivered a letter of protest to the sheriff Tuesday.

The crowd also took turns voicing concerns of racial profiling and of dividing families. Leaders are worried an increased presence of ice will compromise public safety. They say documented and undocumented immigrants will fear reporting crimes because they could be removed from the country.

Sheriff Greg Hamilton responded to their concerns, saying it’s his job to keep the community safe and that means working with other law enforcement agencies.

student taking a test

I agree with the teachers. TOO MANY TESTS! (Also too much homework, which is why I am spending less time on my blog.)

Teacher group says schools should ease up on testing

Educators say they feel the pressure of ratings system.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The third week of school is under way. In other words, it’s time to start testing.

In the Austin school district, some teachers must start giving benchmark tests, which measures students’ strengths and weaknesses heading into the new year.

. . . . .

The statewide Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is the favorite punching bag of teachers and parents who say schools are too focused on tests.
But Malfaro said that much of the testing burden in Austin comes not from the state but from district officials who require teachers to give district-produced tests throughout the year.

Ann Smisko, the Austin school district’s associate superintendent for
curriculum, said the district, like most, “regularly assesses students for one main reason: to ensure that children receive better, more focused classroom instruction.”

Smisko said the district uses benchmark tests at the start of school to see where students are, in the middle of the year to measure progress and at the end to see whether students need extra help before moving to the next grade.

District officials said the number of days per year that a class spends on testing varies by grade and campus.

Ken Zarifis, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at Burnet Middle School in North Austin, said he and colleagues spend more than 40 of the 180 instructional days in a school year giving tests that they do not write themselves.

Those tests include state-written exams such as the TAKS and district-produced tests, such as six-week exams and the three-times-a-year benchmark tests.

 

solar panelsOK. Texas started. In addition to the ones mentioned here, there are also schools with some solar panels. Can the whole country do this? Can we do a better job at recycling at school? Can we turn in more work electronically and not on paper? Can they cut down on the AC sometimes? What’s happening where you live?

Schools find it easy being green

Districts strive to make campuses eco-friendly.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, August 26, 2007

When it comes to building schools, district leaders and taxpayers are focused on being green: being environmentally friendly as well as fiscally responsible.

Several campuses are opening for the first time Monday in the Austin area, and dozens of other campuses and school buildings are under construction or are being renovated. Many have gone green — using recyclable materials in construction and operation and saving on water and energy — as part of a nationwide movement that touts green schools as healthier for students and cheaper to operate.

Almost four years ago, the Austin school district made the largest purchase to date of renewable energy from Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program: 45.7 million kilowatt-hours annually of solar, wind or geothermal power. It was the largest such purchase by a school district nationwide. The district is eligible for $430,000 in Austin Energy rebates for environmentally friendly projects in the 2004 $519.5 million bond program.

When Pickle Elementary School opened in Northeast Austin in 1999, it was the first Austin campus to include green building features like proper solar orientation to better take advantage of natural light, which helps it use 25 percent less energy than other campuses, along with rainwater collection to replace water that evaporates out of air conditioners and salvaged long-leaf pine floors. An analysis estimates that those features will save the district $12 million over the life of the school.

Schools represent the largest construction sector in the nation, with $53 billion being spent this year, and they are the fastest-growing market for green building, which is expected to account for 5 percent to 10 percent of the school construction market by 2010, according to the Council of Educational Facility Planners International.

About 60 schools across the country, including two in Dallas and Houston, have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization in Washington that sets “green” standards. An additional 370 are in the pipeline; one San Marcos school is among the nine in Texas.

I wonder who is behind THESE people.

Not everyone believes that it’s easier being green, however. Saying that building costs would skyrocket, the Fast Growth School Coalition, a group of 124 Texas school districts, helped defeat a bill during the most recent legislative session that would have required all school construction to fall in line with standards set by the Green Building Council.

I just got this email. But it sounds like people in other states can call their governor too.

—Freckles Cassie

Dear Cassie,

George Bush has done it again. He has sided with insurance and drug company profits over the health and well-being of our nation’s children. Late Friday night, the Bush administration released a letter to state health officials that
effectively eliminated health insurance coverage for millions of American kids. This underhanded one-size-fits-all cutback limits Texas’s ability to cover uninsured kids and cripples any chance of reasonable expansion.¹

What can you do? Let’s face it; President Bush isn’t going to take your call.

On the other hand, when the governor of a state calls, even Bush will listen.

Call Governor Perry right now and demand that Texas stands up to President Bush’s anti-children campaign.

Governor Rick Perry
512 463-2000

Here’s what you can say:

“President Bush’s new rules which reduce the availability of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for uninsured kids must be repealed. Governor Perry must call President Bush today and demand a complete rollback of the new rules. Can I count on the governor to stand up for our kids?”

Please report how your call went here:
http://www.DemocracyforAmerica.com/chipcalls

This is a very important time. Congress is poised to send an extensive expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan to Bush’s desk next month, and Bush has already threatened to veto it. If we amp up the pressure now on a rules change they didn’t even think we’d notice, we send Bush and Republicans in Congress a clear message that the health of America’s children always comes first.

Please call the Governor right now. Your neighbor’s kid might be depending on it.

Charles Chamberlain

Political Director

¹: “Rules May Limit Health Program Aiding Children” NYTimes,8-21-2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/washington/21health.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

 

Lady Bird Johnson in the wildflowers

LADY BIRD JOHNSON — 1912-2007

Former first lady and conservationist.

If Austin can do it, then so can other cities!

—Freckles

wind turbines   house with solar panels in austin, tx  solar panels in Austin, TX

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Austin considered nation’s top city for clean energy

City gets high marks for enviro-friendly initiatives


WEST COAST BUREAU
Monday, March 12, 2007

LAS VEGAS — In the 1970s and 1980s, cities across America bet their economic futures on recruiting banks, insurance companies and other white-collar employers to replace factory and farm jobs.

In the 1990s, it was the computer industry. Then came biotech firms. The latest rage in economic development is “clean energy” companies that do everything from building windmills and solar panels to turning cow manure into fuel.

“This is bigger” than previous growth industries, said Lara Valentine, who was hired by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce to lure clean energy companies to the Texas capital. “Everything we do in this world revolves around energy.”

Austin, which became a hub for high tech during the computing revolution, is fast gaining recognition as a nationwide leader in clean energy and other clean technology ventures.

“Austin right now is the leading city in America” when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts, said Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, which promotes the industry.

Austin’s Clean Energy Incubator, a joint effort involving the city, Austin Energy and the University of Texas, is the first of its kind and has garnered national accolades. Started in 2001, the center helps clean energy ventures find funding and get their ideas to market.

About 18 companies have gotten a start in the program, including businesses that make biodiesel fuel, turn waste tires into electricity, make more efficient turbines and use the Internet to reduce irrigation needs.

The city’s Climate Protection Plan, a pet project of Mayor Will Wynn, is considered among the most forward-thinking municipal programs in the country.

The plan, which officials passed last month, calls for all city buildings to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2012 and for the entire fleet of city vehicles to run on either electricity or nonpetroleum fuels by 2020. It also could make Austin building codes the most energy-efficient in the nation.

City-owned Austin Energy is becoming known nationally for its clean energy efforts.

The utility plans to get 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, and Wynn’s office has said he would not support a traditional pulverized coal plant if a new generating facility is needed.

Austin Energy’s Green Choice program, which lets customers choose whether they want to get their energy solely from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, claims to be the nation’s biggest and has been so successful that there’s a backlog of customers who want to join.

More recently, Austin Energy announced that it would open up its power grid to clean energy companies from across the country looking for a place to test new technologies. Besides providing new sources of clean energy for Austin Energy, the program could help recruit more clean energy companies to the city.

Last month, SustainLane Government, a group that tracks sustainable living programs in U.S. cities, named Austin the nation’s No. 1 city for clean technology.

Balcones Recycling Inc. last week disclosed plans for another clean energy first for the city.

The Austin-based company said it plans to build a 125-acre Environomics Park northeast of downtown to recruit similar clean tech companies from around the globe. Balcones eventually wants to build a plant at the site to make alternative fuel pellets from recycled paper, similar to another plant it operates in Arkansas.

The city’s leadership role in clean energy is starting to pay off by attracting new companies to the area.

Among them: DT Solar, which last month picked Austin for its Southwest headquarters, which will probably create about 25 jobs. DT Solar, which is backed by media mogul Ted Turner, develops solar energy plants.

But Austin isn’t alone.

One year ago at the annual Power-Gen renewable energy conference in Las Vegas, Austin was the only city trying to recruit clean tech and clean energy companies, Valentine said.

Last week, economic development officials from New York, Washington, Oregon, the United Kingdom, Germany and elsewhere also had booths.

“Clean tech . . . is the next big thing,” Oregon economic development liaison Glenn Montgomery said.

This month, German solar cell company Solarworld AG said it had picked Hillsboro, Ore., for a plant that will employ at least 1,000 workers.

Other states are getting into the clean energy act, too.

Florida officials last month awarded the first of $15 million in renewable technology grants for clean tech ventures. Among the winners were projects to promote solar energy use, to make ethanol from citrus and sugar cane waste and to replace natural gas in factories with gas from switch grass and other plant materials. Gov. Charlie Crist recently recommended a $68 million spending package on other ways to encourage alternative energy businesses.

California, the leader in solar energy and other alternative energy use, is investing heavily too. Late last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $95 million package to support research, and this year, he launched an unprecedented solar power initiative.

In a major coup, the state and the University of California at Berkeley in February landed a $500 million clean energy research program funded by petroleum industry giant BP.

Whenever a new solar power company comes to town, whenever an ethanol refinery opens up, whenever a new wind turbine operation starts spinning, it creates jobs, Eckhart said.

Running a wind energy farm or installing solar panels doesn’t take as many workers as a factory churning out personal computers or semiconductors. And for now, clean energy initiatives are absorbing subsidies from states and cities, not creating tax revenue.

But governments are making the investment because they see the new businesses as requiring less infrastructure, polluting less and providing energy rather than consuming it.

“For every kilowatt of energy produced by renewable energy, about five jobs are created,” Valentine said.

What’s different about clean energy today is that it’s not just environmentalists talking about the benefits, Eckhart said. It “has now become a positive growth industry.”

Top cities for clean technology

1. Austin: Although cited specifically for its Clean Energy Incubator and Austin Energy’s plans to open up its grid to clean energy companies that want to test innovations, the city’s ambitious green energy plans also count.

2. San Jose, Calif.: Got good marks for its abundant venture capital sources and its major push into solar technologies.

3. Berkeley, Calif.: Could become a hotbed for biofuel research after the University of California at Berkeley landed a $500 million grant from petroleum giant BP and additional state funding to create an Energy Biosciences Institute.

4. Pasadena, Calif.: Got accolades for its Entretech high-tech development group and energy research being done at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech.

5. Boston: Besides California, it leads the nation in clean technology venture capital investments. Programs such as the Ignite Clean Energy Competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also are fostering clean energy industry growth.

Runners-up: San Francisco, New York, Seattle, San Diego and Houston.

Source: March rankings by SustainLane, which tracks sustainable living and clean technology initiatives

bkeefecoxnews.com

 
 
 


Find this article at:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/12/12cleantech.html

 

Also check out: GreenChoice® Energy Sources from AustinEnergy.

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