The El Paso Police Department released red light camera violation data for 31 red light cameras in El Paso. The data covers all incidents from October 31, 2006 to December 31, 2014. This data was made available via an open records request through the City of El Paso and the police department. RedFlex, which is the operator of the cameras, also aided in the production of the data. The exact location of each camera is not known, but the general location is shown (awaiting response from sources on exact location and direction of each camera).
Here is a breakdown of some of the titles when you click on a red balloon:
- Processed incidents- these are all violations caught on camera and sent to RedFlex for review
- Incidents rejected- these are incidents that RedFlex rejected for a given reason (i.e. blurry license plate)
- Incidents available for prosecution- these are incidents that RedFlex approved and are then sent to the local police department, who will review them
- Rejected violations- these are violations the police department rejected for a given reason
- Approved Violations- these are violations the police department approved, meaning a Notice of Violation is expected to be sent to the violator
- Violations Mailed- these are the total number of violations mailed out to vehicle owners
To clarify the math here:
- Processed incidents = Rejected incidents + Incidents available for prosecution
- Incidents available for prosecution = Rejected violations + Approved violations
- Approved violations > Violations Mailed
Worthy to note, it is the owner of the vehicle that receives a Violation of Notice, not the driver. Cameras only catch license plates, not the driver’s face. A civil penalty of $75 is assessed for each violation.
For more information on red light cameras in El Paso and Texas, click here.
While at the El Paso Times for a summer internship, I received a call from Stella Gutierrez, who said her daughter-in-law went to high school with Andi Teran, a budding author and who recently had her debut novel Ana of California, a modern adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, published in late June. Gutierrez suggested that I give Teran a call. After all, Teran is an El Paso native, so getting in touch with her and possibly writing a story about her debut novel and early success would be a good idea for a local newspaper to put out. Well, I did just that. I phone interviewed with Andi Teran on Wednesday August 5, 2015. Below is a transcript of the interview. The questions reflect the overall response, though some of them I did actually ask. Enjoy the read.
I also wrote a story on her debut for the El Paso Times.
Andi Teran- Ana of California- Interview- Aug. 5, 2015
Went to UT Austin- graduated with a theatre degree from the Department of Theatre and Dance in late 1990’s
“I went to Loretto High School. I went to Hanks High School my freshman year and then I transferred to Loretto. We moved from one side of town to the other and so I ended up graduating from Loretto.”
Wrote this Vanity Fair article that spurred the Neon Desert Music Festival in El Paso, Texas.
How was your visit to Austin?
I was there last week for a book signing and reading at Book People. Which was really great. I used to go there all the time when I was in school. But it was awesome. It was a really good turnout. Everyone was really nice. It was great being back in Texas.
When did you first get into writing?
I’ve always kind of been writing I guess since I was a kid. I loved to write in school and just on my own. I was always making up stories and telling them to my cats and my dogs and my stuffed animals. And then when I got to Loretto–when I transferred to Loretto, my sophomore year in high school, I had a really amazing English teacher named Mrs. Wilson. It was the first time I had a teacher who really inspired me not only to read a lot of amazing books but to write. And I think that’s when I started to take my writing a little bit more seriously. And I wrote all the time, I wrote plays, little stories, but I never showed it to anybody. I had really wanted to be an actor. So I went to drama school, and after drama school I moved to New York City and I was working at a hotel (Mercer Hotel) and there was a magazine (CITY Magazine) next door to the hotel and they asked me if I wanted to start writing for them. So that’s kind of where my career started, my professional career, and I wrote for several years for a bunch of different magazines in New York City. I wrote for Vanity Fair, I wrote for New York Magazine, a magazine called Monocle; I worked at MTV for a while. Just writing. And I did some work at Vogue too. And I wanted to move to California in order to be able to write full time. So that’s when we moved over here. That was two years ago. And that’s when I started writing the book.
What about Anne of Green Gables intrigued you as a child?
It was one of my favorite stories growing up as a kid. The lead character, Anne, is a very talkative and wildly imaginative child. And when I was a kid I really identified with that. I was also a very talkative child growing up. I was always talking and getting in trouble at school for talking too much. When I read that this character, I really loved that it felt like there was somebody else out in the world, even though she was fictional, that had a similar trait. And it was something that seemed positive rather than negative. So I really loved the story ever since I was a child. And when I moved to Los Angeles, I really was blown away by California, in general, and the city of LA. That it was a really big city with mountains and nature in the middle of it. So when I proposed to Penguin Books, the publishers of my book, about modernizing it, I knew that I wanted to set it in LA and have the main character, who is a complete modernization of the original Anne character, be a Latina, and from Los Angeles. And I am Mexican American myself, so it was really important that my character reflect my heritage in that way. And I also wanted to write a story for young women with a Latina heroine, because it’s not something that you see typically in fiction. So that’s how it came to be. And I’m a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables. In the original book the character is actually 11 and she ages until 16. And in my book she starts out at the age of 16, so she’s a little older.
Are there any characters in the book that resemble people you know?
Yeah, my grandma. Who is from El Paso. I’m from El Paso, I was born and raised in El Paso. My parents and grandparents are from the Lower Valley in south El Paso. And both my grandparents, they come from Mexico originally. And my grandma, I grew up spending a lot of time in her kitchen. And she was always cooking for us and making amazing meals and telling us stories. That’s where my love of stories really started too. She was always telling us stories about our family and our ancestors and our heritage. In my book, my main character Ana has an abuela, and she is very, very similar to my grandma. So when I was writing that character I really wanted to, um, my grandma has passed away so I really wanted to bring her back to life in this story as Ana’s grandma. And she is referred to in the book as “Abuela.” And my book is actually dedicated to my parents–I wrote it for my parents but I also dedicated it to my grandma. Because she was that important in creating that character. Everybody else, all the other characters, are pretty much from my imagination or they’re slightly similar to the original characters in the book of Anne of Green Gables. But there are traces of people that I know, probably here and there, in certain characters, but I wouldn’t say anybody specifically except for my grandma.
How did growing up in El Paso help shape your goals for the book?
Growing up in El Paso has been everything to me. I don’t think I would be writing today had I not grown up there. Aside from just loving the desert, I really learned a lot and got a lot out of my education at Loretto. Growing up on the east side, I spent a lot of times outdoors. We were always running around on the east side of town. We were always going out to Hueco Tanks to go hiking. It was really important to our family to get us out into nature and I think that has stayed with me even though I have lived in places like New York City and then in Austin and now in Los Angeles. I’m always thinking about the desert, and where I grew up. The mountains especially too. Aside from that, the people in El Paso and my family are really important to me and to my writing. I think whenever I sit down to write something fictional it’s hard not to think about your past and have parts and portions of yourself growing up kind of find their way into the fiction that you’re writing. So I would say that El Paso has meant everything to me. Not just as a person and as an adult, but as a writer. And my next book actually that I’m writing right now is set in El Paso, on the border. So that led me to writing a book set back there.
Looking at the challenges Ana faces in the book, how well would you have handled them?
Well, she’s an orphan, so I mean I didn’t grow up as an orphan but I did grow up as an only child. And I think most only children are afraid of lose their parents because they’ll be orphans and by themselves. And I’ve always been interested in orphan stories. Stories like James and the Giant Peach, which is about an orphan. And Anne of Green Gables of course is about an orphan. So I’ve always been interested in stories where kids have to find a way in the world by themselves. So thinking to Ana’s situation she has been an orphan for most of her life and living in the foster care system, which is really, really difficult. Especially as a teenager and as a child who has not been adopted by anybody else. I think that’s hard for anybody. And when I lived in El Paso, when I was going to high school, I volunteered at the El Paso Child crisis center and I really was affected and moved by a lot of the children I met there. And I would have to say that Ana in some way has come from that experience of what it likes to be a child alone in the world, trying to find their place. And that’s kind of why I wrote it, I really wanted to explore not only what that’s like, but to give a voice to children that have gone through something similar.
Is there anyone else who helped improve your writing?
I wouldn’t say there was any other particular person except for me trying to write and figure out how to do it. When I was in New York, I was able to work with a lot of amazing editors at magazines. My editors at City Magazine and Vanity Fair were both really instrumental in helping me get better as a writer. So I would say that when I was working as a journalist and nonfiction writer I was able to work with fantastic editors who helped me get better at writing and taught me a lot. But I think the best way is to continue working, and writing and writing. I’m still learning. I’m still figuring it out.
Is your new book going to be a follow up or a whole new world?
It’s a totally different book even though I’m really interested in writing a sequel to Ana. I’m working on something else that’s completely new. It’s very much influenced by my time growing up in El Paso.
How did you try to reach as many people as possible?
I’m still trying to reach as many people as possible. It’s really only been out for about a month. And as a new writer it’s hard. It’s really hard to reach a lot of people. I’m not well-known as a writer. You have to get out there and hustle and be your own cheerleader in a way to get the word out. So really at this point I’m hoping by word of mouth I can get the book out there. Because I really want… this book wasn’t written just for teens it was written for everybody. For adults and teens. And we’re not marketing it just as a YA book. It’s not just young adult fiction, it’s for adults too. And my adult characters are just as important as Ana. And when I wrote this book I wanted to write something that was optimistic and full of hope because that’s something that I feel we need more of in our current culture. So I’m trying to get the word out there. And one of the ways I really hope to do so is to reach out to my hometown in El Paso. And I feel that young people, especially in El Paso, young Latinas and Latinos, will hopefully be interested in reading this as well as adults. Even though this is set in California, so much of my history in El Paso and my time in El Paso influenced the writing of this book. So I’m still trying to get the word out. We’re in the very beginning of putting it out there and I hope the more people who read it are able to spread the word.
Who do you think will deeply connect with the book?
I would say, first and foremost, I think everybody who is interested in reading stories about people with struggles who are trying to overcome them and are looking towards doing that in a positive way. I think people who are looking for uplifting stories about hope and change would be interested in reading it. I think young people–my character starts out at 15 years old and she ages to 16 in this book–I think young people who are interested in reading about teens who are struggling and trying to find their place in the world would be interested in reading the book. And also I really think people who read Anne of Green Gables and are fans of it are a big market for this book because I think this is the first time that there has been a published book that’s a modernization of the original. And Penguin, who also publishes classic books, is very lucky that they wanted to publish this because they’re also marketing it along with Anne. So you can actually buy my book and then Anne of Green Gables, and then compare them side-by-side. But I think Anne of Green Gables fans would like it because there are similarities between the two but also really big differences. And I made sure to try and do my best to honor the legacy of the original book while also writing something completely different and new. So I don’t think you have to be a fan of the original at all to read this. It stands alone as its own. But hopefully people who haven’t read it will read my book and then want to go back and read the original book, which was written over 100 years ago.
Was it hard leaving El Paso and going from place to place in the U.S.?
Yes. Because I was leaving my home that I had grown up in. I was born and raised in El Paso. So going away to college, it was tough leaving home, just like I think it is for anybody because El Paso is, regardless of what part of town you live in, you live in a really tight community. And family is important to everybody, and I think in El Paso, I was just sad leaving some of my favorite places there. There was a coffee shop (Dolce Vita) I used to go to all the time by the university that isn’t there anymore where I met a lot of friends. And just even going to basketball games and football games at UTEP was something that we did as a family. Going hiking in Hueco Tanks was something we did. I was really sad to leave that and to leave Mexican food–really good Mexican food. And not just my grandma’s cooking but places like Casa Jurado on the west side (old Cincinnati Street location, now on Doniphan) where I grew up growing up from a very early age. But moving to Austin was great. It was really nice to stay in Texas, number one. And there were so many other people from El Paso who had moved there too. So we still kind of had our community intact. But I really always wanted to explore other places in the world, especially as a writer. When I decided to move to New York that was an even bigger move because it was even further away. So coming home was always such a treat, because I had been so far away from home. But I don’t think I ever stopped having El Paso in my heart. The longer I was away in New York, the more I wanted to move back to the western part of the United States. I actually came out to LA because of work. But it’s nice to be back on this side of the country because I’m able to go back to El Paso much more often and see my family.
Are there any places that you miss going to on a regular basis?
Gosh, some of them aren’t there anymore. But I really miss Casa Jurado. I miss their salsa the most. They have the best salsa in the world. I missed downtown El Paso, which I’ve always really enjoyed. And it’s so amazing to see how much it’s change. I loved going to the Tap (Bar and Restaurant) down there, which is an amazing bar that’s still intact. And just in terms of back then some of the places I used to go to aren’t even there anymore. Just hiking as well. I mean we spent a lot of time up either out in Hueco Tanks or in the mountains right in the middle of the city, doing hikes and walks up there. And I always miss being in the desert and seeing such an expansive sky and smelling a thunderstorm when it rolled in because it’s so beautiful. But I’m also really glad when I come back into town there’s been… there are new places that I really enjoy going to. I love Hope and Anchor, and all of the places that Jim Ward has built. Bowie Feathers downtown. It’s really great to see so many new places sprouting out that are really exciting. I love Crave restaurants and Ripe, which is on the west side. So many local restaurants like that that have blossomed in the last few years are such a treat to go home to. Those are my new places that I miss when I come back to L.A. And I also would say that I miss driving around in the Lower Valley where my grandparents used to live. That was always such a treat. We would go down there and drive around and go to bakeries and buy tortillas and just sit around, eating and hanging out, running around my grandparents’ neighborhood down there. I really miss going down and enjoying that. And I miss Western Playland being in the Lower Valley. It’s moved to the west side of town but I grew up going there all the time. And I loved it. We had such a good time as kids going to Western Playland in the Lower Valley. It was the best. We’d go there every summer. We’d be there all the time. It was so much fun. There were trees. It was such a blast. Even in high school you’d go and meet all your friends or meet other people. You’d go to like meet people. It was the same as going to a football game at UTEP. And all the teenagers–like no one would really watch the game we would just walk around and around and around. And I always thought that was really fun to… you’d go out to places like that and meet people from other schools and hang out. And it was really fun. So I guess I really miss that.
Possible book signing and reading in El Paso?
It’s not official but I’m still wanting to come home and do a book reading and signing. (possible event in September)
By Chris Caraveo
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.—winner of Sunday’s Daytona 500—stopped in Austin for the first time in his life on Tuesday and received a huge welcome from the city’s fans.
The Texas capital was not the only destination for Earnhardt, Jr. on the day. He spent the morning on several ESPN shows in Bristol, Conn. such as SportsCenter and Mike & Mike. By the afternoon he landed in Austin and arrived at Scholz Garten to speak with the media and fans.
Earnhardt, Jr. reflected on the 10-year gap between his first and second Daytona 500 wins. When he first came into the Cup Series, he wondered when his first would come. Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace, two NASCAR icons, never won there. His father, Dale Earnhardt, took 20 years before he won it.
“Would it be eluding me like it did these other guys? Would I never win it?” he questioned himself. “So when I won it early it was a huge shock. And the feeling that I had wasn’t really joy it was more relief that I had that put out of the way.”
But after the first, winning the second time became the goal.
“I felt grateful to have won it once but I was a bit selfish, I wanted to win it again. And rightfully so, it’s the greatest feeling you could have.”
After nine years without winning it and finishing second three times in the last four seasons, this year’s win produced the joy that he did not feel in 2004.
He has also had fun as a result of winning the race. He created a Twitter account that same night and has since gained more than 500,000 followers, not too surprising for NASCAR’s 11-time most popular driver.
And he personally controls his account.
“I’m definitely a rookie,” he said.
He also has a guideline he follows for dealing with fans.
“Just being grounded, being genuine, being yourself. When you got an opinion, I want to hear your honest opinion, and that’s the way I try to work with my fans. And I feel the same way with them; I want them to be honest with me about what they’re thinking.”
Reveling in the win won’t last long though. Once adversity strikes Daytona will become a distant memory.
“You forget all about Daytona. You forget all about what you just did and you’re just like everybody else again. You’re off the cloud, off the mountain, back in the pool with the rest of the drivers trying to win a race.”
As far as entering the Hall of Fame one day, he said he has some work to do.
“I think that I have been an asset to the sport, and I hope the sport is better off because of me having been involved in it,” he said. “But I don’t know if that gets you in the Hall of Fame. Winning two Daytona 500’s might. Hopefully we can win the championship this year. I think that might lock me up.”
He even put a timetable on how long he may have to get that title.
“I’d love to drive for another five or 10 years at least,” he said. “I want to run as long as I can be in competitive cars. That I feel I can be competitive personally as a driver. It won’t be any fun to be out there and not be competitive. If I can’t be in a car that’s capable of winning and I can’t do it as a driver then I don’t want to be out there.”
By Chris Caraveo
It had been 26 years since he last played a meaningful game of football. At 43 years old he was easily the oldest on the team. He was over 300 pounds. So he prepared for this game like it was one.
He went on a diet. He ran the treadmill at the firehouse. He lifted weights.
He organized about two or three practices each week leading up to the game. The team usually met at Gallegos Park near the old high school on weekend mornings or at the Galatzan Recreation Center soccer fields on weeknights since it had lights.
They created their own plays and listed them on armbands. They ran them in practice. They scrimmaged against other teams. The main problem they had was getting everyone to show up to practice.
When game day finally arrived, he was ready.
Jamey Olmstead was born Jan. 5, 1969, in Raton, N.M. He was the youngest of three siblings. He was the only boy. He grew up two miles from the Texas-New Mexico state line in the small west El Paso County community of Westway just outside Canutillo.
In his eighth grade year of football at Canutillo Middle School he met sixth grader Ramon Gomez, who was the team manager.
It was through football that Gomez and Olmstead got to know each other better than they had before then.
“Growing up in Canutillo back then with one elementary, one junior high and one high school, you just knew people,” Gomez said. “I knew who he and his family were before because my older siblings went to school with his siblings.”
Gomez observed Olmstead’s talent and behavior. Off the field, he was always the first guy who patted you on the back or kicked you in the butt if you were out of line. On the field, he was extremely competitive and always a leader.
The Eagles had played Magoffin one night. During the game apparently one of the Lobos disliked the beating he received from an Eagle.
“One of our guys sacked their quarterback a couple of times and was just eating the offensive tackle’s lunch all game long,” Gomez said.
After the Eagles lost the game they attempted to line up to shake hands with the Lobos. Before they all could do so that same offensive tackle started a fight. The benches cleared immediately.
As one of the biggest players on the team Olmstead tried to pull Magoffin players off his teammates. A few Lobos jumped on him.
“Then Jamey’s dad jumps in and begins throwing players off to the side as if they were stuffed animals until the scuffle was contained,” Gomez said.
Olmstead began his freshman year at Canutillo High School in 1983. There was no freshman football team. So he started on the varsity team.
The football field was not perfect throughout high school. It was natural grass. Thorns stuck on the players. Mosquitoes buzzed in the air. The locker rooms were far away from the field. They had to walk back and forth through an unleveled dirt field during practices and games.
Gomez worried about the team’s health with such an obstacle.
“We had to be careful not to twist an ankle just getting to the football field,” Gomez said.
His senior year Olmstead started at defensive end and offensive guard. There were only 30 players on the team.
A year after he graduated in 1987 Olmstead volunteered at the West Valley Fire Department in Canutillo. Then in 1991 he took a job at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.
He lived with his mother and one of his sisters while he worked.
One afternoon in the fall 1996 after work he walked into Circle K store on Woodrow Bean. There he met a worker named Nora. She was a single mother of three boys. The eldest was six.
The two dated soon afterwards.
Three years later on Nov. 11 Nora gave birth to their daughter Storm. Though they were not married a family had started.
For four years they lived in a rented three-bedroom house at the end of the dead end street of Sarah Anne.
But Olmstead desired to live in a home close to the fire department. A place where his kids could be Eagles like he had been. Canutillo Eagles. Not Andress Eagles like they would have become if they had stayed in that cramped house.
So in November 2003 they moved to the west side. Olmstead had finally returned to his side of the city.
“The best part of town,” he said.
Prior to the game Olmstead walked down the stadium steps past the crowd and onto the field just like the Eagles did before each home game.
In 2006 Canutillo High School changed venues. It was no longer on Bosque Road amid trailer park houses but along Interstate-10. The school also received a state-of-the-art football facility: Julius and Irene Lowenberg Eagle Stadium. The Nest, they called it. It cost about $15 million to construct. It had green synthetic green turf. Now it is blue like half of the school colors. It sat approximately 12,000 people.
It was a site Olmstead thought he would never get to call home and play at.
Now back in the area where he once played football he could get to see his own kids follow in his footsteps. Two of his step-sons—his sons, Ibn and Gilbert—began to play football when they were in middle school.
Both of his sons got to play on his old playing field. Ibn played at the old high school as a freshman in 2005. And since it had become the new Canutillo Middle School in 2006 Gilbert also played on the field as a middle schooler.
At the beginning of Gilbert’s junior year in 2009 Olmstead took up an activity that has since become a hobby and staple in his life: photography. He spent nearly $10,000 on equipment.
He started out by just taking pictures of Gilbert and the football team. Then he expanded to other high school sports and portrait shots. He created a Facebook account and uploaded pictures to share with the players and their families. He developed and printed out photos from the nearby Walgreens. He even burned discs for them.
And he did all of it for free.
With his sons playing football and him taking photos of the team Olmstead got to be close to his alma mater. He developed friendships with his sons’ teammates and friends. He befriended athletes in other sports.
Stephanie Sapien first met Olmstead as a sophomore. She played basketball and was on the track and field team. One day at a track meet she was hanging out with Olmstead’s sons. Their dad approached and talked with them.
“I found myself laughing at everything he had to say,” Sapien said. “My first impression of him was something along the lines of, ‘This guy is funny but I wouldn’t want to be the one to see him mad.’”
He taught her the proper way to breathe before she competed.
“Four seconds in, four seconds hold, four seconds out,” she said. “My nerves calmed down and then I was able to do what needed to be done.”
At the games he rekindled old friendships and made new ones with people who had lived in the Canutillo area since he graduated and moved northeast.
Gloria Guerrero was not a close friend of Olmstead’s when they were in high school. Now a mother of a student-athlete, she could not attend all of her daughter’s track meets. But on most occasions Olmstead was. He took pictures of Gloria’s daughter Celina as he did of everyone else. The pictures he gave Gloria allowed her to cherish those memories.
“The way he interacts with all those athletes and follows them, he’s like an adoptive father to them all.”
Sapien shared a similar view.
“It’s great to know that there is always that fan in the crowd, especially for those student athletes who don’t always have that support system that their teammates have.”
The fact that he takes and distributes his pictures for free also amazed Guerrero.
“He could be making money shooting all of these events but he doesn’t,” she said. “He does it for the kids.
“And that’s where it’s at! I mean, who would do that? Nobody, that’s who! He is one of a kind.”
It was only a matter of time before his newfound craft received some professional recognition.
In 2010 a worker at EP Gridiron—El Paso’s high school football media website—saw some of Olmstead’s photos and liked them. He wanted to use some for the site. Later he offered Olmstead a job as a photographer. For money. But if Olmstead accepted he would have had to shoot teams other than just Canutillo.
“I wouldn’t be able to shoot my kids, our kids, my Eagles, on Friday nights.”
But Olmstead did not want to just relegate his involvement with the athletes by just taking their pictures. He yearned for a chance to relive his high school days.
He wanted to play with his sons. His Eagles.
Nearly 26 years after his last football game Olmstead found a way to get back onto the playing field.
In 2011 Alumni Football USA looked for El Paso high schools that wanted to participate in some alumni games it hosted annually. That winter Olmstead decided he would put on the orange helmet one more time and play in a game.
So he and Tim Bishop of Alumni Football USA registered Canutillo for a game. About 25 players filled the roster. A date was set. Jan. 28, 2012. The venue: The Nest. The opponent: their district rivals the Riverside Rangers.
That night he lined up at center during the game. Ibn squatted down two positions to his right. Gilbert stood out wide at receiver.
Alumni Football USA recorded the game. People took pictures.
Jamey Olmstead was not one of those people obviously.
He was an Eagle.
such attire to ensure a Halloween-friendly atmosphere.
|Shengmii Shirley poses as part of the Rockin’ Bones Fashion of the Living Dead show. Rockin’ Bones depends on its models to possess the right look to provide authenticity in its designs.|
|Crystal Green displays a Halloween-friendly outfit at the Rockin’ Bones fashion show. The retailer provides customers with appealing clothing that is hand-made “D.I.Y.” (do-it-yourself) in the United States.|
|Lisa dances while showing off Rockin’ Bones apparel in front of a crowd at Fashion of the Living Dead fashion show.|
|Charlotte embodies the look sought after by owners Robert and Kendra, featuring mystique and intimidation through the use of makeup around the eyes.|
(From left to right): Darla Doherty, Daley Catherine and Lacey Starr display the looks required by Rockin’ Bones owners Robert and Kendra Jimison, which entails a punk-rock/metal-style look and attitude.
holidays of the year.
By Chris Caraveo
The future of historical buildings remaining in the Rainey Street subdistrict is uncertain after Austin City Council proposed an amendment that will allow for developers to relocate the buildings in order to construct new ones.
The Rainey Street subdistrict is known as one of the first Mexican-American communities in Austin. Rainey Street is just off of Interstate 35, near Caesar Chavez Street. Austin recognized the subdistrict as one of the first Mexican-American communities in the city during the mid-1930s. The area is home to a series of historic bungalows and since the 1950s, Mexican-Americans mostly inhabited them.
But with the continued development of bars and high-rise buildings in the area, many of the buildings are run down and some residents have moved from the area.
This situation led developers to seek the demolition of the buildings. The developers submitted an application to remove six of the houses on Rainey Street, and bought out the lots where the homes are located. To counter this application, active citizens proposed that the homes be relocated.
The council proposed an amendment to Chapter 25-2 of the City Code which calls for the relocation of the buildings rather than their demolition.
The relocation will allow the buildings to be reused and prevent building materials from being sent to the landfills.
Developers will receive incentives for relocating the buildings outside of the Rainey Street subdistrict, according to the amendment. Developers earn points from the City of Austin if they comply to do certain tasks, such as installing benches, lights and new pavement, as well as if they relocate the historical landmarks. Once they accumulate 65 points, they can construct buildings past the height restrictions as a reward for improving the area.
Some people do not like the plan to just relocate the buildings. Though the proposed amendment calls for proper reuse once developers relocate the buildings, it has not been made clear how.
Paul Saldana, a longtime resident of Austin and president of Brisa Communications, attended the Austin City Council meeting on March 7. He said there have not been any discussions about preservation of the buildings, only about relocation.
Saldana’s work at Brisa Communications includes real estate consulting services for development and construction clients. He said that people in the community want some type of historical preservation plan to recognize the Hispanic influence in the area, which has been unrecognized.
“We all pride ourselves in the amount of diversity of our city, so we need to do something about preserving Mexican culture,” he said.
Juan Oyervides, a chair member on the Mexican American Cultural Center board, said that it is the MACC’s responsibility to help preserve homes in the Rainey Street area.
“This area is significant to the Mexican American community in Austin,” he said. “These homes are worth preserving because they have a lot of history and they represent memories for the Hispanic community.”
At the City Council meeting two people gave their testimony about preserving the landmarks on Rainey Street, even if the homes have to be relocated.
Richard DaFoe, a six-year resident of Austin and University of Texas graduate, voiced his displeasure over City Council’s actions concerning the issue.
“City Council needs to stop cowering and looking down at their notes and raise their eyes up to the citizens that make Austin what it is,” DaFoe said in front of the council.
DaFoe was focused on criticizing the council, and said that the council is not doing enough to protect its citizens.
“City Council cares about rolling out the red carpet for developers than about protecting what makes Austin weird,” he said.
Saldana and Oyervides proposed that something be done with homes in terms of both relocation and preservation. However, City Council does not want the homes to be relocated within the subdistrict, so elsewhere would have to suffice, though where is up for debate.
Oyervides said he wants to see the homes relocated as a group to another location near the area, but said that this option is unlikely to happen. He said he hopes that the homes can at least be relocated and be reused as housing.
Another possibility is for a non-profit organization to handle the preservation efforts of the homes, which could save taxpayers money. Saldana said that relocating the houses can cost $25,000, and to settle them on a new lot costs between $75,000 and $90,000.
Due to the uncertainty over how to resolve the issue about the homes, Saldana and DaFoe shared the same view that City Council should postpone any decision until a clearer and broader vision for Rainey Street is made.
The council voted to postpone the decision over the proposed amendment and will convene on Apr. 11 to further discuss this issue.
By Chris Caraveo
Texans feel that the current requirements of standardized testing diminish the education of students. Opponents of standardized testing gathered at the Texas Capitol for the Save Our Schools rally on Saturday to demand a change in state testing.
Since the 2011-12 school year, the Texas Education Code requires students in Texas to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, also known as STAAR. A student’s performance on the test determines whether or not he or she will advance to the next grade level. In Texas high schools, students must pass 15 End-of-Course exams in the core subjects of mathematics, English, science and social studies. A student’s failure to pass all of them prevents him or her from graduating under the recommended or distinguished diploma plan.
The Texas Education Code, Section 39.023(c), also instructs Texas high schools to count EOC exam scores as 15% of a student’s final grade in each course tested on. It took effect for the 2011-12 year but the Texas Commissioner of Education postponed this requirement for the next two school years as legislators try to improve the testing system.
Opponents of these requirements have already started to take action by going to legislative meetings on public education and voicing their displeasure over the rule.
Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, or TAMSA, is a group of concerned parents that seek to improve public education in Texas. While proponents of the 15% grade requirement argue that it is necessary in order for students to take testing seriously, TAMSA argues that having to pass 15 exams to graduate is incentive enough.
The test requirements to graduate take away time from learning, as teachers have to get students to pass a test rather than learn, Stacey Amick said.
“They are excessive and the tests are deeply flawed,” Amick, a parent of two middle school students, said. “Texas requires far and above any other state. It destroys kids’ love of learning and subjects them to test driven instruction.”
In comparison with her own education, Amick said that back in 1988 communities trusted that teachers knew what to teach their students. She graduated in 1988 and was the last class that did not have to pass a test to graduate. She said she has done well since then.
She does not feel the same way about students today, she said.
“I fear the emphasis on testing has caused a cook-book style approach that leaves kids without the skills they need after high school,” she said. “Testing doesn’t fix that problem. It is the problem.”
Even if EOC exams are needed to graduate, TAMSA said that 15 is overburdening. Instead, it wants students to only have to pass three exams to graduate.
Currently, a passing score in science is between 30 and 40 percent, Karen Peck, a board member for TAMSA, said.
Peck worries about the rigor of the test. She said that no one objects to rigor, but the tests go beyond that with questions that are not essential to a student’s education.
“What does ‘rigor’ mean if a test is written so that the passing score ends up being set between 30 and 40%? Does it mean that the test was designed to be written so that barely anyone could pass it?
“And if the passing score is 35 or 40%, what does that tell us about the test? What value does the test add?”
Mary Ann Whitaker, superintendent of Hudson Independent School District, said at the Save Texas Schools rally on Saturday that tests are killing our students, our teachers, and most importantly, our children.
“We do not treasure a test,” she said.
However, taxpayers have contributed plenty of money to Pearson, a British company that designs the tests for Texas students, according to TAMSA’s data collection. Texas taxpayers will have paid about 1.2 billion dollars in taxes that fund state assessment tests from 2000-2015. Each year the amount of taxes paid to Pearson has increased and will reach nearly 99 million dollars in 2015.
Despite the increase, Susan Aspey, vice president of media relations at Pearson, said that the amount spent by TEA for assessments was 0.19 percent of the $47.4 billion education budget for grades K-12 in Texas for 2011-2012. She said this is less than the national average as cited in the Brookings Institution report Strength in Numbers in November 2012.
Still, opponents want to lessen the number of tests students have to take, in order to spend less on exams. They hope the legislature makes critical changes to the system during the 2013 session.
John Kuhn, a supporter of Save Texas Schools, compared the demand for improved public education to the Texans’ fight for independence from Mexico.
“Last year may have been our Alamo,” Kuhn said at the rally, “but this year may be our San Jacinto.”