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Sunday Update for June 12, 2011

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek

The Republic of Texas Rally is winding down, but there’s another party tonight to raise money for Oak Hill wildfire victims, and Perry presidential speculation reaches a fever pitch. Break out the syrup and waffles, here is your Sunday news roundup.

Overall, it was mostly a peaceful ROT Rally this year, although there were some brawls that broke out on E. 6th St. Friday night. For the first time, Austin police held a “No Refusal” weekend during the ROT Rally. APD usually releases the number of DWIs and arrests the following Monday.

A second fundraiser will be held this afternoon for victims of the Oak Hill brush fire, an April blaze that destroyed eleven homes and damaged about twenty others. As we reported, this second fundraiser is being held after confusion over why money from the first fundraiser, sponsored by the Red Cross, did not go directly to the victims.

The publisher of the Oak Hill Gazette, Will Atkins, lives in the neighborhood where homes were damaged. He told KUT News that in his newspaper’s reporting on this story, some Oak Hill residents said they felt like the Red Cross had left them “high and dry.”

But the Red Cross says it doesn’t hold fundraisers for individual families as a matter of policy, and that the restaurant hosting the event was aware of those conditions. Today’s fundraiser is from 3 pm to 9 pm at Veterans Cove on 7614 Thomas Springs Road.

As Austin continues down the path to becoming a Formula 1 city, another North American F1 town is in full Grand Prix mode this weekend. Montreal is hosting racing festivities, with the city’s famous Crescent Street serving as ground zero for tourists. If you were wondering what it might be like in Austin on F1 weekend, check out some of these video reports from local Montreal TV.

Tomorrow will be an important day for the Austin ISD school board. Trustees will hold a work session to discuss redistricting in advance of a public hearing to be held the following Monday, June 20. New data from the US Census Bureau shows a great disparity among districts. Trustee Cheryl Bradley’s northeast Austin district, for example, has 80,000 voters, while Trustee Rob Schneider’s district in southwest Austin has 116,000.

Our political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune, has an interesting Sunday piece on one of Governor Perry’s controversial appointments to the University of Texas Board of Regents, Alex Cranberg. Cranberg has said it is time for regents to “push the reset button” on their relationship with university leadership.

Of all the regents, Cranberg was the one closest to Rick O’Donnell, a fellow former Coloradoan — and an associate of Sandefer — who had publicly questioned the value of academic research. The UT System’s hiring of O’Donnell as a special adviser to the board was one of the sparks that lit the state- wide controversy. (O’Donnell’s employment was terminated after 49 days, during which he was “unfairly attacked,” Cranberg said.)

Speaking of Governor Perry, the speculation over whether he will run for president continues to escalate, and his out-of-state trip to Los Angeles isn’t doing anything to dampen the prognostication. The Austin American-Statesman leads its Sunday print edition with a question over whether Perry is taking too long to make up his mind.

Gov. Rick Perry will look like a candidate for national office this week when he speaks to sympathetic crowds in Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans. Yet he hasn't announced any trips to Iowa or New Hampshire, sites of the first two presidential nominating contests

The author of the Statesman article, political reporter Jason Embry, was on KVUE this morning to talk about it.

Then again, Perry will be in the largest media market in the country Tuesday, New York City, to be the headlining speaker a high-profile fundraiser, the annual Lincoln Dinner of the New York Republican County Committee. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram says committee chairman Daniel Isaacs has organized a meet-and-greet for Perry with 30 of Manhattan’s top power brokers.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.