K. .71 SCORE ONE FOR THE LITTLE GUY. The Barton Springs Salamander is one tough little critter. It huddles under rocks at the bottom of Austin’s Barton Springs Pool, as hundreds of kids perform cannonballs directly overhead. It weathers heavy rains, which increasingly deposit piles of sediment and pollutants into its habitat. It’s even survived lethal pool cleanings that were supposed to help protect it. And the latest decision by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbittto list the salamander as an endangered species demonstrates that the tiny amphibian can even occasionally whip Washington, as well as Governor George Bush and a group of corporate developers with their eyes on the West Austin watershed. Babbitt’s decision came after Senior U.S. District Judge Lucius D. Bunton refused to let the Secretary put Texas in charge of pro tecting the salamander. In order to avoid listing the salamander as an endangered .;,-1 species, Babbitt had tried to submit a state agreementhastily drafted in an attempt by the state and developers to fend off direct federal regulationwhich promised that Texas would protect water quality and establish a captive breeding program. But Bunton’s prove-it-or-lose-it response made it clear he wasn’t buying: “The Secretary cannot use promises of proposed future actions as an excuse for not making a determination based on the existing record.” Even more stinging was the judge’s accusation that Babbitt had allowed political pressure, instead of scientific data, to influence his decision, saying the Secretary acted “arbitrarily and capriciously.” The ruling cited correspondence from Bush, his own staff, and evidence of strong lobbying efforts by developers. The court listed scientific findings showing that the salamander, whose habitat is confined to Barton Springs in Zilker Park, is indeed endangered. This data had been compiled by Babbitt’s own staff, the regional office of the Department of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The ruling also pointed out weaknesses in the state’s plan for water monitoring proceduresfor the most part, the same TNRCC rules that were in place before the salamander became endangered. Bunton said Babbitt violated the En dangered Species Act by denying a public comment period prior to submitting the state plan, and for missing three deadlines. After Bunton had given the Secretary an additional thirty days to make a final listing decision, Babbitt asked for yet another extension. The judge was not amused: “Now, nearly two-and-a-half years after the secretary should have acted,” wrote Bunton, “he asks to have an additional four months to make his decision.” Babbitt’s office said it will not appeal the decision; meanwhile, environmentalists \(as soon as they set down their champose development restrictions they hope will be closer to the City of Austin’s Save Our Springs Ordinance than the state’s idea of water quality protection. Two major threats to the salamander are poor monitoring of water quality procedures and the construction of highways promoted for residential development. The state, however, may get its chance again, if it does its homework. Bunton said that if, in the future, the state plan proves successful over a two-year period, he’d consider letting Babbitt de-list the species. RATIFYING SLAVERY. It’s fortunate that the Bill of Rights wasn’t drafted by a Presidential Task Force; we’d all be on trial for sedition. That was the main impression left last month by the Bill Clinton Task Force Agreement on international sweatshop labor, supposedly a great leap forward in the treatment of employees, especially those working in the apparel industry. According to the Campaign for Labor Rights, the agreement was first delayed for several months by the stonewalling of industry representatives from such forward-thinking corporations as Nike and Liz Claiborne, and then only ratified the outrageous conditions that already exist in international manufacturing. Some of the more egregious provivailing industry wage,” whether that subject to a 60-hour work week \(fortyeight hours straight time plus twelve hours mandatory must be paid at least at the regular hourly rate; “independent” consultants \(i.e., accounting firms The Campaign summed up the agreement bluntly: “Apparel companies can continue to pay their workers twenty cents an hour for ‘regular’ 60-hour work weeks, push them to do unlimited hours of ‘voluntary’ overtime beyond that, monitor conditions via accounting firms which have no connections to the workersand be rewarded for this behavior with a No Sweat seal of approval.” In other words, if its says “No Sweat,” chances are good it means “Made in Sweatshop.” Next on the agenda for the Presidential Task Force: Making Prison Labor Pay For Your Company. LIFE GOES ON. Not everybody in Jeff Davis County is occupied with the riveting tale of a handful of Republic of Texas stalwarts holding off both the assembled might of the enemy state of Texas and half the reporters on the continent \(the other According to the April 24 Pecos Enterprise, as the siege began, County Sheriff Steve Bailey had more important things to do than worry about the border between Texas and Texas. The Sheriff said his office was “just going on with our normal life.” That meant, as he put it, “We just got through catching six wets and are dealing with the Border Patrol.” The Sheriff knows where the real action is, and he can tell the players without a scorecard. STILL TIED UP. As we went to press, the state had still not received a response from Washington on its request for a federal waiver for the welfare privatization program, the Texas Integrated Eligibility held up for weeks while the White House tries to figure out how it can allow Texas to turn over the state’s welfare enrollment programs to private corporations, allow massive layoffs of state personneland still not violate federal law covering social services. The war of words also continues, at least from one side. Governor Bush, who earlier had demanded a response from
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.