3 members of Congressional Black Caucus back Muny

Three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairman, have called on the National Park Service to add Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin to the nation’s list of historic places.

Democratic U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, James Clyburn of South Carolina and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas said in letters this month to Stephanie Toothman, the Park Service’s keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, that the golf course merits listing because of its role in civil rights history.

Lions Municipal, also known as Muny, became quietly and peacefully integrated in the early 1950s, well before violent confrontations that characterized desegregation of public accommodations elsewhere in the South. It is considered one of the earliest, if not the first, municipal golf courses in the former Confederate states of the South to be desegregated.

Save Muny, a group whose name sums up its mission, nominated the course for the National Register. The Texas Historical Commission agreed and forwarded the nomination to the Park Service, which is reviewing the matter.

“I support this nomination and urge you to list Muny in the Register as a nationally significant place that should be preserved for its civil rights history,” Butterfield wrote to Toothman.

Clyburn wrote that Muny stands as “a teachable experience for the nation in our country’s civil rights history.” Johnson said a listing “would preserve a historical landmark while honoring the pride of Austin.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, previously wrote to Toothman in support of “preservation and recognition” of Muny’s role as a civil rights landmark.

Save Muny leaders say their research shows that two black youths integrated the course in the latter part of 1950, probably in September, when they walked on and began playing in brazen disregard of Jim Crow laws. City officials decided to let them play despite laws against it.

The 141-acre course, along Lake Austin Boulevard in West Austin, is owned by the University of Texas System and operated by the city of Austin. The UT System and UT-Austin oppose the proposed nomination, preferring instead that any listing on the National Register be confined to the clubhouse, greenskeeper’s cottage, a maintenance building, two limestone entry gate piers and a concrete statue of a lion.

The system’s Board of Regents has long contemplated leasing Muny for commercial and residential development, with revenues earmarked for the Austin campus. The UT board has said the city’s lease will not be renewed after it expires in 2019.

For the instigator of Fisher v. UT, a time for wine and noodles

When Edward Blum learned Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled for the University of Texas in a challenge to its consideration of race in undergraduate admissions, he was more than a little disappointed. So after fielding 100 phone calls, he went to a Thai restaurant, downed three glass of wine and some noodles, took an Ambien and went to bed.

“I am comforted by the lyrics written by Bill Joel,” Blum said Friday. “He wrote, ‘Lost a lot of fights, but it taught me how to lose OK.’ If you’re going to be litigating difficult issues, you have to be prepared to endure and lose and not dwell on it forever.”

Blum more than anyone else is responsible for ushering Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to the Supreme Court. The former stockbroker and onetime candidate for Congress is not a lawyer. Rather, he has specialized in lining up funding, lawyers and plaintiffs in a 20-year quest to end the use of racial and ethnic considerations in college admissions, voting rights and other aspects of public policy.

In the case that was decided by a 4-3 margin Thursday, Blum lined up Abigail Fisher to sue his own alma mater, where he majored in English and government.

Blum has taken six cases to the high court, assuming you count the UT case twice, which seems fair considering that it was heard twice. In Round I, the court vacated an appeals court ruling that upheld UT’s admissions program and instructed that court to conduct a more exhaustive review to ensure that racial and ethnic considerations were necessary to achieve student body diversity.

That felt like a victory to Blum, which made Thursday’s ruling all the more surprising. Still, his track record isn’t bad.

Of the six stops at the Supreme Court, he has won four times and lost twice, the latter being Fisher II and Evenwel v. Greg Abbott, in which Blum’s legal team contended that Texas’ redistricting practices don’t square with the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote,” which is intended to guarantee equal representation. The justices ruled unanimously to uphold the state’s redistricting methods.

Blum’s take on the Fisher rulings: “I would say that the guidance that the court gave the country in Fisher I is guidance that we hope the higher education community takes seriously. It is my concern that Fisher II, however, will signal to colleges and universities that they have a green light to use a heavy thumb on the scales in administering their affirmative action policies.”

That concern might be overdrawn, though. Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said “it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.” He went on to say that UT must use the data it is collecting “to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary.”

Doggett adds his voice to proponents of saving Muny

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett has added his voice to proponents of listing Lions Municipal Golf Course as a historic site.

“Its role as one of the first public accommodations, and certainly the first municipal golf course, in the South of the old confederate states to desegregate in 1950-51 is worthy of inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places,” the Austin Democrat said in a letter last month to Stephanie Toothman, the National Park Service’s keeper of the register.

Muny’s role as a civil rights landmark makes it “an ideal candidate for preservation and recognition,” Doggett said.

The 141-acre course, along Lake Austin Boulevard in West Austin, is owned by the University of Texas System.

Doggett’s stance puts him squarely behind the activist group Save Muny and the Texas Historical Commission, which want the entire course placed on the register. Leaders of Save Muny nominated the course for that status.

By contrast, the UT System and UT-Austin are opposed to the proposed nomination, preferring instead that any listing on the National Register be confined to the clubhouse, greenskeeper’s cottage, a maintenance building, two limestone entry gate piers and a concrete statue of a lion.

The system’s Board of Regents has long contemplated leasing Muny for commercial and residential development, with revenues earmarked for the Austin campus. The UT board has said the current lease to the city of Austin to operate the course will not be renewed after it expires in 2019.

Meanwhile, the clock is going to tick a bit longer before the federal government decides whether to add Muny to the National Register.

The National Park Service this week tacked 30 days onto a just-completed 45-day comment period. The service did so at the request of the UT System.

 

System officials did not immediately respond when the Statesman asked why they sought the extension.

‘Non-UT subjects’ keeping police busy, as usual

Friday’s email blast from the University of Texas Police Department illustrates what worries many students and their parents, especially after the on-campus slaying in April of Haruka Weiser, an 18-year-old theater and dance student. Nearly every item in the crime report deals with “a non-UT subject” doing something prohibited on campus: camping in a stairwell, sleeping on a loading dock, passed out against a building — you get the idea.

Coincidentally, I wrote an article for our website and Friday’s print edition about emails from parents and alumni to UT President Gregory L. Fenves, many of which focused on homeless and transient people on campus and in West Campus, a commercial and residential neighborhood adjacent to the university.

As regular readers of UT’s “Campus Watch” emails know, the police spend a fair amount of their time dealing with non-UT subjects engaged in one prohibited activity or another. A first offense usually draws a criminal trespass warning. Subsequent offenses can lead to arrest. I have copied and pasted below the contents of the email I received a short time ago from the UT Police Department:

Campus Watch: Below is a summary of campus activity reported to or observed by The University Police Department Patrol Officers between Thursday, 06/02/16 and Friday, 06/03/16.

GOLDSMITH HALL, 310 Inner Campus Drive

Criminal Trespass Warning: A non-UT subject was found sleeping near the building. The subject was awakened and issued a written criminal trespass warning. Occurred on 06/03/16 at 2:16 a.m.

PETER O’DONNELL Jr BUILDING, 201 East 24th

Warrant Service: A patrolling UT patrol officer observed a subject walking along the sidewalk on the west side of the building. The officer knew the subject to have an arrest warrant form the UT Police Department for criminal trespass. The officer stopped the subject, confirmed the arrest warrant and took the subject into custody. Occurred on 06/03/16 at 5:36 a.m.

SAN ANTONIO PARKING GARAGE, 2420 San Antonio

Criminal Trespass: A non-UT subject was found camping in the second floor stairwell located on the northwest side of the parking garage. Once awakened, it was learned the subject had previously been issued a written criminal trespass warning and was subsequently taken into custody. Occurred on 06/02/16 at 7:17 a.m.

UNIVERSITY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, 2200 East 6th Street

Criminal Trespass Warning: A non-UT subject was found sleeping on the loading dock of the elementary school. The subject was awakened and issued a written criminal trespass warning. Occurred on 06/03/16 at 12:22 a.m.

WALTER WEBB HALL, 405 West 25th Street

Public Intoxication: A non-UT subject was found passed out on the east side of the building. Once awakened, the subject displayed several indications of intoxication. As an example, when asked who the current president of the United States was, the subject answered, “Donald.” I could take this narrative in so many directions here; but, in the interest of non-partisanship I will just state the subject was found to be intoxicated to the point he was a deemed to be a danger to himself and others. Occurred on 06/03/16 at 3:00 a.m.

3-judge panel named to consider UT regent’s records case

A university regent’s lawsuit seeking records of an admissions investigation is inching forward. On Wednesday, the state’s Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals assigned three justices to the case. In theory, they could rule in 21 days — meaning June 22 at the earliest — but rulings typically take longer.

The lawsuit by University of Texas System Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr. demands that system Chancellor Bill McRaven turn over the records from an exhaustive investigation into favoritism in admissions at the Austin flagship. McRaven, backed by a majority of the Board of Regents, contends that Hall is not entitled to see confidential student information. Hall says he can’t do his job as a regent properly without seeing that information.

Both sides have filed briefs. The three-judge panel consists of Chief Justice Jeff L. Rose and Justices Bob Pemberton and Cindy Olson Bourland. Briefs have already been filed, and there will be no oral arguments.