New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 25, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
Heratd-Zeitung g Friday .July 25,1997 g 9A —
Scientists: Tracks|n Boerne made by dinosaurs
Th* tracks were discovered June 21 alter
ftoodwaters swept through the area. Some city and county officials... agreed not to reveal the discovery until it was decided what to do about it.
BOERNE (AP) — They were nature’s secret for 70 million years, but now this town is abuzz with talk of) dinosaur tracks uncovered on city property after flooding in June.
Fearing vandalism, city staff members kept quiet about the discovery for three weeks and briefed the City Council only this week after word spread.
t “We’re frightened that someone is going to go out there and chisel diem up,” said city planning director Chris Turk, who would discuss the tracks with the San Antonio Express-News only if the location wasn’t divulged.
Only a hint of the toes are visible in the prints, but the pattern of the
indentations in die limestone makes it clear something very large ambled across the landscape long before it was city property or rock.
Geologists say the three-toed creatures that left the 20-inch-wide, 4-inch-deep prints could have been carnivores called acrocanthosaurus, or vegetarians known as tenotosauius.
“You can’t tell exactly what creature made them,” said Mike Hawthorne, who published a 1990 study of dinosaur tracks in Texas while at Baylor University.
“They were big dinosaurs, weighing tons, but they weren’t the biggest,*’ said Hawthorne, who was
Neighborhood crime fears double in 20 years, poll shows
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE (AP) — Almost half of the Texans surveyed in an annual poll taken by the Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University say they’re afraid to walk in their own neighborhoods at night.
The number of frightened people determined by the 1997 Texas Crime Poll is double the amount who expressed similar fears when researchers conducted the first such poll in 1977, figures released Thursday showed.
“Texans are considerably more concerned about crime in general today than they were 20 years ago,’* the study said. “When asked whether or not there was an area within a mile of their homes where they were afraid to walk at night, only 22 percent of the respondents to the first Texas Crime Poll conducted in 1977 said ’yes.’
“In 1997, this figure increased to the alarming level of 46 percent.’’
The findings are based on interviews during May and June with 546 Texans wha wert asked a number of questions about crime and criminal justice issues. The survey has an error rate of plus or minus 5 percent.
Researchers found people worry about becoming the victim of a burglary within the next year more than any other crime. Fear of auto theft is the second-highest, followed by assault, theft, robbery, murder and rape.
“People tend to be more afraid of those crimes they perceive to be most likely to affect them and Texans appear to feel more vulnerable to burglary and auto thefts than to any other crimes,’’ Dennis Longmire, who directed the study, said.
“People, I think, are concerned about crime. We certainly inundate them with those concerns in the media. But research consistently shows the people most concerned are generally the least likely to become victims, so probably their concern is unfounded. There isn’t good research to show whether it’s causal or stihply a reaction.’* Longmire suggested increased crime coverage on television, and particularly the immediacy of television, influenced the findings of the most recent study.
“What happens today is when somebody’s child is murdered in Boulder, Colo., everybody in America becomes a secondary victim because the media
M The number of frightened people determined by the 1997 Texas Crime Poll is double the amount who expressed similar fears when researchers conducted the first such poH in 1977.
■ People worry about becoming the victim of a burglary within the next year more than any other crime. Fear of auto theft is the second-highest, followed by assault, theft, robbery, murder and rape
■ Texans have more confidence in their local police than in any other component of the criminal justice system.
immediately goes to the scene,’’ he said Thursday. “The Cunanan situation (in Miami Beach) is another good example. Americans were fearful they were going to be the victims of a spree murderer or serial murderer when in reality we weren’t at very serious risk.
“But because of the instant television coverage, and because tiiey*ve got cameras flying over with helicopters, everybody sits in their homes afraid when reality tells them — and if they could be rational about it — that they don’t have that much to be afraid of. And that’s a different kind of coverage today than what we saw 20 years ago
“The television media has picked up on crime as a marketing phenomenon to get interest into their shows ’’
The survey also found Texans have more confidence in their local police than in any other component of the criminal justice system. While local police got high marks from 62 percent of those surveyed, local courts attracted just 36 percent support from those expressing “a great deal’’ or “a lot’4 of confidence. Local community probation systems, the state prison system and the criminal justice system in general each drew high ratings from only 25 percent of those surveyed.
In each case, however, the sentiment was slightly higher than when the same question was asked a year ago. Last year, local police drew 59 percent support from those having “a great deal” or “a lot’’ of confidence, while the local court system had 31 percent, the prison system 24 percent and the probation and criminal justice system in general each were at 22 percent.
among several geologists who began studying the Boerne tracks July ll.
Dinosaur tracks have been found west of San Antonio and around New Braunfels, but they haven't been found before around Boerne, he said.
Boerne is about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio.
The tracks were discovered June 21 after floodwater swept through the area. Some city and county officials were informed about a week later but agreed not to reveal the discovery until it was decided what to do about it.
But in a memo to the City Council this week, Mayor Patrick Heath said the information had leaked out of
County Judge Bill Gooden said he told his staff not to release information until it was determined whether they really were dinosaur tracks.
“It looked like a pot hole to me,’’ Gooden said.
The flooding in Boerne also unearthed a trail of smaller tracks, each measuring about IO inches in diameter, in the same area as the huger tracks.
“These are interesting because of the mixture of sizes of trades,*’ said Rena Bonem, a Baylor University geology professor.
Also, she said, one set of tracks
suggests a dinosaur saw something and suddenly changed directions. The tracks likely were left in a tidal flat, or marsh, between 70 million and 80 million years ago, she said.
Ms. Bonem and her scientific team will return this weekend, and Boerne city officials are eagerly awaiting their guidance.
Turk, the city planning director, said plaster copies of the tracks may be made to create a replica of the site at the Cibolo Nature Center.
As for the actual tracks, he said, “If (die scientists) say it may weather, we may cover it up with a real fine soil and put it back the way it was before.’’
Morales says court phone records public
AUSTIN (AP) — Most telephone billing records of the Texas Supreme Court are public information, Attorney General Dan Morales says.
In a legal opinion issued Thursday, Morales said the phone billing records tee administrative and thus not exempt from disclosure under the state’s open records law.
“Records regarding the expenditure of public funds, including records which directly implicate the fiduciary responsibilities of public employees or otherwise pertain to the day-to-day administration of a court, are subject to the Open Records Act,’’ Morales wrote.
An exception might be made if a phone record somehow involved
court deliberations on a case, said Ron Dusek, a spokesman for Morales. But he said such a situation would appear unlikely.
“Phone records are part of the administrative process, not part of the judicial process, the deliberative process,’’ he said. “Billing records are typically related to administration, not part of the deliberative process.’’
Thursday’s ruling came in response to a request from MGT of America, Inc., to the Texas General Services Commission. MGT sought incoming and outgoing telephone records from all office, cellular and mobile phones and fax machines used by justices of the court and their staffs from Sept. I, 1993, to April 2,
Alap Pollock, of MGT, said one of the company's clients asked him to seek the records. He would not say why the records were being sought or
who requested them.
With some exceptions, the General Services Commission obtains supplies and services for the state’s various agencies.
Invoking Bible and bagels, GOP straggling to heal
WASHINGTON (AP) — There was never much chance it would turn out to be the night of the long knives. Some long sighs, though.
With Scripture, awkward confessions, breve faces and tears. House Republicans moved from coup mutterings to catharsis in a basement room down a dank hall where the pipes and wires were as exposed as the party’s wounds.
“Truly painful,’* a participant said of the goings-on, but the kind of hurt he hoped will heal things.
Republican leaders who entertained or encouraged notions of dumping Speaker Newt Gingrich kept their jobs in that startling caucus meeting Wednesday night and also, the rank and file swore, kept their dignity.
There was more contrition inside that sterile room with those chrome chairs than can normally be found in the full elegant sweep of Capitol Hill. Leaders ate crow. Gingrich set the tone.
“Do not claim to be wiser than you are,*' he began, leading an opening prayer inspired by the Book of Romans. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.*’
(The Bible goes on to say that in feeding your enemy, “thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.’’)
The first round of applause could be heard through the closed doors before Gingrich arrived. He slipped first into the hallway men’s room, grinning as if he enjoyed how his mundane detour interrupted for the thicket of reporters the drama of his imminent entrance.
Other members swept into the meeting room, smiling tightly. “You only thought I did this when I was a Democrat,’’ cracked Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia, recalling his former party's reputation for infighting.
A second round of applause rang out a minute after Gingrich joined
the meeting. A third, four minutes later. Then a long period of quiet. Then applause again, in closely gathered waves, mixed near the end with cheers.
For all the raw emotion, the Republicans didn't forget they could be heard outside. “But you could not see the tears,*’ Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas said.
Party leaders — among tfiejp the embarrassed trio of GOP Conference Chairman David Boettner of Ohio and Texans Tom DeLay, the GOP whip; and Dick Armey, the majority leader — apologized to members.
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Emissions company, state settle lawsuit
I AUSTIN (AP) — A deal gone sour between the state and an air-quality testing firm will cost Texas taxpayers $ 140 million.
Attorney General Dan Morales and attorneys for now-defunct Tejas Testing Technologies settle a 1995 lawsuit Wednesday. The company filed the lawsuit after the state dumped an auto emissions-testing program for which Tejas had won a seven-year contract.
The money will be paid from general state fonds beginning with a $70 million payment on Aug. 31.
The agreement must be approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Austin, which is overseeing Tejas’ payment of debts to investors.
The company spent millions of dollars establishing 55 inspection 'Stations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston and Beaumont-Port Arthur, where federal officials had ordered emissions testing.
Shortly after Tejas stations opened in January 1995, drivers protested the tests as cumbersome and costly.
Lawmakers reacted by killing the program. They have since instituted another testing program.
But Tejas officials said killing the original program and the company’s contract left them with $250 million in worthless testing stations.
State District Judge Joseph Hart earlier this year ordered the state to
pay Tejas about $200 million for abandoning the emissions testing program. He said the state had the right to change its mind, but couldn’t leave Tejas with a worthless contract.
Texas drivers in designated areas continue to get auto emissions tests along with their annual safety inspections. Can are tested at two motor speeds — once at normal idle and once with the motor revved up to 2,500 revolutions per minute.
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