The Lead
9:30 am
Tue February 5, 2013

The Lead: Austin Road Deaths Mount; WilCo Inquiry Continues

Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm weather is the order of the day, with expected highs in the mid-70s.

Lead Story: Ten people have died in traffic accidents in Austin so far this year. That’s twice as many as this time last year.

The city has launched a survey as part of an effort to reverse that trend, looking for feedback on how to make Austin safer for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. You can find the survey on the city’s website.

There were 78 pedestrian fatalities in 2012.

WilCo Court of Inquiry Underway: What role did former Williamson County prosecutor Ken Anderson play in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, sent to prison for 25 years? That’s the question being asked at a court of inquiry that started Monday in Georgetown.

Brandi Grissom with our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune says Morton took the stand first yesterday.

“Rusty Hardin, the prosecutor pro-tem in the case asked Morton what it was like to have spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit,” Grissom says. “He explained how brutal it was. And how there were many of the little things in life that he didn’t have any more that many of us take for granted. Being around honest people. Wearing clothes that are comfortable. And not being able to visit with his son, the most important part of his life.”

Brandi Grissom is live blogging the court of inquiry at the Texas Tribune.

What’s Next for School Finance: The Texas school finance system has been ruled unconstitutional. State District Judge John Dietz issued his ruling yesterday afternoon in a major school finance trial that began in October.

The case pitted more than 600 school districts – including Austin ISD – against the state. Judge Dietz said the current system creates a de-facto statewide property tax. He also agreed with school districts that funding is inequitable and in many cases inadequate to meet the demands of the state accountability system.

So what’s next? The state is likely to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. And another wrinkle in the opinion? Charter school operators are disappointed Judge Dietz didn’t strike down a cap on the number of charter school permits that can be issued in Texas, which currently stands at 215.