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Bike-ped projects for Elm Avenue, South Waco get $3.3 million in state, federal support

Elm Avenue will get a $3.8 million makeover that includes new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and bike lanes, city officials learned Thursday.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved $2.8 million in federal and state transportation money for the project, which is seen as crucial to the fledgling revitalization of East Waco’s faded main street. The downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board has already pledged $956,200 to the project.

The city also received $538,495 to help build more than 2 miles of bike lanes along the 11th and 12th street corridor from Columbus Avenue in downtown to Gurley Lane in South Waco, and sidewalks along Gurley Lane.

Twenty-two small- and mid-sized cities throughout Texas received some $25.3 million in federal funds for pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

Jim Reed, a city engineering capital program manager who oversaw the application process, said the money will go a long way toward making Waco easier to navigate without a car.

The Elm Avenue work will be a win not only for businesses along the street itself but also the surrounding neighborhoods, Reed said.

“The payoff would be that the area has been overlooked for a long time, and there’s nothing there that encourages you to travel and be a part of that historic area,” he said. “Developers are looking for a sign that the city has a vested interest in that area. … I think it’s a huge investment on the city’s part, and it’s great that the federal and state governments are going to jump in and help.”

Waco Main Street Manager Andrea Barefield, who works at City Center Waco, said Reed and other city staffers did a “phenomenal” job in snaring the grants.

She said the Elm Avenue money will amplify interest people already have in doing business on that corridor.

“It enhances what is already underway,” Barefield said. “Over the last few years, we have seen established and historic businesses take extra efforts to enhance what their businesses look like, and we’ve seen increased traffic up and down Elm. People are getting back in the swing of this historic district.”

Reed said the Elm Avenue project is more complicated because it involves replacing utilities, reconfiguring parking and creating handicap-accessible ramps to connect segments of sidewalk that are several feet higher than the roadway.

In the next year, the city will hold meetings to get public input on design details.

“There will be opportunities to have community involvement,” Reed said. “We still don’t have a good understanding of the exact scope of the project. … We’ll get the opportunity to see what locals would like to see, as far as the aesthetics of the corridor.”

The Elm Avenue project would provide concrete-and-paver sidewalks 8 to 10 feet wide, with lampposts, street trees, benches and bike racks, as well as bike lanes on both sides of the 4,000-foot project corridor, which runs from University Parks Drive to Garrison Street.

Nancy Grayson, owner of Lula Jane’s Bakery at 406 Elm Ave., was among scores of Elm property owners who pledged their support to the project application, even though she has some mixed feelings about the impact on her business.

The new sidewalk project may require Lula Jane’s to give up head-in parking on Elm Avenue, though such diagonal parking could still be offered on side streets. In addition, Grayson said she thinks antique sidewalk that’s now in front of her property will likely have to go.

“We’ll have to move our historic high curbs that were there because of horse-drawn carriages,” she said. “Progress always means compromise. … It will look lovely and will be very serviceable.”

Waco Bicycle Club President Trent Dougherty said the city worked hard with the bike club to come up with priorities for bike lane funding, and he thinks the 11th and 12th street corridor is a good place to start.

“Given that there’s more stuff developing that way with Balcones (distillery), and that it’s the edge of the (Public Improvement District), I think it’s a very natural place,” Dougherty said. “We’re trying to push out the boundaries of downtown. Hopefully someday people will see that as part of the center of downtown.”

He said both projects will help make the core of Waco more bike-friendly and vibrant.

“This is just part of an overall puzzle, of putting the parts together to have a downtown that’s truly a downtown and not just a few blocks,” he said. “Things are falling in place to make Waco a great place to live and bring up kids.”

Time of transformation
Livingstone describes Baylor's 'transitional moment' in inauguration speech

Great pomp and circumstance accompanied Linda Livingstone’s inauguration as Baylor University’s 15th president Thursday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.

Top school officials and community leaders welcomed Livingstone as Baylor regents formally charged her with leading the world’s largest Baptist university through a time of transformation.

“We are entering a key transitional moment in the life of our university, when we must dedicate ourselves to finishing the race we have started,” said Livingstone, who became president June 1, replacing interim President David Garland and, previously, Ken Starr. “Such work will not be easy, yet that is the essence of transformation.”

Board Chairman Joel Allison and Vice Chairs Dan Chapman and Jerry Clements presented Livingstone with the “symbols of authority,” the Baylor Mace and the Presidential Medallion and Chain of Office.

In about five months as president, Livingstone has been met with enthusiasm among the Baylor community as she sets a framework for a strategic, academic plan and a dedication to compliance after a sexual assault scandal left her with several investigations and Title IX lawsuits to monitor.

Livingstone, a former associate professor and associate dean in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, said she returned “at a very rough time, given the issues of sexual violence confronting the university.”

“Even from a distance, I was fully aware of the pain that you, the Baylor family, was experiencing due to incidents of interpersonal violence on our campus,” she said. “I also understood we would continue to deal with ongoing investigations and issues for at least 18 to 24 more months.”

She said she accepted the role in April “not in spite of recent institutional difficulties, but because of them.”

“Every crisis is an opportunity to learn and to rebuild, and I truly believe God wanted me to assume that task at this particular point in Baylor’s history,” Livingstone said. “But most importantly, I wanted to return because of the university’s mission. I knew that Baylor was one of the most visible, ambitious Christian universities in the nation, and I wanted to be a part of this distinct academic vision.”

Her strategic vision of research, which she described to the Tribune-Herald last month, drew applause from the audience of regents, faculty, staff, students and community members.

“If any university is compelled to engage in research that offers solutions to complex problems and shapes ideas at the highest levels of the academy and society, it is a Christian institution like Baylor,” Livingstone said. “Thus, when critics charge that our vision for achieving top-tier, tier-one research status is impossible, I believe they underestimate the power of Baylor and the power of God.”

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, and Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver, who has deep family ties to the university, also attended.

“I have had the pleasure of meeting several times with Dr. Livingstone, in discussing how Baylor and Waco can work together to accomplish strategic goals that benefit Baylor and its students, as well as the city of Waco and its residents,” Deaver said. “Together, acting collaboratively, Baylor and Waco can do more good in our community than either of us can do acting alone.”

John Eddie Williams, a top university donor and the namesake of Baylor’s football field and law school library, said in a statement this week that concerned alumni and donors he organized in the wake of the sexual assault scandal pledge their support to Livingstone.

“All of us in the Baylor Family need to do whatever is necessary to make sure this never happens again,” Williams said, referring to the scandal. “We will support the new leadership as it implements needed changes at Baylor, but we will also challenge them if we think more needs to be done.”

The historical significance of Livingstone’s installation as Baylor’s first female president was not lost in the ceremonies Thursday.

Livingstone said she was once the only female Baylor faculty member alongside 20 male faculty members participating in a free throw competition at the Ferrell Center. Her husband, Brad, overheard fans saying, “Why in the world did they allow a girl in the competition?”

“As luck and maybe just little bit of talent would have it, I actually won that free throw shooting competition,” Livingstone said. “And next year, I won the competition again. And for some reason, they canceled it after that.”

Livingstone’s daughter, Shelby, introduced her mother with stories of family-coordinated Halloween costumes and achievement of work-life balance. Brad Livingstone was honored as Baylor’s first “first gentleman.”

Allison, who took over as board chairman June 1, said Baylor has a sense of “great anticipation” for Livingstone’s tenure.

“I think we all know Baylor’s best days are ahead of us,” Allison said.

Weekend may bring taste of winter

Central Texas may get its first brush with winter weather this weekend. A cold front is expected to push into the region late Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures Friday and Saturday nights are expected to dip into the mid-30s for the first time this winter season, Fort Worth-based National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Fano said. The low temperature overnight Friday into Saturday morning is expected to reach 33, and the low Saturday night into Sunday morning is expected to reach 33 degrees.

“It will be considerably colder than we’ve had for quite a while in Waco,” Fano said. “Waco actually hit 38 degrees at about 4:30 a.m. (Wednesday), but with this Canadian cold front moving in, this will be the first time overnight temperatures have reached the 30s.”

Average low temperatures for this time of year are about 54 degrees in Waco, Fano said. He said residents may notice the brush of cold, but the front is expected to bring dry air with no precipitation expected this weekend.

“It will be much colder, much drier air, but it will also bring clearing skies,” Fano said. “It just seems like a good recipe, especially as days are getting shorter, for cold nights.”

According to the Climate Prediction Center, the three-month outlook includes temperatures above normal and precipitation totals below normal. Warmer and drier forecasts are the general trend this winter, Fano said.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t get a few cold snaps, like we did last year when cold fronts moved through, but generally speaking, temperatures are forecast to remain above normal,” he said. “I think we will have several opportunities to see arctic air move into North and Central Texas.”

DA Reyna asks to be recused from 2nd Twin Peaks trial

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna asked Thursday to be recused from the second trial scheduled in the Twin Peaks biker shootout and asked the court to appoint another attorney to represent the state in the upcoming Nov. 6 trial.

Reyna filed a voluntary recusal request after he was served with a subpoena Wednesday to testify in the trial of Matthew Alan Clendennen, of Hewitt, who has been indicted on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity in the May 17, 2015, shootout at the former Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Nine men died and more than a dozen were injured in the melee.

“The state stands by its assertion that Mr. Reyna and his assistants are not material witnesses,” Reyna’s request states. “However, Mr. Reyna, Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Parker previously testified during a hearing in this particular case. This court could potentially consider that specific testimony material to defendant’s case. Given the possibility of creating such an issue in this particular case, the state wishes to avoid even the mere suggestion of impropriety.”

Clendennen’s Dallas attorney, Clint Broden, filed motions last week alleging Reyna is under federal investigation for selective prosecution for political gain. Prosecutors state in the motion that Reyna and his office are “unaware of any pending federal investigation.”

Broden filed a motion to have Reyna recused from Clendennen’s case in August 2016, but a judge quashed that motion. Included among several motions Broden filed last week was a motion to reconsider his request to recuse Reyna, citing the alleged federal investigation.

Another motion Broden filed last week states prosecutors have not complied with discovery requirements and should be assessed fines for disregarding court orders before his client’s upcoming trial. It was not immediately clear how Reyna’s recusal request may affect Broden’s requested sanctions, if at all.

Broden declined comment on Reyna’s recusal request after Senior Judge Doug Shaver, of Houston, issued a gag order Monday, barring communication with media outlets regarding Clendennen’s case. He filed a response to the recusal request, stating he plans to provide evidence in a hearing Monday that Reyna is under federal investigation.

Testimony from six witnesses will be introduced as evidence in an effort to show FBI agents have been investigating Reyna, the motion states.

Reyna is currently prosecuting Jacob Carrizal, the Bandidos’ Dallas chapter president, who is the first of 154 defendants in the Twin Peaks shootout to stand trial. Reyna did not respond to a message left Thursday.

It wasn’t immediately known Thursday when a new prosecutor would be assigned in the Clendennen case or how the appointment of a new prosecutor may affect the upcoming trial.

Broden’s recusal response states Reyna’s former first assistant, Greg Davis, can testify to conversations that the DA’s office “made” police arrest 177 motorcyclists despite the wishes of police. The response also claims a local attorney can testify that they had meetings with federal investigators about allegations Reyna had cases dismissed for friends and campaign contributors and even that Reyna was delivered cocaine during his actions connected to the Twin Peaks case.

“How strange is it that after denying that there is a federal investigation and various witnesses were subpoenaed that he recuses himself,” Waco attorney Robert Callahan said. “That is not coincidence, and I am assuming that the average tax payer is not so naive as to think that with all this smoke there really is no fire.”

Callahan, who is representing Twin Peaks defendant William Chance Aikin, of Talco, said he plans to file similar motions in regard to evidence that Reyna is under investigation and should be recused from prosecuting Twin Peaks cases. He said he will also call Reyna as a witness during Aikin’s trial.

Reyna has not testified in any hearing in Aikin’s case, as he has in Clendennen’s.

“There is ample evidence in these prior hearings that Mr. Reyna, instead of allowing law enforcement to do their jobs, was going to insert himself into the investigative process and that he became a witness,” Callahan said. “He went beyond mere investigation and he basically became the chief of police. Since he took on that responsibility, he has to live with the consequence of coming to the witness stand.”

Callahan said he thinks other attorneys defending bikers indicted in Twin Peaks cases will attempt to disqualify Reyna and his office.

Carrizal Twin Peaks trial focuses on crime scene investigation

Jurors in the Jacob Carrizal trial learned the names of bikers slain in the 2015 Twin Peaks shootout Thursday and viewed graphic photos as the trial focused for a third day on the crime scene investigation.

Carrizal, 35, president of the Bandidos Dallas chapter, is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court on charges of directing the activities of a criminal street gang, engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of murder and engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of aggravated assault.

Prosecutors continued to lay out evidence recovered in the aftermath of the shootout between rival groups the Cossacks and Bandidos, including 154 firearms and more than 400 other weapons. Those included many knives, a tomahawk, hatchet, padlocks tied to bandanas, chains, expandable batons called ASPs, brass knuckles and others.

Sgt. Keith Vaughan, a 32-year Waco police veteran, said he has seen a lot of crime scenes, but nothing compared to the Twin Peaks case in terms of number of casualties, the amount of people at the scene and the amount of evidence left for his crime scene unit to collect.

Under questioning from prosecutor Amanda Dillon, who apologized for the graphic nature of the photos, Vaughan described video and photos he took of the eight bikers whose bodies he encountered shortly after the gun battle stopped. A ninth biker, Richard Kirshner, died at the hospital, and the jury saw photos of his body earlier this week during the testimony of one of Vaughan’s crime scene technicians.

Graphic images

As Vaughan described what he photographed and videoed, the jury saw graphic images of Daniel Boyett, Jesus Rodriguez, Wayne Campbell, Richard Jordan, Charles Russell, Manuel Rodriguez, Matthew Smith and Jacob Rhyne, whose body was found at the back of Don Carlos Restaurant, where he had been taken for medical attention.

Firearms were found near most of the bodies.

Dillon noted as photos of Russell were being shown that about a dozen of the motorcycles the Bandidos rode in on were standing upright with the assistance of their kick stands. Dillon said it appears the Bandidos at least had time to manually put down their kick stands and get off their bikes before the melee started.

Through her cross-examinations of state witnesses, Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, has tried to lay the groundwork for a self-defense claim, painting the Cossacks as the aggressors who crashed a biker coalition meeting, took over the patio area and ambushed the Bandidos as they rode in.

Russell was seen lying inches from where Carrizal’s blue Harley-Davidson motorcycle lay overturned outside the patio area of the restaurant.

Carrizal’s father, Julian Carrizal, was wounded in the right shoulder during the battle.

Shell casings

Vaughan spent quite a bit of time Thursday identifying shell casings and projectiles and showing the jury where he and other members of his team found them. He said his crime scene unit and officers from six other agencies performed at least six sweeps of the grounds around Twin Peaks and Don Carlos in the days after the shootout to make sure they didn’t miss any evidence.

Waco police conducted two investigations in the aftermath of the incident, Vaughan said. One was an investigation of the biker shootout and the other was an investigation of the three officers who shot and killed bikers after the shooting started, he said.

Officers cleared

The department and a McLennan County grand jury cleared the officers of wrongdoing last year.

Vaughan said the officers’ weapons and forensic evidence were sent to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, while the other guns and evidence were sent for analysis to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives lab in California.

Prosecution testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Friday.