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Whispers

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

City announces grant funding for lead removal

The city’s Neighborhood Housing & Community Development Department has announced the availability of free grant money that Austin and Travis County residents can use to remove lead from their homes. The program is available to renters, homeowners and property managers who meet certain income requirements and whose homes were built before 1978. Applicants also must have at least one child under the age of 5 who either lives in the home or visits for at least six hours a week. Lead exposure is particularly harmful to children, leading to learning disabilities and health deficiencies, according to an announcement from the city about the grant program. Lead-poisoning tests for children are included among the free services offered through the program. More information about the program is available here.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County refinances its way to savings

Travis County is touting a recent financial maneuver as a significant step toward saving taxpayer money. The county announced on Tuesday that it has taken advantage of historically low interest rates by refinancing existing bond debt. The move should create an estimated $12 million in savings through 2030. The county claimed it was able to achieve the low interest rates thanks to its triple-A credit ratings, which it has maintained with bond rating agencies Moody’s and S&P since 2001. “I am thrilled that Travis County is meeting its affordability goals by increasing cost savings for our residents,” County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in a press release. “By refinancing already very inexpensive loans to Travis County, we save millions in taxpayer dollars.”


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

News you can use (if you are going to the airport and also parking there)

As of yesterday, July 26, there is a new parking area at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. That’s good news, but even better, the new parking is on the third level of Garage 1 – the garage closest to the terminal. The city offered some rather long and confusing directions along with this exciting announcement, as well as a note that there will be on-site signs to follow.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

City hosts workshop for musicians

Austin-area musicians are invited to a free Revenue Development Workshop this week featuring presentations from Jason Feehan and Randy Chertkow, who co-wrote The Indie Band Survival Guide and The DIY Music Manual. The Music & Entertainment Division of the city’s Economic Development Department will be hosting the event. According to a press release from the city, the workshop will provide “expert level insight on various aspects of the industry including: merchandise sales, establishing a music business, licensing music, collecting royalties, branding, marketing, public relations and establishing a social media presence.” The event takes place Thursday, July 28, at Soundcheck Austin, 1901 E. 51st St., Suite 45. Those planning to attend may RSVP to Stephanie.Bergara@austintexas.gov or 512-974-7804.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

New MetroRapid stops in the works

The Capital Metro Transportation Authority’s two premium MetroRapid routes could be getting new stops. The board of directors approved on Monday $10,152,270 to purchase 15 new MetroRapid buses. Those vehicles would help increase the service’s frequencies even with the addition of eight new stops. Two of those stops – one on Burnet Road near Rundberg Lane and another on South Lamar Boulevard near the Broken Spoke – would be exclusively for the 803. Meanwhile, the 801 could see new stops at Parmer Lane, Payton Gin Road, North Loop Boulevard, St. Elmo Road and Slaughter Lane. Due to their overlapping routes, both the 801 and 803 could also begin stopping at Guadalupe Street and West 31st Street. A Capital Metro spokesperson told the Austin Monitor that the new stops won’t be installed until spring 2018. On Twitter, Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development, noted that the stops are “subject to ’17 budget approval and City of Austin coordination.”


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

APL hosts summer movie series

The Austin Public Library is hosting free movie screenings throughout August at various branch locations. The movie selections are organized into series: Movies That Move Me, Controversy & Conversation, Saturday Movie Matinees, the Sunday Summer Animation Series, Family Movie Night and the Foreign Film Series. Some screenings will be accompanied by discussions. The month kicks off with Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6 p.m., at the North Village Branch, 2505 Steck Ave.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

South Austin neighborhood group clarifies mobility bond position

A group of South Austin neighborhoods is setting the record straight about its position on Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million mobility bond. Earlier this month, the South Central Coalition of Neighborhoods sent a letter to City Council members that seemed to indicate a stance against the package. “While we recognize the acute need for transportation, roadway, and infrastructure improvements, representatives of the South Central Coalition were unanimous in our opposition to a $720 million transportation bond package that precludes any further bond initiatives until 2024 for essential services including flood mitigation, libraries, parks, and affordable housing,” declared the letter, which was written by Austin Neighborhoods Council member Patty Sprinkle. However, Sprinkle shared with the Austin Monitor a subsequent letter she wrote in which she clarified, “It is not that we will not support a Transportation Bond Package but that we are concerned that the $720 million transportation bond proposal may leave very little bond capacity for other critical needs including flood mitigation, affordable housing, parks, and libraries.” The South Central Coalition represents the Barton Hills, Bouldin Creek, Dawson, Galindo, South Lamar, South River City and Zilker neighborhood associations. Sprinkle’s second letter noted that the Dawson NA asked to have its support of the first letter withdrawn.


Monday, July 25, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

Sobriety Center needs applicants for board of directors

The Travis County Commissioners Court has put out a call for applicants to serve on the board of directors for the new Austin/Travis County Sobriety Center. According to the announcement from the court, the board “will organize, plan, hire the Executive Director, and supervise the sobriety center.” Successful applicants will have expertise in one or more of the following areas: legal, behavioral health, community advocacy, medical, chemical dependency/addiction, public health, business/tax or philanthropy/fundraising. The board currently has four vacancies to be filled by the Commissioners Court. Applications are due Aug. 18; appointees will begin their terms Sept. 1. More information, including the application packet, is available here.


Monday, July 25, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Bakery with charitable plan launches today

Paper Route Bakery owner Aaron Seriff-Cullick will celebrate the launch of his bakery with an event that includes free cookies at Buzz Mill Coffee, 1505 Town Creek Drive (off Riverside), from 7 to 9:30 p.m. today. Seriff-Cullick began his career as a baker while attending Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School and continued through his graduation from Yale University. Seriff-Cullick told the Austin Monitor that people who subscribe to the bakery service will have the opportunity to donate baked goods, such as cookies, to local charitable organizations. When he was in high school, Seriff-Cullick put together an organization with some friends called the “cake club,” in which they baked and delivered one cake per classroom at the end of the day each Friday. The cakes were donated anonymously, and students were encouraged to leave charitable donations in a box alongside the cakes. He said the group raised about $2,000 for the Art From the Streets organization, which helps homeless artists. Seriff-Cullick said he plans to donate baked goods to the Ronald McDonald House and the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House. According to the bakery’s Facebook page, Paper Route Bakery uses “organic sugars, flours, spices, and produce, cage-free eggs and grass-fed butter. In an effort to spread joy to those who need it most, we use a portion of our profits to bring free goodies to hospice care patients and sick kids. We grew up here in Austin, and now we’re out to nourish the city we love!” Assisting Seriff-Cullick in this endeavor is his high school friend Morry Mitrani, the co-founder of the bakery. More information is available here.


Monday, July 25, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

TAG, you’re it

Texans for Accountable Government, which identifies itself as a local “trans-partisan” political action committee, has jumped into the short-term rental fray. This evening, at 7 p.m., the group is holding a meeting to address the STR ordinance and, apparently, ask City Council to “Let My People Go.” In a press release that refers to Mayor Steve Adler as “Pharaoh Adler,” spokesman Michael Cargill states, “It’s time to put the City of Austin on notice to stop breaking the law, and stop violating First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.” Specifically, the group identifies prohibitions on mass gatherings and the go-ahead for warrentless searches in STRs as particularly problematic. At the moment, the city is currently facing a lawsuit over its STR ordinance from the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


Friday, July 22, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

City grant looks to connect kids with nature

As one of six cities selected for the $25,000 “Cities Connecting Children to Nature” grant, Austin and its Parks and Recreation Department is looking for clues on how PARD might best spend the money, with a goal to “increase the number and depth of connections to nature among low-income children and children of color and identify communities or neighborhoods for targeted efforts to increase equitable access to nature,” according to a press release. To that end, it will be holding a series of focus groups, from July 27 to Aug. 4, to look for ideas. Information about those focus groups (which are open to the public and will have child care on site) is available online here.


Friday, July 22, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Crosswalk by the lake becomes a reality

Yesterday, the Austin Transportation Department launched its new Creative Crosswalk Pilot Program with a crosswalk on Lake Austin Boulevard designed by artists Mery Godigna Collet and Luis Gutierrez (and supported by the city’s Cultural Arts Division). It’s cute – as you can see by the picture.crosswalk It’s also just a start. The city will now monitor the crosswalk for driver compliance and effectiveness and hopes to keep the program going “based on community input on streets that are important to the city, on key commercial and mixed use areas or at entries to residential areas,” according to a city press release. Those interested in having a creative crosswalk somewhere specific can call 311 for more information.


Friday, July 22, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

I thought Christmas came only once a year

There’s been a LOT of transportation bond talk over the past few months, as our readers well know. Those who have been paying close attention might also know that there is a ballot language deadline of Aug. 11 … or so. This week, Assistant City Manager Robert D. Goode sent out a helpful memo to City Council members reminding them of the significant dates. It’s embedded below for bond fans.

Download (PDF, 551KB)


Thursday, July 21, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

South Austin group opposes Adler’s bond

Grassroots opposition to Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million mobility bond proposal is building in South Austin. Last week, the South Central Coalition of Neighborhoods sent a letter to the mayor, City Council members and members of the Bond Oversight Commission to report a unanimous vote against the plan. The coalition represents the Barton Hills, Bouldin Creek, Galindo, Dawson, South Lamar, South River City and Zilker neighborhood associations. The letter acknowledged the “acute need for transportation, roadway, and infrastructure improvements,” but it suggested that the sheer size of the mayor’s package could rob the city of bonding capacity for other projects, including flood mitigation, until 2024. The coalition also urged Council and the Bond Oversight Commission to adopt before Oct. 31 the top three recommendations of the Flood Mitigation Task Force. Pointing out that no city bond package has funded flood mitigation projects since 2006, the coalition asked for Council, the commission and the task force to have a public discussion this August to ensure “critical funding is included in the upcoming bond package.” The coalition’s position echoes that of Council Member Ann Kitchen, who voted last month against moving the bond package forward. Kitchen, whose District 5 includes many of the neighborhoods represented by the coalition, argued that the proposal did not include enough projects in South Austin and could also limit the scale of a comprehensive bond package in 2018.


Thursday, July 21, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Housing Authority gets a new tool

The Housing Authority of Travis County has signed on to a new online tool that should make the process of finding and renting Section 8 housing easier. A press release from HATC touts the new tool as well as the authority’s voucher program, and also takes the opportunity to reiterate the fact that it is looking for more landlords to participate in the “Housing Choice Voucher Program.” More info about that program can be found here.


Thursday, July 21, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

City hosts cemetery open house

The Parks and Recreation Department is hosting an open house next week to introduce the public to the city’s new cemetery manager, Tonja Walls-Davis. She will oversee management of the five historic municipal cemeteries under PARD’s care: Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, Plummers Cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery and Oakwood Annex Cemetery. PARD staff will also provide an update on the Cemetery Master Plan, which was approved by City Council in September 2015. The event will take place Wednesday, July 27, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, 2800 Hancock Drive.


Thursday, July 21, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

City hosts Music Venue Summit

Live music venue owners and managers are invited to attend a Music Venue Summit this afternoon hosted by the Music & Entertainment Division of the city’s Economic Development Department. The event is a response to findings in last year’s Austin Music Census report that the city is inconsistent in its dealings with folks in the live music industry. According to a press release from the city, the discussion will cover a proposed entertainment license and other issues that affect entertainment venues. The event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Palm Door, 508 E. Sixth St. Anyone planning to attend should RSVP to Alyssa.Zinsser@austintexas.gov or 512-974-7849.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Good news for park recycling


As a follow-up to a story that we published last week, the Austin Monitor has learned that the Austin Parks Foundation has chipped in to speed up the process of providing recycling at city park facilities. To be precise, the foundation has given the city’s Parks and Recreation Department $50,000 for recycling containers in Austin’s recreation center, athletic fields and pools and the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The funding will be used in the upcoming fiscal year, and the foundation is hopeful that the installation of containers will roll out later this year. A representative for the organization told the Monitor that it plans to fund more in the future.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

TxDOT wants public input on interstate rail project

Central Texas residents will get a chance next month to weigh in on a potential high-speed passenger rail service that could connect Oklahoma City to South Texas along the Interstate 35 corridor. It might surprise some readers to learn that the Texas Department of Transportation has been collaborating with the Federal Railroad Administration since 2013 on the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study. This week, both agencies published 10 potential service and route options that could end up producing passenger trains that run from Edmond, Oklahoma, all the way down to Brownsville, Texas. Both agencies are working on an environmental impact study that is scheduled to drop next month. For the curious, a copy of the draft EIS is available here. Part of the proposed passenger rail service at first blush might seem like a duplicate of the Lone Star Rail District’s efforts to run passenger trains between Georgetown and San Antonio, but one official told the Austin Monitor that that is not the case. LSTAR Deputy Executive Director Joe Black explained in an email that the Texas-Oklahoma service would serve only a handful of major stops along its lengthy route. “It would actually be complementary, in a sense,” Black said. “Someone could ride from Oklahoma City, say, to a transfer station in the Austin area, and pick up an LSTAR train to San Marcos, New Braunfels, etc.” Of course, that vision is far from a reality. LSTAR is facing a do-or-die vote at the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization next month, and TxDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration are still only drafting the preliminary environmental impact study for the Texas-Oklahoma service. The final version of that document is also expected to drop next month. Here in Austin, the public can weigh in on the draft EIS at an open house and presentation on Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m., at TxDOT’s local district office. If you can’t make it to that meeting, you can weigh in on online here.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

Where there’s smoke, there’s a prescribed burn

South Austin’s Slaughter Creek Trail will be closed today so that Austin Water utility’s Wildland Conservation division can conduct a “prescribed burn” of its Quality Protection Lands. According to a press release from the city, the burn will “safely mimic the natural fire cycle and maintain fire-resilient landscapes for the benefit of people, water and wildlife.” If wind speeds and direction are unfavorable, the burn will be postponed; otherwise, expect to see some smoke in the area – bordered to the north and south by Slaughter Lane and State Highway 45, and to the west and east by FM 1826 and MoPac –throughout the day.


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