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Whispers

Friday, July 1, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Happy holiday!

This Monday, the Austin Monitor staff will join our readers and a bunch of city services in taking the day off to celebrate July Fourth. Have a safe and happy holiday, and we’ll see y’all back here on Tuesday!

Friday, July 1, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

Cap Metro releases holiday schedule

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority has released all the details for service on Monday, July 4, particularly surrounding the annual H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks at Auditorium Shores. Bus routes going to and from Auditorium Shores include the 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, 30, 100, 801 and 803. Additionally, those MetroRapid 801 and 803 routes will be operating every 30 minutes that night from 8 p.m. to midnight, and the Night Owls will be running on their normal schedules from midnight to 3 a.m. As far as detours go, there will be two phases of bus detours in effect from 5-11 p.m. on July 4, and Cap Metro encourages riders to use the Cap Metro app, the online Trip Planner or the Go Line phone services at 512-474-1200 for real-time information. The MetroRail, the service notes, will be operating on a Saturday schedule on July 4. Finally, Cap Metro is providing free park-and-ride shuttle service for Lago Vista’s Fourth of July Celebration. Cap Metro wants to remind riders that its offices will be closed on July 4 (but the GO Line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and that service will return to its normal weekday schedule on Tuesday, July 5. Good luck out there, friends.

Friday, July 1, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

AISD on weeklong break for holiday

If you need to get in contact with the Austin Independent School District, you’ll have to hold off until the week of July 10th because AISD offices and schools will be taking a one-week break from July 4-8 in observance of the Fourth of July holiday. The district also reminds Austinites that it is running on a summer efficiency schedule through Aug. 12, which means business hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with offices closed on Fridays. Regular five-day weeks will resume on Monday, Aug. 15, with classes beginning Monday, Aug. 22. Have a happy vacation, AISD!

Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Cate Malek

City explores bringing Wi-Fi to Austin parks

The vision is for any Austinite hanging out in a city park to be able to get online for free. But, in reality, bringing wireless internet access to Austin’s parks may be too costly and unpredictable. The Parks and Recreation Department has begun to explore the project with the goal of meeting a few pressing needs. First on the list is providing Wi-Fi during major events, such as music festivals. This would not only create a better experience for concertgoers but also allow vendors to make sales and improve public safety. Another goal is to upgrade the wireless internet offered at more remote city facilities, which are now relying on private internet companies that often provide slow and unreliable service, according to the parks department. But getting Austin’s parks connected involves a number of challenges. Particularly concerning is the fact that few other cities have successfully implemented free public internet. The Parks and Recreation Board raised a number of questions about the project at its meeting on June 28. Board members questioned whether there was a cheaper way to upgrade the internet at remote park facilities. They also questioned the time frame of the project, saying that in five years, when the project is set to be finished, wireless technology may look completely different. “By the time we execute this plan, I have deep concerns it will be relevant,” said Board Member Pat Wimberly.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

LCRA has things to say

Are you interested in keeping closer tabs on floods in your area? Then, perhaps, you may be a fan of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s free service, which sends alerts when flood operations are going on at one of its dams. Though not a flood warning system, it is information. According to a press release about the service, “LCRA’s free Floodgate Operations Notification Service (FONS) notifies subscribers via text, email and/or a phone call when flood operations are imminent or underway. The service has been available for years during flood operations at Buchanan, Inks, Starcke, Wirtz, Mansfield and Tom Miller dams along the Highland Lakes in Central Texas. Beginning in July, subscribers also may sign up for alerts for floodgate operations at Bastrop Dam on Lake Bastrop.” If that’s your bag, register here.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Bastrop appoints acting city manager

The Bastrop City Council has appointed Police Chief Steve Adcock to serve as the city’s acting city manager in the wake of the resignation of City Manager Mike Talbot. Bastrop Mayor Ken Kesselus said Wednesday that Adcock would take up that position starting today. Talbot offered to stay in his position until the end of August, “but we’ve transitioned him into the position of senior adviser,” Kesselus said. He added that Adcock has served as acting city manager on other occasions and said, “I think the staff has a lot of confidence in him.” Kesselus said he intends to post an item on the July 12 council agenda to discuss doing a search for a new city manager. Kesselus went on to say that attorney Jo-Christy Brown continues to serve as the city’s main legal counsel at this time. The council will be considering its budget for the upcoming year starting next week, at which time council members may begin to talk about hiring a staff attorney. According to city records, Brown has received more than $521,000 since Jan. 1, 2015.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

Garza hosting District 2 town hall on July 6

City Council Member Delia Garza will be hosting a District 2 town hall meeting on July 6, and Austinites from anywhere in the city — not just those in the district — are invited to attend and share their thoughts. The town hall will allow attendees to learn about the latest District 2 updates as well as how to get involved in the city budget process. Spanish interpretation services will be available. The meeting will take place Wednesday, July 6 from 6-8 p.m. at Dove Springs Recreation Center, located at 5801 Ainez Drive.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

APD looking for witnesses of turtle killing

In a disturbing animal cruelty case, the Austin Police Department is looking for witnesses of the hammering death of a turtle in the 1000 block of W. Riverside Drive, along the shores of Lady Bird Lake. According to APD, the incident occurred on the afternoon or evening of June 21 and police have identified the alleged suspect, who is possibly facing charges of cruelty to nonlivestock animals. Witnesses willing to come forward and give a statement should contact the Animal Cruelty Unit at 512-978-0523.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Putrescibles gonna putrescible

The Travis County Commissioners Court is talking trash to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. On Tuesday, the court voted 3-1 to voice to the TCEQ its opposition to a permit modification for a local landfill that increases the rate of garbage it can receive. Commissioner Gerald Daugherty voted in opposition while Commissioner Margaret Gomez was off the dais. According to the resolution, the Austin Community Landfill along the Manor Expressway has seen a spike in business since the neighboring Sunset Farms Landfill recently closed. To handle that increase, the TCEQ is considering raising ACL’s annual intake to 1.5 million tons, “a more than 50% increase over historical levels of waste acceptance at the combined landfills,” according to the resolution. In explaining her opposition to the modification, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt noted that the area around the two dumps “has become a vibrant residential corridor with some very vibrant businesses.” County staff stressed that the modification would only increase the pace at which garbage comes into the landfill but would not expand its total planned capacity. Daugherty explained that his opposition to the measure was based on the fact that he first received a copy of the resolution late Monday afternoon and thus did not feel comfortable making a rushed decision. However, he said he understood the unpleasant nature of landfills near residences and businesses. “Putrescibles are putrescibles. I mean, I get it,” said Daugherty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

Color a menagerie of animals for a cause

Today in news of the adorable, the Austin Animal Center is celebrating five years of Austin being the largest no-kill city in the country by releasing a coloring book filled with pictures and stories of some of the unique animals the center has saved, including a paralyzed cat and his wheelchair, a baby owl, a three-legged dog and a rooster that was rescued from a cockfighting ring. All proceeds from the sales of the $12 coloring books will go to the Austin Animal Center. The books are being sold online, on the AAC’s website, on Amazon as well as around town at BookPeople on Lamar Boulevard and Toy Joy on W. Second Street.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Court considers raise for elected officials

Travis County’s elected officials are closer to getting a raise courtesy of the Commissioners Court. On Tuesday, the court voted 4-0, with Commissioner Margaret Gomez off the dais, to advance a 2.5 percent maximum salary hike for not only themselves but also the sheriff, the county clerk, the district attorney and many more. There is no obligation for each official to take the full amount, although out of everyone involved, only three members of the court — County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and Commissioner Brigid Shea — opted to take home less than they are permitted. The court won’t officially set the new salaries until it adopts next year’s budget later this summer. However, there will be a public hearing on the matter next month, so if you, for example, feel that Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant deserves more than $126,416 per year, mark your calendar for July 19 to have your voice heard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

ATC spawns policy group

Today, the Austin Technology Council announced the formation of a new group — the ATC Policy Coalition — which is designed to bring together “leaders from the tech and entrepreneur community, business advocacy groups, elected officials and the voting public with the mission to aid in the creation of a policy and representative environment that reflects Austin’s economy and innovation brand.” A press release from the group noted the important timing of the coalition: “As the intersection of innovation and regulation becomes an increasingly regular occurrence in Austin, our hard-won reputation as a leading technology hub and a top city for entrepreneurs is compromised by a growing disconnect between our elected officials and the citizens and economies they represent. Recent votes on housing and mobility confirm this gap as our elected officials struggle to meet the needs of a 21st century economy through regulation and policies that foster innovation and entrepreneurship.” The statement goes on to explain that the ATC Policy Coalition will report on regional and state entrepreneurship and tech as well as make recommendations on those topics in an effort to preserve Austin’s current position.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Bastrop still paying hefty legal fees

The city of Bastrop has paid the law firm of Jo-Christy Brown, an Austin lawyer who acts as city attorney for Bastrop, an additional $48,578 since the Austin Monitor began writing about the city’s extensive legal fees in April. At the same time, Bastrop City Council has wrestled with the city manager over the issue of hiring a full-time in-house attorney. That manager, Mike Talbot, has resigned, effective Sept. 1. However, it is clear that the city’s council would like him to leave before that. Brown received nearly $473,000 in legal fees from Jan. 1, 2015, to May 1, 2016. And, according to city records, she submitted two invoices, both of which were paid on May 26, bringing her total for the 17-month period to $521,578. Talbot and Mayor Ken Kesselus are reportedly working on an exit strategy that will satisfy both Talbot and the council.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

City offering scholarships for Austin creatives

If you’re a local arts and culture professional in need of marketing and networking opportunities, the city’s Economic Development Department and Cultural Arts Division may have you covered. They’ll be offering 10 scholarships to send local creatives to the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, which will be taking place in Austin on Nov. 11-14. Those who live in the Austin area and either work for an arts, culture or creative organization or are independent creatives are eligible for the scholarship, which covers the registration cost of the conference. The conference itself includes two half-day interactive pre-conferences, three keynote speakers, more than 35 professional development sessions, peer-to-peer learning experiences and networking and social opportunities. Applications for the scholarship are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on July 20 and can be found on the NAMPC website. The recipients will be announced on Aug. 15.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

Austin technology program wins federal grant

In promising news from the U.S. Department of Labor, Austin — along with Roanoke, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio — will be the recipient of a TechHire grant for its Goodwill Careers in Technology (CiT) program. The CiT program, which is currently active in all three cities, prepares participants for high-growth IT career pathways and “aims to specifically recruit underrepresented groups in the technology field, including women, African-Americans and Latinos.” The total amount in TechHire grants announced by the Department of Labor was $150 million, of which the Goodwill Careers in Technology program received $4 million. In a statement about the TechHire grant, Mayor Steve Adler said, “Austin is an innovative city. We lead Texas in patents, startup and venture capital. We need to be just as innovative in helping our residents take advantage of the opportunity and prosperity all around them or we will never get our arms around the affordability crisis, and this TechHire grant is going to help us do just that.”

Monday, June 27, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

More lane closures for downtown water main construction

Austin Water has released some updates on the lane closures and traffic impacts from the construction of a reclaimed water main in the downtown area. As of June 24, there are five new traffic updates to help you plan your routes through the city. During the weekend of July 9-10, MLK Boulevard will be reduced to one lane each way and Trinity Street will be reduced to one through lane going north, with lanes reduced for one block on either side of Trinity. Moving down a few blocks, the eastbound lane of 12th Street between Trinity and Red River streets will be closed until July 1. On 10th and Red River, construction will be happening in the intersection and southward one block, with one lane being maintained each way. Over on West Fifth Street between San Antonio and Guadalupe streets, for about two weeks two lanes will be closed and two will be open, with only the southbound lane of San Antonio Street open. Finally, construction on West Avenue at 10th Street will continue for the next two months and move northward in one-block increments to West 14th Street, with accompanying closures as the work moves north.

Monday, June 27, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

More pools set to reopen soon

The city has released the fifth update to its pool schedule, as lifeguard staffing continues to improve. Givens, Dove Springs and Springwoods pools have been given an opening day of June 26, while Civitan, Govalle and Shipe Wading pools are all set to have an opening day announced in the near future. Patterson Pool is currently open for programming only from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Though most of Austin’s pools are now open, the city is still in need of many more lifeguards and is encouraging interested Austinites to call (512) 974-9330 or go to lifeguardaustin.com. Salaries, they note, start at $13.03 per hour.

Monday, June 27, 2016 by Kayleigh Hughes

Zimmerman receives firefighters’ support

Last Monday, the Austin Firefighters Association announced its official endorsement of District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman in his bid for re-election. Bob Nicks, president of the association, said of Zimmerman, “You have been an outstanding member of the Austin City Council, serving the citizens with commitment and integrity. … You deserve re-election.” In the upcoming election, Zimmerman will be defending his District 6 Council seat against opponent Jimmy Flannigan.

Friday, June 24, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Gauldin enters District 7 race

Speculation that Natalie Gauldin would be running for the District 7 City Council seat has proved to be true. Gauldin will face off against incumbent Leslie Pool. On Thursday, Gauldin confirmed the launch of her campaign with a Facebook post that read, in part, “I am not a career politician. I never planned to run for office, and would not be running for City Council if it wasn’t for the outpouring of encouragement from many community leaders, local advocates, and concerned neighbors. They know we need change for District 7 and believe I’m the right person for the job. … It will be very difficult to overcome the political machine working behind my opponent. Her group of supporters have been running Austin for decades; their regressive policies are responsible for the tremendous challenges we all face with the increasing cost of living and crippling traffic congestion. And, unfortunately, her backers don’t have realistic plans to solve these problems.” In other words: It’s on.

Friday, June 24, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Council approves “dark money” rules

City Council approved a campaign finance reform ordinance Thursday. The change will require contributors who give more than $500 to campaigns to disclose their names. The ordinance passed 9-2, with Council members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voting in opposition. Troxclair said she understood the interest in disclosure but that “the right of free speech is incredibly important — not only to me, but to the history of this country” and explained that it was important to be able to make political contribution “without fear of retribution from your employer, from the government or from anybody.” Zimmerman expressed concern that the ordinance was too complicated and rife with loopholes.

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