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Whispers

Monday, January 23, 2017 by Nora Ankrum

Mark your calendar for Texas Muslim Capitol Day

With the 85th legislative session getting into gear, the season of educational “capitol days” begins. Next week’s calendar includes Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Hosted by CAIR Austin (the local Council on American-Islamic Relations), the event welcomes folks who want to learn more about civic advocacy. Participants will get the opportunity to speak directly with elected representatives, and lunch will be provided. The event is on Tuesday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave. Tickets are available here.


Monday, January 23, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Free pet adoptions on South Congress this weekend

This Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Austin Animal Center is taking over the corner of Gibson Street and South Congress Avenue. Meet potential new family members and enjoy live music, shopping, giveaways and more courtesy of the shelter’s partnership with Zappos.com. The Nevada-based clothing website is undertaking a road trip to get to know its customers “a little better” by gathering local musicians, “style mavens,” food trucks and animal services departments for a series of pop-ups that begins in Austin. Additionally, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on those days, adoption fees will be waived at both of the shelter’s two locations. As always, adopted animals are already spayed or neutered, have a microchip and are up to date on vaccinations.


Monday, January 23, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Conversation Corps recognized for innovation

Austin’s Conversation Corps – an effort on the part of the city, the Austin Independent School District and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (and executed by nonprofit Leadership Austin) to engage citizens on important issues – was recognized last week for its strides in innovation. The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has included Conversation Corps as one of 100 semifinalists in the next Innovations in American Government Awards competition. Finalists in the competition will journey to Cambridge in March to compete for a $100,000 grand prize. The city’s Asian American Quality of Life Initiative was also given a nod as one of 2017’s Bright Ideas in Government, which “represent the next horizon in government work to improve services, solve problems, and work on behalf of citizens.”


Monday, January 23, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Local legislators host community engagement forum

Next week, state Reps. Donna Howard, Eddie Rodriguez, Celia Israel and Gina Hinojosa will host a forum so that constituents can get a detailed idea of the work each of them is doing in the 85th Texas Legislature. Hinojosa already made a splash last week with a proposal to make “intoxi-carry” (or carrying a firearm while intoxicated) a felony offense. The Center for Public Policy Priorities’ Ann Beeson will give tips on becoming an advocate and suggest policy areas to keep an eye on in the coming months, and a selection of local grassroots groups are scheduled to introduce themselves. The session will be held at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave St., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m.


Friday, January 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Leadership Austin hosts state and local control panel

Next Tuesday, Leadership Austin is hosting a panel at its Engage Breakfast event at the Palmer Events Center. The city’s Brie L. Franco, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Robert Henneke and Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities will discuss points of contention between state and local officials that affect Texans on a daily basis. The event costs $25 to attend and includes breakfast and a bonus chat with the panelists — for the true wonks among us. State versus local control was the theme we tackled in the 2016 City Summit, which you can relive here.


Friday, January 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce recognizes exemplary volunteers

Next month, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce will celebrate a couple of important things. One is its 139th annual meeting, which will take place Feb. 10. The other is the group of Outstanding Volunteers for 2016, who were named today and will be recognized at a luncheon next month. These local business leaders put tremendous time and energy into bettering Austin’s business community, said Chamber Chair Ellen Wood. This year’s honorees include Michael Haynes of Capital Printing Company, Mary Dawson of La Quinta, Mike Perrine from Capital One Bank and Bruce Porter of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to that list, the chamber will also honor Ken Shine and Clay Johnston as Austinites of the Year. Find out more and register to attend the event here.

A previous version of this Whisper called this a free event, when in fact the ticket price for members is $75 and $85 for non-members.


Friday, January 20, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Cap Metro improves its app with a single stroke

Days after the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority eliminated its premium fares, the agency has made riding the bus even cheaper for some passengers. On Thursday, the agency rolled out the option on its app to purchase local bus passes, one ride at a time. Previously, app users could purchase only a day pass, which at $2.50 is twice as much as the single $1.25 ticket. As spokesperson Melissa Ayala told the Austin Monitor via email, “The new Local Single Ride on the CapMetro App gives riders more options if they’re planning a one-way trip, or visitors looking to navigate the city.” Previously Capital Metro officials had cited high credit card processing fees for not making the one-way passes available for bus riders. (MetroRail riders who pay the higher “commuter” fare have long had the option.) On Thursday, Ayala explained, “There is a small increase in expense related to credit card processing fees; however, we believe the benefit to our customers and new fare structure provides us a prime opportunity for launching the new pass option.” Ayala said Thursday’s debut was a “soft launch for beta testing” and that the agency will monitor its performance ahead of a more public rollout on Monday.


Friday, January 20, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Capital Metro service changes during inaugural weekend

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is bracing for the crowds that downtown Austin is due to draw today in response to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. University of Texas students (as well as some from high school) are planning to walk out of class at noon, which is expected to affect bus routes in the general campus and Capitol areas. Later today, the Austin Inauguration Pride March: LGBTQ & Allies could affect arrivals in the Capitol area during the same time frame. The One Resistance March at 5 p.m. will detour the following routes from Auditorium Shores to Congress Avenue: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 20, 30, 37, 801, 803, 982 and 983. Beginning at noon on Saturday, the Austin Women’s March will prompt detours on the following routes: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 19, 20, 30, 37, 801 NB and 803 NB.


Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

River Place rezoning case postponed yet again

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Zoning and Platting Commission postponed the River Place rezoning case again, this time until Feb. 21. Jeff Howard, representing MileStone Community Builders, said that it was actually one of the principals of the Autism Trust, the group that will be overseeing the planned autism center in the River Place neighborhood, who requested the postponement. “That organization’s representation at this public hearing is essential for you all to understand how the autism center will function, how it will operate and how it will be managed,” he said at the meeting. While in support of the postponement, Ted Gaunt, representing River Place, said that the year and a half of postponements has burdened the neighborhood. “What we would really like to ask is that this next date be the date, that we don’t find yet another reason to try to mobilize an entire community to come down and set their time aside, and then have the date change again,” he said. Chair Thomas Weber moved to approve the postponement, seconded by Commissioner Betsy Greenberg, and it passed unanimously. Commissioner Dustin Breithaupt was absent.


Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Chad Swiatecki

Austin Music Foundation unveils program to mentor young artists

Turns out that Mayor Steve Adler isn’t the only one trying to make Austin musicians more business savvy. The Austin Music Foundation, a nonprofit focused on creating opportunities for local musicians, has announced its new Artist Development Program, which will utilize the expertise of music industry professionals in a seven-month course to help young and emerging artists advance to the next stage of their careers. The program, which will include mentoring and instruction on business basics, is independent of a proposed artist revenue enhancement effort that’s likely headed for a City Council vote in February. That $75,000 expenditure will be directed by the acclaimed authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide and is part of a slate of four initiatives tied to the Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, which was unveiled last year as a way to help bolster Austin’s deteriorating music economy.


Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

City’s Conversation Corps announces ‘Day of Dialogue’

The Conversation Corps, an effort by the Austin Independent School District, the city of Austin and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority to gather input on community issues, will host a press conference this morning at Wooldridge Square to announce a “Day of Dialogue.” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz and Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson will all be speakers in attendance. Last year’s conversations included a July meeting called “We Are Orlando” to discuss gun control, a May meeting about AISD’s budget and an April talk on transportation priorities. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Wooldridge Square, 900 Guadalupe St. Find more information on the corps at www.conversationcorps.org.


Thursday, January 19, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Behind the scenes with ATCEMS

Go behind the scenes of a 911 call with the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services team‘s “What to Do When” series, public service announcements the agency will release that use example 911 calls to help the public prepare for common emergency situations. In the first six-minute video released yesterday, a caller secures an ambulance for a friend who is experiencing chest pains. It follows the entire process, from the initial contact with the dispatcher until EMS arrives at the home. They plan to tackle a range of situations, including how to handle car accidents and other medical emergencies (such as seizures or burns).


Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

January lane closures in Northwest Austin

Austin Water will begin work on replacing a damaged, 48-inch water line near the intersection of Loop 360 and RM 2222 on Thursday. The process will go on for the rest of the month and will require daily road closures and detours so the crews can complete the work. On Thursday and Friday of this week and all of the following week (Jan. 23-27), Backtrail Drive will be closed from Ladera Norte to Cedro Trail starting at 7:00 a.m. and running through 7:00 p.m. The following week, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the street will be closed around the clock. The city is reminding drivers and cyclists to drive defensively and obey traffic signs.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Doggett joins boycott

On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) joined the growing number of House Democrats in boycotting President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. In a brief statement on Twitter, Doggett said, “We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street. Instead of uniting our country, his continued unprecedented, unpresidential actions are further dividing it. By repeatedly taking the lowest road, he is not showing respect for the highest office. We are in for a long struggle that must strategically utilize every nonviolent opposition tool available.” Doggett will be joined by two other Texas representatives – U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) – in boycotting the inauguration. At press time, more than 50 House Democrats had vowed to boycott the event, though no senators had committed to the protest.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

A new (multimodal!) committee is born, a community celebrates

In celebration of Tuesday’s first meeting of the Multimodal Community Advisory Committee, the “Austin Strategic Mobility Plan community” released a newsletter detailing how to stay up to date on the latest in mobility planning (aside from reading the Austin Monitor, of course). Easiest among the suggestions is a visit to the project website, which is here. Interested Austinites can also sign up for emails to stay informed or attend future meetings of the MCAC. In addition, larger groups can request briefings by emailing asmp@austintexas.gov with the name of your group, date and time of the meeting, and the format (for example, AV availability and time constraints).


Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Austin Public Library hosts east side open mic

Sing, act, joke – whatever you do best, do it at the Carver Branch Library on eight Saturday afternoons this year, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Feb. 25. On each of those days, the library will fork over its mic and PA to nine performers, who will have 15-minute slots to perform their talents. Musicians, poets, comedians and performance artists of all skill levels are welcome. The free event is first come, first served, so save a spot starting at noon. Visit library.austintexas.gov/event-tags/open-mic or call 512-974-1010 for more information.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Just a consent agenda at Commissioners Court this week

Fresh off a very brief holiday hibernation, the Travis County Commissioners Court is taking a rare bye week this Tuesday. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced at last week’s meeting her plans to be off the dais this week, which means that the agenda she helped put together will be free of controversial items. For loyal fans of #TravCo’s weekly action, that means Commissioner Margaret Gómez – whose 22 years on the court gives her seniority – will gavel in a quick meeting featuring a wholesale bundle of housecleaning items that will likely be approved with the unanimous consent of her fellow commissioners. Of course, public communications will proceed as it does every week, so there’s still at least one reason to tune in. And barring any unforeseen surprises, Eckhardt should be back next week when, among other items, the court will once again take up the question of whether to help fund a regional system of park-and-rides. Be there or be square!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Austin takes part in Women’s March

Austin is one of 300 cities across the country joining the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21. The protest, according to organizers, isn’t about President-elect Donald Trump, but rather a message to him and elected officials from the local to the national level that “women’s rights are human rights” and that they are expected to respect those rights. Organizers hope to draw a million people to the marches nationwide. The Texas effort is headed by Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Progress Texas and a dozen other local organizations and nonprofits. Speakers will include former state Sen. Wendy Davis (Fort Worth), state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (Houston) and author Lizzie Velasquez. Find out more at the March on Austin website.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Nina Hernandez

Women’s Hall of Fame induction process begins

For the sixth year, the city’s Commission for Women is accepting nominations for the Women’s Hall of Fame, an honor for community members who are devoted to bettering the lives of Austin women and girls. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 2, and the application can be found here. Education Austin’s Montserrat Garibay, former City Council Member Jackie Goodman and local “non-profit enthusiast” Mariben Ramsey were inducted in 2016. This year’s inductees will join KUVE anchor Olga Campos Benz, educator and activist Bertha Means and former Mayor Carole Keeton in the hall.


Monday, January 16, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Happy MLK Day!

Today, the Austin Monitor joins the city of Austin, the Austin Independent School District (closed) and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (which will run on a Saturday schedule, meaning there will be no MetroRail, UT Shuttle or E-Bus service) in celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We will return to our regular coverage on Tuesday. For readers looking for something to do in the meantime, the city will be celebrating the holiday all day, beginning at 9:00 a.m. with a short program at the MLK statue at UT Austin, which will kick off the march to the Capitol, where there will be another short program before moving on to Huston-Tillotson University. There, a celebration will continue through 3:00 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations for the Capital Area Food Bank.


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