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Fully-Local • Non-Partisan • Public-Service Journalism
 

Stories by Seth Smalley

County gets creative to counter 'staggering' number of fentanyl deaths

In the first half of this year, from January to June, 118 people in Travis County died from an overdose of fentanyl. This equaled the number of fentanyl-related overdoses from the entirety of last year. The outsized opioid-overdose figures spurred…

Eviction rates are skyrocketing in Travis County, says HHS

Eviction rates have shot up more than 250 percent of the average in the Austin area, according to Travis County Health and Human Services. “We have been absolutely inundated with crisis applications,” Kirsten Siegfried, HHS chief deputy, told the Travis County…

Travis County puts millions toward food access

On Tuesday, Travis County commissioners unanimously approved a series of contracts with local nonprofits and community groups, totaling $3.1 million, to help at-risk residents access healthy and fresh food. “The organizations receiving these funds will use the money in various…

Commissioners review public improvement district policy options

The Travis County Commissioners Court approved revisions to County Code Chapter 481, the county’s public improvement district policy, on Tuesday. Notable updates to the policy included required on-site community benefits in every public improvement district, in addition to required affordability…

Featured Collection: Austin Energy 2022 rate case

Austin Energy ramps up outreach for proposed rate changes

Austin Energy has entered the public hearing phase of its base rate review process, following its proposal to raise service costs. The monthslong dialogue with stakeholders and city staff, slated for resolution by City Council in November, has surfaced predictable…

County conducts mass prescription drug take-back event

Saturday is prescription drug take-back day across the United States. On Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously passed a proclamation recognizing the day across Travis County. Local constables are teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the event. Residents…

Compensation Committee consults commissioners on member appointments

On Tuesday, Victoria Ramirez, senior financial manager at the Travis County District Attorney’s office and chair of the county’s Compensation Committee, briefed commissioners on a lineup of committee recommendations for commissioners regarding member appointments. In 2018, the Travis County Commissioners…

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County mulls options to improve campus voting

While the county is doubling its number of voting machines on the UT campus this year, students and advocates are still warning of long wait times, sparse transit access and a lack of polling sites (hint: there are two). On…

Travis County preps for centennial fire prevention week

According to a proclamation unanimously approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, the week of Oct. 9-15 is the 100th annual fire prevention week in Travis County. The theme of the centennial? “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”…

Austin Police Department Budget, 2012-2022

During the 2020-21 budget process, City Council cut $31.5 million from APD’s budget, citing the protests and “community outcry against the disproportionate impact of police violence on Black Americans, Latinx Americans and other non-white ethnic communities,” according to the approved…

County gets scoop on supportive housing construction plans

Last week, Health and Human Services updated the Commissioners Court on the Travis County Supportive Housing Initiative, a $110 million, American Rescue Plan Act-funded project to bring housing to very low-income residents. Much of the commissioners’ discussion centered on making…

County may start participating in national ballistics database

The first of three gun violence prevention briefings was held Sept. 8 at Travis County Commissioners Court, drawing a diverse crowd from police officials to intervention groups and diversion program advocates. The bulk of discussion focused on a firearms shell…

County hears calls to center voices of people impacted by overdose crisis

Last week, the Travis County Commissioners Court received a monthly update on the opioid overdose crisis, which the county declared a public health emergency in May. A lot of the conversation focused on the testimony of Aaron Ferguson, a local…

County raises minimum wage for its workers to $20/hour

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage for county employees by $5 per hour, in addition to approving multiple other types of pay increases for county workers. The current county minimum wage is $15 per…

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