Whispers

Friday, January 17, 2020 by Tai Moses

Affordable housing community celebrates opening

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department and LifeWorks invite the community at large to help celebrate the grand opening of a new 29-unit affordable housing community in East Austin. According to NHCD, the Works II “offers a path to self-sufficiency for young parents, youth experiencing homelessness, or youth who are aging out of the foster care system, including an extensive array of supportive services available through the LifeWorks’ Sooch East Austin Youth & Family Resource Center.” The project was made possible in part by $1.8 million from the city’s Rental Housing Development Assistance program and federal grant funding administered by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. Jan. 21, 11 a.m., The Works II, 835 N. Pleasant Valley Road. Please RSVP here.

 


Friday, January 17, 2020 by Tai Moses

Learn to be a true tree friend

Trees are priceless. They sequester carbon, lessen air pollution, filter rainwater, and reduce stormwater runoff. Their shade helps cool the air on hot days and their branches provide protection from the wind. Their leaves, seeds, nuts and fruits provide food for countless species of wildlife. And trees are beautiful. For all of these reasons and many more, Austin places a high value on its urban canopy. The Development Services Department’s Community Tree Preservation Division is conducting a series of free workshops to teach residents how to properly care for the trees in their lives, how to navigate the city’s tree ordinance, and how to apply for a tree permit when necessary. The Get Tree Smart workshops will take place on Jan. 23 at Menchaca Road Library, 5500 Menchaca Road, 6-7:30 p.m.; and Feb. 25 at Cepeda Branch Library, 651 N. Pleasant Valley Road, 6-7:30 p.m. Register for January’s workshop here.


Thursday, January 16, 2020 by Tai Moses

Property taxes due next week

Friday, Jan. 31, at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline to pay your property taxes, but Bruce Elfant, the county tax assessor-collector, urges Travis County property owners not to wait to the last day to pay. The best way to pay, according to Elfant, is to go to TravisCountyTax.org and use eCheck, which costs only a dollar. You can also use a credit card or PayPal, but Elfant warns that will add a 3 percent charge to your total. He also cautions property owners not to mail in their property tax payment on Jan. 31, because if USPS puts a next-day postmark on the envelope, state law requires the assessor to charge a late penalty and interest charges. Says Elfant in a news release, “No one looks forward to having to pay their property tax bill, but we all have to do it, so why not get it out of the way by paying today using our quick and easy online method?” Need another good reason to get it out of the way sooner? Elfant says, “If you choose to call or come in person you will have a very long wait, and if you are paying online, our payment processing system becomes slower to respond due to the high volume of traffic on deadline day.” So don’t delay, pay today!

 


Thursday, January 16, 2020 by Tai Moses

ReVerse Pitch returns

The ReVerse Pitch Competition, which bills itself as an “innovative social entrepreneurship competition designed to help start the next big venture,” will be returning for its fifth year in February. Businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs turn discarded waste materials into the raw materials for a new social enterprise and compete for the $10,000 Innovation Prize. Check out the 2020 material suppliers and get those creative juices flowing. Opening night is Monday, Feb. 10, 6-8 p.m., at Rowling Hall, Crum Auditorium, 300 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Harris endorses, tweets ensue

While it’s still early in the local election season, the race for county attorney has already become heated, with current Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, former Judge Mike Denton, Assistant County Attorney Laurie Eiserloh, and criminal defense attorney Dominic Sel­vera all vying for the seat. On Monday night, criminal justice reform advocate Chris Harris announced his support of Selvera, which led to the following exchange on Twitter (click through to read the replies). Endorsements for the county race will continue to roll in, with Austin EMS Association announcing its support of Garza yesterday.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

Long replaces Adler as CAMPO chair

By unanimous vote, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board has elected Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long as chair and Council Member Ann Kitchen as vice chair for calendar years 2020 and 2021. Mayor Steve Adler, who served as board chair since former chair Will Conley resigned in February 2019, thanked the board for the opportunity to lead the group before making the motion to elect Long and Kitchen. Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea made a substitute motion in favor of fellow Commissioner Jeff Travillion becoming vice chair, saying the board’s leadership should reflect the region’s increasingly diverse constituency. Travillion, who also serves on the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors, received only six votes, including his own. Returning to Adler’s original motion, the board gave its unanimous approval to be led by Long and Kitchen. Speaking to the vote, Kitchen said she looks forward to working with the board’s representatives, including Travillion, while she serves as vice chair. Prompted by questions from Council Member Alison Alter, Long stated her intention to keep Adler in a leadership role by appointing him Austin’s representative on the board’s executive committee and thanked Adler for his willingness to be “drafted” as a leader going forward.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Tai Moses

Review the city’s mobility plan

If you’re curious to know what projects are planned or in progress from the 2016 mobility bond, take a look at the draft 2020 Mobility Annual Plan, now available online for review and comment. Check out new sidewalks and urban trails, intersection improvements, protected bikeways and safer school routes on the interactive project map and leave feedback through Feb. 2. Says the Transportation Department, “The projects align with Austin City Council’s Austin Strategic Direction 2023 Mobility Strategic Outcome of getting Austinites where we want go, when we want to get there, safely and cost-effectively.” The final Mobility Annual Plan is due to be published in March.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Tai Moses

County lifts burn ban

Due to recent rainfall, cooler temperatures and more rain in the forecast, Travis County Fire Marshal Tony Callaway has informed the Commissioners Court that he will be lifting the burn ban for unincorporated areas of the county today, Wednesday. “While I am encouraged by the improved conditions, I urge residents to continue to be cautious with any outdoor burning,” said Callaway in a news release. “Keep a means of extinguishing the fire nearby at all times, and never leave a fire unattended. Call 911 immediately if a fire gets out of control.” Before doing any outdoor burning, contact your local fire department; if you’re not sure which department to notify, call the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office at (512) 854-4621. Find more information and regulations about outdoor burning here. You can also sign up to receive text messages when the burn ban status changes.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Roig appointed interim code director

Longtime city employee José G. Roig will be heading up the Austin Code Department following the departure of Cora D. Wright, who retired from her position as director on Dec. 31. According to a press release about the appointment, Roig has worked with the city since 2007 as a building official, building inspectors division manager, inspectors supervisor, commercial inspector, and most recently, assistant director of the Code Department.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Tai Moses

Nerd Nite goes underground

Nerd Nite Austin is teaming up with the Austin Cave Festival to present a night of fascinating talks devoted to all things underground, such as salamanders, geology, groundwater chemistry, caves – and the creatures who call them home. You’ll also learn about volunteer opportunities for those who want to help protect Austin’s fragile cave systems and wildlands. The event is free. There will be food and drink available for purchase from Pueblo Viejo and the North Door. Wednesday, Jan. 22; doors open at 7:30 p.m., show begins at 8 p.m., Great Hall, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. (Next month we’ll tell you all about the Austin Cave Fest, which comes to town Feb. 22.)


Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Tai Moses

PARD gets kids outdoors

In an ideal world, children and nature would be as inseparable as leopards and spots. That’s the kind of world the Austin Parks and Recreation Department wants to create, so with the aim of getting more Austin-area kids outside and connected to nature, the parks department is undertaking improvements to three city parks: Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, MLK Station Neighborhood Park and Armadillo Neighborhood Park. According to PARD’s news release, “The vision for these park improvements is to provide abundant and equitable access to nature for the children of Austin, with a specific focus on children in low-income communities and children of color.” Kids of all ages are invited to attend the following community engagement events, where they’ll enjoy pop-up play areas, design-a-park stations and fort-building activities:

  • Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park Playground Replacement and Nature Play, 12138 N. Lamar Blvd. (meet at the playground), Sat., Jan. 18, 10 a.m.-noon
  • MLK Station Neighborhood Park, 2907 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (meet at E. 16th St. and Clifford Ave.), Sat., Jan. 25, 10 a.m.-noon (bad weather date is Feb. 1)
  • Armadillo Neighborhood Park, 910 Armadillo Rd., Sat., Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-noon (bad weather date is Feb. 29)

 


Monday, January 13, 2020 by Tai Moses

Day of service honors Dr. King

In one of his final sermons, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proposed a new definition of greatness: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve,” he said. This Saturday, Jan. 18, thousands of people around the country will honor Dr. King’s legacy of service by volunteering themselves for a day of service, “a national initiative to strengthen communities, bridge barriers between different groups of people, create solutions to our social problems and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a Beloved Community.” Locally, United Way for Greater Austin is teaming up with Keep Austin Beautiful to recruit volunteers for a day of picking up litter along East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Interstate 35 to U.S. Highway 183. Before heading out on their urban beautification project, volunteers will be treated to a kickoff breakfast at 9 a.m. at United Way for Greater Austin, 2000 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Find out more about the project and sign up here.


Monday, January 13, 2020 by Tai Moses

Council adopts PARD’s long-range plan

City Council has adopted the Parks and Recreation Department’s long-range plan, Our Parks, Our Future, a blueprint that will guide the evolution of the city’s parks and recreation system over the next 10 years. PARD says the plan “reflects the community’s desire for expansion of Austin’s trail system, immersive natural experiences, and expanded arts and culture programming in parks.” The parks department has been working on the plan since fall 2018, and the completed plan is the result of careful analysis of existing assets and in-depth community engagement of “citizens, park supporters, conservancies, neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations and public partners.” Find a link to Our Parks, Our Future here.


Monday, January 13, 2020 by Tai Moses

Dougherty issues call for artists

The Dougherty Arts Center’s Julia C. Butridge Gallery is now soliciting exhibit proposals for the 2021 gallery season. Each season, several artists are selected by an anonymous panel of jurors to exhibit in one of the downtown gallery’s multiple exhibit spaces. Besides images of their work, artists must submit an artist statement and display information. Submit proposals here through Feb. 16.


Friday, January 10, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Pool files first campaign finance report

Council Member Leslie Pool was the first among her Council colleagues and candidates for the November Council election to file a campaign finance report ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline. Pool, who is seeking reelection to her District 7 seat in the fall, reported contributions of $10,985, which she started collecting in mid-December. Pool also loaned her campaign $52,500 in July. So far, no opponent has indicated an interest in running against Pool, although filing for Council races does not officially start until July 18 and the filing deadline is Aug. 17. Pool’s contributors include fellow Council Member Ann Kitchen and a number of neighborhood advocates, including Linda Bailey, and David King, Ann Denkler and Don Leighton-Burwell, who serve on the city’s land use commissions. Attorney and frequent Council critic Fred Lewis and his wife Dawn also contributed, as did Ellen Jefferson, executive director of Austin Pets Alive!


Friday, January 10, 2020 by Tai Moses

Come on down to Bluebonnet Lane

The Austin Transportation Department is inviting the community to attend an open house to review preliminary designs for changes to Bluebonnet Lane. The department is “evaluating Bluebonnet Lane from Del Curto Road to Melridge Place and Melridge Place from Bluebonnet Lane to Rabb Road for changes to enhance the safety and mobility of everyone who uses these streets.” Attendees will be able to fill out a project survey to provide feedback. 6-7 p.m, Thursday, Jan. 23, Zilker Elementary School cafeteria, 1900 Bluebonnet Lane.


Friday, January 10, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

Southern Walnut Creek Trail temporarily closed

Maintenance and repairs on U.S. Highway 183 will close the portion of Southern Walnut Creek Trail that crosses the highway just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The temporary closure will begin Jan. 13 and continue until the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority completes the demolition of the old U.S. 183 bridge that traverses Boggy Creek. The project is estimated to take two weeks. Weekend warriors will still have access to the trail crossing, which will be open on weekends but closed Monday through Friday. During the closure period, there will be a detour shared-use path along northbound and southbound U.S. 183 that will lead to a pedestrian crossing at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.


Friday, January 10, 2020 by Tai Moses

Take this survey

Got 10 minutes to take a survey about the city’s cultural centers? If you’ve ever visited one of Austin’s cultural centers – and even if you haven’t – your anonymous feedback “will help the city auditor determine how well the city’s cultural centers serve the community and identify opportunities for the city to improve its services.” Really, how could you resist? Take the survey here, now through Jan. 21.


Thursday, January 9, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

New T.A. Brown campus opens

Though the Austin Independent School District has, of late, made headlines for proposed school closures, yesterday the district opened the new T.A. Brown Elementary School as part of the 2017 Bond Program. The campus was closed in 2016 due to structural issues, and demolished in 2017. According to a press release about the new, modernized campus: “A Campus Architectural Team made up of Principal Sharp, former Webb Primary director Marizza Marquez, additional school staff, parents and community members provided guidance throughout the design process as the team of ERO Architects, Rogers-O’Brien Construction and AECOM brought the modernized T.A. Brown campus to life. Design began in March 2018, with construction beginning in November 2018. Mr. T.A. Brown himself was an influence in the design of the school; a principal at Pease Elementary for 41 years, he represented high character and devotion to education.”


Thursday, January 9, 2020 by Tai Moses

Students compete in MLK speech competition

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was famous, among other things, for his oratorical skills. His powerful, eloquent speeches live on long after the man himself is gone. The Austin Area Heritage Council, in collaboration with Google Fiber, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Child, Inc., issued an invitation to area schools to participate in an oratory competition commemorating Dr. King’s ideals and principles. Six schools answered the challenge: Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy, Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media & Performing Arts Institute, Maplewood Elementary School, Barbara Jordan Early College Prep, Volma Overton Early College Prep and Texas Preparatory School. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the young finalists in the 15th Annual MLK Oratory Competition will each deliver a five-minute speech based on the theme, “If Dr. King were alive, what would you discuss with him in creating change in America which would halt the evils of racism, hatred, inequality, and social injustice happening to the people in our country today and how would you do it?” 6:30 p.m., George Washington Carver Museum’s Boyd Vance Theatre, 1165 Angelina St.


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