County constable honored in renaming of rec center
City Council made the unanimous call Thursday to rename the Dove Springs Recreation Center at 5801 Ainez Drive the George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center. Morales, the first elected Travis County constable from the Dove Springs community and president of the Dove Springs Recreation Advisory Board, was celebrated as a warm and engaged community figure on Thursday, though a number of community members also showed up to criticize Morales’ reputation and oppose the renaming. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who made the motion of approval, said the community seemed to be caught up in a war of “he said, she said.” Garza said she could only go by what she knows of Morales and his family, whom she called a “fixture and part of this community,” noting that wherever Morales goes he is greeted with warmth and cheers from those who know him. Reputation aside, Romteen Farasat, a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, said he respects Morales as a public servant and person; however, naming the center after him would give him an unfair advantage in the political arena. Otherwise, Farasat said he would support the change. Council approved the item 9-0-2 with Council members Alison Alter and Leslie Pool off the dais. Afterward, Alter said she would have voted in favor had she been present.
Citizen group calls for land code equity
The local citizen organization Planning Our Communities sent out recommendations for how the Land Development Code draft can consider opportunities to invest in the economically disadvantaged and historically marginalized residents of Austin. The draft code is up for a City Council vote on Dec. 9. Awais Azhar, a member of the Planning Commission, is on the group’s steering committee and sent a full explanation of POC’s recommendations to the Austin Monitor. The recommendations are broken down into four categories: maximizing affordable housing; minimizing gentrification and displacement; equitably distributing development within the city; and providing amenities for healthy and connected communities. “In our attempt to rectify historic injustices, we must remember that equal zoning allowances do not lead to equitable outcomes,” the group stated in a release. To help reduce inequities in the LDC draft, Planning Our Communities supports implementing an “Equity Overlay” that disincentivizes the redevelopment of existing multifamily housing and increases opportunities for income-restricted affordable housing with increased rights and protections for tenants. “Corridors in gentrifying areas that have only recently seen infrastructure investment after years of neglect should not have to bear the undue burden of increased density,” the group notes. “The Land Development Code must increase housing capacity in high opportunity areas and West Austin.”
New safety improvements light up Pearson Ranch Road
Months of collaboration between several local government entities has borne fruit in the form of new traffic and pedestrian safety improvements along Pearson Ranch Road in District 6. A new pedestrian-activated crosswalk at Pearson Ranch Middle School, a traffic signal at Pearson Ranch Road and Avery Ranch Boulevard, and a new fence at Pickaxe Trail to discourage people from crossing where it’s unsafe will help smooth the way for students traveling to and from three District 6 schools as well as pedestrians and commuters in the Pearson and Avery Ranch areas. According to a press release, “These highly anticipated improvements came after months of audits, studies, public input and inter-local collaboration” by the city of Austin, Williamson County and Round Rock Independent School District. As D6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said in the release, “Job one is to protect the safety of our citizens regardless of government jurisdiction. I’m so proud to work with Commissioner (Terry) Cook on a collaborative relationship between the city of Austin and Williamson County.” Part of Pearson Ranch Road runs along the Northwest Austin city limits.
Eloise House sees increased visits from survivors of sexual assault in November
November saw a 27 percent increase in patients seeking medical attention for sexual assault at Eloise House, which is run by the nonprofit SAFE. In total, 68 survivors came seeking consults, medical care and/or a forensic exam. “That’s significantly higher than last year,” said SAFE Senior Director Juliana Gonzales at the Dec. 2 meeting of the Public Safety Commission. “We hope that means there’s growing community awareness.” Gonzales told commissioners that this time of year is generally quieter than other months. According to data from SAFE, of all the patients seen this past month, four were male and six were minors. Overall in 2019, there have been fewer survivors of sexual assault coming to Eloise House than last year. By November 2018, 636 patients had visited the center. So far this year, 590 patients have visited the center.
AISD officials roll up sleeves at tamale-making party
Travis Early College High School’s annual tamalada, or tamale-making party, is a celebration of a Mexican culinary tradition: the making of tamales each holiday season. This year, AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz and members of the district’s board of trustees will join students, staff, parents and community members in preparing a variety of delicious tamales to share with the community. Thursday, Dec. 5, 10:30 a.m., Travis ECHS culinary dining room, 1211 E. Oltorf St.
Get your flu shot … really!
Dr. Mark Escott is the EMS medical director and public health medical director for Austin and Travis County. So when he speaks on matters of public health, people take him seriously. Right now Dr. Escott is urging all community members to get vaccinated for the flu, because he’s forecasting a real whopper of an influenza season – even worse than the 2017-18 season that caused 79,000 deaths in the U.S. With one confirmed child death in Texas and one school flu outbreak, local public health officials aren’t taking any chances. “Austin Public Health experts are anticipating a severe wave of flu illnesses if residents do not get vaccinated,” says a press release from APH. If you have health insurance, visit VaccineFinder.org to find a convenient location to get your flu shot. APH offers flu shots for uninsured adults and kids who are uninsured or have Medicaid through its Shots for Tots/Big Shots program. “The ability to vaccinate against disease is one of the greatest achievements in human history,” Dr. Escott said. “Please don’t take vaccinations for granted. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones and protect those around you who are at increased risk for disease.”
Big Stacy on the fritz
Big Stacy Pool had to close its doors to the public yesterday for some “unanticipated electrical repairs,” according to the Aquatic Division of the Parks and Recreation Department. As more information becomes available, PARD will post an update on the situation. Swimmers can enjoy other city pools in the meantime, and Bartholomew and Deep Eddy pools will both have extended hours until Big Stacy reopens. Find all pool locations and hours of operation here.
Adler to steer Climate Mayors
Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced Tuesday that he will be part of the new Climate Mayors Steering Committee. The group of 24 mayors will, according to a press release, “serve as a leading voice in efforts to further climate action in the more than 400 cities across the U.S. making up the Climate Mayors coalition.” Said Adler, “Cities are main contributors of carbon emissions around the world, and Austin is working to ensure we are moving the needle with regard to the global climate crisis. From implementing green methods of public transportation and increasing our use of renewable energy – time is of the essence, and it is crucial we all take action.” The Climate Mayors took up the mantle of the Paris Agreement in 2017 after President Donald Trump withdrew federal support. Currently, the network includes 438 mayors who have pledged to support climate action and clean energy. The full press release about the steering committee is available online.
Treviño skate/bike park plan takes shape
For those who don’t know, John Treviño was the first Latino to serve on the Austin City Council. His name now graces 330 acres of undeveloped parkland in East Austin that may soon boast a world-class skate/bike park as well. Park boosters are inviting community members – particularly designers, builders and riders – to come and walk through their proposal for a park that would include BMX and mountain bike trails, a pump track and a large skate park. Free tacos and coffee are part of the bargain. Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m., 9501 FM 969. Correction: The bike/skate park is a proposal, not a finalized plan, as we reported in an earlier version of this Whisper. We regret the error.
Help clean up Barton Creek Greenbelt
Put some old clothes on and show some love to the Barton Creek Greenbelt by joining the Save Barton Creek Association for a two-hour cleanup focusing on the trail and the creek between the 360 trailhead and the Spyglass trailhead. Attendees are asked to bring their own water bottles and wear long sleeves and pants in order to avoid any contact with poison ivy. Trash bags, grabbers and gloves will be provided. Meet at the Barton Creek 360 trailhead. RSVP and find a map to the meeting place here. Sunday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m.-noon.
Do you know this goat?
This pygmy goat was found near Barton Springs Pool around Dec. 1, according to a spokesperson for 311. Because no one has claimed her or him, the Department of Animal Services has created this little poster to spread the word about the foundling. If you own this goat or you know who does, please call 311.
Poll shows Garza’s support
According to poll results released by the political action committee supporting Delia Garza for Travis County attorney, the mayor pro tem has a significant lead over her three opponents in the Democratic primary. Even though Garza has not announced her candidacy, her supporters at the Progressive Justice Now PAC have been hard at work. The poll, conducted by Littlefield Consulting on Nov. 19, shows that 34 percent of likely voters surveyed would vote for Garza, former judge Mike Denton would get 10 percent of the vote, and Assistant County Attorney Laurie Eiserloh would get 7 percent. Just 1 percent of those polled said they would vote for the fourth candidate in the race, Dominic Selvera, a criminal defense attorney. But there’s still lots of work to do because 48 percent of those polled were uncertain about who they would vote for. As for Garza, she has said she would not be seeking reelection to City Council, but has held off on making an announcement about the county attorney’s seat. Section 65 of the Texas Constitution appears to say that candidates for any office other than the one they currently hold will lose their current position if they announce their intention to run for another office more than one year and 30 days prior to the expiration of their term. Longtime political consultant David Butts said Monday he’s been told Garza can make an announcement and sign up for the March Democratic primary starting this Thursday, Dec. 5. The filing deadline is Dec. 9.
Wastewater main break causes sewage overflow
A wastewater main break that released 100,000 gallons of sewage into a tributary of Bull Creek over the weekend has Austin Water officials urging residents using private drinking water supply wells within a half-mile of the site to boil water “for all personal uses including drinking, cooking, bathing, and tooth brushing.” The utility is also asking Austinites to steer clear of the creek and trails in Great Hills Park, specifically the area near 10801 Sierra Oaks. The city’s drinking water supply has not been affected and Austin Water crews are on the scene completing repairs and doing cleanup. The overflow was discovered at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.
Panel tackles Land Development Code rewrite
University of Calgary geography professor Eliot Tretter will moderate a discussion about the Land Development Code rewrite with Carmen Llanes Pulido, executive director of Go Austin/Vamos Austin, and Chris Wojtewicz, a housing and transportation advocate. Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m., Monkeywrench Books, 110 E. North Loop.
Downtown Holiday Stroll celebrates 25 years
Even grinches will find something to enjoy at the 25th Annual Downtown Holiday Stroll on Saturday. The free festival, which is hosted by the Downtown Austin Alliance, begins at 5 p.m. with live music, a holiday market, a kids’ play area, local food vendors, and photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The KUT/KUTX sing-along starts at 6 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol, and the tree lighting is at 7 p.m. at the south gates of the Capitol lawn on Congress Avenue. There will also will be live ice sculpting, performances by the Austin High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a petting zoo, a giant snow dome, and screenings of classic holiday movies such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Saturday, Dec. 7, 5-10 p.m., on Congress Avenue from 11th to Ninth streets.
Share your vision for Holly Point
Come to an open house to learn about plans for the next phase of the Holly Point Project, an expanded trail and wetland restoration project within Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. Metropolitan Park at Festival Beach. The event, hosted by the Trail Foundation and Austin Parks and Recreation Department, is a follow-up to the first community engagement event that took place last June. According to the press release, “The Holly Project site is located just west of the decommissioned Holly Power Plant, adjacent to the lagoon and baseball fields. Proposed improvements anticipate the transition of the decommissioned Holly Power Plant into parkland and how that will impact the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail.” Meet the project team, review the plans, ask questions, offer input, and enjoy coffee and breakfast tacos on the house. Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-noon, Lorraine Camacho Activity Center, 35 Robert T. Martinez Jr. St.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Monitor!
The Austin Monitor will observe Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday. We wish all of our readers a safe, happy Thanksgiving holiday, and we will resume our regular publication schedule on Monday, Dec. 2.
What’s closed for the holidays?
All city administrative offices and municipal facilities will be closed this Thursday and Friday, Nov. 28-29, to allow employees to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. If you’re planning to adopt a furry family member this week, the Austin Animal Center closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27, will be closed Thanksgiving Day and reopens at 9 a.m. on Friday. The Zilker Botanical Gardens and Deep Eddy, Big Stacy, Springwoods and Bartholomew pools will be closed Thanksgiving Day and will reopen Friday for regular business hours. You can visit Barton Springs Pool on Thanksgiving Day, but no lifeguards will be present, so swim at your own risk. Austin Public Library, Recycled Reads Bookstore, Austin History Center branches, and city recreation, cultural arts, nature, history and senior centers will all be closed from 6 p.m. on Wednesday, through Friday. Austin Resource Recovery residential collection customers should remember that collection will “slide” a day due to the holiday: Thursday collection slides to Friday, and Friday collection slides to Saturday.
View the city’s CAPER report online
Austinites are invited to read and comment on CAPER, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department’s Fiscal Year 2018-19 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report. According to NHCD, “The CAPER is an end-of-year document required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assess the city’s progress and performance on federally funded activities for affordable housing, community development, economic development and public services. The CAPER specifically reports on its federally funded activities during FY 2018-19, and the achievement of its overall strategies, objectives and priorities outlined in the FY 2014-19 Consolidated Plan.” The report may be viewed online until Dec. 6.
Film society opens Creative Media Center
Austin Film Society has opened its new Creative Media Center on the Austin Studios property near the Mueller development. The $5.4 million expansion was funded in part with $13.4 million in bond money approved by voters in 2012, and will provide 38,500 additional square feet of office and production space to the studios, which are overseen in part by Austin-based filmmakers such as Richard Linklater. The studios were created out of a onetime base for the Texas National Guard at the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. The city provided the 20 acres for the studios in 2000 and voters approved $5 million to fund a first expansion in 2006.