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Whispers

Monday, January 22, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Hi, how are you?

It’s a common phrase that, thanks to Daniel Johnston’s Jeremiah the Frog mural on the Drag, has become emblematic of Austin. However, more than just a cute selfie opportunity, the iconic mural can be thought of as a reminder of how easy it is to reach out and let someone know you’re thinking about them. This simple idea is behind Hi, How Are You? Day, which calls for citizens of the community to take a moment and check in on someone who might need a call. Today, alongside members of this foundation and the city’s Music and Entertainment Division, Mayor Steve Adler will officially name Jan. 22, which is also Johnston’s birthday, Hi, How Are You? Day. The idea for the day was developed by Courtney Blanton and Tom Gimbel, and they created the Hi, How Are You? Foundation in partnership with Johnston’s family to promote education about and awareness of mental health issues throughout the city. And, of course, the occasion will be celebrated Austin-style with a party at the Mohawk nightclub, at 8 p.m. The event promises a full lineup of bands playing Daniel Johnston covers as well as their own music, and art by Johnston and other local artists will be on display. Find tickets and the full lineup here. Tickets are $15 for general admission, and there are VIP packages available for an early reception. All proceeds will go the HHAY and SIMS foundations.


Monday, January 22, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Paid sick days ordinance drafted

Council Member Greg Casar announced Friday that a draft of the paid sick days ordinance is complete and ready for review. In a post on the City Council Message Board, Casar gave a brief history of the ordinance, which would mandate Austin employers give their employees paid sick leave. In the draft ordinance, employees would earn one hour of sick time leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours per year, though employers can also comply with the proposed law by creating a sick leave policy that exceeds those standards. City Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its Feb. 15 meeting, with options to discuss it at the Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 work sessions. Casar said that there is also a plan to hold an “additional, optional work session available to all Council members to discuss this ordinance, which is tentatively set for Tuesday, February 6 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm.”


Monday, January 22, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Confederate research continues

With all this recent talk about Confederate names at AISD, maybe our readers have been curious about what happened to all of the momentum surrounding renaming at the city level. A Jan. 17 memo from Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks explains that the office needs a little more time to ensure a list of “Confederate assets” is thorough and a stakeholder process is inclusive. With this in mind, a report is now scheduled to be completed by July of this year.


Monday, January 22, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Environmental report for McKinney Falls housing project ready for comment

The Travis County Community Development Block Grant Office has released the environmental report for the McKinney Falls multifamily housing project, and it’s now time for public comment. The 18-day comment period began Saturday, Jan. 20, and will run until Feb. 6. Visit the Travis County website to view the notice and learn more about accessing the report. As Community Development Block Grants are funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the next step will be a 15-day HUD comment period on the report, which will begin around Feb. 8.


Friday, January 19, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Adler on Amazon: ‘Many conversations’ still necessary

The news that Austin is among 20 finalists under consideration for Amazon to build its second headquarters brought a measured response from the city’s top official on Thursday. Mayor Steve Adler gave a brief statement about the news at the start of a press conference announcing a new collaboration with the city’s tech community, saying there are still many conversations city leaders need to have related to the possibility of Austin landing the $5 billion project that is projected to bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to whatever city it chooses later this year. “All of our economic development conversations are around the city’s greatest challenges and needs, and this is mobility and affordability, and that’s the lens that we’re going to use. I still not have heard any conversations about offering incentives. Ultimately there needs to be an open and transparent community conversation about Amazon and all these related issues.” The city is currently working to revamp its use of incentives packages away from large mother-ship corporation projects like Amazon or the deals that brought Apple and Merck to Austin in recent years. The preferred method going forward is to focus on tools to attract and grow small businesses and train middle-skill workers to increase their earning power and keep them from being priced out of the city as development pressure causes housing prices to increase.


Friday, January 19, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Bond’s no secret

Given the lengthy public outreach process associated with the upcoming city bond election, some of our readers were surprised to see that today’s meeting of the Reinvestments in Facilities and Assets working group of the Bond Election Advisory Task Force was intimidatingly identified as “WORKING GROUP ONLY.” A city spokesperson set the Austin Monitor straight: Any member of the public is welcome to attend the meeting, but the working group will not be taking public comment. Instead, it will be focusing on readying its recommendations (based, in part, on prior public comment). Rest assured, there will be plenty of time to weigh in on propositions before they end up on the November ballot.


Friday, January 19, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Bike Austin names new executive director

Bike Austin revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Katie Smith Deolloz has moved to the head of the peloton at the nonprofit organization. Deolloz replaces Mercedes Feris who served as executive director for three years and helped get historic levels of funding for bicycle projects into the 2016 mobility bond. Deolloz also serves on the board of Walk Austin and is a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Council and Pedestrian Advisory Council. She’s also the founder of ATX Walks, a business that “designs customized walks and personalized coaching services,” according to Bike Austin’s press release. In the release, the organization’s board president, Hill Abell, lauds Deolloz’s new role as its executive director: “As every Austinite is aware, we have an enormous mobility challenge as our city grows, and the manner in which we reimagine how we get around town is an opportunity that Katie is well-prepared to tackle.” For her part, Deolloz says, “The city of Austin has reached a critical juncture with regard to transportation, and Bike Austin is poised to demonstrate to the community, through both education and advocacy, that cycling can be integrated into the normal activities of daily life. We look forward to partnering with other organizations to promote solutions that will serve people of all ages and abilities in our community.”


Friday, January 19, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Welcome the newest member of the Environmental Commission

With the start of a new year comes a new member of the Environmental Commission. Katie Coyne has joined the ranks of the commission as the District 6 representative to Jimmy Flannigan. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Coyne returned stateside to pursue her master’s degree in sustainable design architecture and now works as a senior planner at the Asakura Robinson Company.


Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Katy McElroy

APA debuts ‘Warrior Women of the Police Department’ calendar

The Austin Police Association is releasing its first all-women police officer calendar today. There’s even a teaser video, here! The press release states that all proceeds from the calendar sales will go to Austin Cops for Charities, a group providing “assistance to local nonprofits in areas of education and youth development” as well as “aid and emergency support to (APD officers) and their families in times of need.” From Austin Police Officer Susana Sanchez’s message about the calendar: “Showing the real female officer is what we aimed to do by producing the 2018 Warrior Women of APD Calendar. It was an effort to show the public a version of us, the police, from the viewpoint of officers instead of through the eyes of Hollywood or the perspective of a viral video. From what we could find, the images of the female officer as a professional and as a human being have rarely been fused this way. We believed we could bring this concept to life in the form of a charity calendar and, hopefully, encourage other agencies to build on this idea.” The launch celebration today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the police union headquarters will consist of a media press conference followed by an opportunity for sworn and non-sworn police employees to “purchase the calendars and participate in autographs, meet and greets and photo ops with the calendar’s girls,” according to the press release. The Austin American-Statesman talked to APA Executive Director Valencia Escobar, who said that there is no release date for public sales of the calendars yet. She did warn that due to high interest at the APD, there is a possibility that the first batch of calendars will sell out at the launch event, meaning the public might have to wait a bit longer until the re-order comes in.


Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Joseph Caterine

African-American school trustee targeted for remarks on Confederacy name removals

At Wednesday’s board operations meeting for the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees, Trustee Ann Teich requested that her colleague Trustee Edmund Gordon be censured for comments he made during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech concerning the board’s recent decision to stall the renaming of several school facilities that currently bear the names of Confederate military personnel. The Austin American-Statesman broke the story yesterday, claiming that Gordon had received a text message from Teich after his speech calling him a “coward.” Gordon had called the board “spineless” for dropping the momentum of renaming the schools at the Jan. 8 work session that he had missed. The board had planned to take a vote on the item during its February regular meeting, but the consensus at the work session was to slow down the process to establish clearer criteria. At that work session, Teich had vented about being labeled “tone deaf” by the Statesman during the Robert E. Lee Elementary renaming.


Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Oh hello, tax season

It’s just about that time of year again, but don’t worry Foundation Communities is ready to help. The Community Tax Centers program will have about 600 volunteers on hand to assist low- and moderate-income Central Texans with their taxes, for free. The volunteers have received IRS certification and have been trained to handle Affordable Care Act questions. The free tax preparation is available for households that earn up to $55,000 a year; however, for households of five or more that number goes up slightly. There will be six Community Tax Centers throughout North, South and East Austin. Round Rock will be serviced as well. Call United Way’s 211 line for locations, hours and what to bring to a session, or visit www.communitytaxcenters.org for more information.


Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Audrey McGlinchy

First campaign filings show Adler coming out strong in re-election fundraising

Campaign finance reports reveal that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is the only member of the City Council who has begun seriously fundraising for re-election.

Adler raised more than a quarter of a million dollars in just two months of campaigning. According to a report filed Wednesday with the Office of the City Clerk, he fundraised $283,163.54. The mayor still owes himself more than $449,000, which he loaned his campaign during his first bid for office in 2014.

Local government candidates who raised money in 2017 were required to file a report by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Former City Council Member Laura Morrison, who announced she is running against Adler last week, did not have to file.

In addition to the mayor, five City Council seats are up for re-election in November, including the posts of Ora Houston, Ann Kitchen, Pio Renteria, Ellen Troxclair and Kathie Tovo. According to their campaign filing reports, only Tovo, Renteria and Troxclair began fundraising last year – though minimally. None of the incumbents raised more than $1,100 for their re-election campaigns.

Local political action committees were also required to file finance reports yesterday. Let Us Vote Austin, a PAC that wants CodeNEXT to be put on the ballot, raised more than $9,000. More than $3,000 of that money came from Fred Lewis, the group’s campaign treasurer.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Bond discussion at the Millennium today

After the strong interest in and turnout for the Bond Election Advisory Task Force’s town hall meetings last year, the group has scheduled four opportunities for public testimony on the bond development program. The third one is today, Jan. 17, at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave St., at 6:30 p.m. Check out the bond development program website here for more information about the development process and what’s on the table for a possible 2018 bond.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Toward a paper-light future

The city’s Innovation Office and Communications and Technology Management Department have partnered with the Austin Tech Alliance for a new program to reduce and eliminate paper usage in city operations. Known as Paper Census, the partnership will use people and resources from Austin’s tech sector to take an inventory of paper processes and nondigital media through the city government and solicit community feedback on how to improve access to services while creating ways to modernize and digitize city services. Full details of the partnership will be announced at a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the media room at City Hall.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Shoal Creek bridge could get new designation

At its most recent meeting, the Historic Landmark Commission initiated historic zoning on the West Sixth Street Bridge over Shoal Creek. According to Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky, the bridge was built in 1887 and is almost entirely intact, in terms of its substructure. The Shoal Creek Conservancy is spearheading the campaign to designate the bridge as historic, noting that it is one of Texas’ oldest masonry arches. It is also located at the site of Austin’s very first bridge. Though already on the National Register of Historic Places, a city designation will help get grants to restore the bridge. “It’s an incredible bridge, it really is,” said Commissioner Terri Myers. “The best way to see it is from Hut’s Hamburgers restaurant. Get a seat by the window. I have lived here for almost 30 years and I had never seen it.”


Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Tasking the Four Points Task Force

District 6 City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan and the West Austin Chamber of Commerce have recently been working to create a Four Points Task Force. Now, residents of the Four Points community, as well as people who work in the area, are invited to two meetings to determine the direction and priorities of the group. The first meeting is on Monday, Jan. 22, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Concordia University’s Incubator for Innovation & Impact, 11400 Concordia University Drive, Building B. Lunch will be provided at this meeting. The second one is on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 7-8:30 p.m., at the Holiday Inn Express Austin NW, 8300 N. FM 620, Building 1, and refreshments and dessert will be provided. RSVP here. Those who can’t attend the meetings may provide input with this survey by Jan. 31.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018 by Katy McElroy

❄ Icepocalypse 2018: The city ❄

A National Weather Service Winter Storm Warning is in effect from midnight until 6 p.m. today, Tuesday, Jan. 16. All city of Austin government facilities will be closed, including Austin municipal courts and the downtown community court. City services such as trash, recycling and yard trimmings collection may be delayed. Check here for updates.

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport may be experiencing delays as well. Flight status can be monitored on the ABIA website here.

Capital Metro is offering limited bus service and will operate on its Sunday schedule. MetroRail and MetroExpress will not be running. Car2go services were suspended beginning at 10 p.m. Monday.

The following city and county offices are also closed:

  • Bastrop County and city offices
  • Burnet County and city offices
  • Caldwell County offices
  • Dripping Springs city offices
  • Hays County offices
  • Llano County and city offices
  • Pflugerville city offices
  • Round Rock city offices
  • Williamson County offices
  • New Braunfels city offices will open at 10 a.m.

Austinites are advised to avoid traveling unless “absolutely necessary.” Those who have to commute to work in the morning should be aware of road crews, service trucks and possibly slick conditions. Plan for delays, be cautious and avoid hard braking. In addition, be mindful when walking, as flat surfaces on porches, driveways and sidewalks can be icy. Stay safe and warm out there! Updates will be posted on the city’s website. Information can also be found on ATXN Channel 6 and by calling 311.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018 by Katy McElroy

❄ Icepocalypse 2018: The schools ❄

All classes and activities at the following schools and districts are canceled today, Jan. 16, because of the wintry weather. All offices are closed as well.

  • Austin Can Academy
  • Austin Community College
  • Austin Independent School District
  • Bastrop ISD
  • Blanco ISD
  • Burnet ISD
  • Comal ISD
  • Concordia University
  • Del Valle ISD
  • Dime Box ISD
  • Dripping Springs ISD
  • Eanes ISD
  • Elgin ISD
  • Fayetteville ISD
  • Flatonia ISD
  • Florence ISD
  • Fredericksburg ISD
  • Georgetown ISD
  • Giddings ISD
  • Granger ISD
  • Harper ISD
  • Hays CISD
  • Hutto ISD
  • Jarrell ISD
  • Johnson City ISD
  • La Grange ISD
  • Lago Vista ISD
  • Lake Travis ISD
  • Leander ISD
  • Lexington ISD
  • Liberty Hill ISD
  • Lockhart ISD
  • Luling ISD
  • Manor ISD
  • Marble Falls ISD
  • Mason ISD
  • New Braunfels ISD
  • Pflugerville ISD
  • Prairie Lea ISD
  • Rockdale ISD
  • Round Rock ISD
  • San Marcos Academy
  • San Marcos CISD
  • Smithville ISD
  • St. Edward’s University
  • Taylor ISD
  • Texas A&M (all campuses)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos and Round Rock campuses)
  • Thrall ISD
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Wimberley ISD

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Deep freeze puts Commissioners Court meeting on ice

Thanks to Richard Linklater’s decades-old love letter “Slacker,” Austin has coasted by with a reputation for being completely chill. Ironically, when the mercury drops below freezing, the city loses its collective mind. Thus it is that while other communities to our far more frigid north will go about their Tuesdays as usual, the threat of subzero (Celsius) temperatures is creating a four-day weekend for many folks here in the capital city. In particular, the Travis County Commissioners Court has postponed its regular voting session in deference to Old Man Winter. In an email, the county’s spokesperson left open the possibility that the court may take up this week’s agenda on perhaps Wednesday or Thursday. Stay tuned!


Monday, January 15, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and that means a number of local offices and services are closed in its observance. Today’s Austin Monitor is a bit shorter, and we will return to regular publishing tomorrow, on Tuesday. City of Austin administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed today. These closures include libraries, museums and recreation centers. Trash and recycling collection will not be impacted. The MLK Community March begins at 9 a.m. More details are available online here.


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