Whispers

Friday, June 18, 2021 by Tai Moses

Coalition offers free conflict mediation

Perfect Manner, Life Anew Restorative Justice and Austin Justice Coalition have teamed up to provide free conflict mediations for Travis County residents. The three groups note that the region has seen an increase in violence in recent months, and “in an effort to prevent more violence and to promote peace and to mediate conflict,” they are asking all community members who may be aware of any conflicts brewing in their families or communities to take advantage of their services. “Our goal is to help people to navigate through those conflicts related to stress and trauma through mediation instead of violence.” Use the contact info below:


Friday, June 18, 2021 by Tai Moses

Central Health hosts budget talks

Central Health held some informational community conversations yesterday, in English and in Spanish, “to share highlights from fiscal year 2021 and present proposed budget priorities and budget development timeline for fiscal year 2022.” Central Health will also host a public hearing on Sept. 2 to give community members an opportunity to offer public feedback on the proposed budget. A survey launching on June 25 will also give the community a chance to weigh in on Central Health’s fiscal year 2022 priorities; stay tuned for information about how to access the survey online. The final proposed budget will then be presented first to the Central Health Board of Managers, followed by the Travis County Commissioners Court, for approval. Watch the Facebook Live recordings in English or Spanish.


Friday, June 18, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Pleasant Valley construction begins Monday

Beginning Monday, June 21, the city will begin resurfacing North Pleasant Valley Road between Prado and Willow streets. The project, which is expected to last about 10 weeks, promises to make traffic less than pleasant during busy travel times, so plan accordingly. The city’s Transportation Department assures the public that the street – and driveways – remain open to traffic throughout construction, though lanes may be closed and traffic may be rerouted “at times.”


Thursday, June 17, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Environmental Commission likely to continue review of water extension requests

Members of the City Council Audit & Finance Committee agreed Wednesday that the city’s Environmental Commission should continue to review Austin Water’s proposals to extend service within the Drinking Water Protection Zone. They will forward their recommendation to the full Council. The department had planned to streamline its extension procedures by eliminating presentations not only to the Environmental Commission, but to the Zoning and Platting Commission, Planning Commission and Resource Management Commission. Assistant Director Joseph Gonzales told the committee he had met with Bobby Levinski, an attorney with the Save Our Springs Alliance, when environmentalists expressed concerns about eliminating input from the Environmental Commission. Gonzales explained that Austin Water was now recommending continuing to brief not only the Environmental Commission but also the Resource Management Commission. Members of the Council committee will recommend to the full Council that they adopt a policy that eliminates trips to the two zoning commissions but maintains reporting to the other two groups. The Environmental Commission recently voted to oppose granting a wastewater service extension request in the environmentally sensitive Bull Creek Watershed. As a result, Council postponed voting on the matter until July 29. Levinski was among those urging Council not to grant the request.


Thursday, June 17, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

CesiumAstro moves to Austin, then space

Opportunity Austin has announced expansion plans for CesiumAstro as well as a move into Austin, with the space communications company launching its first space mission in September. The company, which manufactures communications payloads and satellites for customers such as NASA, the U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, will convert its 10,000-square-foot location in the Hill Country Galleria into a facility to introduce new products. At the same time, the company’s engineering and corporate functions are moving to a new 29,000-square-foot space on Bee Cave Parkway. CesiumAstro was named one of BuiltInAustin’s 21 companies to watch in 2021, and has 55 local employees. The expansion is part of Austin Chamber’s Opportunity Austin initiative, which was launched in 2004 and has helped bring more than 400,000 jobs to the Central Texas area.


Thursday, June 17, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Smart City hosts two policy summits

Smart City Policy Group has scheduled two policy summits this summer at Austin Central Library, focusing on mobility innovation and rental policy of short-term rental properties. The mobility policy summit takes place Aug. 31 and will feature Capital Metro CEO and President Randy Clarke, Austin Energy electric vehicles manager Karl Popham and Austin assistant city manager for mobility Gina Fiandaca among the roster of speakers. The rental policy summit – Smart City’s third on the topic – takes place Sept. 1 and includes discussion of data trends, compliance solutions and examples of best practices. Find more information and registration options here.


Thursday, June 17, 2021 by Tai Moses

Some city offices close for Juneteenth

A number of city offices and public facilities will be closed Friday in observation of the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. Austin Public Library branches, Central Library and the Austin History Center will be closed Friday and Saturday. The Austin Animal Center will close on Friday, reopening Saturday. There will not be any changes in trash pickup schedules or schedules at Parks and Recreation facilities. All Austin Public Health Covid-19 vaccination sites will remain open (see walkup clinic hours here) and the health department will be providing vaccinations at several pop-up community events over the Juneteenth weekend.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

Cycle through Black history on Juneteenth

Photo by Tamir Kalifa

What better way to celebrate Juneteenth than with a history tour of Black Central East Austin – by bicycle. The Juneteenth Social Ride, hosted by Black History Bike Ride – founded by Austin resident Talib Abdullahi – is “an effort to preserve Austin’s history while pushing forward on the social justice movement sparked last year after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.” Participants will make stops at the Clarksville landmark Haskell House, the Barbara Jordan statue, Huston-Tillotson University, Oakwood Cemetery, the Victory Grill and more. Said Abdullahi, “As a Black man who has lived in Austin for over 12 years, I have noticed that there could be a lot more awareness about the local Black community history by a lot of residents generally in Austin. So my hope initially was just to take my personal friends out, and the word accidentally got out. It turns out a lot of other people wanted to learn about these things and also do it on a bike.” The ride starts at the Texas African American Memorial, just west of 11th Street and Congress Avenue on the Texas Capitol grounds. Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

Get vaccinated on Saturday!

Been putting off that Covid vaccination? This Saturday, June 19, is your chance to get the lifesaving vaccine for free at the offices of Associated Builders and Contractors of Central Texas (ABC Central Texas), 2600 Longhorn Blvd., Suite 105, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While the event aims to attract construction industry workers and their families, all area residents are welcome. The Pfizer vaccine is available for all participants age 12 and older; no pre-registration, insurance or ID required. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, with support from the Austin Latino Coalition, the Associated General Contractors of America Austin Chapter, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Curative, Associated Builders and Contractors of Central Texas, Austin Public Health, and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Tai Moses

Helpful robots invade downtown

A fleet of 10 personal delivery devices – i.e., robots – are being implemented throughout the South Congress District and surrounding neighborhoods to help with last-mile deliveries like takeout meals, packages and grocery store orders. The three-wheeled Rev-1 robots, which take up about as much space as a person on a bicycle, are owned by Refraction AI and are supervised by a remote operator “using a host of sensors and cameras.” The nimble, busy bots have arrived in Austin thanks to a May 2017 resolution in which City Council directed city staffers “to explore the robotic delivery model” in an effort to reduce traffic and single-driver car trips. A complementary resolution in August 2017 outlined the parameters of a pilot program for the robots. The Rev-1s are currently being escorted by Refraction AI team members, who are “happy to answer any questions you may have when you see them out and about,” cheerfully performing their duties.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

ERCOT urges energy conservation

Though an ERCOT request to reduce electricity use through Friday has only served to raise the temperature of some Austinites given the widespread power failures just a few months ago, Austin Energy has some practical tips for conserving energy. The city utility advises that thermostats be set at 78 degrees this week, raising them to 85 degrees when you plan to be out of the house for two hours or more. The utility also recommends closing blinds, avoiding using the oven and doing laundry during the day, and using fans to cool the home. ERCOT has reported a “significant” number of (apparently mysterious) generator outages which, combined with high temperatures and the accompanying increased demand, could be a recipe for more outages. Visit Austin Energy to learn more conservation tips.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

AISD stages Operation Reconnect to get students enrolled

Austin ISD will be holding more than 50 enrollment clinics throughout the city this month to get students registered for the upcoming school year. The clinics are part of Operation Reconnect, an initiative to get students and families back into schools after an unprecedented year. According to the district, existing students can enroll with a photo ID. New students are encouraged to bring:

  • child’s birth certificate
  • child’s social security card (optional)
  • child’s immunization records
  • child’s withdrawal form/last report card (if applicable)
  • parent/guardian photo ID
  • proof of guardianship (if applicable), and
  • proof of residency

Registration may still be initiated if families don’t have immediate access to all of those documents. A full list of the clinics can be found on the AISD website. The district is making an effort to hold clinics at a variety of times, and a press release notes that “families who need assistance during evening hours can come to the two extended hour clinics, which run until 8 p.m., on June 15 at Metz-Sanchez Elementary School and June 23 at Bedichek Middle School.” Additionally, a clinic focused on early childhood education will be hosted June 15 at Uphaus Early Childhood Center.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Tai Moses

Celebrate Juneteenth

The Juneteenth national holiday, which commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, kicks off this Saturday, June 19, with a parade starting at the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and Salina Street. After the parade, there’s a festival – not virtual, with real people! – at Rosewood Park featuring music, entertainment, food and local vendors. Visit Juneteenth Central Texas to learn more about the holiday, which originated in Texas and is “the oldest known African American celebration commemorating the end of slavery.”


Monday, June 14, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

City hires program manager for the Office of Violence Prevention

Michelle Myles will be Austin’s Office of Violence Prevention program manager. In the brand-new position, Myles will take the lead on policy and community safety strategies in the city. “I’m very excited to continue my work with Austin Public Health leading the Office of Violence Prevention,” Myles said in a statement to the press. “Throughout my career, I have been passionate about working to heal and prevent trauma, violence and abuse. The prevalence of violence, like other societal ills, exists in part due to a historical lack of investment in certain segments of our population; as a result, addressing violence through an equity and public health lens is integral to developing meaningful solutions that improve the lives of individuals and our community.” Myles has previously worked for Austin Public Health, Downtown Austin Community Court and Foundation Communities. The city’s Task Force on Gun Violence paved the way with its recommendation to create the new office, which will be part of Austin Public Health and is part the ongoing effort to “reimagine public safety” by distributing issues once solely under the purview of the Police Department across city departments. “We look forward to incorporating Austin Public Health into our overall plan to address gun violence within our community,” interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said. “The health and safety of our residents and officers are our priority.”


Monday, June 14, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Council funds Del Valle pre-K with ARP funds

Among the many things approved at Austin City Council’s last meeting prior to their summer break, Council members voted to allocate $1.5 million to Del Valle schools from the $143.6 million from the American Rescue Plan. The money will pay for dual-language full-day pre-K for students in the underserved area. Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, who supports universal pre-K and is a former Head Start student herself, praised the move to fund the program in Del Valle, which has the highest density of economically disadvantaged students in the county. “While I will always fight for AISD funding for District 2 students, there is a dire need to level the playing field for DVISD. … Returning to the pre-pandemic status quo will continue to leave Del Valle children and families behind,” said Fuentes in a statement to the press. “Research shows dual-language students outperform their same-age peers by the time they reach middle school. Because of the funding from the American Rescue Plan, more children in Del Valle will be able to share in that success.”  A press release from Fuentes’ office notes that the city has allocated more than $23 million to AISD social service programs from 2008 to 2019. Over that same period of time, Del Valle ISD has received $113,000.


Friday, June 11, 2021 by Tai Moses

A snake walks into a bar …

The bartender says, “How did you do that?” In the next installment of the Wild Neighbors Speaker Series, Travis LaDuc, curator of herpetology at the Biodiversity Center at UT Austin, will be discussing an important and often misunderstood animal – the snake. LaDuc will talk about the natural history of Central Texas snakes and identity some of the most common species you’re likely to see in the region. He’ll explain why snakes are such a critical part of the ecosystem and why, most of the time, humans have nothing to fear from these shy, solitary animals. Thursday, June 17, noon-1 p.m. Register for the webinar here.


Thursday, June 10, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Troxclair announces state Senate run

Former Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair has announced she’ll be running for Texas Senate District 24. The seat will be open as current state Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) has declared that she’ll be running for land commissioner. “With the Biden Administration doing everything it can to force its radical leftist agenda through executive orders and acts of Congress, Texas needs proven, conservative fighters to hold the line at the state level,” Troxclair said in a statement to the press, announcing her candidacy. Troxclair previously served Council’s District 8 as a rare conservative voice on the dais. Since her departure, she has written a book, served as a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and director of Strategic Partnerships for Army Futures Command, and continued to manage a real estate business, among other things.

Ellen Troxclair is a board member of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.


Thursday, June 10, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Lockhart announces for Travis County Clerk

Kurt Lockhart, who works for the nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas and serves as a volunteer Travis County deputy voter registrar, has announced his candidacy for Travis County Clerk. In a press release, Lockhart said he plans to run in the March 1, 2022, Democratic primary. He said he wants to “use the office to resist voter suppression efforts and build the model for voter accessibility, awareness and education for the state of Texas and the nation.” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who has served in her position since 1987, was last reelected in November 2018. She had no Republican opponent and bested the Libertarian candidate with 87 percent of the vote. The Austin Monitor asked Lockhart’s campaign manager, Brennan Lee, whether his candidate, a political novice, was running because he thought DeBeauvoir might not run next year. Lee said they were unaware of DeBeauvoir’s plans. In addition to increasing poll workers’ salaries, Lockhart advocates putting the job of voter registration into the clerk’s office. Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant has worked hard over the years to increase registration and said he would not support moving voter registration out of his office. “For the 2020 election we had a 97 percent registration rate of eligible citizens. Last year, Travis County had 5,000-6,000 deputy voter registrars,” he noted, adding that his office is currently working on a video to teach people how to sign up new voters. DeBeauvoir could not be reached for comment.


Thursday, June 10, 2021 by Tai Moses

Volunteer for E.A.T.

The city is seeking volunteers for its Eating Apart Together initiative, which assembles and delivers meal bags for people experiencing homelessness in Austin. The goal is “to make 4,000 bags of food over two days, to last our distributors through the end of the month.” The effort needs volunteers who can pack bags from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 10, and Friday, June 11. The work is divided into two shifts a day (9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.) and volunteers may sign up for one or both shifts. Find more details or register for this volunteer opportunity here.


Thursday, June 10, 2021 by Tai Moses

Barton Springs Pool reopens

Bartaholics, rejoice! The parks department’s aquatics team has completed its cleanup of Barton Springs Pool after the flooding of last week and the popular pool will reopen this Friday. Deep Eddy Pool, which had expanded its hours while Barton Springs was closed, will return to its regular modified hours on Saturday. And thanks to some newly hired and trained lifeguards, Barton Springs is able to expand its available reservations for the month of June. Barton Springs Pool is open daily from 5-8 a.m. for free swimming at your own risk (translation: no lifeguards). On Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the pool is open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. with lifeguards present. Reservations will be required until the end of June.


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