Whispers

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, KUT

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.


Monday, January 15, 2018 by Elizabeth Pagano

Adler launches re-election campaign

On Sunday, Mayor Steve Adler officially launched his bid for re-election at Saengerrunde Hall. Adler announced his campaign to a full house that he said he didn’t anticipate, after introductions by Julian Castro, state Rep. Celia Israel, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, state Sen. Kirk Watson and Planned Parenthood’s Robbie Ausley – who were joined by a number of elected officials including sitting Council members Ann Kitchen, Jimmy Flannigan and Pio Renteria. “It means a lot to me that we have all gathered here today,” said Adler, who explained what he called the Austin Paradox: “We must fiercely, seriously and unabashedly continue to move forward. And part of that requires us to actively preserve what we love about this city,” he said. “Austin is a magical place.” In his speech, Adler said he would continue to fight “political threats” from state and federal governments, which he said are as serious as the issues of affordability and mobility in Austin. In addition to touting the accomplishments of the past year, he also looked toward the future. Adler said that Austinites could work together, and listen to each other, to get a new Land Development Code. He also vowed to expand the Austin Convention Center and said he would work to find solutions for homelessness and poverty and ways to boost the music industry and aid historic preservation. “The old paradigm in this city of who is against who, and who is on the opposite side, is an old way of doing things in this city,” he said. “And we can choose to move forward.”


Monday, January 15, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Spring is coming

With the South by Southwest festival now less than two months away, it’s time to start minding the calendar for the deadlines related to applying for the various permits required to hold special events around the city during the festival, which runs March 9-18. The Austin Center for Events is encouraging event organizers to submit their applications as soon as possible, with the following lead times:

  • multiday (max of four) amplified sound permits must be submitted 30 days prior
  • single-day amplified sound permits must be submitted 21 days prior
  • temporary change of use permits also must be submitted 21 days prior
  • temporary use permits need 10 days’ advance submission

Applications and the finer details of the various permits are available at www.austintexas.gov/citystage and questions can be directed to specialevents@austintexas.gov.

There is some question as to whether the city’s long-brewing Special Events Ordinance will be approved prior to what is referred to as “spring festival season” around City Hall. That ordinance was given its second reading and appeared headed toward approval in 2014 and has been in a sort of limbo ever since. City staff are now gathering public feedback on the current draft ordinance, and City Council members have shown frustration over the delay in implementing new rules for how the city manages and oversees large gatherings around the city.


Monday, January 15, 2018 by Katy McElroy

District 2 town hall this week

District 2 City Council Member Delia Garza is holding a town hall meeting this Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. Topics to be discussed include constituent access to child care and health care and the potential 2018 bond election. There will also be district-specific updates, as well as an overview of various city resources. The meeting will be held at the Pleasant Hill Library, 211 E. William Cannon Drive, and Spanish-language information will be available. Contact constituent liaison Brenda De Leon-Duron at 512-978-2141 or Brenda.deleon@austintexas.com with questions.


Friday, January 12, 2018 by Katy McElroy

Fun and games with CodeNEXT

Think you’d be interested in CodeNEXT but wish learning about it was just a little more entertaining? Know what goes great with Land Development Code discussion? Legos! Join the Austin Monitor, Glasshouse Policy, Downtown Austin Alliance and Austin Board of Realtors for a CodeNEXT Game Night, where you’ll use a fun, interactive Lego-based game to learn hands-on about the interplay of population growth, land availability and pricing. There will be food too! Next Wednesday, Jan. 17, head to Lustre Pearl East, 114 Linden St., from 6-8 p.m. And don’t forget to RSVP, here, as space is limited.


Friday, January 12, 2018 by Joseph Caterine

2018 CodeNEXT land use schedule takes a breather

The demanding schedule of last year’s CodeNEXT review by the land use commissions, replete with joint meetings and fifth Tuesdays, has taken a temporary reprieve due to the postponed release of the third and final draft. Originally scheduled for the end of November, the code rewrite’s final draft version will now be coming out Feb. 12. Planning and Zoning Director Greg Guernsey said at the Jan. 2 Zoning and Platting Commission meeting that staff and consultants were on track to keep to that deadline. At the Jan. 9 Planning Commission meeting, Chair Stephen Oliver expressed frustration with the delay. “Today could have been the public hearing for the Draft 3 text,” he said at the meeting. The Planning Commission will hold a special called meeting Jan. 18 to plan out the final stretch of CodeNEXT scrutiny. It will determine at that time whether there will be a fifth CodeNEXT-dedicated Tuesday this month, but the next joint land use commission meeting will not be until Feb. 13 when Draft 3 is presented.


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