Fiesta Gardens listed on national historic register
Fiesta Gardens, the event space on the northern shore of Lady Bird Lake that hosts some of Austin’s popular music and community festivals, has just been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, joining more than 3,000 other historic listings in Texas. The park, whose official name is Edward Rendon Sr. Metropolitan Park at Festival Beach, has been open to the public since 1966 and is now operated by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. Designed by architect William C. Holmans, Fiesta Gardens is notable for being one of the first private complexes to operate on publicly owned land. Kim McKnight, who manages the environmental conservation program for the parks department, said, “Fiesta Gardens is a groundbreaking nomination for PARD and the recognition for community planning and development as well as social history makes it a unique listing. We are proud to have this history recorded and recognized.”
Adler responds to homelessness furor
Even though they’re on their summer break, Austin City Council members have faced backlash for their decision to decriminalize homelessness at their most recent meeting. Given that a lot of the hysteria following the change is based on less-than-accurate information about changes to city laws, Mayor Steve Adler has made the choice to create a standard response designed to allay fears stoked by misinformation. Should you need to have such information at the ready, here is a copy of that response, as posted by Adler on the City Council Message Board.
Get a free gun lock from APD: Save a child’s life
Law enforcement officials have long known that proper storage of firearms – keeping them in a locked gun safe or cabinet – can help to prevent accidental shootings in the home. In an effort to keep children safe, the Austin Police Department is providing free gun locks to Austin residents. The free locks are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at these locations:
- APD Headquarters, 715 E. Eighth St.
- Clinton-Hunter South Substation, 404 Ralph Ablanedo Drive
- Robert T. Martinez Central East Substation, 812 Springdale Road
- Jaime Padron North Substation, 12425 Lamplight Village Ave. (Contact administrative assistant Carol Russell at 512-974-5500 to schedule pickup.)
Keep Austin Fed launches a weeklong campaign to end hunger
This week marks the first-ever Keep Austin Fed week, a food insecurity awareness campaign organized by the local nonprofit Keep Austin Fed. The campaign, which started July 7 and will run for seven days, aims to show how far $7 can go to feed a hungry person. Lisa Barden, the executive director of Keep Austin Fed, said in a news release, “For only $7 a month, we have been able to rescue enough food to feed an individual three meals a day, every day.” KAF volunteers collect food from commercial kitchens and distribute it to hungry people. KAF points out that rescuing edible food doesn’t just help to feed hungry people; it helps to end food waste. The campaign invites Austinites to help feed their neighbors in need by contributing $7 a month to the campaign – about the price of a pint of artisanal ice cream. Other ways to help are by donating surplus food or volunteering to distribute or pick up food from hotels, supermarkets, schools and restaurants.
Happy Independence Day!
Thursday is the Fourth of July and much of the city – including your Austin Monitor – will be closing shop in recognition of the holiday. Austin Independent School District has taken the week off in observance of the holiday. City administrative offices and other municipal facilities including libraries; Austin Animal Center; recreation, senior and cultural centers will all be closed on Thursday, July 4. Also closed will be a number of downtown roads for the H-E-B Austin Symphony Fourth of July Concert and Fireworks (see a map of street closures). Capital Metro, meanwhile, will run Saturday-level service on Thursday, with MetroRapid service until about 2:30 a.m. And for the holiday, bus rides are free for everyone after 5 p.m. and kids ride free all day long (however, there will be no MetroRail service, due to ongoing construction).
Reprieve for Manuel’s, Arbor movie theater
Fans of independent films and Northwest Austin residents who just can’t get enough of Manuel’s Mexican food were devastated by news that a developer would be dramatically revamping the shopping center at U.S. Highway 183 and Great Hills Trail – home to both Manuel’s and the iconic Arbor movie theater. When Chicago-based Heitman Properties announced a massive redevelopment plan for the property and the Great Hills Trail shopping centers in 2017, many Austinites feared the worst and voiced their objections at neighborhood meetings and at Austin City Hall. On Tuesday, however, Manuel’s announced that it was extending its lease through 2025. That lease extension includes generous parking allowances for the Regal Cinemas Arbor 8 movie theater, Pier 1 Imports, Petco and other retailers, according to a news release from Manuel’s. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of our demise have been exaggerated,” said Greg Koury, founder and co-owner of Manuel’s. “We look forward to providing great experiences for our loyal patrons by serving high-quality, regional Mexican food at Manuel’s Great Hills for years to come.”
County warns public about zebra mussel risk
The zebra mussel, a tiny freshwater mollusk the size of a fingernail, has successfully colonized at least 15 Texas lakes, including Lake Travis, Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake. The shoreline parks along Lake Travis have experienced such an explosive growth of the extremely invasive shellfish that the county parks department is warning the public to beware of the hazards posed by their shells, which are sharp enough to cut skin and even lightweight clothing. There have already been dozens of mussel-related injuries reported this summer, most of them minor. The county advises people recreating in lakes and waterways to wear water shoes or other closed-toe footwear and use caution near rocks, buoys and other hard surfaces below the waterline that may be covered with mussels. The non-native zebra mussels have crowded out native mussels and clogged the water intakes of power plants, which spend millions of dollars trying to eliminate the unwelcome visitors. To date, there is no known method for large-scale eradication of the zebra mussel.
Austin to host 2019 One Water Summit
Austin will be the site of a national gathering dedicated to brainstorming sustainable methods of managing fresh water, our planet’s most precious resource. Hundreds of water experts and stakeholders from across the country are expected to descend upon the city from Sept. 18-20 to share ideas for conserving and protecting water and water infrastructure. Austin Water, the city’s Watershed Protection Department and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation are among the local hosts for the summit, which is organized by the national nonprofit US Water Alliance.
City proposes widening section of Boggy Creek Trail
Pedestrians and bicycles aren’t very compatible when it comes to sharing trails through town. What walker hasn’t had the experience of being startled by a cyclist speeding by, and what cyclist hasn’t nearly knocked over a pedestrian who ambled into her path? That’s why the great minds at Austin Public Works and Austin Transportation are partnering with the Parks and Recreation Department to propose changes to the Boggy Creek Trail that will safely separate pedestrians from cyclists and those using other wheeled devices. The plan is to build a new 12-foot-wide paved trail adjacent to the existing 6-foot sidewalk from Rosewood Avenue to East 12th Street. The community is invited to see the preliminary design and offer feedback at the project open house on Wednesday, July 10, from 6-7 p.m. at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave St. There’s more information on the project website and the comment period will be open until Aug. 11.
Mayors’ conference awards city a grant for affordable housing
The city of Austin and the Housing Conservancy are the lucky recipients of a 2019 Outstanding Achievement Metropolitan City CommunityWINS Grant, which was presented to Mayor Steve Adler at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Hawaii. The $100,000 grant, which was sponsored by Wells Fargo, will help preserve affordable housing for working families through the Austin Housing Conservancy Fund, a private equity fund managed by the nonprofit Affordable Central Texas. The grant will help push the Fund closer to its 10-year goal of preserving 10,000 units of rental housing for 15,000 Austinites. “We must preserve multifamily rental housing for middle-class families or we will lose the diversity of people and cultures and the artistic and creative talent that make our city special,” Mayor Adler said in a statement announcing the grant. “The loss of affordable housing supply in Austin that has come with our growth hits our teachers, medical workers, first responders, artists, musicians and other such workers hardest.”
Meet the finalists for medical director
After a lengthy recruiting process, Austin Public Health has narrowed its search for a new medical director to several top-drawer finalists. The final candidates are all exceptionally capable individuals and any of them would make an ideal medical director. According to the city’s announcement, the medical director “is responsible for clinical oversight of medically related services provided by the Austin Public Health Department” and “performs the duties of local Health Authority as described in the City Ordinance, County regulations, and State statute (i.e., quarantine, required reporting of infectious diseases, birth and death records).” You can meet the finalists and decide for yourself who would be the best candidate on Tuesday, July 2, from 6-8 p.m at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center at 808 Nile St.
Parks department wraps up long-range planning process
The process for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Our Parks, Our Future long-range planning initiative has garnered thousands of ideas from the community, including more community gardens, new signage and expanding linear parks. All of the best ideas are going into the draft plan that will help guide the development of Austin’s parks over the next 10 years. If you want to hear what’s in the plan and offer your feedback on it, attend one of the meetings scheduled for late July or one of the pop-up events that will be announced at a later date. Kim McKnight, project lead for the planning process, said, “We’ve had a great response from the community and we are excited to share the plan we have developed to guide Austin’s park system into the future.” July 25, 4-8 p.m. at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave St.; or July 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road.
Local pols react to census decision
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday on the controversial proposed inclusion of the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” on the upcoming 2020 census. The decision, while not definitive, will likely prevent the question’s inclusion in the census. Local politicians feared that the question could lead to an undercount of Latino Texans, leading to millions of lost federal dollars for the region and an estimated $300 million lost for Texas. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, co-chairs of the Austin-Travis County Complete Count Committee, released a statement on the ruling, which read in part:
“We are encouraged by today’s Supreme Court of the United States ruling. Having unburdened the census from the repressive citizenship question, the City of Austin and Travis County can move forward with working to obtain as accurate a count as possible, resulting in additional federal funding for our region, and accurate representation during the redistricting process. Citizenship information cannot be used for any other purpose and cannot be shared with any other agency or individual.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has threatened to delay the census to ensure the inclusion of the question.
Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, cannot ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020. I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
A new scooter skips into town
Adding to the thousands of scooters gathered mostly on downtown sidewalks, the San Francisco-based e-scooter company Skip is bringing 500 new dockless units to town this week. For those wishing to differentiate Skip from the numerous other scooter operators, the company says it aims to collaborate with local transit authorities and city officials to make operations safe and sustainable. Skip cites its work with the Washington, D.C., Department of Transportation to create the nation’s first permit for shared electric scooters. Not noted is that D.C. recently suspended the company’s operating permit after a scooter caught fire in the city on May 30. The company claims the event was specific to scooters that had their batteries removed and is not an issue for units deployed on city streets or being charged. For its part, the city of Austin has responded to safety concerns on Twitter saying it does not believe the fire represents a flaw in the scooters themselves and that it plans to closely monitor the new scooters as they are deployed. The company is hosting a free group “flash ride” today from 6-8 p.m. starting from the company’s repair shop at 410 Baylor St.
What happened? Catch up with us
The Austin Monitor/Glasshouse Policy, Austin Tech Alliance and Leadership Austin will be hosting a Texas state legislative session wrap-up this evening and we hope that you will join us. Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan will address city-related legislation; Edna Ramón Butts, director of intergovernmental relations and policy oversight at Austin Independent School District, will talk school finance; Daniela Rojas from Jolt, a nonprofit that works to increase the civic participation of Latinos in Texas, will talk about elections-related legislation; and Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, will be discussing disaster management. Here is some more information on the free 6 p.m. event at Capital Factory.
Where will Pop-Up ATX pop up next?
A new initiative designed to inform Austinites about the city programs and services that can improve their lives is accomplishing its mission by popping up in different places across town. Pop-Up ATX: City Services on the Go will be popping up in East Austin this Saturday, June 29, to offer a variety of free city resources, including health screenings, library cards, virtual home tours and much more. Staff from Austin Transportation’s Smart Trips Program, the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan team, the Austin Public Library Bookmobile, Austin 311, Austin Animal Center, Austin Energy, Austin Water and other departments will be on hand from 10 a.m. to noon, at the YMCA East Communities, 5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd. Find more details on the Pop-Up ATX events page.
Join Parks and Rec for an all-ages playdate
Stay active! That’s the fundamental message behind the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s annual Keep Austin Playing event. At this free, citywide, interactive play date, kids of all ages can play human foosball (as fun as it sounds), try their skills on a ninja warrior course, climb a rock wall, attempt a bike obstacle course, and slither down inflatable slides. Along with the games and recreational activities there will also be informational booths on health, wellness and play. And did we mention there will be dog adoptions? Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road.
ASID facilities closed week of July 1-5
All Austin Independent School District offices and schools will be closed for a week, from July 1-5, to observe the Independence Day holiday. AISD is currently on its summer schedule through Aug. 9, functioning on a shortened four-day workweek with offices open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. AISD’s regular five-day workweek resumes Monday, Aug. 12, and classes for the 2019-20 school year start on Tuesday, Aug. 20. View the entire school year calendar here.
Kinder Morgan wins in fight with landowners
Opponents of a natural gas pipeline that will stretch from West Texas through the Hill Country to the Texas Gulf Coast have lost their court battle to keep Kinder Morgan Inc. from making its own decisions about where to build the pipeline. Construction of the pipeline, which is estimated to cost $2 billion, is slated to begin in the fall. Several landowners as well as the city of Kyle and Hays County filed suit to try to win a ruling that would put determination of the pipeline route in the hands of the Railroad Commission. Travis County District Judge Lora Livingston ruled Tuesday that Kinder Morgan, not the commission, has the authority to determine the route of the pipeline. The group that calls itself TREAD – Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition – issued the following statement Tuesday night: “We respect but disagree with Judge Livingston’s ruling. We continue to believe the Texas Constitution does not allow for the delegation of this awesome power to a private company without oversight.” The statement went on to say that TREAD was weighing its options for an appeal and considering other legal venues “to challenge this severely problematic route.”
A moment of moment
Changes may be on the way for what is now being called the “opening moment” of City Council meetings. Council has always taken an ecumenical approach to the invocation that opens each of its regular meetings. The period has, in years past, been open to all of the city’s religious organizations (including the Satanic Temple, which never did manage to fit the meeting into its schedule). However, a post yesterday by Mayor Steve Adler indicates that the space for invocation may now be broadened even further. Adler states that, unless told otherwise, starting in August, the invocation will be expanded. “It is our custom here at City Council to start our meetings with a peaceful moment by inviting different people from walks of life and different faiths to share their prayers or moments of reflection. This is an important way that we celebrate the diversity that exists in our city and begin our meetings with everyone focused and aligned for the greater good,” he writes. “I’ve asked the Clerk not to limit our opening moment to prayers, but also to include opportunities for short poetry, meditation, moments of silence, etc. We will still be together quietly and thoughtfully, but we will see if we can get and maintain attention while staying in our seats. The Clerk was very positive about the idea and is eager to help expand our experience as described.” The change, he explains, is about context. “It is important that the Council makes it clear to the public that our opening moment is a celebration of diversity of thought in this city and that someone who walks into our meeting, without context, does not think we are endorsing or promoting any particular religion, or even religion itself.”