Oakwood Chapel exhibit honors many approaches to faith
A series of artistic, historical and cultural events held at Oakwood Cemetery Chapel will honor the life and memory of Jacob Fontaine, a formerly enslaved man who was freed at the age of 57 and went on to found six Baptist churches and launch Austin’s first black newspaper. The exhibit, titled “To Believe,” is a collaboration with area interfaith groups and East Austin community leaders and uses music, video, photography, digital story maps, panel talks and performance to document Fontaine’s influence in Austin and different approaches to faith. The exhibit also aligns with an exhibition at the George Washington Carver Museum called “The African American Presence in 19th Century Texas,” which opens in October. “To Believe” opens Sept. 21, 2-5 p.m., with a reception featuring Austin musician W.C. Clark. The full list of events can be found here.
Parks foundation seeks volunteers for ACL Fest
The Austin Parks Foundation is looking for a few good music-loving volunteers to pitch in with the Austin City Limits Festival greening program. Volunteers help sort waste on the festival grounds and divert recyclables from the landfill. In return, they get a cool ACL T-shirt and a one-day pass to the festival. These volunteer positions are in high demand. Start the process by visiting APF’s volunteer management site and following the instructions to sign up online.
Police department reports Labor Day DWI arrests
In an effort to discourage Austinites from driving while intoxicated and to raise public awareness of the hazards of drunk driving, the Austin Police Department, with assistance from Austin Transportation, conducted its Labor Day No Refusal initiative over Labor Day weekend, Thursday to Monday, 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. During this time period, officers made 57 DWI-related arrests. Of that number, 18 provided a breath sample, 12 provided a blood sample, and on-the-spot blood search warrants were obtained for 27 suspects who refused to provide a breath or blood specimen. Eight of the 57 individuals were charged with a class A misdemeanor DWI for having a prior conviction; two individuals were charged with a felony DWI for having children in the vehicle; one person was charged with boating while intoxicated; one was charged with felony DWI for having two or more prior convictions; and one person was charged with intoxicated assault.
Elizabeth Warren holds Austin town hall
Democratic presidential primary candidate Elizabeth Warren will be holding a town hall in Austin next week. While the event is free, an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Admission is first come, first served. The doors open at 4:15 p.m., and the event begins at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, Vic Mathias Shores at Lady Bird Lake Metro Park, 900 W. Riverside Drive.
Got ideas for new Rainey Street trailhead?
The Parks and Recreation Department and the Trail Foundation are soliciting input from the community for a new Rainey Street trailhead entry to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Staffers are looking for ideas on how to make the space more functional while respecting the area’s ecology. Come and share your thoughts and ideas for improving this key area of Town Lake Metropolitan Park. Saturday, Sept. 28, 8 a.m.-noon, 701 Cummings St. (at the end of Rainey Street near the Miró Rivera restroom).
Technology will slow e-scooters that enter Austin parks
Starting Friday, geofencing will reduce the speed of rented e-scooters when they enter restricted areas in Austin. Riders will be alerted before they enter an area where scooters are not allowed, such as the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The city of Austin has been working with scooter companies to limit their use on parkland. It says the goal of the new geofencing is to protect parkland, while allowing people to use scooters to get to and from the parks. The city says the decision follows increasing concern about safety and inappropriate use of electric scooters in parks. The devices will continue to be allowed on paved park roads and paved trails. The city started a pilot program in January to find out if scooters and parkland are a good fit. It was intended “to examine how micromobility vehicles impact the comfort, mobility, and safety of trail users as well as trail integrity.” Feedback is being collected here until Sept. 15. Findings will be released later in the fall.
City urges residents to be ‘prepared, not scared’
With the Bahamas in ruins from Hurricane Dorian, there’s never been a better time to think about disaster preparedness. The month of September just happens to be National Preparedness Month and the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will be sharing tips on social media all month. The first thing everyone can do right now is sign up for Warn Central Texas, a free system that sends emergency notifications to text, phone or email. Then visit AustinTexas.gov/HSEM or Ready.gov for tips on emergency preparedness, checklists for putting together a household disaster kit, teaching kids to be safe in an emergency and much more. All the resources you need are out there; you just have to take some time to prepare a plan and communicate it to your loved ones.
Commissioners Court moves toward maximum tax rate
The Travis County Commissioners Court took the first step toward implementing raising the maximum revenue allowed under state law. The court voted 3-0 (Commissioners Jeff Travillion and Gerald Daugherty were absent) to notify the public (through statutorily required newspaper advertisements) that the budget it plans to approve later this month will increase the “effective maintenance and operating tax rate” by 8 percent. Under current state law, that is the maximum increase allowed without running the risk of a voter-initiated “rollback election” to reduce the tax increase. The step the court took on Tuesday does not commit it to going all the way up to 8 percent, but most of the commissioners have indicated that is what they plan to do. It has been many years since the county has gone all the way to the rollback rate, but this year commissioners are doing so in order to maximize revenue before a new state law kicks in next year that will limit annual property tax growth to 3.5 percent without voter approval for a higher rate. With an 8 percent increase, the average county homeowner with a $347,655 homestead will pay $126 more in county taxes than last year.
Texas works on suicide prevention
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Texas health officials want people to learn the warning signs of suicide. If someone talks about wanting to die, expresses feelings of hopelessness or being a burden to loved ones, says they have no reason to live, and appears to be planning suicide, that person may be at serious risk. Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, the executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services, said in a press release, “Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects all Texas communities, and it is preventable. We know that in Texas, younger people and veterans experience higher rates of suicide. We’re looking at how we can reach those groups with the message that Texas is here for them and there is hope.” This downloadable wallet card features the warning signs of suicide as well as resources like crisis hotlines. People in crisis and family members can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. Find lots more info and resources on the website for the Texas Suicide Prevention initiative, a collaboration between state and local agencies, community groups, academic institutions and advocates.
New ATX website offers transportation options at a swipe
A new website launched by Austin Transportation aims to serve as the “ultimate resource for information about sustainable transportation options in Austin,” according to a press release about the initiative. GetThereATX is part of the city’s effort to meet the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan‘s goal of 50/50 mode share by 2039; in other words, asking Austinites to use alternative modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, carpooling, public transportation and ride-sharing in place of drive-alone trips. The colorful, easy-to-navigate website is a “one-stop shop” filled with information on all of Austin’s mobility options as well as educational resources and “specific trip solutions for commuters, employers, schools, special events and visitors.” If you’re trying to get around Austin, GetThereATX should be your first stop.
Affordable Central Texas gets $150K grant
Affordable Central Texas, the nonprofit that launched the Austin Housing Conservancy Fund, was the recipient of a $100,000 CommunityWINS grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation. The check was presented to ACT by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo, which donated an additional $50,000 to support the nonprofit’s work. According to a press release, the CommunityWINS grant, which is funded by USCM and the Wells Fargo Foundation, “will be used for an innovative effort to create a scaled housing affordability solution to serve Austin’s workforce.” Said Adler at the check presentation ceremony, “We must preserve multifamily rental housing for middle-class families in order to preserve the diversity of people and cultures and the artistic and creative talent that make our city special. 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.”
Central Health sets maximum property tax rate for 2020
On Wednesday night, the Central Health Board of Managers voted to cap the Fiscal Year 2020 property tax rate at a maximum increase of 6.9 percent, which is estimated to raise $214.9 million in property taxes to pay for the health care of Travis County’s low-income residents. At that maximum tax rate, the average increase for a Travis County property owner would be approximately $24 per year. “The board asked our staff to look seven years down the road as we prepared next year’s budget and proposed tax rate,” said Mike Geeslin, president and CEO of Central Health, in a press release. “Here’s what we know: our patient population will continue to grow as it has almost every year, we will continue to expand health care services in underserved communities and we’ll receive fewer federal dollars to pay for local health care.” The public will have an opportunity to comment on the FY 2020 tax rate (and budget) during public hearings scheduled for Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at Central Health headquarters, 1111 E. Cesar Chavez St. After public input, the board is scheduled to vote on the actual FY 2020 tax rate on Sept. 25. The Travis County Commissioners Court, which has the final say over Central Health’s tax rate and budget, will vote on the new tax rate on Oct. 1.
Sarah Beth Lively school celebrates new name
The Austin Independent School District invites the community to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the renaming of Sarah Beth Lively Middle School, followed by a back-to-school night event with light refreshments. Speakers include Sarah Beth Lively herself, Superintendent Paul Cruz, AISD Board President Geronimo Rodriguez, and Principal Stacie Holiday. Lively, a former social studies teacher, is beloved for her mentoring of student journalists on the school paper and her volunteer work at the school following 25 years of teaching at Fulmore. The event is Tuesday, Sept. 3, 5 p.m., at Sarah Beth Lively Middle School Gymnasium, 201 E. Mary St.
Southeast Travis County moves one step closer to new medical clinic
On Wednesday evening, Central Health’s Board of Managers authorized an interlocal agreement to establish a health care clinic in Southeast Travis County. The board spent nearly an hour debating and ultimately approving an interlocal agreement between Central Health, the University of Texas School of Nursing and Travis County Fire Rescue Emergency Services District 11 to establish a health care clinic just south of the intersection of highways 71 and 130 that will provide services to low-income residents.
According to the approved agreement, Emergency Services District 11 will own the clinic, while the UT School of Nursing will provide staff and medical services. Central Health will contribute $1.15 million toward the partnership in Fiscal Year 2020, which will help reimburse ESD 11 for construction expenses, equipment and marketing.
ESD 11 must still approve the interlocal agreement for plans for the clinic to move forward, but if approved by all three parties, the clinic would be scheduled to open by Sept. 30, 2020, at the latest. The new clinic will be located at 7300 Kellam Road.
What’s closed for Labor Day?
City administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed Monday, Sept. 2, for the Labor Day holiday. City Council offices, cultural centers and museums, and recreation and senior centers will also be closed on Monday. All branches of the Austin Public Library will be closed Sunday, Sept. 1, as well as Labor Day. Trash pickup, recycling, composting and yard trimmings collection will remain on their regular schedules as will the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center and the Austin Animal Center. The Austin Nature and Science Center, Zilker Botanical Gardens and city golf courses will be open for their regularly scheduled hours. All year-round pools will be open noon-7 p.m. on Labor Day. If you’re going somewhere this weekend and you anticipate you’ll need a ride home, check the city’s Get Home Safe page to review your transportation options.
New law protects garbage collectors
A new state law that goes into effect Sunday, Sept. 1, requires motorists to move over and slow down for garbage, recycling and other solid waste collection trucks. Being struck by a moving vehicle is a leading cause of death for waste collection employees, and the new law, called Slow Down to Get Around, is intended to protect them while on the job. Motorists are required to slow down, change lanes if possible, and use caution around solid waste trucks when their safety lights are flashing.
AISD celebrates facility’s new name
You’ve heard of gender-reveal parties: Austin Independent School District is pioneering the sign-reveal party. The brand-new sign will be revealed to the world at a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the renaming of the Anita Ferrales Coy Facility, which is home to AISD’s Alternative Learning Center, Library Media Services and other nonprofit groups. The new name honors Anita Ferrales Coy, a longtime AISD superintendent who was formerly principal of Allan Elementary School. Speakers at the event include members of the Ferrales/Coy family, Superintendent Paul Cruz, AISD Trustee Jayme Mathias, Assistant Director of Library Media Services Elizabeth Polk and Director of Alternative Education Chris Jones. Light refreshments will be served after the ceremony. Friday, Aug. 30, 9 a.m., Anita Ferrales Coy Facility Gymnasium, 4900 Gonzales St.
Souly Austin invites applicants
The city’s Economic Development Department will be expanding its Souly Austin services with a competitive application process aimed at selecting two additional business districts to be part of the program. Souly Austin helps business districts form merchants associations – the key to a prosperous, culturally rich and inclusive retail zone with plenty of neighborhood character. The two business areas selected will receive technical assistance from Souly Austin in forming a merchants association and a business strategy, and a $20,000 award for the association’s successful launch. The application deadline is Oct. 30. An informational webinar explaining the nuts and bolts of the application process will be aired Sept. 16, 2-3 p.m., here. To explore the city’s current business districts, go here.
Another chance to talk about the ‘shot clock’ bill
If you missed your chance to be a part of Thursday’s shot clock stakeholder meeting, fear not. The city of Austin and Travis County will be holding another meeting to accommodate overflow. The municipalities are holding stakeholder meetings to accommodate lightning-fast changes to local development codes in compliance with the recently passed House Bill 3167, which imposes strict deadlines on development review times. The second meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 4, 3:30-5 p.m., at One Texas Center in Room 325. Those interested can RSVP here. An invitation to the meeting promised that the content would not vary from meeting to meeting.
Austin job numbers keep growing
According to a new study from AdvisorSmith, Austin was ranked No. 9 among large U.S. cities for job growth. Austin is one rung above Dallas, which came in as No. 10 in the report. No other Texas cities appeared in the top 10 ranking. The study reports that Austin added 94,700 jobs during the past three years, and at the end of July the city had a total of 1,094,300 jobs. Mayor Steve Adler responded to the news via email, saying, “Jobs are an important part of maintaining our economy and achieving greater equity and opportunity. It’s a reflection of what we’re doing right to hear that Austin’s job growth is best among Texas cities and among the best nationally.” Ranked against all other cities nationwide, Austin was 24, Dallas was 25 and College Station was 29. The top five large cities for job growth were Provo, Utah; Boise City, Idaho; Orlando, Florida; Ogden, Utah; and Palm Bay, Florida. Riverside, California, was ranked sixth; Cape Coral, Florida, was ranked seventh; and Phoenix, Arizona, was ranked eighth.