Whispers

Monday, April 12, 2021 by Tai Moses

Webinar examines storm’s impacts on wildlife

The Texas Master Naturalist Program is presenting a webinar that will examine Winter Storm Uri’s impacts on the state’s fish, wildlife and natural ecosystems. According to the announcement from TPWD, “National headlines focused on the work being done in Texas to save and protect wildlife, from rescuing cold-stunned turtles and wintering bat populations to the impacts on coastal fisheries and bee populations.” Michelle Haggerty, state program coordinator for the Texas Master Naturalist Program, said, “We’ll get to answer the questions still lingering from this extreme weather event and learn how our resources adapt and recover from this and possible future events. Our Texas Master Naturalist volunteers are eager to learn about the effects from the polar vortex on natural resource flora and fauna in Texas, but more specifically, what recovery looks like and how they can help.” Natural resource experts from across the state will be presenting during the webinar, which is free and open to the public. Pre-register here. Tuesday, April 13, noon-3 p.m.


Monday, April 12, 2021 by Tai Moses

Bartholomew Pool reopens

As the temperatures rise and Austinites crack open their crusty bottles of sunscreen, Austin’s pools are reopening. Bartholomew Pool at 1800 E. 51st St., where workers are still repairing damage from the winter storm, reopened yesterday on a modified schedule. The restrooms are still without running water but visitors may use the port-a-potties on site. Springwoods Pool at 13320 Lyndhurst St. is also open on a modified schedule. Reservations are not required, but pool capacity is limited and swimmers are asked to limit their time to no more than two hours. You can find the hours of operation for all of Austin’s pools here.


Friday, April 9, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

Waterloo Greenway gets new head

Waterloo Greenway has appointed Kathy Miller as interim CEO following Peter Mullan’s move to the Austin Transit Partnership to serve as its chief of architecture and urban design. Miller, who took on the new role last month, previously served 16 years as executive director of the Texas Freedom Network. Waterloo Greenway is currently conducting a national search for a permanent CEO, with that process expected to last six to 12 months. This summer will mark the reopening of a much-improved Waterloo Park with a new amphitheater operating on the 11-acre downtown park. “While we take the necessary time to thoughtfully identify Waterloo Greenway’s next great trailblazer, the position of interim CEO is an incredibly important one, and we are pleased to welcome Kathy and look forward to benefiting from her wealth of experience working with nonprofits,” said Cotter Cunningham, the organization’s board chair. “With the opening of Waterloo Park right around the corner, we are at an exciting inflection point in our organization’s history, and I believe that she is the right leader to see this project into its next remarkable chapter.”


Friday, April 9, 2021 by Tai Moses

AISD conducts Northeast Austin block walk

If you live anywhere near Andrews, Harris, Pecan Springs or Winn elementary schools, Garcia Young Men’s or Sadler Means Young Women’s leadership academies, or Northeast ECHS, you may be visited by AISD volunteers this weekend. Teachers, team members and community volunteers are walking the neighborhoods in the northeast corridor of the school district “to reconnect with Austin families to learn about their education needs and priorities as well as welcome more learners to its family of schools.” The door-to-door campaign – dubbed Operation Reconnect – was designed to reconnect with district families and share information about program offerings such as free prekindergarten, fine arts, before- and after-school enrichment programs, career preparation programs and more. So if you hear a knock on your door this Saturday, April 10, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., most likely it will be a team of friendly volunteers wearing PPE and smiles on their faces.


Friday, April 9, 2021 by Tai Moses

Envision a new Sheffield park

The Parks and Recreation Department is hoping community members will share their thoughts and ideas about what updates they’d like to see at Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park. The 31-acre park, located in the Allandale neighborhood, is named after a former director of the parks department. Besides baseball fields and basketball and tennis courts, the park features a pool, duck pond and walking trails along Shoal Creek. PARD will be gathering input through a community survey open now through April 18. The project team will discuss the proposed project at the first community meeting on Tuesday, May 4, at noon or at 5:30 p.m., via Zoom. The virtual meeting will be recorded and posted on the project web page.


Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Poll shows majority opposing strong-mayor plan

Austinites for Equity, a labor-backed political action committee, tells the Austin Monitor its polling indicates that 70 percent of Austin voters can be expected to vote no on Proposition F, which would change Austin’s city government from the current Council-manager system to a strong-mayor system. The group hired Change Research, which surveyed 499 likely voters in the upcoming May 1 election, recruiting respondents via a survey instrument called Dynamic Online Sampling. According to the poll, which was conducted March 16-19, only 19 percent of those surveyed said the mayor does not currently have enough power. About half, or 49 percent, said the mayor has the right amount of power, and 32 percent said the mayor has too much power. Of those surveyed, 57 percent responded that it would be unfair for the mayor to be able to veto laws approved by the majority of Council. The poll found that only 20 percent of respondents would vote yes or lean toward voting yes on Prop F. Said Change Research: “That opposition is shared by majorities of voters across age, race, gender, education and partisan divides.” Austinites for Progressive Reform, the PAC that proposed Prop F, argues that the city government is currently led by an unelected city manager. Nelson Linder, one of the backers of Prop F, has said, “Austin voters deserve to choose the person who leads us. Moving to a mayor-Council system will strengthen our democracy and make our government more responsive to all of us.”


Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Tai Moses

Be a better news hound

There’s never been so many news outlets or so many ways to consume the news. But how can we tell if the news we’re reading, watching or listening to is accurate? How can we learn to become better consumers of news? An upcoming panel presentation hosted by Common Ground for Texans explores this timely topic. Panelists Tom Mast of the Braver Angels Central Texas Media Action Group and Natalie Stroud, director of UT-Austin’s Center for Media Engagement, will explain how to tell if the news you are reading is “verifiable, truthful and accurate” and discuss how to become advocates for media accuracy. The event includes several short video clips on media literacy and framing, followed by an audience dialogue. Saturday, April 17, 2-3:30 p.m. Via Zoom.


Thursday, April 8, 2021 by Tai Moses

Wanted: Train-loving muralist

Thanks to the Austin Parks Foundation, a new Zilker train will be coming down the tracks soon; the popular attraction is anticipated to reopen in the fall. The train isn’t the only thing that’s getting revitalized; the tunnel under Barton Springs Road Bridge, which is on the train’s route, is also due for an upgrade and a “site-specific outdoor mural.” The parks foundation is partnering with the city’s Art in Public Places program on a request for proposals for the mural space and is accepting submissions through April 23. According to a news release from APF, “The mural site is set on the west side of the river and the piece will run underneath the bridge, approximately 52 feet and between 8-10 feet high. Once an artist and design is selected internally by APF, the organization will work with the AIPP team on the final selection and have the project and art approved.” Ladye Anne Wofford, the foundation’s chief mission officer, added, “With so much excitement around the opening of the new Zilker Park train, our goal in this restoration process is to evoke the spirit of Austin – past and present.” Find the full RFP here.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Stanford now leads AISD communications

Jason Stanford has joined the Austin Independent School District as chief of communications and community engagement. Stanford, you may recall, was Mayor Steve Adler’s communications director from November 2015 to May 2018. From there he joined the PR firm Hill Knowlton Strategies, where he has worked for the past three years. He is also the co-author, with Bryan Burrough and Chris Tomlinson, of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, which is scheduled for publication in June. The book “provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas’ struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late 19th and early 20th century,” according to publisher Penguin Random House.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021 by Tai Moses

Toxic algae again!?

We’ve got some bad news for dogs and the people who love them. The city is monitoring the blue-green algae that produces toxins which can sicken and kill dogs and has “detected low levels of dihydroanatoxin in an algae sample taken in mid-March from Lake Austin near Mansfield Dam” as well as trace levels in two samples from Lady Bird Lake. While the levels of dihydroanatoxin are too low to be harmful to humans, it poses a high risk to dogs. The city recommends that “dog owners not allow their dogs to ingest or touch algae in any area lakes, creeks or water bodies. If owners allow their dogs in the water, it is at their own risk. It may help to rinse dogs after contact with water bodies to help prevent them from licking algae off their fur.”


Wednesday, April 7, 2021 by Tai Moses

County extends burn ban

The Travis County Commissioners Court has issued a new burn ban for the unincorporated areas of the county. The ban will expire on May 5, “unless further action is taken by the County Judge or County Fire Marshal prior to that date.” As Travis County Chief Fire Marshal Tony Callaway explained in a news release, “We continue to have elevated wildfire risk three or four days a week. The amount of rain we received was not sufficient to improve the dry conditions. Additionally, the National Weather Service is forecasting a potential high to extreme fire danger for this week.” The burn ban does not affect “outdoor welding, cutting or grinding operations, and outdoor hot works operations conducted in accordance with the guidelines established by the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office.” As always, be mindful when grilling outdoors and keep water nearby in case of a fire.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Camping ban boosters report raising over $437,000

The Save Austin Now PAC, which is raising money to finance its campaign to pass Proposition B, which would reinstate the ordinance banning camping in most public places, reported raising nearly $438,000 from Feb. 3-March 22. Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak, who is leading the campaign, provided information about the group’s fundraising prowess in a press release indicating that the group had filed its campaign finance report on April 1. However, the report did not appear when a reporter searched the city clerk’s website on Monday morning. City Clerk Jannette Goodall told the Austin Monitor via email, “They haven’t filed it properly, they are having technical issues and we are trying to figure out the issues.” Apparently the issues were resolved, because the campaign finance report did appear on the website later. According to the report, a group associated with a business called Best Efforts contributed $20,000 and Danay Covert of Covert Auto contributed $10,000 to the campaign. There were several other large donations, but according to the press statement, the average contribution was $214.78, with “more than 82 percent of all contributions under $200.” Save Austin Now reported spending nearly $320,000 on its campaign over the six-week time period. The group paid WAB Holdings LLC of Strongsville, Ohio $240,000 for what is described as “voter identification efforts,” under the category of advertising expense. Mackowiak said in his press release, “No one has ever run as sophisticated a campaign as the one we are running. … This city is ready to finally and fully end the public camping disaster which has been bad for both the residents and the homeless.” The election is May 1, with early voting April 19-27.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

APH expands vaccine appointments to age 40 and up

Austin Public Health has opened Covid-19 vaccine appointments to anyone 40 years or older. The public health authority will continue to prioritize appointments for higher-risk groups, but the expanded appointments began Monday night. Texas expanded eligibility to all adults on Monday, March 29. In addition, APH is now scheduling second doses 23-25 days after the first dose and updating its walk-up policy. According to a press release about the changes, those who are 28 days past their first dose can walk up and present their vaccination card. Those with appointments who show up at different sites or times will be turned away. Those who would like to make an appointment through APH can register at AustinTexas.gov/COVID19-Vaccines. Once registered, vaccine seekers can log in to Covid19.AustinTexas.gov during the appointment release times to join the queue. According to the city, “While main appointment releases have been happening on Mondays, release times and dates can vary week to week as operations change.”


Tuesday, April 6, 2021 by Tai Moses

Big Stacy reopens

Big Stacy Pool reopens today on a modified schedule to accommodate the ongoing repairs from Winter Storm Uri. The restrooms are closed because there is still no running water, but there are port-a-potties on-site for pool visitors to use. The pool, at 700 E. Live Oak St., will be closed Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Reservations are not required, but pool capacity is limited and “Patrons are asked to limit their time to two hours. Once the pool is at capacity, new swimmers will be allowed on a one-in/one-out basis.”


Tuesday, April 6, 2021 by Tai Moses

Manage those maddening mosquitoes

Photo by John Tann

If it’s not one thing it’s another, and mosquitoes are definitely another of those things we have to worry about. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to manage the pesky insects – if you practice a big dose of prevention. Wizzie Brown, an expert in integrated pest management with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, reveals the secrets of mosquito management on the next Wild Neighbors webinar, hosted by Balcones Canyonlands Preserve staff. Brown will discuss “non- or less-toxic ways to control and avoid mosquitoes this year … how to reduce habitats that can lead to mosquito issues around your home and in the landscape, treatment of standing water that cannot be removed, impact of spraying, and use of repellent.” Thursday, April 29, noon-1 p.m. Register for the webinar here. Past episodes of the Wild Neighbors speaker series are archived on YouTube.

 

 


Monday, April 5, 2021 by Tai Moses

City announces [Re]Verse Pitch winners

The winners of this year’s annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition, “a program aimed at reducing waste in Austin through innovation and design,” are Plant Baxter, DV Designs, Biochar Filter Socks and Lola’s Classic Babies. The Innovation Fellows, as the winners are called, “will receive prizes valued up to $8,500, and participate in a four-month accelerator program to develop their ideas.” Each of the winning teams will be mentored during the accelerator program while they develop their circular business ideas. The teams will get the opportunity to present their ideas to investors as part of the city’s inaugural Circular Austin showcase on July 28.


Monday, April 5, 2021 by Tai Moses

Discuss the state’s utility system

The Travis County Democratic Party is hosting a virtual community conversation about the Texas utility system and “why it wasn’t there when we needed it the most.” Moderator Shenghao Wang, energy policy specialist Caitlin Smith, and attorneys Tommy Tynes and Carrie Collier Brown will explore what really happened during Winter Storm Uri, deregulation and the current state of Texas utilities. Thursday, April 8, 6-7 p.m. Register here.


Monday, April 5, 2021 by Tai Moses

Partnership focuses on next generation of anglers

A new partnership is out to “provide convenient fishing education opportunities for families” in Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, Fishing’s Future and the George H.W. Bush Vamos a Pescar Education Fund are collaborating to increase “fishing knowledge, skills, and abilities of participating families from Texas metro areas” and “strengthen family bonds and their connections to the outdoors and fisheries resources.” Shane Wilson, CEO and founder of Fishing’s Future, said in the press release that “millions want to fish, but don’t know how.” This program, which runs until the end of May, aims to fix that by holding family fishing events as well as live virtual workshops. Register to participate here.


Friday, April 2, 2021 by Tai Moses

Enjoy Zilker for free

A handful of times each year, the Parks and Recreation Department offers the community free admission to Zilker Botanical Garden. These precious free days are sprinkled throughout the year and if you don’t mark them on your calendar, you’ll miss them. The next free day is Sunday, May 2, followed by free days on July 17, Sept. 12, Nov. 11 and Dec. 27. Free or not, you still need to get advance tickets to reserve your spot so the garden can make sure everyone is socially distanced, and free days can only be reserved two weeks in advance, so plan accordingly. By the way, those who have EBT, WIC, STAR, CHIP, Medicaid, or MAP ID cards through the Museums for All Program may enjoy the garden for free all year round.


Friday, April 2, 2021 by Tai Moses

Cemetery closed on April 18

The city has sent out a news release advising community members that Austin Memorial Park Cemetery will be closed on Sunday, April 18, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. “for asphalt work near the entrance to the cemetery that is part of the road improvement project which began in November 2020 and will be completed this spring.” Cemetery visitors may notice several newly paved roads that are part of the facility improvement project being undertaken – no pun intended – as part of the 2018 bond program.


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