Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Whether you are taking part in the official celebration or celebrating the life and works of Dr. King your own way, we at the Austin Monitor wish you a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We will return to our full content on Tuesday.
Council plans public hearing, town hall
On Thursday, City Council will hold a public hearing to consider proposed changes to the way Council does business and engages with the public. That meeting will take place at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. Simultaneously, Council will hold a “virtual town hall” meeting, where citizens watching via Channel 6 or an online stream are invited to tweet the city using the hashtag #myatxgov or call 1-888-400-1932 (en Español: 1-888-400-9342) during the meeting. Austinites will also be able to continue the conversation about the changes already taking place on the city’s website or by calling 3-1-1.
Inaugural Parade set Tuesday on Congress
If you are planning to be in downtown Austin Tuesday afternoon, be prepared for some traffic snarl — or just settle in and enjoy the Texas Inauguration Celebration. It’s all part of the festivities following the swearing-in of Gov. Greg Abbott on the south steps of the State Capitol at noon. Following the inauguration, you can grab some barbecue (several tons of it!) on the Capitol lawn for just $10, followed by the Inaugural Parade down Congress Avenue at 2 p.m. The parade will include several floats, the Texas Aggie Marching Band and lots of politicians. Check here for planned street closures. If you’re not in the mood to go home early, you can attend the Inaugural Ball at 8 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center. Tickets are $75, and the entertainment is headlined by Lady Antebellum.
City offices closed for MLK Day
The City of Austin will close its administrative offices and most other municipal facilities Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The closures include City Council offices, City Hall and all Austin Public Library locations. Recreation centers, senior centers, museums and cultural arts centers will also be closed. Barton Springs Pool, Deep Eddy Pool, Bartholomew Pool and Big Stacy Pool will be open. Trash, recycling and yard trimmings collection for Austin Resource Recovery customers will remain the same. The Annual MLK Community Celebration and March will take place Monday at 9 a.m. For information about the event, transportation options and a map of the march route, visit the city website.
Gender-neutral bathroom signs required
Austin has adopted regulations requiring all businesses to install gender-neutral signs for single-user public restrooms, including restrooms accessible only to employees. Officials say the adoption of these new regulations are the result of a national campaign by the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning organization to bring attention to gendered restroom facilities, “which can present uncomfortable and dangerous situations for the gender nonconforming community.” City officials say a single-user restroom is one whose primary entry door is lockable and that is available for use by an individual with or without assistance. Enforcement of the ordinance will be on a complaint basis. Persons wishing to report noncompliance by a business may call 3-1-1 to file a formal complaint. Violators could be subject to a Class C misdemeanor.
City staff hires almost complete
City Hall’s old and new City Council offices are almost full, with only one staff position remaining a mystery. That opening is on Council Member Ellen Troxclair’s staff, though she has hired Viveca Martinez as a policy aide and Annette Cantu as her temporary executive assistant. Martinez was formerly an adviser to Gov. Rick Perry. Mayor Steve Adler also went public with his hires this week. He has hired campaign manager Jim Wick as his director of community engagement and Community Action Network executive director Vanessa Sarria. Nancy Cardenas, who is a former staffer for Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, will serve as Adler’s Constituent Services aide.
BSEACD may consider request for delay
Travis County officials will likely have to wait until the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board convenes tonight to hear if it will consider a county request for a delay in State Highway 45 Southwest talks. The aquifer board is scheduled to consider an agreement with TxDOT regarding environmental standards for the construction of the proposed 3.5-mile toll road. Some Travis County Commissioners, concerned that parts of the proposed agreement do not fully protect the aquifer’s recharge zone or critical karst features in the right of way, passed a resolution Tuesday asking the district board to delay the agreement for three weeks so county officials can better evaluate its terms. The agreement is based on a 1990 Consent Decree issued to protect the aquifer if a roadway is to be built, but county officials and several environmental organizations expressed concerns over some parts of the proposed agreement. Aquifer district general manager John Dupnik said Wednesday that board members were generally aware of the county’s request, but they did not plan to consider it until they convene at tonight’s board meeting set for 6 p.m. at BSEACD headquarters in Manchaca.
Stark to retire from Municipal Court
Rebecca Stark, clerk of Austin’s Municipal Court, has announced that she plans to retire from the City of Austin on March 31. Stark has served as clerk for the past 15 years. Court officials say that under her leadership, Austin became the only city in Texas to maintain an online case management system for its municipal court. Stark gave credit to her staff when reflecting on her time at the court. “I am proud of our accomplishments, including running an efficient court and launching an innovative case management system,” she said. “All of this was possible due to the hard work of the great team that is Municipal Court.” Municipal Court handles mainly Class C misdemeanor cases, which include traffic, city ordinance, state code, juvenile, and disabled parking violations.
Council Bulletin Board dusted off
Though repeated rallying cries from former City Council Members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison to use the City of Austin Council Message Board were more of a running joke than anything else, the new Council has already proved more receptive to the idea. On Wednesday, Council Members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchen both posted messages about community engagement. Pool posted a message about the creation of a “Public Engagement Task Force,” writing, “Council Members Gallo, Kitchen and Houston will join me to prepare the resolution and we will circulate the proposed documents and agenda item drafts early next week for review and comment, and request placement on the Jan. 29 agenda for appropriate discussion and action.” Kitchen laid out a six-point draft plan to increase community engagement.
Casar names District 4 office staff
District 4 City Council Member Greg Casar has completed naming his office staff. Casar has hired Shelby Alexander, formerly on the staff of Council Member Mike Martinez; Neesha Davé, a former chief of staff for state Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston); and John Lawler, his former campaign manager. Casar won the District 4 seat in a runoff with Laura Pressley, who sought a recount that did not change the outcome of the vote. Before running for office, Casar was the political director of the Workers Defense Project.
Finalists named for Central Health board
Travis County Commissioners named four finalists Tuesday for the two vacancies on the Central Health Board of Managers. The final four candidates are Sherri Greenberg, Eliza May, Cynthia Valadez and Sam Wilson. Commissioners narrowed the original 39 applicants down to 13. From among that group, court members each listed their top five candidates, and after those were tallied, they picked the final four. The Commissioners will interview the candidates in early February before making a decision. Central Health manages the county’s indigent health care system.
City offices to close for MLK Day
City administrative offices and most other municipal facilities will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Offices closing include City Council offices, City Hall and all Austin Public Library locations. All recreation centers, senior centers, museums and cultural arts centers will also be closed. Barton Springs Pool, Deep Eddy Pool, Bartholomew Pool and Big Stacy Pool will be open. Trash, recycling and yard trimmings collection for Austin Resource Recovery customers will remain the same. The Annual MLK Community Celebration and March will take place Monday at 9 a.m. For information about the event, transportation options and a map of the march route, visit the city website.
Austin Young Chamber to honor Casar
The Austin Young Chamber of Commerce will honor newly elected City Council Member Gregorio “Greg” Casar with its Inspiring Leader Award. Casar was elected in District 4, and at 25 years old, is the city’s youngest Council member. “Council Member Casar embodies the type of leader we strive to empower,” Executive Director Matt Glazer said. “We are honored to share this day with him and celebrate his leadership.” The Austin Young Chamber of Commerce had 1,200 people take part in its programs last year. Members are involved in volunteerism, arts and culture, and economic development and growth within Austin. AYC says its primary purpose is to identify and engage the next generation of Austin leaders. Casar will receive his award Feb. 6 at the Second Annual State of AYC Luncheon.
Ex-aide Anderson gets new habitat
Greg Anderson, who served as an aide to former Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, has accepted a new job. Anderson said Monday that he will take the position of director of operations for Austin Habitat for Humanity. He said he was very excited about his new role, which includes everything from planning to construction for the nonprofit homebuilder.
VRA anniversary celebrations start this week
On Thursday, to launch the 50th anniversary celebration of the Voting Rights Act, there will be an event honoring voter registration volunteers. Those attending will be able to see exhibits about the history of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. They will also be able to watch Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant swear in more than 400 volunteer deputy registrars at once. In addition to Elfant, the celebration will feature Mark Updegrove, LBJ Presidential Library director; and Regina Lawrence, director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas. The event will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.
Texas Senate recordings available online
Those interested in a look back at Texas Senate history will want to check out the new Texas State Library and Archives database of Texas Senate audio recordings available here. The project has digitized recordings dating from 1972 to 2006 and includes digitized audio files that represent approximately 25,000 cassette tapes. According to a statement released by the library, “The original tapes were created by and received from Senate Staff Services. The collection includes public committee hearings, floor debates, press conferences, impeachment hearings, and joint meetings with House committees. Before digitization, interested parties were required to physically visit TSLAC in order to play the aging cassette tapes. In the interest of preservation, the original cassettes are no longer available to the public, but can now be accessed 24 hours a day through an online searchable database. The Texas Senate Recordings can be searched by legislative session, keyword, or browsed in their entirety.”
Rain leads to storm at Zilker Park
In case you missed it, the proposed cancellation of USA Cycling’s Cyclo-cross National Championships event at Zilker Park because of rain caused a storm of its own this weekend. Though park officials eventually backtracked on the cancellation and instead postponed the event until the next day with a new route, it wasn’t before widespread criticism of the move had flooded social media and digital media (See the Austin Chronicle’s coverage for better examples.) Austin Heritage Tree Foundation’s Zoila Vega pushed for the cancellation. In emails that appeared online, Vega, referring to the original route, predicted damage to the 1/2 Critical Root Zones of 20 Zilker heritage trees, and said moving forward with the event was against city code.
City wants input on new Council plan
On Thursday, City Council members presented proposed changes to Council committees and meetings. Now they are looking for Austinites’ feedback about the plan. Information on the changes can be found here. And there is a discussion board about the changes on the SpeakUpAustin website. So far, so good, in that no one has suggested naming anything after Fred Durst.
San Jacinto one lane, starting today
Starting this week, San Jacinto Boulevard will be reduced to a single vehicle lane, as construction in the southeast quadrant of the San Jacinto and Third Street intersection begins. Eastbound traffic on East Third Street will detour to San Jacinto to East Second Street, east to Trinity Street and back north to East Third Street. Pedestrian routes will also be detoured as needed to accommodate construction.
Capital Metro to raise fares today
Starting today, all of Austin’s transit riders will need to bring extra quarters with them to catch a ride. Capital Metro is making changes to all pass prices. The local base fare will increase 25 cents to $1.25. A Local Day Pass will cost $2.50, a 7-Day Pass will cost $11.25 and a 31-Day Pass will cost $41.25. Premium fares will cost $1.75 for a Single Ride, $3.50 for a Day Pass, $16.75 for a 7-Day Pass and $62 for a 31-Day Pass. Commuter fares will cost $3.50 for a Single Ride, $7 for a Day Pass, $27.50 for a 7-Day Pass and $96.25 for a 31-Day Pass. And MetroAccess fares will be $1.75 for a Single Ride, $17.50 for a 10-Ride Booklet and $46.50 for a Monthly Pass.