Whispers

Tuesday, August 24, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

AISD will not lower capacity at athletic events

Austin Independent School District has announced that athletic venues will operate at full capacity this year, though spectators are “encouraged to social distance when feasible.” According to a press release from the district, all visitors will be required to wear masks. Distancing and mask protocols, according to AISD, apply to home and away games for all sports. Previously, the district said that it would be operating sports venues at 25 percent capacity.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021 by Tai Moses

ICRC adds virtual public meetings

The independent group tasked with redrawing the preliminary map for the 10 City Council district boundaries is hosting additional virtual meetings to give Austinites more chances to offer direct input about its work. The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has already held the 10 required public forums, but due to the complications of Covid, decided to add two more public forums via virtual format. ICRC Vice Chair Luis Gonzalez explained in a news release, “When the ICRC began planning for the public forum portion of the redistricting process back in June, the Covid-19 pandemic was a pressing issue to consider. Some residents prefer an in-person option for their public testimony, others are still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Additional virtual forum options were the obvious choice to ensure the ICRC was maintaining a balance between fair access to the process and our concern for public health.” The final virtual forum is Friday, Aug. 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Register in advance for the webinar.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021 by Tai Moses

Join the BAC

If you’re passionate about everything to do with human-powered, two-wheeled modes of transportation, you might be a good fit for Austin’s Bicycle Advisory Council, which is now accepting applications for membership. The BAC, according to the city’s announcement, “is an independent advocacy group that evaluates and makes recommendations to the city of Austin on policies, programs, projects, and plans that affect or relate to bicycling.” You must live or work in Austin, have a demonstrated knowledge of bicycles, bicycle infrastructure and people who ride bicycles, and be conversant in “applicable regulations and plans impacting bicycling.” Apply here to join the BAC. Oct. 3 is the last day to apply for membership.


Monday, August 23, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

ACC extends skate shop’s lease

A deal between Austin Community College and No Comply Skate Shop has been struck. ACC has agreed to pause its application for a demolition permit and has extended the skate shop’s lease, giving both parties time to work toward a long-term solution. “As a community college, we are committed to doing what is best for the community. We’re hopeful that this is an opportunity for a lasting partnership,” ACC spokesperson Neil Vickers said, in a statement to the press. “Our goal is to help No-Comply, and there are a lot of options we can look into. Extending the lease for No-Comply gives us all the time we need to do things right.” In a post on Instagram, No Comply celebrated the new plan, thanking supporters and ACC for its commitment to helping them find a new location, “even if it takes years.” No-Comply owner Elias Bingham thanked the college for “working with us on collaborative efforts moving forward,” adding, “I look forward to our continued work to see what we can accomplish together for our community.”


Monday, August 23, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Council to revisit meeting procedures

With emergency orders set to expire Sept. 1, the city has begun preparing for a return to “normal” meetings, but decisions about what normal looks like have yet to be made. A post from Mayor Steve Adler on the City Council Message Board notes that, with open meetings rules back in place, all speakers will appear in person once again (though Council members will still have the option of joining remotely). As of now, Adler said, the Sept. 2 meeting will have in-person public speakers who can sign up to speak in lobby kiosks by 9:45 a.m. for the morning agenda or 1:45 p.m. for the afternoon agenda on the day of the meeting. Right now, Adler said he intends to take up speakers “in batches” as has been the practice during remote meetings. However, he said Council should revisit its procedures during an upcoming work session “to see how we would like to proceed for the rest of the fall.”


Friday, August 20, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

ACC puts No-Comply demolition on pause

Plans to demolish No-Comply Skate Shop are on hold to allow Austin Community College time to work with the shop’s owners to find a “win-win solution,” according to a press release from the college. ACC will be asking for a postponement at the Historic Landmark Commission on Monday, Aug. 23. “We are working with the owners right now, and the momentum is very positive,” says Neil Vickers, an ACC executive vice president. “The owners have asked us to give them more time to find new, quality space. We’re confident that’s something we can give them. Together, we’re working to identify long-term solutions that are a win for everyone. By postponing the application process with the city, we all have more time to come to a shared, thoughtful resolution.” At the last meeting of the landmark commission, the proposed demolition of the shop was met with public outcry that appeared to resonate with commissioners. ACC purchased the building in 2009 with the intention of tearing it down to build a parking garage as part of its campus master plan. In a Thursday news release, the college stressed that the timeline for those plans is flexible, saying, “ACC remains focused on taking steps to provide more time and support needed to help the owners find a new storefront for No-Comply, including the possibility of relocating to another ACC property in the area.”


Friday, August 20, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Community court opening at new location

At long last, the Downtown Austin Community Court will be opening at its new temporary location at One Texas Center. The court will be closed this upcoming week, Aug. 23-27, and will begin operations at the new location on Monday, Aug. 30. It is expected that the court will operate at the new location for two years, giving the city time to identify and prepare a permanent home. (That home is scheduled to be identified this fall.) So far, the city has not been able to find a permanent location for the court; it has been operating out of a space at 719 E. Sixth St. and the Terrazas Branch of the Austin Public Library during the pandemic, but those options no longer exist. A plan to relocate the court to the east side was shot down by City Council at the end of last year.


Friday, August 20, 2021 by Tai Moses

Discuss Central Health’s 2022 budget

Central Health invites all community members to attend a public conversation about its 2022 budget. The proposed budget “includes significant investments in health care delivery, like expanded specialty care, health care for the homeless, behavioral health, substance use disorder treatment, and more.” These services for low-income, uninsured people are funded by Travis County tax dollars. The event will be held on Facebook Live on Thursday, Aug. 26, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. RSVP on Eventbrite.


Thursday, August 19, 2021 by Tai Moses

APD initiative combats drunk driving

With the Labor Day holiday around the corner, the Austin Police Department is preparing to conduct a nightly DWI Enforcement Initiative from Friday, Aug. 20, to Monday, Sept. 6. The purpose of the initiative is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities caused by drunk drivers. During holidays, there is a higher incidence of impaired drivers on the roads, increasing the potential for alcohol- and drug-related crashes. APD’s visible enforcement efforts are also intended to serve as a warning to intoxicated motorists to find a safer way home such as a ride service, a lift from a friend or public transportation.


Thursday, August 19, 2021 by Tai Moses

Survey takes temperature about downtown

The Downtown Austin Alliance has launched a new survey designed to find out what the community thinks about downtown Austin and what direction people want the area to go. The alliance plans to use the information collected in the survey to “welcome people back downtown and promote downtown small businesses and activities once the threat of Covid-19 is mitigated.” It takes about five minutes to complete the survey and at the end, participants are invited to enter a drawing to win a gift card valued from $5-$50. Take the survey.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021 by Tai Moses

Why not get vaccinated today?

With Austin and Travis County in stage 5 – the most severe stage – of the Covid-19 risk-based guidelines, health officials are urging unvaccinated people to get the vaccine without further delay. Austin Public Health, Travis County and their community partners are providing multiple opportunities this week for people to do just that. If you need the vaccine, visit the Travis County Covid-19 page and click on the button that says “Get Vaccinated.” The calendar displays dozens of vaccine events around the county and is frequently being updated with new events, dates and times. Below the calendar, the “Find a Covid-19 Vaccine Near You” button takes you to the vaccine locations map. No appointments are necessary. Please note that kids aged 12-17 must have a parent or guardian present and that the Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized for that age group.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021 by Tai Moses

City proposes East Braker extension

Residents who live or work near East Braker Lane may have received notice from the Austin Transportation Department about a proposal to extend East Braker from where it currently ends at Dawes Place about three-quarters of a mile to Samsung Boulevard. The new roadway would reduce congestion on East Parmer Lane and “connect to a future Travis County project extending East Braker Lane further east to Harris Branch Parkway, as well as planned Safe Routes to School improvements to Taebaek Drive.” An environmental study is currently being conducted and a public hearing on the project will be held later this year.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021 by Tai Moses

Squirrel Fest postponed

Pease Park Conservancy’s Squirrel Fest, originally scheduled for Sept. 10, has been postponed until April 9 due to concerns about Covid. Billed as “a day of movies, music and fun,” Squirrel Fest is a celebration of the reopening of Kingsbury Commons, and as organizers say in their announcement, celebrating “in-person with you in the spring will feel sweeter than ever, when we can gather together knowing that we can be safe and healthy celebrating side by side.” The conservancy is also conducting a naming contest for the Pease Park squirrel, with the winner expected to be announced in September. Submit your name ideas here through Aug. 31.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021 by Tai Moses

Drive safely in school zones

With kids headed back to school this week, the Texas Department of Transportation is launching its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign to remind motorists to be more mindful of children walking and biking to and from school. According to TxDOT, “The most common causes of crashes in school zones are failure to control speed, driver inattention, failure to yield the right of way at a stop sign and failure to yield the right of way at a private driveway.” All of that adds up to TxDOT’s reminder to “slow down, stay alert and follow all traffic laws” in order to keep kids safe, not to mention avoiding those nasty fines and tickets. And what comes with school children? School buses, of course, which make frequent stops and need to be watched carefully for children darting out into the street after they’ve disembarked. Keep an eye out for the flashing red lights and pull over until the bus has moved on. TxDOT says 11 people were seriously injured in school zone crashes last year, “along with 1,214 crashes involving school buses across the state.” So it pays to be alert.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021 by Tai Moses

Join the PAC

Love to walk and want to get more involved in local transportation policy? Apply to join the Pedestrian Advisory Council, which the city describes as “an independent advocacy group providing advice to the city of Austin on planning, policy, design, funding, education and enforcement efforts regarding the creation, maintenance and operation of pedestrian facilities.” The city’s announcement explains that, “Appointment to the PAC is based on an individual’s demonstrated knowledge of issues relating to pedestrianism and expressed interest in becoming a member. In selecting people for membership, the PAC seeks to achieve a balance among various types of pedestrian interests (urban transportation, disability, children, elderly, public health, recreation, etc.).” In normal times, the group meets monthly at City Hall, though during the pandemic the meetings have been conducted via WebEx. Sept. 19 is the last day to apply. Applicants will be invited to attend the PAC’s October meeting to introduce themselves to current members, who will vote to select the new members.


Monday, August 16, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Masking orders have expanded

Austin and Travis County have amended recently released masking orders to include public colleges. The rules are now extended so that they apply to anyone over the age of 2 on city or county property or public school grounds. The rules do not apply to UT Austin. Similar masking orders have been issued for Central Texas schools, and KUT has a comprehensive list. Though all of the orders stand in defiance of an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott, for now the orders have been upheld by the court. Full county and city orders, which went into effect immediately, are available to read online.


Monday, August 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

AISD conducts testing in Covid hot spots

Just in time for the first day of school, Austin ISD is offering Covid tests to families and school district employees who live and work in the ZIP codes that have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Covid-19 rapid tests are available for free at any of the four drive-thru events being held today, Aug. 16, from 7-11 a.m. at the following locations:

  • Blazier ES; Southeast (8601 Vertex Blvd., Austin, 78744)
  • Cunningham ES; Southwest (2200 Berkeley Ave., Austin, 78745)
  • Allison ES; Southeast/Central (515 Vargas Road, Austin, 78741)
  • Wooldridge ES; North Central (1412 Norseman Terrace, Austin, 78758)

Monday, August 16, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

No toxins found in Bull Creek

Water samples taken from Bull Creek on Aug. 6 have tested negative for cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, but city officials are testing again, given the fluctuations in the flow of water since a possible exposure on Aug. 1. A press release from the city explains that those samples, which were taken out of “an abundance of caution,” should have results available by the end of this week. Although cyanobacteria was first detected in Lady Bird Lake in 2019, the danger is not as great in creeks that are flowing and have cooler water temperatures. The city continues to monitor Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin, and reports decreasing levels of toxins at Red Bud Isle since June. Find more information about the testing and algae on the city’s website.


Monday, August 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

Patch your flat

What’s worse than getting a flat tire while you’re on a bike ride? Having no idea how to fix the flat and pathetically wheeling your disabled bicycle all the way home. (Not that that’s ever happened to us.) Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way: The Austin educational nonprofit Yellow Bike Project is offering an in-person class to teach participants “how to change a flat tire efficiently and effectively, including how to patch an inner tube.” The class is free, though donations of up to $10 are appreciated. Aug. 30, 6-8 p.m. Register on Eventbrite.


Friday, August 13, 2021 by Tai Moses

Get vaccinated at home

Stuck at home for health reasons? If you live in an eligible community in Austin or Travis County, a phone call will bring Austin Public Health’s mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit right to your door. Call 311 or (512) 974-2000 to schedule an appointment with the Mobile Vaccine Program for yourself, your caregivers and your household.


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