City moves ahead with Shoal Creek improvements
It’s taken about six months, but the city is finally ready to proceed with plans to create a two-way protected bikeway on the lower section of Shoal Creek Boulevard between 38th Street and Foster Lane. Known as Alternative E, this plan was the most popular with Austinites who participated in the community engagement process and offered their feedback. Among Alternative E’s other enhancements are improved intersections, new pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, and a new pedestrian and bike underpass. The upper section of Shoal Creek Boulevard hasn’t been forgotten: In a plan known as Alternative Y, a one-way protected bikeway will be built on both sides of the boulevard between Foster Lane to U.S. Highway 183. Construction will start later this summer. More details, and the public input and survey results, can be found here.
One-way streets set to become two-way streets
The Austin Transportation Department is making some directional changes downtown. In alignment with the state’s Capitol Complex Master Plan, the department will be converting two downtown blocks – 17th and 18th streets between San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street – from one-way streets to two-way streets. The conversion will take place Wednesday, June 26, and is expected to take no longer than a day, if the weather cooperates. The workers will keep at least one lane open on each street at any given time, in order to keep traffic moving along.
Advocates rally for voting rights
A consortium of social justice groups are holding a rally in Austin to mark the sixth anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, the SCOTUS decision that gutted voter protections in the Voting Rights Act and led to the rise of discriminatory voter ID laws across the country. Today, voting rights activists and their allies will demand that Congress pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4) and restore voting rights protections. Among those attending the rally are Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP; Fidel Acevedo, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4227; Texas Rep. John H. Bucy III; Lewis Conway from Vote With Conviction; Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s tax assessor-collector; Craig Moore of Black Austin Democrats; and Zenén Jaimes Pérez, communications director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. Tuesday, June 25, 6 p.m. at Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St.
Another day, another round
On Thursday, Austin City Council did away with a number of ordinances that had the effect of criminalizing homelessness in the city. Though the crowd at the Council meeting was largely in support of that move, people remained divided on social media yesterday, with Gov. Greg Abbott leading the charge against the new status quo and several Council members reaffirming their commitment to the change.
.@GregAbbott_TX You are the Governor of Texas. Our state ranks near bottom on mental health access/spending, investments in public safety nets, and healthcare. You had 6 months to address the very real suffering of millions of Texans just trying to make ends meet. You did not. pic.twitter.com/yMtnjUNyRI
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) June 24, 2019
I love when our Governor tweets opposition to a policy I supported. Just validates that I was on the right side. ✊🏽
— DeliaGarzaD2 (@DGarzaforD2) June 24, 2019
Austin’s plan to address homelessness focuses on public safety and public health but innovates to succeed where other cities are failing. Could be a national model and the State could be a constructive, proud partner. https://t.co/abhXHT4rpp https://t.co/7yq0WcnSif
— Mayor Adler (@MayorAdler) June 24, 2019
Smart Trips Austin launches 2019 program
Smart Trips Austin 2019, a partnership between the city and Capital Metro, has a simple-sounding goal: to help Austinites get around town without using their personal vehicles. This year’s program focuses on several East Austin neighborhoods and includes a digital toolkit to help people find the transportation solution that best fits their lifestyle, whether it’s walking, cycling, carpooling, taking the bus, or some other way to avoid sitting in traffic. Free events like organized strolls to music festivals make car-free mobility a fun way to stay healthy, while discounts and bus passes sweeten the deal considerably. Learn more and order your customized digital toolkit at smarttripsaustin.org.
Yarrabee Bend opens at Onion Creek park
Zilker Park too crowded this summer? Take your picnic blanket to the new Yarrabee Bend section of Onion Creek Metropolitan Park. This new section, which officially opened on Saturday, features 190 acres of parkland converted to its natural state along with 100 acres designated for recreation. There are 30 pavilions – one of them for extra-large gatherings – outfitted with picnic tables and grills, as well as a new restroom facility. Walking enthusiasts will enjoy the quarter-mile, half-mile and 1-mile granite loop paths. Yarrabee Bend will eventually join another 400 acres of Onion Creek park being developed to the south.
AAC asks for public’s help in finding stolen shelter pups
Austin Animal Center staff were horrified to find four dogs missing when they did their nightly inventory at the shelter. The four are all pit bull-type dogs that are friendly and socialized. The center has determined that Lilly and Dmitri went missing June 13 while Jeff and Rex vanished on June 17. Staff at first thought the dogs had been placed in foster care or transferred to another rescue group. Upon determining the four had been stolen, AAC filed a police report with the Austin Police Department. AAC asks for the public’s help in finding the missing pups and returning them to the shelter where they can be safely cared for until their forever homes are found. Lilly is a 1-year-old female blue pit mix who weighs 58 pounds; Dmitri is a 2-year-old male tan Staffordshire mix who weighs 44 pounds; Jeff is a 2-year-old male white pit mix who weighs 69 pounds; and Rex is a 2-year-old, male, black Staffordshire mix who weighs 62 pounds. If you see a dog fitting any of these descriptions, please call 311 right away and report their location.
Clockwise from top left: Lilly, Dmitri, Jeff and Rex. Photo courtesy Austin Animal Center.
Summer pilot doubles bus service to Zilker Park
A summertime partnership between the city, Capital Metro and Austin Parks Foundation means Austinites can enjoy weekends at Zilker Park without having to search for a parking space or sit in traffic. Doubling bus service on MetroBus Route 30, which serves Zilker Park, ensures that a bus will come every 20 minutes on weekends, while the program is in effect. Bus riders will also get a $2 discount to Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Botanical Garden, thanks to a contribution from Austin Parks Foundation, which was facilitated by District 5 City Council Member Ann Kitchen. “Zilker Park is one of Austin’s jewels, and I’m thrilled that Cap Metro and Austin Parks Foundation are making it easier for everyone to access Barton Springs and the Botanical Garden,” said Kitchen, in a press release announcing the pilot. “These kinds of partnerships are what will help Project Connect make real, transformational change for everyone throughout Central Texas.” The promotion runs from Saturday, June 22, to Sunday, Aug. 18, at the two pairs of bus stops in front of Barton Springs and Zilker Botanical Garden.
Local lawyer presents plan for Barton Springs bypass gate
Ever since a woman drowned while tubing in Barton Creek on Memorial Day 2016, Joe Riddell, an environmental attorney and avid inner tuber, has been working on a new design for the bypass tunnel grate where she was trapped. Armed with a cardboard diorama and an action figure, Riddell presented his plan to redesign the grate to make it easier for a swimmer or inner tuber to grab and climb to safety. The current grate was replaced in 2013 from the original 1975 design that was fondly termed the “trash rack.” Riddell, who sat on the city’s Environmental Board when the original grate was installed in the 1970s, acknowledged that there were issues with the first design, too, but one important difference was the angle of the bars, which were at a significantly lower pitch than those of the new grate. Neither design, however, is a solution. “I think some thinking out of the box is important here,” Riddell said. “It’s a tricky situation.” To help generate ideas, he suggested offering the project to some university engineering students as a term project. Chair Linda Guerrero, who served on the Barton Springs Master Plan task force, said that when the new grate was designed, “it was extremely controversial.” The Environmental Commission agreed that the safety of the Barton Springs bypass culvert merited some investigation and unanimously passed a motion to recommend that City Council investigate its safety concerns.
New Planning Commissioners named
At the end of Wednesday’s special called meeting, Council approved appointments to several commissions, including the Planning Commission. Mayor Steve Adler said, “Volunteer service to this commission is critical and we’re fortunate to have a group of individuals who are willing to volunteer their time. The city charter recognizes that Planning Commission members who are directly or indirectly connected to real estate or land development should only comprise one third of the full commission. And we believe that with this slate of appointees we have a commission that fulfills the charter’s language and intent.” Community activist Fred Lewis had questioned whether the previous commission was in compliance with that charter provision and Attorney General Ken Paxton sued eight commissioners alleging a charter violation. Adler said that in light of that provision, as well as Council’s desire for a broad range of experience on the commission, applicants were required to complete a form describing their background and experience. He said that information is available to the public. The new members of the commission include Claire Hempel, appointed by Council Member Paige Ellis, and Carmen Llanes-Pulido, appointed by Council Member Kathie Tovo. The new commissioners will join the group July 1. The reappointments include Fayez Kazi (Garza), Patricia Seeger (Alter), Greg Anderson (Flannigan), Conor Kenny (Casar), Patrick Howard (Harper-Madison), and three from Adler: Awais Azhar, Yvette Flores and James Shieh. James Schissler, an engineer, and Karen McGraw, an architect, will no longer be on the commission. However, Ellis appointed Schissler to the Downtown Commission.
Austin Water gets an oversight committee
City Council voted Wednesday to create an oversight committee to review issues related to the Austin Water Utility. According to the ordinance, such issues range from the utility’s mission and strategic plans to its major purchases and financial status. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan likely had the state’s tax cap bill in mind when he spoke against the ordinance on the grounds that the estimated nearly $100,000 annual cost should be spent elsewhere. However, Mayor Steve Adler said this is a similar situation to Austin Energy, which has an oversight committee that meets nearly every month. With the water utility being a billion-dollar company, Adler said it’s worth it to have that separate oversight. Though he noted, “I don’t know how often it needs to meet.” The ordinance passed 9-1 with Flannigan opposed and Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison off the dais.
Impact Hub Austin mixer introduces new cohort
Impact Hub Austin has selected a dozen ventures to join the 2019 Austin Impact Accelerator and tackle issues of affordability and workforce development in the city. The 12 new members of the team are Austin Justice Coalition, Digital Docent, Diva-licious Brands LLC, Equidad ATX, Haven Connect, Integral Care, Magnazine, My Brother’s Keeper Scholars, Prowess Project, Red Salmon Arts, Survive2Thrive Foundation and The Other Ones Foundation. Said Ashley Phillips, managing director of Impact Hub Austin in a press release, “The Austin Impact Accelerator has always supported solutions that can have the biggest impact regardless of the sector. The Cohort Mixer on July 1 will introduce the community to 12 initiatives working to diversely address the fundamental shifts happening in our community. Not everyone is thriving in Austin and the Accelerator participants are ensuring that that does not remain the case.” The 12 will be introduced at community mixer on Monday, July 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Impact Hub Lamar, 5540 N. Lamar Blvd. Get your tickets here.
REAL ID coming in October 2020
Starting in October 2020, travelers 18 years and older who use their driver’s licenses as ID when flying will need to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license in order to board a plane. A valid passport is also an acceptable form of identification. In Texas, REAL ID-compliant identification cards have a gold star in the upper right corner. Visit the TSA website for more information about the REAL ID program.
Master planning process for John Treviño Park continues
The Parks and Recreation Department invites the community to attend the second open house for the planning of John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park at Morrison Ranch. At this meeting, the master planning team will share comments that have been gathered so far as well as the planning values that will guide the planning process. Attendees will have the opportunity to offer more comments and feedback on the values. Those who cannot attend or want to share their input ahead of the meeting are invited to take the online community survey, which closes June 28. The meeting is Thursday, July 11, from 7-8:30 p.m., at the Turner-Roberts Recreation Center, 7201 Colony Loop Drive.
Staff reveals Shoal Creek bike facilities plan
Austin Transportation has decided on an option for the two segments of the Shoal Creek Boulevard bicycle facilities project between 38th Street and U.S. Highway 183. The lower segment from 38th Street to Foster Lane will feature a two-way protected bikeway and removed parking on the west side of the boulevard, and the upper will contain a one-way protected bike lane on both sides of the street. The lower segment option also includes new protected intersection design and an underpass at RM 2222. The estimated $3 million-$4 million project will feature a total of 12 new pedestrian crossings in the lower segment. Funding for the project will come primarily from the bikeways portion of the 2016 Mobility Bond. In a survey, 974 respondents preferred the two-way bike lane option while the second most popular option, with 653 votes, was to build nothing at all. A joint statement by Council members Alison Alter and Leslie Pool stated that although 70 percent of survey participants who live along the street did not want the project to be approved, it’s important to balance those concerns with the wishes of the entire community. Construction is expected to begin later this summer.
Find a new career at AISD job fair
Looking for a new job? Austin ISD is hosting a job fair in the hopes of filling positions in the district’s transportation, food service and maintenance departments. Bus driver, vehicle mechanic, pest control technician and food production specialist are just a few of the openings available. AISD offers competitive salaries and benefits. Applicants who apply online will be eligible for an on-site interview. Tuesday, June 18, 8:30 a.m.-noon, AISD Central Warehouse/Food Service building, 3701 Woodbury Road.
Pop-up brings city services to residents
You don’t have to go to City Hall anymore; let City Hall come to you with Pop-Up ATX: City Services on the Go. The new initiative is designed to reach out to Austinites and inform them about the city programs and services that can make their lives better and healthier. The next pop-up event is Saturday, June 29, and will feature 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. 10 a.m. to noon, YMCA East Communities, 5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd. Find more details on the Pop-Up ATX events page.
City opens survey for Longhorn Dam improvements
The city’s Longhorn Dam project team has posted materials from its recent open house online in the hopes that community members will review them and take the online survey, which is open until July 10. During the meeting, Austin Transportation and Public Works offered five different alternatives for a new walk-and-bike bridge over Lady Bird Lake as well as interim improvements to the existing bridge. A final recommendation for a bridge design is due in the fall. To get up to speed on the Longhorn Dam project, past, present and future, visit austintexas.gov/longhornbridge.
Howl at the moon, but follow the rules
Barton Springs Pool’s legendary “Howl at the Moon” event began as a modest community affair where a few hundred people would splash around while joyfully communing with nature. But as Austin’s population has expanded, so has attendance at the event, also called Full Moon Swim. To keep the lunar-loving festivities family friendly, Parks and Recreation implemented some rules a couple of years ago, and those rules continue today. For the next event – which is today, Monday – attendance is limited to 750 people after 8:30 p.m. and all must pay the standard entry fee of $5. Law enforcement personnel may be on hand to deal with any rowdy howlers. Basically, the city wants people to know that, as the press release put it, “The Austin Parks and Recreation Department understands the importance of preserving the integrity of this community tradition and is working to balance the nostalgia of the past with the current public safety concerns associated with the event’s evolution.” Translation: Enjoy yourself, but behave.
Airport showcases work by local artists
Increasingly, airports are becoming places where travelers – and locals – have the opportunity to view works of fine art, from paintings to sculpture to kinetic installations. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has been keeping pace with this trend, expanding its gallery space to showcase local artists in its Changing Exhibits program. Right now, there are three exhibits from local visual artists on display until the end of June: Brian Joseph, NJ Weaver and Rubina Anjum. When these exhibits come down, they will be replaced by new art from Central Texas artists. If you’re coming or going through the airport, make some time to see the art across from gates 10 and 12.