Whispers

Monday, April 19, 2021 by Tai Moses

Heads up for trail detour

Austin Transportation crews are working on the shared-use paths along South Pleasant Valley Road over the Longhorn Dam bridge. While the east side of the bridge is closed for construction, a detour will reroute people on the east side of South Pleasant Valley Road between Krieg Field and Canterbury Street to accessible crossings at Cesar Chavez Street or Lakeshore Boulevard. Trail users will see signage posted at the closure points.


Friday, April 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

Town hall focuses on use-of-force policies

The Community Police Review Commission is inviting all community members to a public town hall to discuss use-of-force policies, public safety and the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, a national movement to reduce police brutality. Austin’s Office of Police Oversight recently launched the Reimagining Community Safety Policies, an effort to rewrite of APD policies grounded in 8 Can’t Wait recommendations and feedback from the community. The town hall will feature representatives from the Office of Police Oversight and Campaign Zero (the founders of 8 Can’t Wait). Wednesday, April 21, 6-8 p.m. RSVP here.


Friday, April 16, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

Who is moving to Austin?

More than one-third of new Austin residents in 2020 moved to the city from out of state, according to data from a national storage unit search company. The mobility report from Storage Cafe looked at roughly 1.7 million rental applications from across the nation to analyze relocation patterns, with 40 percent of new arrivals in Austin coming from other states. New York City was the most popular city of origin, with Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; Los Angeles and San Francisco rounding out the top of the list. East Riverside and Northwest Austin were the two most popular regions for new Austin renters, a group demographically made up mostly of millennials, who constituted 54 percent of the applicants.


Friday, April 16, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

PPE available for child care providers

Child care providers in the Austin area can receive free cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment to prevent Covid-19 transmission at two curbside pickup days at First Workers Day Labor Center on North I-35. The distribution was organized by Workforce Solutions Capital Area and Bank of America, which has provided face masks for the effort. Child care providers who contract with Workforce Solutions to serve families receiving child care subsidies can receive bath tissues, hand soap and sanitizer, gloves, disinfectant wipes and more. Supplies are available from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 23 and 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 24, with reservations available online, which must be made by April 16.


Friday, April 16, 2021 by Tai Moses

Say no to distracted driving

Did you know that it’s illegal to text while driving in Texas? Of course you do! That’s why you do it so furtively, thinking you’re being all sneaky. With cell phone use responsible for so many crashes – one in five, according to the latest figures – the Texas Department of Transportation has dubbed April Distracted Driving Prevention Month in the hopes of raising awareness about this deadly menace. The campaign has a simple message: Put your phone down and give your full attention to the road in front of you. Any activity that distracts you while you’re behind the wheel is considered dangerous: That includes using voice-to-text programs, rifling through your briefcase looking for that Snickers bar, checking your makeup in the visor mirror, and making kissy faces at the labradoodle in the car behind you. To drive home the point (see what I did there?), TxDOT has launched a web-based game called Dart Those Distractions. All you do is scan the code on the web page and then play the game on your smartphone – at home!


Thursday, April 15, 2021 by Tai Moses

They’re back! (PARD summer camps)

Registration for Austin Parks and Recreation 2021 summer camps starts on April 19. This year, PARD offers two main options: 1) a free virtual program called Stay Creative which starts June 7; and 2) in-person summer camps at participating rec centers, nature sites and cultural centers, which start June 21. PARD has adopted modified guidelines for Covid-19 health and safety and requires all participants and staff to wear a face mask and complete a daily wellness screening. Attendance will be limited to one group or “pod” of no more than 10 people in each room: eight young people and one or two staff members. Find more details and register here.


Thursday, April 15, 2021 by Tai Moses

Drop off unwanted Rx

Travis County constables are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration to help community members safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Saturday, April 24. Residents may bring their expired, unused or unwanted medications to Constable Precinct Two, 10409 Burnet Road, Ste. 150, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The drop-off is a drive-thru and no questions will be asked. As Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said, “Improperly disposed pharmaceuticals cause great harm to people, animals and our environment. This is a perfect opportunity to drop off unwanted medications appropriately and make a lasting difference.” Find year-round drug take-back information here.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021 by Jo Clifton

Almanza appointed to federal environmental panel

Susana Almanza, executive director of PODER, or People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources, has been named to the new federal Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a press release announcing the appointments, “We know that we cannot achieve health justice, economic justice, racial justice, or educational justice without environmental justice. That is why President Biden and I are committed to addressing environmental injustice. This historic White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council will ensure that our administration’s work is informed by the insights, expertise and lived experience of environmental justice leaders from across the nation.” Almanza, who has worked for environmental justice and against racism in East Austin throughout her lifetime, is also president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021 by Tai Moses

County fire marshal lifts burn ban

With Central Texas experiencing cooler temps, elevated humidity and chances of rain on the horizon, Travis County Fire Marshal Tony Callaway has lifted the burn ban for the unincorporated areas of Travis County. The improved conditions signal a decrease in wildfire danger, though Callaway says, “We’ll continue to monitor the weather conditions.” Even with the burn ban rescinded, the fire marshal “urges extreme caution when burning outdoors. It is recommended residents have water nearby in case of a fire.”


Wednesday, April 14, 2021 by Tai Moses

Commissioners approve Lights Out for the birds

The Travis County Commissioners Court has approved a resolution to encourage all county residents and businesses “to turn off non-essential lights at night to help save migrating birds.” Lights Out Texas, a statewide initiative, asks for all non-essential lights to be turned off from 11 p.m.-6 a.m. during the peak spring bird migration period, April 19-May 7. Migrating birds “use the moon, stars and sun to navigate, and light pollution can throw them off course and cause disorientation and collisions with buildings,” according to Travis Audubon. Each year, millions of songbirds are killed when they become disoriented by artificial light and collide with buildings. Protecting birds is as simple as flicking a switch and turning the lights off. An added benefit is the energy saved by conserving electricity.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021 by Tai Moses

Get happy with Tappy

Tappy Guide, one of the winners of the City:One Challenge, is seeking volunteers to help launch a pilot of the app. Tappy, a virtual assistant for people with disabilities and seniors, helps people with both indoor and outdoor navigation. Volunteers are needed to serve as navigation guides. As the announcement explains, “During the pilot, a caller will open the mobile app and place a video call which will be answered by a live guide. The guide will have access to the caller’s GPS location and live video feed from the caller’s camera. Volunteers will be able to serve as guides from the convenience of their own home and schedule shifts based on their availability. Volunteers will also be provided software and sensitivity training developed by mobility specialists from the Texas School of the Blind.” For more information or to volunteer for the pilot, contact Hannah Barron at Hannah.barron@austintexas.gov.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021 by Tai Moses

Teach your teens financial literacy

As the father of three teens, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar knows that “it’s never too early for young people to learn good financial habits.” That’s why Hegar is partnering with members of the Texas Legislature “to help give young Texans the knowledge and skills they need to make better-informed personal financial decisions in saving, spending, borrowing and planning.” Hegar points out that the past year has “highlighted the need to promote financial literacy at an early age. As the school year winds down, we’re reminded that the goal of education is to prepare students to meet life’s challenges. It’s never been more important to equip them with the tools they will need to sustain lifelong financial health. That goal is more achievable if we take small steps early on to promote basic financial literacy.” The effort coincides with Financial Literacy Month, which features a number of initiatives “to help consumers learn more about managing their finances to benefit their lives.”


Monday, April 12, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Healthy Streets pilot winds down

After 10 months, the Healthy Streets Initiative is winding down. According to a memo from Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar, “With a return to Stage 3 and evidence that greater numbers of people are now returning to their daily pre-pandemic travel patterns, ATD will resume the slow wind-down of the original program. This is necessary to balance staff capacity needed to effectively maintain Healthy Streets safety elements and devices that separate these street areas with the ongoing work to build permanent critical infrastructure.” Temporary routes on Riverside Drive, Garden Villa Lane and the northern section of Comal Street are in the process of being removed. The southern section of Comal Street, Avenue G, Bouldin Avenue and South Third will remain in place for the time being as the program is budgeted through September. However, as Spillar notes, a permanent version of the program is on the way. Staffers are exploring locations that would best support reduced traffic on a permanent basis as well as “actively working to transition the current Healthy Street on Pleasant Valley Road over the Longhorn Dam to a more permanent infrastructure configuration.”


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.


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