Whispers

Friday, September 3, 2021 by Tai Moses

What’s closed (besides the ‘Monitor’) for Labor Day?

City administrative facilities will be closed Monday in observance of the Labor Day holiday. The closures include museums, community recreation centers, senior centers and libraries. However, don’t despair: All five of the city’s year-round pools will be open – Bartholomew, Barton Springs Pool, Big Stacy, Deep Eddy, and Springwoods – as well as Garrison, Mabel Davis and Walnut Creek and any splash pads that are operational. City golf courses will be open as well as Zilker Botanical Garden and the Austin Nature & Science Center, though the latter will not be taking reservations. The Monitor won’t be publishing Monday, but we’ll be back on Tuesday, bright and early!


Friday, September 3, 2021 by Tai Moses

Help beautify Lady Bird Lake

Looking for a way to volunteer, but want to be outdoors and stay Covid-safe? The Watershed Protection Department and Keep Austin Beautiful are partnering on large-scale cleanups at Lady Bird Lake every other month. There are a couple dozen locations to choose from around the lake – some involve picking up litter at the shoreline while other opportunities have people skimming debris from the lake using kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddle boards. How fun is that! Group sizes are limited in order to ensure social distancing guidelines can be followed, and face masks are required. The next cleanup is Saturday, Sept. 11., 9-11 a.m. Find registration information here.


Thursday, September 2, 2021 by Tai Moses

Staff shortage affects bus service

A “persistent staff shortage” is causing delays in operations and “affecting the quality” of Capital Metro bus service, according to a Wednesday announcement from the transit agency. An adjustment in schedules that starts Sunday, Sept. 19, will affect how frequently each route operates. If you’re a bus rider, visit Capital Metro’s website to find out if your route is involved. Capital Metro conveys apologies for its “recent inconsistency” and hopes the changes “will improve your riding experience.” On that theme, the agency is currently recruiting bus drivers. Find out more here.


Thursday, September 2, 2021 by Tai Moses

Draw a tornado, win a contest

The city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is soliciting children’s artwork for its 2022 Emergency Preparedness Calendar. While it may seem a little creepy to ask kids to draw pictures of natural disasters, they probably really like doing it. Don’t all kids like to draw pictures of tornadoes and floods? (It’s the train derailments we’re worried about.) Anyway, the whole point is to help people be more prepared for emergencies, and that’s a good thing. The contest is open to first- through fifth-graders who attend school or live within the Austin city limits, and the deadline is Oct. 1. Read more about artwork guidelines and submitting art here. (BTW, no glitter is allowed – that’s going to break some little hearts.)


Wednesday, September 1, 2021 by Tai Moses

Getting vaccinated has never been easier

Labor Day is around the corner, and that means Travis County Covid-19 vaccine clinics will be closed for the holiday: Saturday, Sept. 4, through Monday, Sept. 6. But you still have plenty of time to pop in and get vaccinated before the holiday weekend. There will be multiple vaccine distribution events this week hosted by the county, Austin Public Health and their community partners. Check out the handy online calendar to see a complete listing of Covid vaccine clinics throughout the county. The calendar gives each event’s location, time, date and which vaccine is on offer. No appointments are required, and the whole thing takes less time than it does to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks – but it will potentially save your life.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021 by Tai Moses

ICRC to meet in person

Starting with its next meeting – Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. – the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will resume meeting in person as the members shift their focus to drawing preliminary maps using state census data. The reason for the shift to in-person meetings? Gov. Abbott’s executive order allowing the Texas Open Meetings Act exemption for virtual meetings expires on Sept. 1. ICRC Vice Chair Luis Gonzalez said, “The ICRC has made quick progress to abide by the new order to continue our critical work. We have reserved in-person venue space for all future general meetings starting on Sept. 1. Quorum requires that commissioners be physically present at these meetings, including both the chair and the vice chair, while a few will still have the option to connect virtually.”


Tuesday, August 31, 2021 by Tai Moses

DSD previews new code library

A new online resource from the Development Services Department aims to provide assistance and interpretations to those who find parts of the Land Development Code confusing – in other words, most of us. The new Code Interpretation Library will “offer access to a range of historic, current and future code interpretations in a centralized, easily accessible location. Initially, it will focus primarily on portions of the code that are managed by DSD and have the broadest impact among customers and stakeholders. Over time, more interpretations will be added, and the community will have an opportunity to request additions.” The DSD is hosting a virtual meeting for customers and stakeholders to preview and provide feedback on the code library. Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2 p.m. via Zoom. Register here.


Tuesday, August 31, 2021 by Tai Moses

Longhorn Dam bridge gets new path

The Austin Transportation Department is celebrating the completion of a new 12-foot-wide shared-use path on the west side of South Pleasant Valley Road over the Longhorn Dam bridge. The project, which was finished last week, was funded by 2016 mobility bond dollars earmarked for a package of safety and mobility enhancements to South Pleasant Valley Road from Cesar Chavez Street to Elmont Drive. And there’s more to come: According to Transportation, “Future work will include the installation of new travel lane configurations, signal upgrades to better serve the Krieg Softball Complex and flex posts separating the north and southbound travel lanes to reduce motor vehicle crashes. Once complete, these changes will enhance safety for everyone on South Pleasant Valley Road, including the most vulnerable road users.”


Monday, August 30, 2021 by Tai Moses

Special event permits require Covid mitigation efforts

Starting today, the Austin Center for Events will require an “enhanced version” of the Health and Safety Form from organizers applying for special event permits. The form “presents organizers with several Covid-19 mitigation efforts to consider and allows for applicants to provide information on how they intend to implement them.” The enhanced safety measures include “mask zones” in outdoor event areas where social distancing is not possible; strategies for maintaining 6 feet of social distancing; and screening at entrances to require attendees to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours. Beth Culver, assistant director of the Development Services Department, explained, “It goes without saying that we all recognize what incredibly challenging times we are in these days. Like many in our community, we are eager to plan and prepare for events. The challenge is that we are in an ever-evolving situation. The Austin Center for Events and Austin Public Health teams are committed to working with event organizers to provide as much information as available to help inform event planning efforts to keep our community safe.”


Friday, August 27, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Austin gets ready for boosters

City Council unanimously approved a new strategy Thursday focused on equitable and efficient distribution of Covid-19 booster shots. The resolution, which comes from Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, asks the city manager to develop a comprehensive booster shot strategy by Sept. 21, for presentation at the Sept. 28 Council work session. “As recommended booster shots quickly approach, this policy ensures we have a targeted strategy in place that takes into account all of the lessons learned from the initial vaccine rollout,” Fuentes said. “This needs to go beyond fixing the technical issues. We need a plan that is readily available to Austinites, laying out how we’re going to get booster shots in arms while still addressing low vaccination rates, especially in our communities of color.” Currently, those with compromised immune systems are eligible for Moderna and Pfizer booster shots, and President Joe Biden has announced a plan to roll out boosters for the general public beginning the week of Sept. 20.


Friday, August 27, 2021 by Tai Moses

West Nile detected in Southeast Austin

Austin Public Health has identified the presence of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in the 78744 ZIP code in Southeast Austin. No human infections have been found, but “the positive mosquito pools indicate the virus is in our community,” according to the news release. Marcel Elizondo, the health department’s interim assistant director of environmental vector control, said, “We use routine monitoring to assist us in alerting the public about the potential spread of the virus through mosquito bites. By eliminating breeding opportunities and protecting ourselves from mosquito bites, we keep ourselves, our families, and communities safe.” Find information on how to prevent West Nile and eliminate mosquito breeding sites here.


Friday, August 27, 2021 by Tai Moses

Mexic-Arte wants your photos

The Mexic-Arte Museum is asking community members to contribute photographs to its upcoming Day of the Dead/Dia de Los Muertos ofrenda, or home altar. “By contributing a photo of a loved one or someone you admire who has passed away, you will help transform our gallery into a communal space where we can commemorate the lives of our family and friends,” says the museum’s announcement. Participants will be allotted a 12-by-12-inch space on the gallery wall to display a framed photo and a small information plaque that will be provided by the museum. The deadline to drop off photos is Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. Find more details and register to drop off photos here.


Thursday, August 26, 2021 by Tai Moses

Libraries display I-35 designs

If you read the Austin Monitor, you no doubt have more than a passing familiarity with the behemoth known as the I-35 Capital Express project, the Texas Department of Transportation’s $4.9 billion reconstruction of Interstate 35 through the heart of Austin and Central Texas. As TxDOT ponders a range of alternatives for the design of the massive project, it has also been gathering tons of community input. Residents can submit feedback via the virtual open house until Sept. 8. Now you can conveniently review the designs in person at Austin Central Library, 710 W. Cesar Chavez St., and the library’s Carver branch at 1161 Angelina St. The city’s Transportation Department is a “participating agency” in the project – read more about that here.


Thursday, August 26, 2021 by Tai Moses

Take a mobility survey

Speaking of giving feedback – aren’t we always? – you have until Sept. 26 to weigh in about the city’s efforts to expand Austin’s sidewalks, urban trails and bikeways. The ATX Walk, Bike, Roll survey is designed to “collect travel trends and attitudes about walking, biking and rolling to help staff identify how the city can better serve Austin’s needs.” Since everyone either walks, bikes or rolls throughout the city, surely everyone must have an opinion tucked in there somewhere. Take the survey.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021 by Tai Moses

AISD launches vaccine incentive programs

AISD hopes that two new programs will give vaccine-hesitant employees just the push they need to go ahead and get the lifesaving Covid vaccine. Both programs share the goal of getting all staff fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The first program offers eligible employees a one-time incentive of $250 if they are fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. Employees who were already vaccinated earlier this year are eligible for the incentive. The second program is a Covid-19 sick leave co-op, which “has been created to assist with unexpected absences for eligible employees who have to isolate due to Covid-19. Eligible employees who contribute eight hours of their own leave to the co-op will be eligible to use up to five ‘Covid leave’ days of full payment if needed.” The district emphasizes that participation in the vaccine incentive programs is voluntary and that exemptions are available for medical or religious reasons.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

I-35 comment period extended

The Texas Department of Transportation has agreed to take public comments a bit longer on its plan to expand I-35 through downtown Austin. For those not in the loop, current plans could demolish dozens of buildings near Cherrywood, and TxDOT remains doggedly determined to widen the highway as it runs through the city, despite plans from the public that would do the opposite in an attempt to calm the impact of a major highway running through the center of town. If you like either of those plans, hate both plans or simply need someone to talk to about I-35, the public comment period has been extended through Sept. 24, so head over to the virtual open house now.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021 by Tai Moses

Town hall examines wildfire preparedness

A panel of experts will gather this evening for a virtual community town hall on wildfire preparedness, moderated by Travis County Fire Marshal Tony Callaway and hosted by Travis County commissioners Brigid Shea and Ann Howard and City Council members Alison Alter and Mackenzie Kelly. The panelists – Justice Jones, Austin Fire Department wildfire mitigation officer; Dr. Rebekah L. Fox, Texas State University Department of Communication Studies; Melinda Mallia, Travis County Natural Resources program manager; and Will Boettner, Travis County Fire Education outreach coordinator – will discuss what resources are available to the public, how to protect your home and how to make your neighborhood a Firewise Community. Participants will also learn how to get a free Home Ignition Zone Assessment. Wednesday, Aug. 25, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Register here.


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.


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