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Wednesday, August 4, 2021 by Tai Moses
ICRC meetings go virtual
In their effort to collect community feedback about the redistricting of the 10 Austin City Council boundaries, members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission have to hold public forums in every City Council district. But the dramatic spike in Covid-19 cases has the commissioners swapping some of their in-person meetings with virtual meetings. Commissioner Dr. Sterling Lands explained, “One of the biggest challenges this commission has faced in getting the word out to the public that these forums are happening has been Covid. People are afraid to congregate, so we are hosting some public forums online via Zoom.” Find the revised schedule for the remaining forums here.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 by Tai Moses
Learn to build greener
Austin Energy is hosting a series of webinars aimed at teaching participants “how to build, remodel or buy green homes that improve energy and water efficiency, increase comfort and reduce maintenance.” The Green by Design series is hosted by Austin Energy Green Building team members who are well versed in sustainable building practices. All course materials will be provided. Register here for one or all of the Tuesday evening sessions.
- Aug. 10: Green Planning and Design, 7-9 p.m.
- Aug. 17: Green Materials and Landscaping, 7-9 p.m.
- Aug. 24: Green Home Systems, 7-9 p.m.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 by Tai Moses
Close encounters with caves
Past entries in the Wild Neighbors Speaker Series have enlightened their online audience about bats, armadillos, snakes and crazy ants. The latest edition in the popular series plumbs the mysteries of another quintessentially Texan marvel – caves. Balcones Canyonlands Preserve cave biologist Colin Strickland will lead a “virtual dive into the refreshingly cool, dark world beneath our feet. Colin will show photos and videos of the commonly encountered organisms in Central Texas caves, starting at the cave entrance and working his way deeper underground.” Friday, Aug. 27, noon-1 p.m. Register for the webinar here.
Monday, August 2, 2021 by Tai Moses
Attend the I-35 open house
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard of the I-35 Capital Express project, a massive $5.6 billion highway project that includes transforming the portion of the aging roadway that divides East and West Austin. The Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin are holding an open house to give residents an opportunity to provide feedback on the central portion of the reconstruction project. Participants will also learn more about the Urban Land Institute’s recommendations for a cap-and-stitch solution. Tuesday, Aug. 10, 4-8 p.m., Davage-Durden Student Union, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon St. Please note, face masks are required on campus.
Friday, July 30, 2021 by Jo Clifton
Council OKs continuing funds for “ACL”
City Council has unanimously approved a contract with KLRU and Austin PBS to continue to underwrite “Austin City Limits” with funding from the Austin Convention Center’s operating budget. The contract will run from Oct. 1, 2021-Sept. 30, 2026, for a total amount of up to $1,250,000. The popular TV concert series showcases local Austin talent and reaches both national and international audiences. The city has been providing funding for “ACL” since 2008. Council Member Kathie Tovo pointed out that “ACL” would be paid for by the operating budget of the convention center, not any funding set aside specifically to promote Austin music. She noted the many conversations she and other Council members have had with members of the community about use of Hotel Occupancy Tax dollars. The contract with “ACL,” she noted, shows that the convention center funds were more flexible than previously thought.
Water main break shuts county building
A broken water main has caused the temporary closure of the Travis County Administration Building at 700 Lavaca St. Austin Water crews are working to repair the break. The building will be closed Friday and residents with county business to take care of are asked to wait until Monday morning.
Birthday Bash returns to Republic Square
The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation will host the fourth annual Austin’s Birthday Bash, a commemoration of the day Austin was officially founded as a city 182 years ago. The community celebration features live music curated and headlined by singer SaulPaul and Friends; complimentary creative kits for kids, including coloring pages by artist Lakeem Wilson; food and drink by Salt & Time Café; and the Austin debut of the Passion Flower, a functional art piece created by Edward Balassanian for the 2019 Burning Man festival. While the event will be in person, social distancing will be observed and it is recommended that festivalgoers follow the CDC guidance on face masks.
Name this building
The Travis County Commissioners Court has issued a call to submit recommendations to name a county building in Del Valle at 3518 FM 973 S. Residents are invited to submit their name ideas in writing. There are just a few guidelines to follow. If the recommended name is an individual, said individual “must have made a significant contribution to Travis County” and a biographical sketch of the person must be included. The deadline to submit recommendations is Monday, Aug. 16. The Commissioners Court will hold a public discussion of the matter on Tuesday, Aug. 31, at 9 a.m. Email name recommendations to Roger A. El Khoury, county facilities director.
Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Jo Clifton
Giello joining Austin Transit Partnership
After a little more than 23 years with the city of Austin, Rebecca Giello is retiring – but only from the city. She will be taking on a new role with a new agency, Austin Transit Partnership, in August. Giello is joining ATP within the People, Administration and Management work group. She told the Austin Monitor her duties will include managing and coordinating startup activities and improving organizational efficiency. The new agency, an offshoot of Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is an independent local government corporation created to design, construct and implement Project Connect. Giello started working for the city in 1998 with the city manager’s office, moved to the Communications Department and then to Neighborhood Housing and Community Development. She became assistant director in 2017 and was tapped to be interim director of the Economic Development Department. She returned to Housing as deputy director and will be retiring from that position this week. Mandy De Mayo will take over as deputy director in August. In moving over to ATP, Giello will be joining a number of other former city executives, including former city Deputy CFO Greg Canally, who is now ATP’s chief financial officer and chief development officer. Others who have joined ATP include Budget Director Diane Siler and Real Estate Director Alex Gale, who both held similar jobs with the city.
This whisper has been changed since publication to update Canally’s title.
Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Tai Moses
Sobering Center seeks board members
If you have experience or a background in social work, behavior health, addiction medicine, fundraising, grant management, or community advocacy, the Travis County Commissioners Court invites you to apply to serve on the board of directors of the Sobering Center. According to the county’s announcement, the Sobering Center “is a physically safe place for acutely intoxicated persons to be cared for while they sober. It is meant to provide publicly intoxicated persons an alternative option to incarceration and the emergency room.” Four members of the nine-member board are appointed by the Travis County Commissioners Court, four by Austin City Council, and one consensus candidate is jointly appointed by the county and the city. Find more info and the application packet here.
Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Tai Moses
Students on the move donate stuff
UT students moving at the end of the semester tend to have a lot of stuff to get rid of, and a lot of it ends up in the trash. That’s how Austin Resource Recovery and the UT Office of Sustainability came up with the idea for MoveOutATX, an annual donation event where students “can drop off their unwanted furniture, household appliances and other gently used items” at six drop-off stations throughout West Campus. Not only does the program keep reusable materials out of the landfill, ARR says it “provides a solution to problems caused by stacking furniture and household things in alleyways, backstreets and parking lots.” Maddie Morgan, ARR conservation program coordinator, said, “In 2019, MoveOutATX collected $190,000 estimated value of recovered material for local reuse organizations participating in the program.” MoveOutATX has one more weekend to go: July 29-31, noon-7 p.m. Here’s a map of the drop-off station locations. Not sure your stuff is eligible? Check out this list of items that can be donated.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021 by Jo Clifton
Time to return to City Hall
City Council has returned to the City Hall dais, with 9 of 11 members showing up in person at Tuesday’s work session. City staff members and a couple of members of the media were on hand to observe. Although there was not a sign requiring masks, all those in the audience were well aware that face coverings were appropriate and were wearing them. Perhaps as many as half of the seats in the audience were designated as not available in order to observe social distancing. The city has posted rules to allow people to give Council their input either in person or on the phone.
This whisper has been corrected to reflect the fact that Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper Madison participated in the meeting virtually.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021 by Tai Moses
MetroBike launches a survey
Austin’s public bike-share system, MetroBike, is working on expanding its operations. Planned changes include “expanding the number of bikes and stations, integrating with existing and planned CapMetro transit services, improving services and reaching communities outside the downtown core, and providing an all-electric fleet.” To find out how users feel about bike-share service improvements, Capital Metro has launched a survey “to learn how to make MetroBike a more attractive and useful option for you. Your input will help us establish an inclusive, community-led vision so MetroBike’s expansion supports the mobility needs of all of Austin’s community members and visitors.” Start the survey.
DSHS and Walmart launch vaccine tour
The Texas Department of State Health Services is hitting the road the first week of August to promote the lifesaving Covid-19 vaccine. With the Delta variant spreading rapidly and hospitalizations rising, DSHS is determined to reach as many Texans as possible with a series of 18 pop-up events at Walmart stores, which are offering free Covid-19 vaccines at all pharmacy locations, no appointment needed. The events are particularly focused on the importance of vaccination for young people. As Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, pointed out in a news release, “While fewer young people get very sick, they can get and spread the virus, and we are still learning about the long-term effects. Tens of millions of people have been vaccinated with no ill effects. We know these vaccines are not only safe but also very effective. Achieving higher vaccination rates is essential to eliminating the threat of Covid from our communities.” Each summer pop-up will last for four hours and will feature games for kids and free frozen treats. Contact the Walmart store near you for info.
Beware of BOTG street closures
Blues on the Green is lots of fun for everyone except the folks who get stuck in its murderous traffic. The annual free summer musical festival is returning to Zilker Park in person this week and again in two weeks. The Transportation Department is alerting motorists to the fact that “Multiple streets on and around Barton Springs Road will be closed for Blues on the Green on Tuesday, July 27, and Wednesday, July 28. If you’re in the area, detour to Cesar Chavez or Fifth Street.” Find more information on street closures and alternative routes here and a handy parking map here. Want a better idea? Leave the car at home and take public transportation.
Preach the gospel of zero-waste
If you are passionate about a sustainable lifestyle and you recycle, compost or reuse more than you throw away, Austin Resource Recovery has an opportunity for you: Join the Zero Waste Block Leader Program and help the city achieve its goal of reaching zero waste by 2040. According to ARR, “Block Leaders are a resource in their communities, helping guide their neighbors and friends in how to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost materials so they stay out of our landfill.” The next online orientation is registering, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the virtual meeting.
Monday, July 26, 2021 by Tai Moses
Zilker planning pop-ups wind down
Parks and Recreation staffers and project team members have been holding a series of pop-up events this month to share information about the Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan and solicit feedback from community members. All pop-ups feature the same information in an effort to give as many people as possible a chance to learn about the park plan and provide input. The last two pop-ups are:
- District 8: Southwest Family Y, 6219 Oakclaire Drive,
For more information on how to get involved, visit the Zilker project page.
Friday, July 23, 2021 by Tai Moses
Know your rights, Austinites
Austin’s Office of Civil Rights is holding a virtual workshop series aimed at educating Austinites about their rights under the city’s Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance and other civil rights protections. Last year, the OCR looked into 97 employment and 34 housing complaints. As Civil Rights Officer Carol Johnson explained, “Protecting civil rights is an essential piece of our democracy and implementing that protection is something the city’s Civil Rights Office is dedicated to. Through education and community outreach, we are working together to ensure racial and social equity for all Austinites.” The goal of the workshops is “to empower participants with information to increase economic opportunity, prevent and reduce discrimination, and protect the health and safety of Austin residents.” All workshops are held from 1-2:30 p.m. and are free of charge. Register on Eventbrite.
- Fair Chance Hiring for Employers, Aug. 26
- Employment Discrimination Education, Sept. 22
- Housing Discrimination Education, Oct. 20
Friday, July 23, 2021 by Tai Moses
Public forum highlights downtown safety
City Council Member Kathie Tovo and Downtown Austin Alliance President Dewitt Peart are hosting a virtual public forum focused on “efforts to ensure safety in downtown Austin, including current systems and procedures, interagency communication and coordination, tools and resources.” Leslie Rhode will moderate a panel composed of interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon, Travis County District Attorney José Garza and Travis County Attorney Delia Garza. Monday, July 26, 9-10 a.m. RSVP here. The event will take place on Zoom.
Thursday, July 22, 2021 by Jo Clifton
New members coming to ACE board
City Council’s Audit & Finance Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend two city employees to join the Austin Convention Enterprises Board of Directors. Attorney Lee Crawford serves as general counsel division chief in the city attorney’s office, and Kimberly Olivares is the city’s deputy chief financial officer. Council Member Leslie Pool, who nominated the pair, said Olivares and Crawford would be “really brilliant additions” to oversee the important work that board does. The nominations will now go to City Council for its approval.