Watson Boosts I-35: Austin Sen. Kirk Watson filed a suite of bills this week "to fund the transformation of I-35 in Travis County," but also to increase transportation funding statewide. Watson's menu of options includes managed toll lanes on I-35, an increased state gas tax, local-option fuel taxes and registration fees, and eliminating current restrictions on using state mobility money for transit.
Southwest Key Protest: On Wednesday, Feb. 20, onlookers watched from below as activist Therese Patricia Okoumou made camp for eight hours on top of Southwest Key's headquarters on Jain Lane to rally against the nonprofit's involvement with youth migrant detention. Okoumou, who climbed down on her own before being detained by police, scaled the Statue of Liberty to protest anti-immigration policies on July 4.
Gagging Women's Health: In its quest to harm Planned Parenthood, the Trump administration released a so-called 'gag rule' measure that strips federal family planning funding from clinics that refer patients to abortion care. The funding is meant for preventative health like birth control, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings. The move could jeopardize care for 6,000 Austinites, the Chronicle reported in June.
Abused Migrant Children: Thousands of claims of sexual abuse were reported by migrant children in federal custody between 2014-18, with higher figures in more recent years. Nearly 6,000 migrant youth are detained in Texas facilities.
Stool Pigeon Squawks! On Wednesday, Feb. 27, Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress, telling a House committee that, among other things, Trump implicitly directed him to lie about his business dealings with Russia and that Trump knew in advance of Wikileaks' plans to publish stolen Democratic Party emails.
Quorum Walked Back: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled this week that the provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act forbidding private, non-quorate conversations among public officials is unconstitutional. In 2012, under this provision – a potential "walking quorum" – seven City Council members signed deferred prosecution agreements with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla for having unwittingly violated the act.
Barton Springs Cleaning: The beloved pool will close for annual maintenance from March 4-15. Removal of gravel will return the pool to its natural depth, and the adjacent "dog beach" will be used as an equipment staging area. During the closure, Deep Eddy Pool will open at 6am to accommodate early morning swimmers.