Public Notice: Good News!
Masks, vaccinations, skateboarders all get reprieves
Last week I wrote about the Republican state government's attacks on local citizens both in schools and in private businesses. This week I get to rejoice that – for the moment, at least, as we go to press – those assaults on local control, health policy, and just plain common sense appear to have been beaten back decisively on both fronts.
The 116th District Court in Dallas issued a temporary injunction this morning, blocking the state's enforcement of Abbott's notorious GA-38 and allowing Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to require masks or face coverings in Dallas County "to address the particularized local disaster ... in light of, among other things, the number of infections, hospitalizations, and overall ripple effect on the healthcare system."
This legal battle has been unfolding for a while up in Dallas; it was the first and most prominent of the state's legal attacks on school districts that have required masks as the fall semester starts up. The ruling applies only to Dallas County but has to be a good sign, and good precedent, for those districts, including Austin ISD, which continue to defy the governor's extraordinary order. The Dallas court also set a Jan. 10 date for a final hearing on the merits of the case which, virus willing, may be a moot point by then.
Speaking of moot points, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's brief enforcement of Senate Bill 968 – the recently passed state law that prohibits businesses from requiring vaccinations as a condition of allowing entry or providing service – seems to be petering out. Several local restaurants and venues received notice from TABC a couple of weeks ago that their new policies requiring vaccinations were in violation of the law and might jeopardize their liquor licenses (read more). The law says nothing about requiring a negative COVID test, however, and observers suggested that, if it's legal to require a recent negative test as a condition for entry, it should be legal to require a negative test OR proof of vaccination, a seemingly "too easy" sidestepping of the new law. Some shows and venues began using that policy, and the theory got its first high-profile test this past weekend, as the Willie Nelson show at Circuit of the Americas had a widely announced policy "requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours OR full vaccination to attend." Meanwhile, the Austin City Limits Festival has announced that they'll enforce a similar policy, and TABC has kept mum about both.
So ... crisis averted?
Last month I wrote about a dustup at the city Historic Landmark Commission regarding Austin Community College's plans to demolish a storefront on 12th Street that houses No-Comply Skateshop, a fixture in the local skateboarding community. In support of their campaign to stay, City Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky defended the small 1946 storefront as architecturally important and presented city staff's recommendation in favor of historic designation. The case was postponed a month for further consideration, and much to ACC's credit, they announced an agreement this week to extend No-Comply's lease and help the shop find a new home.
That's justly hailed as a "win-win" solution, though the underlying question of the building's historical status remains open: While the demo permit is on "pause," ACC is sure to bring it back at some point, and we'll see at that point whether the building's significance, minus the skate shop's community, is still enough to save it.