Top Austin Headlines of 2021: A Hard Restart

The biggest news stories of the year

Top Austin Headlines of 2021: A Hard Restart

Last year, as we processed our share of the world's drama and trauma with four different Top 10 lists – elections, cops, COVID, and everything else – we took some comfort in thinking we were at a stopping place, and that 2021 would be a year when people could breathe again (without ventilators) and not drown in news or doomscroll themselves into a coma. But then! We lived through an attempt to overthrow the government, and then the power went out and people froze to death in their beds, and then the district attorney indicted a cop for murder and thousands of Austinites were living in the streets and the Legislature finally and fully annexed itself to Fox News Nation and the governor gave up trying to keep his constituents alive during a pandemic, and it was still only March.

Yet as 2021 groaned on, we saw and felt more moves from Texans and Aus­tin­ites to hold down the power button and hard restart the newsmaking machinery, find and fix the bugs in the system, and take the work of making progress, on any issue, into their own hands. This applies to both sides of the aisle; as progressives mobilized to back up the Texas House Democrats who fled the state to lobby for voting rights, conservatives flooded school board meetings to yell about stuff that was forwarded to them on Facebook. Mutual aid efforts got Austin through the worst winter storm ever, and they got Texans needing abortion care across state lines. In May, bunches of local voters came off the sidelines to protest the city's apparent haplessness regarding homelessness; in November, different voters – including a lot of young people casting their first ballots – turned out in force to take the starch out of the police force.

We've returned to our established format – one year, 10 stories, in the order they occurred – and tried to untangle and highlight some common threads of this year of great transition. As always, many of these stories are ongoing; 2022 will show if the Texas GOP regime's rightward shift pays off with voters, if a Travis County jury will convict a police officer, and if we can make it through another winter.

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Top 10s 2021

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