Headlines / Quote of the Week

Ken Paxton
Ken Paxton (photo by Jana Birchum)

Paxton’s Problems Go Poof: Ken Paxton is once again avoiding a jury trial on corruption charges. The attorney general cut a deal with state prosecutors on Monday to resolve the nine-year-old felony fraud charges against him, KUT’s Lauren McGaughy reported. The agreement will require Paxton to complete 100 hours of community service in Collin County, take 15 hours of ethics training, and pay $300,000 in restitution to investors who put money in a Dallas tech company on the attorney general’s recommendations.

Willie Nelson in New Jersey in 2012
Willie Nelson in New Jersey in 2012 (photo by joshbg2k / CC by-sa 2.0)

Willie’s Goes to Philly: Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic, the annual concert hosted by the country music icon since 1973, is going to New Jersey for the first time. To the disappointment of some Texas fans, the July 4 event rolled out a star-studded lineup including Bob Dylan, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Maren Morris, and Mavis Staples at the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion in Camden, N.J. – billed as “in the birthplace of America,” as Philly is across the river. Tickets go on sale Friday. Prior to a 2010s run at the Circuit of the Americas, the long-running picnic has gone out of state before, for one-off years in Washington and Indiana in the 2000s. The past two years served as the launch of live music events at Austin’s Q2 soccer stadium.

More Great News for “Don’t Move Here” Austinites: According to Newsweek, our city is becoming “a relative housing market wasteland or, at the very least, declining in market value significantly.” Home prices have fallen by 11% since 2022, the Freddie Mac House Price Index reports. Meanwhile, a recent study by Redfin found that more people want to leave Austin than move here.

Very few additional homes on existing lots are being planned under the new HOME ordinance
Very few additional homes on existing lots are being planned under the new HOME ordinance (images via Getty Images)

Massive Dell Layoffs: Related? Maybe. Dell Technologies’ employee count is down by 13,000 this year, following layoffs and cost-cutting measures, the Statesman reported. As of February 2024, the Round Rock-based tech company has 120,000 global employees. It’s unclear how many Austin employees have been affected.

Hutto Growing: Hutto’s booming, with thousands of new homes being built by Houston-based Empire Continental Land LP. When completed, this project will cover over 800 acres and have approximately 3,000 homes. This follows the expansion of companies such as Samsung and Tesla in the area, the Austin Business Journal reported.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
image via City of Austin Public Records

Austin, Not So Much: When City Council passed the HOME ordinance late last year, its advocates said the new rules – which allow homeowners to have up to three dwelling units on their property, among other things – would help reduce housing costs in the city. The city began accepting applications to build under HOME on Feb. 5. According to reporting from the Statesman, only 12 applications had been submitted as of March 6.

Concrete Becoming What?: The city’s Environmental Commission heard a proposed framework for developments in Lady Bird Lake’s south shores this week and weren’t superfans. The waterfront plan aims to transform over 30 blocks of asphalt and nondescript buildings into a “vibrant urban dreamscape.” However, some commissioners voiced concerns over the lack of parkland and affordable housing. The Planning Commission and City Council will vote on the draft plan in April and May, the Austin Monitor reported.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
image via Getty Images

DPS Says Don’t Worry: Texas’ new anti-immigration law, Senate Bill 4, allows state and local police to arrest people throughout the state who are suspected of being undocumented. The law remains on hold as it is litigated in federal court. If it is allowed to go into effect, the Department of Public Safety is claiming the agency will only enforce the law at the border, The Dallas Morning News reported. DPS officials say they will only target people in counties along the border and will not arrest children – though they will arrest their parents.

But DPS Also Misleading Migrants: While Texas was barred by a federal court from enforcing SB 4, the highly controversial immigration bill that a federal judge in Austin ruled unconstitutional, DPS went ahead with it, the Houston Chronicle reported. Journalists at the border heard Texas guardsmen yell false information about the law through a megaphone. The Houston Chronicle heard DPS threaten deportation to two people attempting to cross the river.

Alex Jones in 2020
Alex Jones in 2020 (photo by John Anderson)

Driverless Semis Coming Soon: With support from the Texas Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety, driverless semi-trucks will soon be barreling down Austin freeways, Community Impact reports. Trucking company Kodiak Robotics has said that it expects to begin sending out driverless trucks by the end of the year.

Smart Highways: Self-driving cars and driverless trucking are online and coming online in Texas, but now Texas Department of Transportation says a stretch of smart highway could be coming to SH 130, Texas Standard reported. In addition to working well with autonomous cars, TxDOT says smart highways benefit non-smart-car drivers by creating more information about the road and giving that info to TxDOT.

Eclipse glasses are essential
Eclipse glasses are essential (image via Getty Images)

Abortion Rules Revisited: The Texas Medical Board is in the midst of reviewing abortion rules, which will come into play when doctors’ licenses are on the line after being accused of providing an unnecessary abortion. A plaintiff in the well-known lawsuit over Texas’ abortion ban choked back tears at a TMB meeting, saying an abortion saved her fertility after she received a fatal fetal diagnosis, the Statesman reported. A member of the board suggested her abortion would have been approved by proposed rules. They aren’t set in stone, and the public can still comment on them.

SXSW Wins Suit: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with South by Southwest in an ongoing lawsuit against its insurance company. The lawsuit stems from SXSW 2020, which was canceled over COVID-19 concerns though the festival did not have insurance covering a pandemic. Read more online.

Bird Flu > Cow Flu: Federal officials announced Monday that two dairy cows in Texas tested positive for bird flu, the Statesman reported. A Texas official told AP News that worries began three weeks ago when cattle started showing symptoms of a “mystery dairy cow disease.” It may be the first instance of bird flu in U.S. livestock, though a skunk tested positive in Carson County last year.

BlackRock Not Evil Enough for Texas: The State Board of Education chairman withdrew an $8.5 billion investment in global asset management company BlackRock over accusations that the company is “hostile” to the Texas oil and gas industry, the Statesman reported.

HBO Turns to Alex Jones: A new HBO documentary recounts the defamation cases against Alex Jones by families of children and staff members who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jones and his company, Infowars, repeatedly called the shooting a “hoax.” The film follows the plaintiffs through years of proceedings and includes interviews with several Sandy Hook deniers.

Big Spenders for School Vouchers: Looking at some of the top spenders in Texas primaries, the Statesman’s Keri Heath found that proponents of so-called school choice outspent the biggest donors opposing school vouchers (public school money diverted to private school tuition) by more than three to one. The largest contributions were from out of state.

Fatal School Bus Crash: Two people, including a pre-K student, died in a school bus crash in Hays County last week. The victims are 5-year-old Ulises Rodriguez Montoya of Tom Green Elementary School and 33-year-old Ryan Wallace, a Ph.D. student at UT-Austin. At least 20 people were hospitalized after the crash, the Statesman reported.

Newspaper CEO Hates Union: Gannett owns a lot of daily newspapers nationwide, including the Statesman. After losing half of its workforce in the last five years, there’s been an uptick in union activity at Gannett. This week, CEO Michael Reed told Axios the union “plays dirty and lies to our employees.” The NewsGuild-CWA responded in a statement: “Gannett’s last SEC filing showed Mike Reed making 66 times that of a median employee, while paying journalists poverty wages.”

Don’t Stare: The Houston Chronicle reminded its readers this week not to look directly at the solar eclipse without protection: “Don’t let your lasting memory of the total solar eclipse over Texas be a hole in your retina.” They explain that the difference between looking at the solar eclipse and the regular ol’ sun is that natural reflexes prevent people from looking at the sun long enough to cause serious damage, while the eclipse is sneakier.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
photo by TapTheForwardAssist / CC by SA-4.0

Quote of the Week

“Was the 2020 election stolen?”

– A question asked as part of the hiring process for the Republican National Committee, The Washington Post reported

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