Headlines / Quote of the Week

Kirk Watson
Kirk Watson (photo by Jana Birchum)

Watson Wants Another Win: Thrice-elected Mayor Kirk Watson is looking to earn another term, formally announcing his mayoral campaign Wednesday. In his campaign announcement, Watson said, “I’m proud to have helped us restore efficient, effective basic services.” He’s already earned eight endorsements from City Council members, but CM Alison Alter’s decision not to endorse stands out. “I have learned when someone shows who they are, believe them,” she told us. “Watson has acted as a bully and prevented real policy deliberation.” Read more online.

Suing Coked-Up Trucker Company: A teacher seriously injured last month when a concrete truck smashed into a San Marcos school bus is suing the trucking company for “depraved gross negligence.” The suit from Deborah Serna and her husband is the first of what is expected to be many stemming from the crash that killed a preschooler. The driver of the concrete truck, Jerry Hernandez, has admitted to using cocaine that morning.

An Austin ISD school bus
An Austin ISD school bus (photo by Jana Birchum)

AISD Buses Have Belts: In the wake of that crash, Austin ISD reassured the community that all of its 551 school buses have seat belts, KUT reported. More than four out of five have lap and shoulder seat belts, while the rest have lap belts. The district is also double checking that every bus seatbelt works.

Billionaire Only Wants Christians In Charge: Jewish Republican Joe Straus, who served as the speaker of Texas House from 2009-2019, recently confirmed a widely traveled rumor – that Tim Dunn, the extremist Christian regarded as Texas’ most influential megadonor, once declared that only Christians should hold leadership positions in the Texas House. Straus told The Texas Tribune that the statement came during a private meeting between Straus and Dunn in 2010, as Dunn was working to undermine moderate Republicans. The megadonor’s influence has only grown since, despite revelations last year that his current group, Defend Texas Liberty, had hosted Nick Fuentes, a fanboy of Adolf Hitler, and other white supremacists.

Pedestrian Win: Plans for an ambitious new pedestrian bridge spanning Lady Bird Lake near Pleasant Valley Road are moving forward. The wishbone-shaped bridge will connect Longhorn Shores, Canterbury Park, and an unnamed peninsula in Lady Bird Lake and cost an estimated $25 million. U.S. Rep. Greg Casar is being credited with helping to secure a $4 million federal grant to help get the project underway. “You’re going to see people getting proposed to on this bridge,” Casar told KUT News. “You’re going to see folks playing live music on this bridge. It is really going to be a special place.”

Future City Manager T.C. Broadnax
Future City Manager T.C. Broadnax (photo by Naina Srivastava)

City Manager’s Salary Shoots Up: When he starts his job as Austin’s next city manager next month, T.C. Broadnax will make $470,000 per year. That’s $82,000 more than his predecessor. His salary will be $50,000 more than he was making as Dallas’ city manager, KUT reported. But that’s not it. He’ll also get a $5,000 per month housing allowance for the first six months. Woo-ee!

Barton Bathhouse Renamed: Barton Springs Pool’s bathhouse will adopt a new name in honor of Joan Means Khabele, the Black woman who led the first “swim-in” at the once-segregated pool. The structure is currently undergoing rehabilitation, the Austin Monitor reported.

Poet Laureate Program Please: Local literary figure KB Brookins has called on Austin’s art community to help push forward their petition to establish a poet laureate program for the city. Apropos for National Poetry Month, Brookins cites statistics like Texas ranking 42nd in the U.S. in artist support and realities like the many underfunded poetry orgs in town. While Brookins hopes to have all signatures in by April 18, many Texas poets laureate have signed already, including Cyrus Cassells, Amanda Johnston, and Aris Kian Brown. Learn more at tinyurl.com/AustinPoetLaureate.

Caps and stitches
Caps and stitches (courtesy of Downtown Austin Alliance)

Keeping The Lights On: Panelists at an Austin Chamber infrastructure summit said the city’s increased energy demands require more transmission lines to prevent power outages, the Austin Monitor reported. Austin Energy’s Michael Enger said the city saw a peak load that exceeded 3,000 megawatts last summer – which wasn’t forecasted to occur for several more years.

I-35 Caps and Stitches: Also at the summit, transportation and commerce experts discussed the city’s I-35 project and cap and stitch program. (Caps are large plazas put over a highway, and stitches are expanded bridges with pedestrian access.) To learn more, check out the first open house organized by Our Future 35, scheduled for May 18 at the Austin Community College Highland Campus.

SCOTX Justice Doubts Election Integrity: Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine is facing condemnation after a clip of a speech he delivered at a 2023 Tea Party event went viral. In the clip, Devine claimed Democrats will cheat to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. “Do you really think that Democrats are going to roll over and let Trump be president again?” Devine asks in the clip. “You think they’re just going to go away [and] all of a sudden find Jesus and [participate in] an honest election?”

Amanda Zurawski in Biden’s campaign ad
Amanda Zurawski in Biden’s campaign ad (screenshot via YoutTube)

Oil Boom: The Texas oil industry broke records with production in 2023, more than doubling the output 10 years ago with 1.92 billion barrels last year, the Statesman’s John C. Moritz reported. Meanwhile, Mexico’s crude oil production in February fell to a 45-year low. Given that and uncertainty in the Middle East, gas prices aren’t likely to drop.

Got Birth Control?: Texas is in the minority of states that generally require parental consent before a teenager can get birth control. The one exception – the federal Title X program which provides confidential contraception at any age – is now being overhauled to require parental consent for teens’ birth control, The Texas Tribune reported. That is thanks to the 5th Circuit upholding an Amarillo judge’s 2022 ruling that the Title X program violates Texas parents’ rights.

Austinite’s Abortion Story in Biden Campaign Ad: A new campaign ad from President Joe Biden features Amanda Zurawski, the Austin woman who is suing the state after nearly dying from sepsis when she was denied an abortion. “She almost died twice,” words on the screen read as Zuraski cries and is comforted by her husband, Josh. “Donald Trump did this,” the ad concludes.

Schools Don’t Really Want Chaplains: Texas Republicans spent a significant portion of last year’s legislative session arguing that untrained Christian “chaplains” be allowed into public schools to act as student counselors, using funding earmarked for school safety. Ultimately, they passed a law over Democratic objections allowing schools to invite the Christians in. But according to reporting by The Texas Tribune, so far only one school in the state has signed on – a charter school in Arlington. The 25 largest Texas school districts in the state have rejected the suggestion.

AISD’s Money Problems: Austin ISD is aiming to cut at least $30 million from its $976.2 million budget next year in anticipation of higher operating costs, the Statesman’s Keri Heath reported. District leaders think the $30 million in cuts will be achieved mostly through cutting already vacant positions and reducing contract services.

Paxton Sues Houston: Since Senate Republicans voted against Ken Paxton’s impeachment, he has been filing lawsuits at a manic pace. On April 9, Paxton sued Harris County to stop a federally funded program providing 1,900 families with monthly cash payments of $500. Paxton argues it violates a provision of the Texas Constitution prohibiting local governments from “grant[ing] public money” to individuals. Austin has a similar program which was piloted in 2022, giving 135 low-income households $1,000 a month. City Council approved more funding in this year’s budget for the program, KUT’s Audrey McGlinchy reported.

Houston Named Most “Uptight” City: More bad news for Houston: The city has been named the most “uptight” in the nation, according to an analysis from financial resource outlet FinanceBuzz. Factors for its low ranking include a lack of leisure locations such as theme parks, concert venues, and golf courses; high traffic congestion; and higher working hours than any other city studied, KXAN reported.

#NOTOURTEXAS: A UT student movement staged two demonstrations to protest the university’s closure of the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and subsequent staff firings. On Monday, members held a silent protest at the same time as the eclipse. Last week, they placed hundreds of notes with the message “#NOTOURTEXAS” around campus.

Total Eclipse of the Airport: Austin Bergstrom International Airport experienced an increase in travelers and rental car returns following the eclipse on Monday. The eclipse attracted thousands of visitors to Central Texas and caused airport delays, KVUE reported.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
photo by Gage Skidmore / CC by-SA 3.0

Quote of the Week

“I’m sure that the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason and that’ll be taken care of, I think very quickly.”

– Donald Trump, saying Tuesday that Arizona’s near-total abortion ban goes too far. The ban, like Texas’, only allows abortions to save the life of the mother.

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