Austin’s Top News – April 7, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Homeless strategy in Austin

Austin’s homeless strategy officer lays out the current plan for the Homeless Encampment Assistance Link Initiative. The initiative involves removing people living in camps in four different parts of town deemed too dangerous. HSO Dianna Grey says as they go through the selected camps the offer for housing and help must be ready to go. 

“And should folks need a place to be until that permanent housing is located, temporary shelter is also offered and is dedicated to the program,” says Grey.

So far, the initiative will cost the city $4.3 million but adds that will not last them a full year of operations.

Violence in Austin

Violence is rising in Austin again as numbers from the Police Department showed 21 murders on record already this year. At the same point last year, there were 14, and in 2019 there were seven. Data also shows a sharp increase in gun related crimes like aggravated assault over the past five years. 

STAR testing

The STAR test is resuming today after a technical glitch left thousands of kids unable to take it. It’s just the latest issue, sparking criticism of the STAR, especially as the pandemic drones on. Ken Zarifis with the teacher group Education Austin tells CBS Austin the TEA should have eliminated the test altogether this year. 

“They were posing as if there would be a validity. Now you’ve interrupted it. Now you’ve got to start and stop. It absolutely renders the test useless,” says Zarifis.

It’s still not exactly clear what caused the technical glitch

COVID-19 update

For another consecutive day, active cases of coronavirus in Austin and Travis County are below 1,000. Austin Public Health says 969 cases are active, including 136 people in the hospital. There have been 79,787 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, resulting in 78,000 reported recoveries.

St. Edwards University will be requiring all students and staff returning to campus to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the Fall semester. There are certain exemptions, including religious. The deadline is September 1, however, to comply with a new state order issued this week by Governor Greg Abbott, the university says no one will actually be required to show proof of their vaccination.

Texas budget

The Texas Senate has signed off in the state’s $250 billion bi annual budget. State Senator Jane Nelson chairs the Senate Finance Committee. That’s who pieced together this two year budget, she says. They were able to accomplish the four goals she set out heading into the legislative session.

“First and foremost, that we would maintain our commitment to education. Second, we would fight the coronavirus and keep Texas healthy. Third, we would strengthen public safety, and finally we would reignite our economy,” says Nelson.

Nelson says the state is still waiting for tens of billions of dollars in federal COVID rescue money.

Austin’s mayor and several council members have spoken out this week against bills in the Legislature that could impact local control, like a ban on taxpayer funded lobbying and allowing neighborhoods to dis annex themselves from the city. Councilman Pio Renteria is worried these bills have a real shot to pass. 

“It’s time for them to stop with the bloodline of the whole state of Texas. Our cities are the ones that are producing all the revenue, creating all the jobs,” says Renteria.

Mayor Steve Adler has issued some formal statements this week against a handful of other bills.

Toxic algae in water

Tests have confirmed the presence of toxic algae near Mansfield Dam that’s highly toxic to dogs in the presence of the toxin has also been found this year in Ladybird Lake. It is recommended to keep your dog out of the water.

Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Airlines has announced a plan to open a new base of operations at the South Terminal at Austin’s airport. The airline is investing $75 million into the move and plans to create 89 high paying jobs in the area operations, are set to begin here in Austin in November.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:

https://omny.fm/shows/klbjam-flash-briefing-1/am-newscast-4-7-21

 

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