Austin’s Top News – May 3, 2021

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Camping ban

Austin’s camping ban has been brought back by voters. More than 50% of the May 1st election votes were in favor of Proposition B reinstating that ordinance. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler tells FOX 7 News just when the rule will once again be in effect, 

“May 11th is when the election is certified, it will be effective then. I expect the new laws to be enforced. That’s the manager’s responsibility. And I’m sure he’ll report to both the council and the community on how he started to get that done,” says Adler.

Mayor Adler says this vote does not change the work that still needs to be done. He says he’ll be focusing on the plan to re house those living on the street.

Supporters of proposition B are finding a lot of inspiration in their victory over the weekend and getting that camping ban reinstated. Support was widely bipartisan and District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly says that shows what’s possible when people put political differences aside.

“We need to make sure that our voices are heard and they were heard at the ballot box today,” says Kelly.

As Austin now works on repealing its local ordinance, state lawmakers are also working on their own plans to ban public camping across Texas.

City elections

City of Austin voters have also come out overwhelmingly in opposition to a proposed strong mayor system. That was Proposition F. It would have eliminated the city manager and given the mayor legislative and veto power over the council. That was among the propositions being championed by counselors like councilman Greg Casar. About 85% of the vote was against proposition F. 

Props B and F weren’t the only big items on the ballot, voters have approved proposition A. That will give firefighters more leverage in contract talks with the city. Prop C will put more civilian control into the office of police oversight. Proposition D now shifts mayoral elections to coincide with presidential elections and Proposition E will let voters rank their candidates in their order of preference on the ballot. However, among those that have failed is proposition G. That would have created a brand new city council district and Proposition H which would have used tax money for $25 vouchers given to voters who then would have been able to donate those vouchers to their political candidates of choice.

Federal aid to public schools

The group representing Austin school district teachers and employees is pleased that state leaders are releasing federal aid to public schools. AISD thinks it’ll get about $150 million from that and education Austin President Ken Zarifis says he knows where those funds should go. 

“It needs to go to underserved students, their communities and their schools. That’s where the bulk of this has to go. If the district is serious about undoing the historical inequities and racism of the past generations,” says Zarifis.

He says, if district leaders look at the outcomes of some of the classes and programs, they’ll find out just who and what needs help. 

The Austin school district is vowing to clear out a backlog of special education evaluations that’s now climbed to about 900 kids. The district’s restructuring the Special Ed Department but no layoffs are planned. In a letter to families, officials say that they can expect major changes to be in place by July 1, which will fast track these evaluations. 

Weekend vigil in Austin

Governor Greg Abbott delivers the keynote address at a weekend vigil here in Austin honoring the lives of fallen Texas law enforcement officers in both 2019 and 2020. Abbott says they made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could live safely.

“I can assure you we will never forget their heroism,” says Abbott.

Abbott also passed out medals to family members. The list of honored officers is quite long. 42 men and women who have fallen over just the past two years. 

Police cadet academy vote

The Austin City Council will take a vote this week on officially resuming the police cadet academy. It was approved for reinstatement back in March, but this will be the first class since the city began what it calls its reimagining of public safety. Councilman Greg Casar was the only one to vote against restarting the academy and two others have abstained from their vote. 

The Eyes of Texas petition

The University of Texas is a faculty petition is now circulating demanding an end to the use of The Eyes of Texas as the alma mater song. The petition says, the song creates division and promotes a history of racism. More than 150 faculty members from various departments have so far signed it.

COVID-19 update

There are a couple of really good signs heading into the week in terms of COVID numbers here in Austin. Total hospitalizations have fallen to 115 across all of Travis County. The number of cases reported as active by Austin Public Health this morning has dropped below 900. Now at 890. Of the 82,448 cases confirmed in Travis County since March of last year, more than 80,700 people have made it recovery.

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