Austin’s Top News – November 23, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Jimmy Flannigan confronted

Councilman Jimmy Flannigan was confronted over the weekend by a group who says it’s fed up with his ongoing claims of racism. A video shows a hispanic man from the Wind Therapy Freedom Writers biker club confronting Flannigan. Mayor Steve Adler tells CBS Austin he’s very bothered by it.

“He was physically being detained in a threatening manner by some unnamed person who was preventing the council member from closing his car door and leaving,” says Adler.

Many on social media say this is a situation in which Flannigan is reaping what he’s sown, referring to the summer protests in which far left demonstrators confronted numerous Republicans on multiple occasions and most of the Austin council remained mum as all of that happened.

COVID-19 update

Travis County has three fewer people hospitalized for COVID today than there were heading into the weekend. Right now, 210 people are hospitalized, 2,557 cases are active. Since March, 36,436 cases have been found, resulting in 33,403 recoveries.

Williamson County’s number of active COVID cases has jumped fairly significantly over the weekend. Unfortunately, the number of hospitalizations has remained unchanged from this time Friday morning. Right now, 523 cases are active out of the 11,559 confirmed since March. 57 of the active cases do involve hospitalizations. 10,716 of those cases are recoveries.

Online learning

The Austin School district is considering reverting to 100% online learning for students at home after the Thanksgiving break. Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde says a decision will be made no later than Wednesday if she decides to keep kids at home. That would continue from November 30 until December 4. 

Teacher groups continue demanding that Texas revert to all virtual learning for the remainder of the year. But the man in charge of the state’s public education is still not on board. Education Commissioner Mike Morath says school campuses are very safe 

“The data is sort of growing by the week and leads us to the conclusion that the protocols that have been put in place have made schools, all things considered for the pandemic, remarkably safe,” Morath says. 

There are cases of COVID in schools, but they’re being transmitted off campus. The Texas State Teachers Association believes all kids should be pulled from classrooms immediately. 

Decreasing capacity suggestions

While it may only be a matter of time before the city of Austin tries to force the issue, for now, the city is asking restaurants to voluntarily decrease capacity to only 25%. The state, though, allows for 75%. In Washington, Republicans and Democrats bickered for months over another stimulus with no resolution there. The Texas Restaurant Association says limiting capacity will just lead to another increase in backyard gatherings. 

Felons in Travis County

A growing number of felons are winding up back on Travis County streets, and it’s something that’s proving very problematic for Austin police. Lieutenant Jeff Greenwald tells KXAN that judges are using COVID as an excuse to let out violent offenders. 

“And I’m not talking about, you know, drugs. I’m not talking about misdemeanors. I’m talking about people who are committing felonies over and over. They’re getting out of jail and committing more felonies,” Greenwald says.

Even ankle monitor monitors aren’t stopping some of the felons from committing more acts of violence. However, the Travis County DA office refutes the claim saying that it would not recommend a violent offender to be released. 

Homeless crisis in Austin

Some experts say they have suggestions on how Austin could better tackle the homeless crisis. Some of the suggestions are small things like a simple, “howdy,” so says UT College of Pharmacies Leticia Moczygemb.

“Definitely agree with what’s been said about just acknowledging people experiencing homelessness when we encounter them,” says Moczygemb.

She’s been looking into how to keep track of people on the street getting services and found smartphones as a great asset for the homeless, adding, it’s not just about getting people phones but also getting full use out of it, like bus passes and staying involved in the community.

Austin cop on suspension after road rage

An Austin Cop is on suspension for allegedly pulling a gun on a driver in a fit of road rage. The APD memo says Thomas Tuminelli will be suspended until January 9, and he’ll spend a year on probationary status for driving 100 MPH on I-35 and pulling his personal firearm on a driver who brake checked him for tailgating. Tuminelli was on his way to work, but he was not in uniform at the time. 

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