Austin’s Top News – July 31, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Postponed elections

The Round Rock City Council has faced sharp rebuke from the public over its recent decision to postpone the election until next year. Residents like Tracy McLain have said they’re appalled by that decision.

“Really? You’re choosing to purposely not hear from over 30,000 Round Rocks because I guess you want to keep the voter turnout low,” says McLain

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton now says the city must hold its election this fall. In a letter, Paxton says if Round Rock does not immediately prepare to hold its election on November 3, his office will take legal action.

President Trump’s tweet about possibly delaying the election to prevent voter fraud has evoked a sharp reaction from the public. Even though the president lacks the authority to actually delay a vote, UT School of Law professor Stephen Vladeck says a tweet like that can still fire up a voter base. 

“There are many folks around the country who take their cues from what the president says. We see that here in Texas, with the extent to which Governor Abbott has largely taken his cues from the president about how to respond to the coronavirus,” says Vladeck.

While instances of voter fraud have been recorded over the years, Vladeck says they have been few and far between. 

Public comment session on Austin Police Department budget 

The war of words continues during Austin’s final public comment session for the upcoming budget. While cutting APD’s budget was the primary focus of a majority of speakers, there were some who challenged the idea, like resident Todd Hittner. He says the council pounced on APD and called for resignations after the officer involved death of Mike Ramos.

“What about Jonathan Aguilar? He was a manager from Freebirds that was stabbed to death by a transient out on a personal reconnaissance call in January of this year. Was his death also the results of bad policy? Should you all resign?” says Hittner.

If the council is serious about defunding APD, he would support it, if council leads by example and stops using APD as personal security. 

City Council seems very much prime to cut the police budget, but victims of what some feel are politically motivated vandalism are worried about the future. A Marine Corps veteran named Ryan, says his home and others nearby were spray painted with the words “Troopz.” He feels targeted because other homes with activist signs in the yard were left untouched. 

“It doesn’t bode well with us because it makes us feel like we’re gonna have to take our safety into our own hands at some point, because our government is not protecting us,” says Ryan.

Those responsible may come back and be more destructive a second time. 

COVID-19 update

There are 16 fewer coronavirus patients in a Travis County hospital then there were a day ago. Since Monday morning, the number has consistently fallen by 41. Currently, 355 people were hospitalized, 266 have died. 20,465 cases have been confirmed since March. In just the past day, the county surpassed another positive milestone. Recoveries are now 18,044. 

There’s only been slight movement in most of Williamson County’s numbers over the past day. The 550 active cases represent a decline of only four, and the 71 people currently hospitalized is an increase of two. The county has tacked on another 165 recoveries over the past day. That total is now at 4,987.

State of Texas allocates millions to students

Texas plans to spend $200 million on 1,000,000 laptops and other pieces of tech for students. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick says the money will also ensure every home has access to the Internet. 

“We are providing the funding for 500,000 hot spots, and that’s little devices that you hook into your computer in case you do not have good service,” says Patrick.

The state will give every teacher six weeks worth of masks and will hear Mark $400 million for other district expenses related directly to COVID-19 

Texas teachers consider striking

In Texas, it is illegal for public school teachers to strike. However, the American Federation of Teachers says it’s Texas members are ready to do so. Nevertheless, because of coronavirus, the AFT is the largest teachers union in the country and says it will support it’s Texas chapters who do strike. In Texas, a striking teacher could lose all certifications and have his or her retirement benefits completely revoked. 

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:


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