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Inside Austin

Lifesaving Mix at ACL: Thousands of Overdose Reversal Drug Doses, Education and Music Come Together for First Time

From a booth on the east side of Zilker Park, a husband and wife from Ohio exceeded their dreams of helping to save lives by distributing 6,000 doses of overdose-reversing drugs.
“We thought we were gonna do a couple of festivals in the Midwest; that’s all we hoped for,” William Perry said of his lifesaving operation called This Must Be the Place. “This year, we went coast to coast and now we’re here in Austin.”
Their booth at Austin City Limits Music Festival the past two weekends served as a beacon of information on preventing fatal overdoses of fentanyl and other opioids with the nasal spray naloxone.
Perry said they found a receptive crowd in Austin. 
“We were prepared to talk people into taking it and talk people into why they should have it, and obviously that was not the case,” Perry said. “All you have to do is sit and listen to us explain the signs and symptoms and how to administer the medication. It takes people two and a half minutes or so and now they’re equipped to go save a life.”

At Barton Springs, a Celebration of Life and a Final Goodbye to a Tree Named Flo

As the sun went down over Barton Springs Pool, dozens of people said goodbye to “Flo,” a 120-year-old pecan tree set to be cut down the next day.
“I think of Flo as a symbol of our love for trees and our love for nature and Mother Earth,” Austin arborist Don Gardner told the crowd. “We used to always be a lot more connected to trees than we are now, and I’m so happy to see those who still have some sense of that.”
Flo has leaned over Austin’s spring-fed pool since 1925, but the city’s parks department and tree experts determined it must go because of Kretzschmaria deusta, a root and trunk fungus known as brittle cinder that weakens trees and has no treatment. 

Austin Aims to Increase E-Bike Ridership

Few Austin residents use e-bikes for most of their transportation needs, but the city wants to change that. In January the city doubled down on an already existing Austin Energy rebate program, which provides refunds of up to $600 to customers who purchase new light electric vehicles, such as e-bikes and electric scooters, from authorized local dealers. 

Soaring: Kite Fest Takes Flight Over Austin

Hundreds of kites of all shapes, sizes and colors filled the skies over Zilker Park during the 95th ABC Kite Fest in Austin on April 1, 2023. Austinites of all ages sprinted across Zilker’s lawn trying to get their kites airborne as part of the event that has been around since 1929. Started by the […]

Dec 23, 2022

Broken Spoke Is Counting on a City Hall Two-Step to Protect Its Future

The Broken Spoke faces a critical turning point this spring, as the Austin City Council considers designating the lot surrounding the Texas dance hall as a historic zone, a declaration that would protect the 58-year-old venue from real estate development along South Lamar Boulevard.
In November, the council initiated a proclamation naming the Broken Spoke a historical landmark. But that largely ceremonial proclamation, brought by Council Member Ann Kitchen, in itself does not ensure long-term preservation of the dance hall and restaurant. So, Kitchen initiated the city’s historic zoning process that would make it more difficult for the landowner to develop the Broken Spoke site.
“She didn’t want it to go the way of so many other historic landmarks unofficially named in town,” said the author of a 2017 book on the dance hall. “She wanted it to be here for future generations. So she started the process.”

Dec 11, 2022

Alex Jones in Her Courtroom Is the Least Interesting Thing About Judge Maya Guerra Gamble

The world came to know Maya Guerra Gamble last summer as the no-nonsense judge presiding over the Texas defamation trial of Austin-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media company.
“It seems absurd to instruct you, again, that you must tell the truth while you testify,” the Travis County district court judge lectured Jones at one point. “But here I am. You must tell the truth while you testify. This is not your show. You need to slow down and not take what you see as opportunities to further the message you’re wanting to further.”
Speaking directly is a trademark of Gamble’s personality. “I’ve always been a pretty direct person. … And in both directions. I have never enjoyed false praise. I would rather hear the truth. Whatever it is,” Gamble said.

Dec 07, 2022

Construction Funding, New School Board Bring Changes, Optimism to Austin Public Schools

Travis High School was built in 1953, making it the oldest high school in South Austin, and a broken heating system is hardly the first issue to arise in the aging facilities. The school will soon get a major renovation to fix much more than the heating. The Austin Independent School District is set to receive $252 million to construct a modern facility completely replacing the old Travis High. 
The renovation of Travis High is part of $2.44 billion in bonds that Austin voters approved in November, when they also elected five former teachers to the district’s board of trustees. With the district facing stagnant state funding, a teacher shortage and decreased enrollment, AISD leaders see the election results as setting a new course for Austin public schools. 
“The community said they are willing to pay to improve our schools, but simultaneously they said they want new leadership on the board to guide this money,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the labor union for Austin school employees.

Nov 11, 2022

Harm Reduction Services Struggle to Tame Austin’s Accelerating Opioid Overdose Rates

With overdose deaths mounting, harm reduction groups are providing overdose reversal medications and other supplies to ensure safer substance use and generally healthier living. But the groups operate in a legal gray area. 
“This work is important for everybody here,” one clinic coordinator said after a day of outreach in his group’s mobile clinic. “Don’t you know we all can go to jail right now? Because everything that we do is illegal, technically. When I was doing the (safe syringe exchange) van, all of that stuff on there was illegal. But guess what? Ain’t never stopped me.”
The group takes its clinic van to several encampments each Tuesday through Friday, providing Narcan nasal spray, an opioid overdose reversal medication, safe smoke kits, needle exchanges, hygiene supplies, wound care kits and Plan B contraception pills.
“Fundamentally, harm reduction is about saving people’s lives and increasing safety around unsafe behaviors,” said one expert.

Oct 14, 2022

Austin City Council Approves $15 Monthly Electricity Bill Increase Starting Nov. 1

The Austin City Council voted to increase the average monthly residential electricity bill by about $15 starting Nov. 1.
In voting for the increase, Council Member Allison Alter said the increases are “primarily driven by external market factors beyond our control.” 
The increase is one of two rate increases proposed by Austin Energy, the city’s nonprofit publicly-owned electric utility company. The $15 increase will cover rising costs from the record-high price of natural gas, increasing energy demand and regulatory changes coming from ERCOT, Texas’ grid operator, according to Austin Energy.

May 31, 2022

Pandemic, Criminal Conviction Resulting from Nurse’s Mistake Raises Concerns for Future Healthcare Workers

Hot on the heels of the conviction of a Tennessee nurse at another university medical center, University of Texas at Austin nursing students are wary of joining healthcare workers already stretched to the limit by the COVID-19 pandemic. RaDonda Vaught injected Charlene Murphey with an incorrect drug and failed to monitor her, resulting in Murphey’s death. […]

May 17, 2022

As Teacher Vacancies Mount, Special Education Teachers Struggle to Meet Student Needs

Nearly all states in the U.S. are dealing with teacher shortages in special education. Texas school districts have struggled to fill teacher vacancies for years. The situation worsened during the pandemic.

May 17, 2022

Residents, Businesses Face Prospect of Moving to Make Way for I-35 Expansion 

TxDOT’s $4.9 billion I-35 Capital Express Central project is intended to reduce congestion and improve the safety of the highway. The Austin section of I-35 has twice been named in the Congress for the New Urbanism’s “Freeways Without Futures” report as one of the American highways in most need of elimination. That section of highway ranked second among Texas’ most congested roadways by Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute. 

May 15, 2022

Kirk Watson, Running Again for Mayor, Wants Austinites to Look Forward

Watson, who was mayor from 1997-2001, says Austin needs a mayor with long-term, forward-looking direction —  not someone simply reacting to the day-to-day issues facing one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. 

May 06, 2022

City Council Again Discusses Austin Opera House Redevelopment

The dispute over a proposed 1,200-seat music venue on the site of the old Austin Opera House continued to flare during an Austin City Council meeting Thursday. 

Apr 25, 2022

Austinites Dance With Dogs To Encourage Adoptions From Animal Center

Dances for Dogs and People Who Walk Them, an event held in cooperation with Forklift Danceworks, aimed to encourage adoptions from the Austin Animal Center, the largest no-kill animal shelter in the nation.

Apr 21, 2022

New Pool Creates New Opportunity

AUSTIN – In his final months before becoming a collegiate swimmer, Dietrich Hagenau will train at the new Eanes Aquatic Center at Westlake High School. Ever since Hagenau moved to Austin from California, he has been fighting to get a new pool built for himself and his teammates. “It’s very rewarding to hear that we […]

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