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Amid the possibilities that Austin voters could reinstate the city's camping ban and the implementation of a statewide ban, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the current plan is failing.
Austin City Council repealed the camping ban in 2019, after advocates said it criminalized homelessness. Adler told the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday that the approach "is not working," but added that going back to the previous ban also didn't address the city's homelessness issues.
Save Austin Now, a local campaign led by Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak, submitted more than 24,000 signatures to the city clerk's office on Tuesday in support of a petition to reinstate the camping ban. If validated, it will be included on the May 1 ballot, where Austin voted will determine the ban's fate.
The group previously attempted to get the same petition included on the Nov. 3 ballot, but the city clerk ruled their submissions were invalid due to duplicate signatures and other problems.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been a vocal critic of the City Council's decision to overturn the camping ban, said he will soon announce a statewide plan to address homeslessness, including a ban on public camping, during a press conference on Thursday.
Abbott called Austin "the front door for the state of Texas" and said such a ban is important for the city's appeal to visitors.
Austin City Council overturned the city's ban on public sitting, panhandling, lying and camping in August 2019. Although a majority of council members and many advocates supported the decision, it prompted intense pushback. Local business owners, the Austin Police Association and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the decision,which they said risked public health and safety.
Council members revisited the issue in late 2019 and voted to limit where camping is allowed, banning it from sidewalks, near houses and homeless shelters, and outside of businesses during operating hours.
But the policy has maintained its lightning rod status.
Windsor Park resident and former Libertarian candidate for the Texas House Kevin Ludlow posted a video showing the homeless encampment behind his home last August, where it was viewed tens of thousands of times. Although the city sent a crew to clean it up, Ludlow said it as only a short-term fix.
More recently, former Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who supported overturning the camping ban, lost in a runoff to now-Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who opposed the decision.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."