Austin City Council will welcome a new member and welcome back a reelected incumbent to its dais after Tuesday's runoff election for Districts 6 and 10. Both races largely hinged on how the candidates felt about two divisive issues: police reform and homelessness.
Mackenzie Kelly was one of three candidates who challenged Flannigan in the Nov. 3 election, running to his right. Kelly led by 677 votes when Flannigan conceded, although Election Day votes were still being counted.
District 10 Council Member Alison Alter faced six challengers during the Nov. 3 election, ultimately facing off against conservative candidate Jennifer Virden on Tuesday. She won in a close race, with 577 more votes than her opponent.
Kelly and Alter will be tasked with rewriting the city's land use code, which continues to divide the council; considering further cuts to APD's budget, an issue in which Kelly will be outnumbered by her colleagues; and implementing Project Connect, a $7.1 billion overhaul of the city's transit system.
A new face for District 6
Kelly, a client care manager who ran against Flannigan in 2014, opposes recent cuts to the police department budget and council's decision to overturn the city's camping ban. Flannigan supported both policies.
"From standing courageously behind our law enforcement community to demanding safer conditions for our homeless population to fighting for transparency at City Hall, the voice of Northwest Austin has been heard," Kelly said in a statement tweeted by Andy Hogue, who was on her campaign team.
Mackenzie gives her victory speech! https://t.co/56GHHiKAn3— Andy Hogue (@Andy Hogue) 1608090524.0
Kelly will be the lone conservative council member, following in the footsteps of Ellen Troxclair, whose term representing Southwest Austin's District 8 ended in 2018.
Kelly has drawn criticism from her opponent and others for posing in a photo with protesters who displayed white supremacist hand signals and members of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders motorcycle group, members of which later accosted Flannigan at a campaign last month.
Flannigan was the first openly gay manr and the first Williamson County resident to serve on Austin City Council. He also served as chair of the public safety committee and was a vocal supporter of police reforms.
"The work that we're doing is important, and I'm proud of the work that I've done the last four years for this district," Flannigan said during a concession speech at his virtual watch party. "Just because the path to equality isn't straight doesn't mean we're on the wrong path."
Alter stays in place
Alter describes herself as a progressive Democrat and has spent her three years on council advocating for preservationist land use and parks. She voted to cut APD's budget but opposed the council's decision to overturn the city's camping ban.
The choice for District 10 is clear. Vote ALTER if you want experience, integrity, and proven leadership. https://t.co/OpYo50uWB9— Council Member Alter (@Council Member Alter) 1608045905.0
Virden, a real estate broker and general contractor, also opposed the camping ban. But she clashed with Alter on other issues, such as efforts to defund APD and Project Connect, both of which she opposed.
As voting comes to an end and we await the results, I want to thank everyone for their support and for believing in me and what I stand for!— Jennifer Virden for Austin City Council D10 (@Jennifer Virden for Austin City Council D10) 1608079303.0
This story has been updated to clarify that Flannigan was the first openly gay man to serve on Austin City Council. Randi Shade, who was elected in 2008, was the first openly gay member.
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Last fall, Janneke Parrish was pushing hard in her advocacy at Apple. She wanted to see flexibility with remote work, pay equity and for Apple to respond to Texas’ six-week abortion ban with paid time off and coverage for the procedure under the company’s health insurance plan.
Then, in October last year, she was fired.
Parrish, who lives in Round Rock and worked at Apple’s Austin campus as an Apple Maps program manager for about five years, is a leader of an internal movement at the tech giant. It comes at a time when the company is expanding its local presence with a new $1 billion Northwest campus with space for 5,000 employees.
Parrish worked at this Apple campus on West Parmer Lane. (Steven Joyner)
In August, the movement known as #AppleToo launched a website with the goal of organizing employees and sharing stories about alleged workplace harassment and discrimination. Austonia talked to Parrish and another former Apple employee who are part of the movement about their claims in what they observed while working for Apple.
“I’ve been advocating for members of my immediate team within Apple for several years,” Parrish said. “And when I realized that the issues that I was seeing with my own team were true throughout Apple, there was a natural transition toward, ok let’s expand this advocacy and instead be more of an advocate for everybody at Apple to ensure that we the workers at Apple are treated fairly and equitably and get treated as human beings.”
In the lead-up to her firing, Parrish faced an allegation that she had leaked details from a recent all-hands meeting to the Verge. She says she suspects it’s this, along with her advocacy, that influenced Apple’s decision to fire her.
“I didn’t do (the leak). And I know that Apple knows I didn’t do this,” Parrish said since a few employees including herself didn’t have access to that meeting due to a system crash that day. “I was still placed under investigation.”
As a requirement of the investigation, Parrish turned in her work devices. Before doing so, she wiped the files from her computer, saying she didn’t want her personal files on Apple servers. After a few days on paid suspension, she says human resources called and told her she’d been terminated with the reason being that she’d deleted those files.
Parrish is one of the leaders of the AppleToo movement. (Janneke Parrish)
Before Parrish’s firing, Apple was taking action on leaks and workplace organizing. An internal memo from 2018 noted a number of leakers they had caught were arrested. About a month before Parrish was fired, the tech giant had fired a senior engineering program manager for allegedly leaking confidential information. And in a September note, CEO Tim Cook sent a note to all Apple employees saying “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.
Austonia asked Apple about Parrish’s case and other matters at the company. In an email reply, the company said:
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Another piece of Parrish’s advocacy involved career opportunities for workers, particularly those based in Austin.
Even though Apple upped their presence in Austin in recent years, Parrish said Austin-area employees couldn’t enjoy networking opportunities like California workers did as Apple events were held on the West Coast. Texan Apple workers shouldn’t have to relocate to move up, she said.
“For those of us in Austin, I noticed, especially for my department, my career options were extremely limited,” Parrish said. “I was told by a manager that if I really wanted to advance in my career, I would have to move out to California.”
Parrish said Apple employees in Austin do not have the same career opportunities as those in California. (Shutterstock)
Austonia spoke to another member of the organizing group AppleToo. She requested anonymity to not hinder future job prospects in the tech industry. She’ll be identified with the pseudonym Mary.
Mary said she’s worked at Apple since 2008 in Austin, starting off as a contractor in customer support at iTunes and moving around over the years, leaving the tech giant earlier this month.
“It’s too hard to advance and there are no opportunities for development so (I was) just kind of stuck in a dead-end job,” Mary said.
Mary felt that another challenge was being a woman at a tech company. Starting out, she says she was the lowest paid in a training class of mostly men with pay of around $30,000, which rose to about $55,000 by the time she left.
But aside from pay, communication also proved to be a hurdle. To make her persona appear gender-neutral, she changed how her name was displayed on Slack, the interoffice directory and over email to just her first initial.
“The hard part was when I would have to get into a meeting with people then I felt like my voice is giving me away now,” Mary said. “But when I could avoid having meetings, I felt like it did make a difference.”
Mary says there’s been some movement in the right direction. An internal memo in November affirmed employees’ right to discuss pay after it had shut down employee-run pay equity surveys and an employee-run Slack channel. Earlier this month, it announced new efforts in a racial equity and justice initiative.
“We all want to see positive changes from Apple,” Mary said. “We all want them to look at wage disparities. We’d like to see more diversity—more minorities in leadership positions, more females in leadership positions.”
Still, Mary feels there’s more to be done. “I wish Apple was more responsive at making bigger changes,” she said.
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.