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Half of Austin City Council's 10 seats—Districts 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10—are up for election this November, and after Monday's filing deadline, 20 candidates will be competing for a spot on the (virtual) dais.
Elected members will be tasked with rewriting the city's land use code, considering further cuts to the Austin Police Department's budget and, if voters approve a tax rate increase, implementing the $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan.
City council seats are nonpartisan, although all current members are affiliated with the Democratic Party. Austin residents can plug in their address to find their council district here.
Here's a list of who's running:
District 2 Council Member Delia Garza will vacate her seat to serve as Travis County attorney. She won the Democratic primary for the position in July, and there is no Republican candidate.
Four candidates are vying to replace Garza on council, including David Chincanchan, former chief of staff for District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria; Vanessa Fuentes, who works for the American Heart Association and said one of her top priorities would be improving health equity in Austin; Casey Ramos, a boxer who lost to Garza in 2016; and Alex Strenger, a pedicab driver who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2018 and has advocated for building a dome around Austin to keep out Californians.
This district covers Southeast Austin.
District 4 Council Member Greg Casar is running for re-election against Louis C. Herrin III, a civil engineer who ran against Casar in 2016 and 2014, and Ramesses II Setepenre, a licensed massage therapist. While on the council, Casar has been a vocal proponent for the recent cuts to the Austin Police Department's budget, paid sick leave and a historic affordable housing bond.
This district includes parts of northeast and north central Austin.
District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan will face off against Deedra Harrison, a consultant; Mackenzie Kelly, a client care manager who unsuccessfully ran against Flannigan in 2014 and opposes public camping and recent cuts to Austin's police department; and Dr. Jennifer Musthaler, a physician. Flannigan's reelection campaign platform includes public safety reform, regional mobility, affordability and social justice.
This district covers parts of northwest Austin.
District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool will face off against one opponent, education adviser Morgan Witt, this election. Pool's priorities include environmental sustainability and preserving Austin neighborhoods' character. Witt, a renter who claims to be the "truly progressive" candidate, supports improving mobility and forming Austin's zoning code to allow for more diversity of housing.
This district includes parts of north central Austin.
District 10 Council Member Alison Alter faces the most crowded field, with six other candidates running for her seat. Her opponents are Ben Easton, a writer who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the Texas House in 2016; Belinda Greene, who works in sales; Pooja Sethi, an attorney whose campaign platform includes community-driven transit and police reform; Robert Thomas, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2014 and whose platform includes reinstating the police academy and public camping ban; Noel Tristan, a business owner; and Jennifer Virden, who opposes council's recent cut to police funding and the "astronomical" cost of Project Connect.
This district covers West Austin.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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