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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's public safety priorities for the current legislative session include making it "fiscally impossible" for municipalities to defund their police departments and a statewide plan to address homelessness that will include a ban on public camping. Both are clear rebukes to recent policy changes enacted by local elected officials.
"We cannot and will not allow Austin to defund the police," Abbott said during a press conference on Thursday. "Texas must set the example for the United States of America, not only to support law enforcement but to fully fund law enforcement agencies."
Austin City Council voted last August to cut the Austin Police Department budget by around 5% in the wake of mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Council members also approved putting around 30% of the budget into transition funds while they decide which traditional police duties could be moved out of the department's control.
Abbott did not elaborate on what such legislation might look like during a press conference on Thursday. But a few bills have already been proposed that might provide insight.
State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, filed a bill that would prohibit municipalities from passing annual budgets that reduce funding for public safety agencies. And State. Rep. Steve Allison, R-San Antonio, filed a bill that would require a referendum in cases where municipalities passed budgets with more than a 5% cut to public safety spending.
The Texas Legislative Council, a nonpartisan agency that helps lawmakers draft legislative, has also drawn up a proposal that, if filed and approved by state lawmakers, would put APD under state control—while remaining fully funded by the city of Austin. Abbott signaled his support for the draft on Twitter, writing that it had arrived "just in time for Christmas."
The main impact of the APD budget cuts was the cancellation of three planned cadet classes. APD's training academy has come under fire in recent years following allegations of racism, hazing and a paramilitary culture. Multiple reports commissioned by the City Council have recommended that it be put on hold until these issues can be resolved.
The most recent one—a community review of APD's training videos that was published on Monday—found "dangerous racial and class sterotypes;" limited representation of women, trans and non-binary people; a warrior mentality that pitts police officers against the community members they serve; and "constant refinforcement … that every encounter is potentially life-threatening," which could encourage excessive use of force.
Abbott said he "fully support(s) training reform" but is staunchly opposed to cuts.
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, who spearheaded the recent push to cut APD's budget, said the governor was standing in the way of accountability.
"In the wake of unjustifiable shootings and violence by police, our community has pushed the city to make much needed change," he said in a statement. "Now, Gov. Abbott is supporting proposals to protect departments that do the wrong."
In addition to police funding, Abbott also announced a forthcoming statewide plan to address homelessness, which he said would include a ban on public camping.
Austin City Council voted in 2019 to overturn a camping ban, which prompted intense pushback from concerned residents, business owners and state officials, including the governor. Two council members faced conservative challengers in runoff elections last month who ran on reinstating the camping ban. Incumbent Jimmy Flannigan lost his race to Republican Mackenzie Kelly; Alison Alter narrowly defeated her opponent Jennifer Virden.
Earlier this week, Save Austin Now, a local campaign led by Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak, submitted thousands of signatures in support of a petition that, if validated, will allow Austin voters to decide whether to reinstate the campaign ban. It is the group's second attempt to do so after an earlier batch of signatures was ruled invalid before the November election.
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. "When they come into this community, they need to know that they're going to be safe."
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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