100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
The group behind a petition to put a citywide public-camping ban on the November ballot in Austin said Thursday that they were "engaging a highly respected local Democratic litigator" in their efforts to fight a city ruling earlier in the week that their petition did not enough valid signatures.
Matt Mackowiak, a cofounder of Save Austin Now, the group behind the petition, stopped short of saying the group was planning to file a legal contest—but he did put out a call for donations in a post on Facebook.
Mackowiak, who is also chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said in a Facebook post that the group has called "a highly respected local Democratic litigator to review the facts, help us determine what additional information is needed, and consider our legal options."
"Put simply: This is expensive and we need your support right now," he wrote. "We have only begun to fight."
Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall's ruling yesterday was the first time since 2002 that the city invalidated a petition because of lack of signatures, she told Austonia on Thursday.
The struggle has intensified as residents report growing camps near neighborhoods while a consultant hired by the city is advising that moving the encampments won't solve the city's homelessness issue.
Goodall used a random sampling method that the city adopted in 2002 in her review, according to a city spokesperson. State law allows cities to use any reasonable sampling method in determining whether citizen-led petitions contain the required number of signatures.
While Mackowiak was not specific about plans to file, local attorney and activist Fred Lewis—who has spearheaded other citizen-initiated petitions, including one last year that opposed an expansion of the Austin Convention Center— said he would expect the group to file very soon, likely with the state district court.
This is because the last day for the city to order a referendum in the November election is Aug. 17, according to the state election schedule.
"You're talking two or three weeks this has got to be decided - at most," Lewis said. "The court may not be able to decide it in that time."
Save Austin Now filed the petition on July 20, with 24,598 signatures—well over the 20,000 required to put their initiative on the ballot. If validated, it would have allowed voters to decide whether to roll back a year-old city ordinance allowing camping, panhandling, sitting and lying in public spaces.
But in her review, Goodall discovered several issues: some signers asked to be removed; there were duplicate names; and a second version of the petition was detected, which invalidated others.
Ultimately, the clerk estimated that there are 19,122 valid signatures on the petition.
"The probability that checking all 24,201 submitted signatures would find a total of at least 20,000 valid signatures is less than 3 in one billion," Goodall wrote in her ruling.
Some welcomed the news.
Chris Harris, director of criminal justice programs at Texas Appleseed and who was involved in a local effort to decriminalize homelessness, called the clerk's ruling "phenomenal" in a tweet on Wednesday.
"Republican efforts to re-criminalize homelessness & use homelessness as a wedge to turn out conservative voters in November has failed," he wrote.
Save Austin Now co-founder Cleo Petricek is a self-proclaimed local Democrat.
PHENOMENAL news #ATX!!! Republican efforts to re-criminalize homelessness & use homelessness as a wedge to turn ou… https://t.co/Nouy3uT91r— Chris Harris (@Chris Harris)1596660575.0
- Report urges "more humane" approaches to Austin homeless ... ›
- Group says petition to end Austin homeless camps drew 24k ... ›
- Video shows 'massive problems' with homeless camp in Austin ... ›
- No homeless public camping vote on November ballot for Austin ... ›
- Austin Mayor Adler gives speech on COVID, homelessness policing ... ›
- Austin’s Windsor Park sees homeless encampment return after clean-up effort - austonia ›
- Citizen smartphone app already has 50,000 Austin users - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now sues city of Austin over camping ban petition - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now relaunches petition to reinstate camping ban - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now tries again to reinstate camping ban - austonia ›
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."
- Week 1 roundup: One gold, two silvers and more to come for ... ›
- Going for gold: 27 athletes with Austin ties heading to the '21 Tokyo ... ›
- Week 1 roundup: One gold, two silvers and more to come for ... ›
- Former UT diver Alison Gibson competing at Tokyo Olympics ... ›
- 21 athletes with Austin ties are heading to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics ... ›
- An Austinite's guide to the Olympics: how to watch, who to cheer on ... ›
- UT to host first sporting event at 100% capacity tonight - austonia ›
- Texas State notebook: London signs, Osterman departs - Austin, TX ›
- The Statesman Interview: Cat Osterman - Sports - Austin American ... ›
- Olympian Cat Osterman to coach Round Rock Express softball ... ›
- Charity softball event again brings together Osterman, Ricky ... ›
- Team USA Softball player Cat Osterman comes out of retirement for ... ›
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.
- Should Texans be concerned about the delta variant? - austonia ›
- Here's where you can get vaccinated and avoid Delta today - austonia ›
- The Delta variant is spreading—Here's what you need to know ... ›
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›