Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening legal action against the City of Austin and Travis County if leadership does not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the statewide mask mandate, which went into effect today.
Not a full day after Mayor Steve Adler announced that the city would continue to enforce Austin Public Health's COVID-19 safety guidelines, Paxton tweeted at the mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown that they have until 6 p.m. today to rescind the restrictions, "otherwise, on behalf of the State of Texas," he will sue.
.@MayorAdler & @AndyBrownATX, you and local health authorities have until 6:00pm today to rescind any mask mandates or business-operating restrictions and come into full compliance with GA-34 ➡️ https://t.co/Bz5DQsw8IV
Otherwise, on behalf of the State of Texas, I will sue you. pic.twitter.com/IP9UpZPplh
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) March 10, 2021
Paxton told officials to "come into full compliance with GA-34," which prohibits any Texas jurisdiction from requiring citizens "to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering," or enforce any "COVID-19 operating limits for any business or other establishment."
Paxton said he is "looking at every avenue available to stop" Adler and Brown, adding that the State of Texas has already taken Austin to court after the city tried to impose a four-day ban on dine-in food and drink services during New Year's Eve weekend.
"If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we'll take you to court again and you will lose again," Paxton said in a letter.
Mayor Adler responded to the letter at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday saying that himself and Judge Brown would do use "every tool available" to reduce the spread of the virus. "We will fight Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton's assault against doctors and data for as long as we possibly can," Adler wrote in a statement.
Austin-Travis County's mask mandate requires businesses to require customers to wear masks inside the establishment; knowingly violating the ordinance could result in a fine of up to $2,000. The decision was made in consultation with Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, who has been advising the city on safe COVID-19 practices.
"We need the efforts to continue. We need people to continue to mask and distance and do those things that have gotten us out of surge here in Travis County," Escott said in a press conference. "Our hope is that people, our community, our elected officials, will continue to echo the message that these protective measures, these nonpharmaceutical interventions work and they're important for us to continue with that transition."
When Abbott made the announcement that the mask mandate would end, he added that local governments would be able to reinforce restrictions if COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 15% for a week straight. Hospital admissions for the virus have been below 7% for the past week.
Over the summer, Austin City Council authorized Escott to create rules that protect residents from the virus, meaning the city enforces rules made by Escott, not Adler or Brown. The City of Round Rock will also continue to enforce masks.
Even outside of Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio are still requiring masks to be worn in municipal buildings. Escott said no one can be arrested for not wearing a mask, though they can face criminal charges for refusal to comply with business rules.
Complaints can be made by calling 311.
The story was updated to include a later released statement from Mayor Steve Adler.
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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.
Austin's first major league team is ready to extend its reach with a new collaborative sports complex The Pitch, an Austin FC destination packed with local food, beverages and Verde fervor is set to open in Northeast Austin in February.
The Pitch, a collaboration between Austin FC and Karlin Real Estate, among other entities, will be located in the 50-acre Parmer Pond District, which already hosts the club's practice facility St. David's Performance Center.
Dubbed a "true destination" for both soccer fans and the community, The Pitch will consist of multilevel shipping containers designed by Mark Odom Studio that will carve out into a 1,200-seat stadium complete with a soccer pitch made of turf, food and beverage options and a five-acre "Parmer Pond" featuring jogging trails.
Made from multilevel shipping containers, The Pitch will include food and a 1,200-seat soccer pitch made from artificial turf. (The Pitch)
“The launch of Karlin’s new food and entertainment experience will greatly enhance the Parmer development while perfectly complimenting St. David’s Performance Center,” Austin FC founder Anthony Precourt said. "The Pitch... will offer a strong variety of food options and gathering spaces for guests who will utilize St. David’s Performance Center and Parmer Field for a variety of events.”
The Pitch project lead Dave Greeley, who helped come up with the concept, is a former president of Austin FC parent company, Two Oak Ventures.
“The vision behind The Pitch at the Parmer Pond District is to be a first-of-its-kind sports, dining and entertainment destination,” said Dave Greeley, The Pitch project lead and Team Orbis president. “This will be an unmatched experience for Parmer Austin tenants, Austin FC and club supporters, and the community."
With its proximity to the practice center, the venture hopes to contribute to the growing "soccer city" of Austin during Austin FC matches and youth games with the Austin FC Academy hosted at the St. David's Performance Center.
The Pitch hopes to converge both community and club interests with Austin FC. (The Pitch)
In addition to the soccer pitch, stadium and pond, The Pitch will provide a foody experience made by the creative team behind Austin staples like Fareground and Easy Tiger. The complex will offer local bites including:
- Ranger Burger, which offers beers and burgers made from highly-coveted Wagyu beef direct from Ranger Cattle in East Austin
- Ga Roti, which merges flavors from Northern Vietnam with the culinary techniques of France to create a unique rotisserie chicken joint
- Taco Flats, a local taco chain serving Mexico City-style tacos, micheladas and more
- Sand Bar, which fulfills its namesake with beauty cocktails, local beers and a sand volleyball court
- Coffee Club, a coffee shop and bakery
- Corner Kick Bar, the soccer-focused main bar of The Pitch complete with "tunes, TVs and (a) beer garden"
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