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Austin City Council members—all 11 of them, including the mayor—signaled their unanimous support Tuesday for an overhaul of the Austin Police Department by attaching their names onto a packet of resolutions aimed at changing the way the police treat residents and questioning the ability of Chief Brian Manley to continue in his role.
"To speak as a unified council is powerful," Council Member Leslie Pool said.
Members are prohibited under open meetings laws from taking an actual vote on the five items until Thursday's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, where the items appear on the agenda.
So at Tuesday's public work session they instead took the rare and symbolic act of signing on as co-sponsors to every measure dealing with Austin police.
"It's a proud day for the council work session. It kind of feels like we took a vote today. We didn't," Mayor Steve Adler said with a smile. "Because we're not allowed."
Resolutions only need four co-sponsors and usually don't have more than about five.
"it is not our common practice," said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. "I don't think it needs to be our common practice. But we are not in a common moment."
The resolutions were drafted in direct response to protests about police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos in Austin.
Several protesters were seriously injured after being hit with less-lethal rounds fired into the crowds by Austin police holding back demonstrators.
The items include a reduction in funding and staffing for the police department, banning the use of less-lethal munitions during protests, and making a statement of no confidence in Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, though he is not specifically named in the items.
"It's a very strong signal from our council," Council Member Kathie Tovo said. "It is important that we show the community that we have strong support for council providing this leadership both to our city manager and to the police department, and to the executive management team."
Council Member Greg Casar, whose resolution restricts use of force, said he would likely change it on Thursday to ban the use of tear gas in the city altogether.
Six members have either called on Manley to resign, or expressed a lack of confidence in the job he's doing, or said his resignation would send the right message to Austin residents clamoring for change. On Tuesday, Alison Alter became the most recent council member to join the call for his ousting.
Politically, signing on as co-sponsors will shield council members during election season from attacks by opponents—being the only name left off the resolution would provide ammunition.
So when Adler asked that his name be put on all items because he was getting questions about it, those council members whose names were not already attached to all of them also asked that they be added as co-sponsors to the whole package.
In a flurry of activity near the end of Tuesday's meeting, council members quizzed the city attorney and clerk about how they could all get their names on the resolutions in time for the vote without violating any open records laws.
"This is the clerk's office," City Clerk Jannette Goodall chimed in cheerfully at one point. "We've got you all down!"
(This article was corrected to say resolutions need four co-sponsors to make it onto the agenda. All items dealing with police matters already had at least four co-sponsors before Tuesday.)
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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