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In the swirl of protests over police brutality in Austin in the last two weeks, the lightning rod in the growing demand for change is Police Chief Brian Manley.
Will he stay? Or will he go?
While the question is easily posed in those black-and-white terms, the answer—which can be influenced by the Austin City Council but only wrought by City Manager Spencer Cronk—is more nuanced.
It is also complicated by the fact that Manley, if he goes, will need to be replaced at some point either from within the embattled department, or from an outside search that could take months.
On Thursday, the City Council is expected to approve items that, among other things, direct Cronk to submit a rewrite of the department's budget, limit or ban the use of force by Austin police, and state "no confidence" in the leadership.
The answer to what lies ahead for Manley will likely come in the soon-to-immediate future, if the strong opinions of the council—which has signaled unanimous support for sweeping change, including a no-confidence vote in "current Austin Police Department leadership"—is any indicator.
"He [Cronk] has a range of options," said City Council Member Ann Kitchen. "I'm not going to speculate. That's his [Cronk's] job, and I'm going to hold him responsible for it. And I expect that to be done shortly."
There are several things on the table for Manley's future, according to the Texas Local Government Code and city officials.
- He could be demoted to chief of staff, his former position before he became chief in 2018. Cronk alone has the authority to remove him from office, but without official accusation of a violation, Manley has the right to reclaim his old job or one of similar rank and keep his current seniority.
- He could be reassigned to another position similar in rank to his previous position.
- Cronk, who told the Austin American-Statesman last week that he still has confidence in "Manley's commitment to the community," could put Manly on probation and lay out a set of goals to achieve to keep his job.
- Manley could resign or choose to retire, allowing him to collect retirement benefits earned over three decades working for Austin police.
- Manley could be accused of an official violation of policy and fired, after which he could use the appeals process to try and win back his job. Neither the Office of Police Oversight nor Cronk's office has announced any investigations into the type of misconduct that could lead to the outright firing of the chief, a city spokesman said.
- Or nothing could change.
Cronk, who spent Wednesday in City Council meetings over the $10 billion Project Connect vote, told Austonia through a spokesman that he is listening closely to the council and the community and wants to address their desire for "the kinds of changes that these times demand."
"He does very much want to acknowledge that he's listening, he's aware of the conversations in the community, and he's fully committed to do what is necessary," said David Green, media relations manager for the City of Austin. "He's weighing all of this very heavily and being deliberative about it."
Austin police union President Ken Casaday said he would like to see a delay in Thursday's votes. Before the protests, his group gave Manley a list of proposed changes "in the way the department is run" that they believe will address concerns.
"We think Chief Manley deserves time to respond to our requests due to the events that have happened over the last couple of weeks," he said, declining to specify the proposals. "We're trying to give him the respect he's due for serving the community for 30 years."
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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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