The intersection at Bettie Naylor and Colorado Streets is now a sea of colorful stripes where Austin City Council and Austin LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory cut the ceremonial ribbon on newly-minted rainbow crosswalks in honor of National Coming Out Day.
City officials, LGBTQ advocates and Mayor Steve Adler met at the intersection on Monday morning to announce the crosswalks, painted with a brand new Progressive Pride flag. The intersection will be closed until completion—approximately 5 p.m. The City also released the 2021 LGBTQ+ Quality of Life study today.
Adler said the gesture was long-overdue, announcing Austin had become the third most populous per capita city for the LGBTQ community in the country, and a symbol of belonging for everyone in Austin.
The mayor and city officials cut a rainbow ceremonial ribbon to unveil the new crosswalks. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
"For many here in our community, seeing this physical representation of a stated city value is long overdue but a really welcome sight," Adler said. "These crosswalks are an indication of Austin's spirit of inclusion, unity and acceptance. These vibrant colors painted on our streets will stand as a beacon and a symbol of diversity to everyone."
The location was intentional, according to the city. The crosswalks sit along Bettie Naylor, a portion of W. 4th Street named after the LGBTQ visibility activist, and in the heart of Austin's gay nightlife scene.
In addition to the four crosswalks, three nearby utility boxes will also be decorated as part of Austin Transportation's Art Boxes program—the box in the same intersection will have a Progressive Pride flag and a purple circle in a yellow triangle for intersex individuals.
The intersection of Bettie Naylor and Colorado streets is now painted in the LBGTQ community's symbolic colors. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
Ryn Gonzales, operations & program director for OutYouth and chair of the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission, said they were excited to see a step in the right direction and they look forward to advancing Austin together.
"This is a great symbolic first step for our community—our kids are going to feel a little bit more seen than they did yesterday and all the days before," Gonzales said. "We cannot do this alone, we have to do it together. The thing that I've always loved about our community: we've always done it together. Maybe not always perfect but together, and always in the spirit of making sure that no one is left behind, no one is forgotten."
The design is a mixture of the six colors of the rainbow for Pride, black and brown to represent the community of color; baby blue, white and pink for the Transgender community. According to the City, the colors were requested by the community.
"Everyone in Austin, no matter what street corridor or crosswalk that they're on, gets to feel like this is home for them," Gonzales said.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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