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Austin could finally get its own congressional district, and popular Dem Lloyd Doggett is ready to run for it
Austin is the largest U.S. city without a congressional district anchored in it. But this could change when the Texas Legislature reconvenes later this year for the decennial redistricting process.
The partisan process is controlled by state Republican lawmakers. Last time around, they "cracked" the city of Austin into six districts—represented by five Republicans and one Democrat—in an effort to dilute its political influence. But they may consider a new strategy this year: "packing" Democratic voters into one Austin district, to the same effect.
During the 2011 redistricting process, the city of Austin was split up across six congressional districts.
(City of Austin)
Local political strategists and redistricting experts say consolidating Austin's overwhelmingly liberal voters into one district would help minimize their influence elsewhere. "It's a little bit of an insurance policy for Republicans," said Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
An anchor in Austin
An Austin anchor district—one that represents a majority of the city's residents—could fall in the vanishingly thin intersection of a Venn diagram with two circles: state Republicans' interests and local Democrats' interests. "It's a coincidence, but one that works for both parties equally well," said Bill Miller, a local political fixer who has worked on both sides of the aisle.
Austin's rapid population growth and the bluing of its outlying suburbs have made it increasingly difficult for some Republican incumbents to hold onto their seats. National Democrats targeted four Republican U.S. House districts that represented Austin last November, driving up election costs and narrowing margins. "I think it's likely, to the extent that some of those (incumbents) are in conversation, they would love to hand over Central Austin to a Democratic congressman," local GOP strategist Brendan Steinhauser said.
Local Democrats would also benefit from such a district. The city would gain a dedicated representative in Washington, one who could fight for its interests, such as funding for Project Connect or the University of Texas at Austin. "(U.S. Rep. Lloyd) Doggett (D-Austin) can help his community more effectively when his interests are consolidated," Miller said. "So it helps the community immeasurably."
Six members of the U.S. House represent Austinites.
(U.S. House of Representatives)
Travis County GOP Chairperson Matt Mackowiak and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire have also speculated that such a district would attract new progressive challengers, such as District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, in 2022.
A spokesperson for Casar said their comments seem premature since the districts have not yet been drawn.
Casar will primary Doggett and this is the evidence that it’s his plan. https://t.co/VQ0Z9QUnv0— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) June 7, 2021
If Travis County gets its own US House seat, would @GregCasar run against @LloydDoggettTX ? Couldn’t he openly run as the Democratic Socialist he claims to be & win the Dem nomination? After all Sanders, Warren, Gabbard got 60% in 2020. 1/2https://t.co/xGUSWgvrCV— Bill Aleshire (@AleshireLaw) June 7, 2021
Others think it's unlikely the two progressives face off. Steinhauser pointed to Casar's record on homelessness. The council member led the charge to overturn the city's public camping ban in 2019; voters reinstated it in May after a campaign led by Save Austin Now, which Mackowiak co-founded. "I would be highly skeptical that Casar runs," he said.
Miller was more blunt. "No one's going to beat Doggett," he said. "Doggett's there for life, or as long as he wants to be there."
And Dogget wants to be there. "Whatever crooked lines they impose next, I am running in whichever district best reflects our progressive values and offers a realistic opportunity to seek justice both for our neighbors and our country in Washington," he said in a statement to Austonia.
A new district?
When state lawmakers return to the Capitol, they will also be tasked with adding two new districts as a result of population growth, especially among residents of color. Local political strategists expect state Republican lawmakers will add seats where it most advantages their party—so likely outside of Central Texas.
"I think the Republicans will be ruthless in gaining the maximum advantage that they can," said Matt Angle, a Democratic political strategist and founder of the Lone Star Project PAC.
The new maps will not only shape the 2022 state and federal elections but also those in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030. "It's high-stakes poker when it comes time to gerrymander Texas," Li said.
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It's officially dating season if you haven't heard, and that doesn't mean you have to ditch your dating apps.
Two out of three people say they believe you can fall in love before meeting in person, according to a new survey released by Bumble. Bumble, the locally founded online dating company that allows women to make the first move, says its newly released survey "reveals how the pandemic has changed dating" headed into the "summer of love."
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease in parts of the country and around the Lone Star State, the company says that 91% of those surveyed believe that there is no longer a stigma attached to online dating compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. And more than two-thirds think it's possible to fall in love with someone that they've never met in person before.
Bumble users have also adapted to Coronavirus-related restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey says.
Clare O'Connor, head of content at Bumble, said that 1 in 3 users said that they liked virtual dates because it saves them time and money and 1 in 4 users surveyed said they liked that they only have to get partially ready when going on a video date.
For those wanting to play it safe heading out the door, O'Connor said that soon, users will be able to add a badge to their Bumble profile that says "vaccinated."
So what should you if trying to get back in on the dating scene?
O'Connor's advice is to "seasonalize" your profile by updating your photos to show your personality.
Let's get dating!
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Austin FC's loss in Minnesota was a far cry from their joyous first match at Q2 Stadium.
The club was looking for a 2-0 record at the Loon's stadium after beating Minnesota 1-0 earlier in the year. Instead, they were bogged down with even more injuries and a roster that never clicked as they took a 2-0 loss at Allianz Field.
Even with the loss, thousands of fans kept chanting their club's name when the match ended at watch parties around the city.
Somos de Austin. De Austin Tejas. Verdi black Verdi black Verdi black black black! pic.twitter.com/8JLRMLRAHd
— Los Verdes (@LosVerdesATX) June 24, 2021
Members of the supporters' groups Los Verdes and Austin Anthem scattered around town to watch the match, even making it as far south as Sean Patrick's in San Marcos. They were all hoping for the same thing—a goal and a win after a series of scoreless draws.
ARRIVAL! members of @LosVerdesATX make an entrance into Sean Patrick's watch party in San Marcos🥁 pic.twitter.com/DZHWHOVfKb
— Austonia (@austonianews) June 24, 2021
Unfortunately, Austin FC was hit with a spell of bad luck as the match began.
Captain Alex Ring, out. Nick Lima, out. The club already had just 17 healthy players on the roster prior to the match, and no Ring usually means no dice for the club. Wolff paired some tough decisions with some questionable ones. Sebastian Berhalter, Manny Perez and Aedan Stanley saw their first starts for the club, while center back Jhohan Romana subbed in for veteran Matt Besler and Rodney Redes was once again placed back in the starting 11.
Update: Alex Ring will be replaced by Sebastian Berhalter in tonight's Starting XI. Cecilio Domínguez will be stepping in as Captain. https://t.co/Q4qf0TLNPW
— Austin FC (@AustinFC) June 23, 2021
Minnesota used Austin's uncertainty from the jump. Energized by newcomer Franco Fragapane, who had already tallied a goal in his first match with the club, the Loons struck first as Fragapane in the 11th minute.
Fragapane's first goal at Allianz Field is absolute 🔥🔥🔥!
Loons lead 1-0! #MINvATX pic.twitter.com/GtI0FRhxxG
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 24, 2021
The Loons managed two goals in ten minutes after Fragapane was once again put in a threatening position, sailing a set piece over the Austin FC defense that was expertly headed in by Adrien Hunou.
🗣 "Adrien Hunou on home debut makes it 2!"
The Loons are feelin' it! #MINvATX pic.twitter.com/YpbdecRuDW
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 24, 2021
Eighteen minutes in, Austin FC's backs were already against the wall.
Still, Austin had more shots on goal than Minnesota for most of the game. Tomas Pochettino, who is eagerly awaiting his first MLS goal, made more threats than usual in the final third. Fagundez hustled in his usual fashion and nearly scored for his second straight appearance at Allianz Field.
By the half, however, it was clear that Austin's rotating door of substitutions weren't clicking on the pitch. Austin FC fans were heating up on Twitter. Supporters everywhere were in rare agreement about the club's performance.
Austin FC fans all in rare agreement at the half: Austin FC is tired.
Zach Gonzalez, Adrian Martinez and Cade Summers weigh in: pic.twitter.com/gwT5wumvsT
— Austonia (@austonianews) June 24, 2021
Almost as the second half whistle blew, Wolff seemed to put up the white flag as he subbed out star striker Cecilio Dominguez. Twenty minutes later, Fagundez was swapped out as well. At one point, five of the 11 players on the pitch were under 22 years old.
Wolff said the moves were made both to bring energy onto the pitch and plan for their next match. Some positions have no depth left—for example, Wolff said Hector Jimenez is the club's only remaining right back.
"In the second half, there was injection of some energy... we're also trying to be just responsible with our players," Wolff said. "Health becomes an issue real quick."
As players came on and off the field, the captain's armband was passed around, eventually landing on the well-deserving Brad Stuver, who quickly proved his worth with a showstopping save that impressed even Minnesota's Twitter account.
this would've blown the roof off the place...
...if we had a roof pic.twitter.com/9dBQAyo7br
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) June 24, 2021
Still, the save wasn't enough for the series of mishaps that led Austin to their first loss in St. Paul.
The club has no time to wallow, however. On Sunday, the club will play their third match in eight days as they take on the Columbus Crew in a much-awaited match at home.
Defender Julio Cascante said he loves the quick turnaround of the sport and can't wait to get back to Q2.
"I think that's the beautiful thing about this game. We play today and right away we have to change our mentality to play the next game," Cascante said. "I think we have to show our fans what they are expecting from us... we have to stand up and keep working on the season."
Austin FC will take on Columbus—the club that won the MLS Cup last year and is the former home of Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt and other club players—at Q2 Stadium on Sunday, June 27.
Nearly one-third of Austin ISD students in grades 6-12 failed at least one course in spring semester
Austin ISD secondary students failed courses at much higher rates in the second semester of the 2020-21 school year compared to the 2019-20 school year, even as campuses reopened to students, according to new data released to Austonia.
Around a third of high school students failed at least one course in both semesters of the most recent school year, with a slight increase in the second semester—34.8% compared to 32.7%. During the 2019-20 spring semester, around 15% of high school students failed at least one course.
A similar trend occurred at the middle school level, where around 30% of students failed at least one course in both semesters of the 2020-21 school year. This is nearly double the rate of student failures in the first semester of the 2019-20 school year and more than triple the rate in the second semester.
This updated data shows that student failures continued to be an issue at AISD even as campuses reopened. District officials have attributed the higher failure rates to
the challenges of hybrid learning.
AISD resumed in-person classes after winter break as the local COVID-19 risk level improved but continued to offer remote learning through the spring semester—an option that most middle and high school students favored. During the final weeks of classes, which ended June 3, about one-third of middle school students and fewer than 10% of high school students were learning on campus, according to the district.
This trend is not limited to AISD. Similar failure rate increases occurred across the 10 largest Houston-area school districts, according to a recent KHOU report. And nearly 30% of high school students in the 15 largest Central Texas school districts were failing at least one class midway through the 2020-21 school year, according to a KVUE Defenders report published in February.
Rising failure rates are also not completely a consequence of the pandemic, during which time public school districts, including AISD, faced falling enrollment, funding challenges and a widening digital divide.
Students were facing myriad challenges during this last school year in addition to the pandemic. Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based nonprofit, published a statewide report on K-12 students during the pandemic in March, which found an increasing number of students faced food and housing insecurity while dealing with the pandemic, virtual learning and the nationwide reckoning with police violence.
Andrew Hairston, co-author of the report and director of Texas Appleseed's Education Justice Project, said rising school failure rates "provide a microcosmic view of what has been a year of tremendous suffering for your people and their parents and their families" in an interview last month.
AISD announced last week that it plans to return all students to on-campus learning in the 2021-22 school year, as local COVID case rates remain low and after state lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have allowed for some virtual learning options. "We know and realize this will be a big shift for our students, so we're committed to doing everything possible to help them in that regard," Chief of Schools Anthony Mays said in a statement.
The Texas Appleseed report included a series of recommendations for school districts to alleviate student suffering, including issuing bans on suspensions and expulsions, considering offering a pass/fail grading system for the 2021-22 school year, cutting school police budgets and reinvesting the money into full-time mental health care providers and support services.
"There's just going to be such resounding ripple effects from this pandemic in so many different ways," Hairston said. "It's going to be catastrophic if districts don't take prophylactic measures now."
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