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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An Austin-based program manager for Apple Maps and one of two leaders for the #AppleToo activist movement said she has been fired after a suspension.
According to the New York Times, Janneke Parrish said she was put on suspension for several days while the company investigated her activities before she was fired by a human resources employee via phone call on Thursday.
Parrish was under investigation for allegedly leaking a recording of an Apple staff meeting to the media, which she said she didn't do.
The report said the company told Parrish, who is 30, that she was being fired for having deleted files off her company-issued phone and computer before handing them in for examination. Parrish said the files she deleted contained her personal and financial information.
Among the files she deleted were the Robinhood app, which she said was to keep Apple from seeing "how much money I lost investing in GameStop," the Pokemon Go app and screenshots of programming bugs she was fixing.
Parrish said she believes Apple was retaliating against her efforts in organizing #AppleToo, a group of employees working to expose the company's "culture of secrecy" that has been "faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender and historically marginalized groups of people."
Parrish had been publishing weekly accounts of workplace problems that had been shared anonymously with her from other employees, though she did not verify employment on all of them. The accounts she received were in the hundreds, so Parrish said she was hopeful her termination would lead to some justice within the company.
Employees at tech giants have been more outspoken than usual in recent months—with former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaking out against her former employer—and Parrish said the company's desire to keep under wraps has eroded trust by discouraging employees to come forward with issues like harassment or wage disparity.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock commented on the matter: "We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters."
Additionally, the email detailing her termination, which was obtained by the New York Times, said Apple had determined that Parrish "engaged in conduct in violation of Apple policies including, but not limited to, interfering with an investigation by deleting files on your company provided equipment after being specifically instructed not to do so."
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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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