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One by one, millionaires and tech giants—and all their employees—have made Austin home. In fact, in 2020, Austin topped LinkedIn's list of cities that gained the most newcomers.
So, what's all the fuss about Austin from West Coast tech stars?
In short, it's friendly business climate, low taxes and workforce, says Texas Gov. Greg Abbott when he welcomed software giant Oracle to the state. But it's more than that, as Austonia found out by talking with multiple techies who've moved to Austin.
For business reasons or not, the trend of moving to Austin has moved electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla and possibly richest man Elon Musk, DropBox CEO Drew Houston, hardware producer Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and venture capital firm 8VC, among others, in 2020 alone.
Between business and lifestyle, techies have found there's no place like Austin.
Years ago, local techie Frank Coppersmith predicted tech would eventually flee the Bay Area.
Coppersmith was a factory production manager for a San Jose, California technology company focused on the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain. Prompted by the semiconductor sector's move outside of the area, he followed suit, landing in Round Rock in 2005. He now is the CEO of software development company, Smarter Reality, located in the Domain.
"As much as I liked California, it was clear that the direction of the way the industry was moving and the way California was moving, that there would just be more opportunity elsewhere," Coppersmith said.
Austin's relationship with tech can be traced back to the 1950s, when Austin sought to become a technology town in an effort to replace the city's reliance on oil jobs. IBM relocated its Selectric typewriter facility to Austin in 1963, followed by Texas Instruments in 1967 and Motorola in 1974, and the city eventually grew its own giant in 1984, Dell Computers. Like a ripple effect, big names have attracted more names to follow, with some of the biggest arriving in 2020.
Austin Technology Council CEO Amber Gunst says the state's "business-friendly" culture is an attractive draw, not just due to the lack of a state income tax but for how its local and state governments foster the growth and expansion of new and existing companies.
"That's not the case in California, especially in the Bay Area," Gunst said.
According to Gunst, the pandemic has exacerbated the migration of tech companies into Austin, with Bay Area and East Coast employers permitting staff to work anywhere. Gunst's group is a resource for new transplants, helping tech workers transition through the organization's job board and member connections, she said.
"That's the one difficulty that we face right now," she said. "Without being able to physically come together, we do have people who feel a bit isolated when they first move here and try to meet new people."
Living in paradise
California-native Adam Prishtina was prompted to move to Austin by the quality of life Central Texas offers. The Athena Health tech executive was living with his wife and one-year-old son in a 1,200-square-foot apartment in the heart of San Francisco in 2015.
"We said, 'this is crazy,'" Prishtina said. "We should look at an opportunity to be able to live in a house with a front yard and a back yard, to just have room for the family to grow and expand."
His Circle C neighborhood reminds him of Los Gatos, a wealthy Northern California suburb Prishtina couldn't have easily afforded, with his current 3,600-square-foot home he estimated to be priced upwards of $3 million there instead of the $500,000 he paid.
Tech exec Adam Prishtina's young sons enjoy fishing on a sunny day in Austin's Circle C neighborhood. The San Francisco-native moved to the area in 2015, prompted by a better quality of life. (Adam Prishtina)
And the same goes for technical writer Joyce Fee, who thinks of Central Texas life as "paradise."
Fee worked in the technology field for about 25 years when she considered moving, prompted by worsening traffic, skyrocketing cost of living and deterioration of public schools.
After a visit to Austin, she and her partner looked for houses in the area online, seeking privacy, a pool and a five-minute walk to the lake. With some trepidation, they chose the Hill Country.
"We were afraid because we are a gay couple and we thought, 'Oh, man, are we going to go to Texas and get murdered or something like that,'" she said. "I remember those first few months, the neighbors were so warm and welcoming, (asking), 'How y'all doing.'"
For California-transplant Joyce Fee, Central Texas is "paradise," given its lower cost of living and quality of life. (Leslee Bassman)
Both Prishtina and Fee said they've encountered local folks who weren't inclined to roll out the welcome mat for the former West Coast residents. Chastised for raising city property taxes, pricing out longtime residents from their homes, Prishtina suggested West Coast transplants make themselves more approachable.
"If they get to know you, then that's going to reduce the stereotypes native Austinites have about Californians who move here," Prishtina said.
Lakeway resident Malur Narayan, who works for an Austin-based global consulting firm, offers advice to California techies who might encounter differences in the cuisine, culture and politics of their adopted state.
"The key advice (to newcomers) is to adapt because Texas is not California," Narayan said. "Take the best of what you have and offer it here."
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With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone where a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
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Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
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Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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