It would be easy for Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale, whose community is more than 80% white, to look at the unrest happening in larger metro areas like Austin and decide it's not his problem.
The large protests and, in some cases, violent rioting during the past week over police brutality, touched off by the killing of George Floyd by four white Minneapolis officers, have been largely confined to diverse metropolitan population centers.
But Van Arsdale and other city officials and police chiefs in Austin's overwhelmingly white and affluent suburbs see signs that the Black Lives Matter movement and its attendant demands for change are reaching into these communities—most of which have never before had to openly grapple with the issue of police brutality.
In Georgetown on Wednesday, Police Chief Wayne Nero greeted a crowd of about 200 mostly white residents carrying signs in front of the courthouse supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Lakeway, more than 90% of residents are white, while nearly 30% of the police officers are people of color. Local residents staged a peaceful demonstration outside the police department on Saturday and another one in the city on Tuesday night, said city spokesperson Jarrod Wise.
In Leander, residents are asking police how they can protect citizens from racial violence, opening conversations about the department's policies on body cameras, complaints and racial profiling, said Assistant Police Chief Billy Fletcher.
Police in Bee Cave are helping a group of teens from Lake Travis High School stage a Black Lives Matter rally in front of City Hall on June 13.
"We have been listening and learning," reads a message on the Cedar Park Police Department's Facebook page.
Bee Cave Police Chief Gary Miller said while he disagrees with violence, he believes most protesters are trying to peacefully find a way to express their anger, and rightfully so.
"I don't know any officer who believes the actions by any of the four officers in Minneapolis [are] anything other than criminal," he said.
Asked if the suburbs have a responsibility to engage in the conversation about race and police, Van Arsdale and Fletcher had the same answer: "Absolutely."
"Dr. King said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' This includes our suburbs," said Van Arsdale, a white former Republican Texas state lawmaker. "We need to speak clearly and with one voice: This is not 1862. This is not 1962. We don't want any of that part of that America again."
Suburban police say they are prepared for outside agitators disrupting their mostly quiet communities.
Miller, for example, has extra officers near the Galleria in the evenings to protect against potential looters.
West Lake Hills Police Chief Scott Gerdes said his department hadn't gotten any specific threats, but he has put extra officers on call.
"I certainly can't predict where these things may go," Gerdes said Tuesday, as chatter about suburban protests ramped up on social media.
The violence didn't come. Instead, there is conversation—with the potential for action.
Leander business owner Gus Gordon on Monday organized a meeting between local police and black business and civic leaders, which he saw as a good "first step" toward sowing support and empathy in a community that may not fully understand the recent anger on the streets. He's planning a more public and social community event later in the month, he said."For a lot of people in these majority white or affluent communities, this is not an issue that directly affects them, so it can be overlooked and seem exaggerated," said Gordon, who is black, and who owns Cappelliera's Barber Salon. "This is a national issue. Even if it doesn't directly touch Leander, Georgetown, Cedar Park, we should still have the support of people that are for justice—for all people."
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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