Walking around Austin, crypto’s influence is hard to avoid. Billboards promoting Bitcoin are plastered around the city, flyers downtown have QR codes that lead to advertisements for courses on decentralized finance and social groups are finding ways to draw in more people.
But not everyone has warmed up to the idea of crypto becoming more widespread. At SXSW, local and national media questioned the attention that crypto grabbed throughout the festivities with installations like Doodle. Beyond the festival, questions have been raised about some of the possible side effects of individuals and the city of Austin getting in on crypto.
Beneficial or risky?
Vice wrote that a common talking point at SXSW involved the money missed out on if people don’t join in on crypto. But the people who receive the message that crypto is lucrative have some feeling worried.
Tonantzin Carmona, a fellow at the Washington D.C. think tank the Brookings Institution, has noted that there’s a growing number of unbanked or underbanked populations trying their hand at crypto.
“My fear is people are making these claims that cryptocurrencies are going to solve these issues without explaining adequately how cryptocurrencies promote financial inclusion or equity, and how do we know that they aren’t actually hurting the most vulnerable and putting them at risk?” Carmona asked.
She went on to add that offerings like payday loans and subprime mortgages once made similar promises as an innovative step that could help communities who lacked access to mainstream services. In those instances, some users then faced financial woes.
“Are we promoting access to a riskier product?” Carmona said. “How does that solve issues of equity?”
Inclusion and jobs
At last week’s city council meeting, two crypto resolutions passed.
One of them called for the city manager to study how the city could use or hold crypto and the other directs the city manager to see how Austin could foster Web3 and blockchain projects. Some, including Austin Justice Coalition, voiced their thoughts that Austin has bigger priorities.
For many Austinites, some of those priorities may include gentrification and displacement. Other places that have seen an explosion of crypto like Puerto Rico and Miami are also managing soaring costs of living.
But at least having knowledge of crypto may come in handy for Austinites. Abena Primo, a professor in the school of business and technology at Huston-Tillotson University, informally teaches people about decentralized finance through her recently-launched newsletter. On-campus, it's become a natural learning avenue, as many of her students own crypto and ask her questions about it.
"With my work, I'm trying to make it not be a gentrification type of project," Primo said. "I'm hoping that by educating people at Huston-Tillotson University and in the community here, that people of color will not be left behind as they were with the internet revolution."
And it's not as though Defi lessons have taken over since Web3 is "still somewhat hypothetical," Primo says. With HTU placing high value on job attainment for their students, Primo says specialization in something like computer science will make the job hunt easier than only having skills in blockchain technology.
Leading up to the vote, some council members voiced worries over crypto's environmental impact and there was confusion over which applications of crypto required greater energy use. Eventually, someone explained the proof of work versus proof of stake methods. Those that rely on proof of work consensus mechanisms, like Bitcoin, involve “significant levels of energy consumption.”
And it's not just consumption. The large quantities of electricity required in crypto mining can have a spillover effect into local economies, like in Upstate New York where residents faced higher electricity bills.
Still, Mayor Steve Adler laid out the debate on its energy consumption.
“I’ve heard both those arguments,” Adler said. “I haven’t heard anybody that I trust actually or feels impartial to actually weigh those two factors, and I hope that’s part of the analysis of Council Member Kelly’s resolution that I think it’s covered there.”
Like others in the city, council seems split on just how crypto should be addressed in Austin. Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter warmed up to the resolution on fostering Web3 but not the one that'd involve the study of the city holding or using crypto.
“I'm really uncomfortable with the notion of us accepting payments in crypto anytime soon, I'd be happy to take a donation. And I'm pretty sure that if somebody offered a sizable donation in crypto to the city, we'd figure out a way to accept it without this direction,” Alter said before abstaining from the resolution for studying the city's holding or use of crypto.
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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