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Many Austinites–including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and members of the local Tesla Owners Club—welcomed the news of Elon Musk's arrival in town. But not everyone feels the same way.
The enigmatic billionaire stokes criticism seemingly everywhere he goes, whether it's on Saturday Night Live or space.
Here are five reasons why some Austinites love to hate him.
1. California clique
Musk is perhaps the most extreme example of a commonly lamented trend: wealthy Californians moving to Austin for relatively affordable housing, driving up demand (and prices) for existing residents.
He followed his many business ventures to Texas, including Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company, which were drawn by tax breaks and other business-friendly policies.
"Musk, whose companies tend to depend on venture capital and government subsidies to survive, thrives on hype," Michael Agresta wrote in Texas Monthly last December. "In that sense, he and Austin make a perfect match."
As some Austinites lamented the move, their Californian counterparts celebrated it. "Musk has become California's Frankenstein," a Mercury News opinion columnist wrote upon news of his departure, citing concerns about worker safety and anti-union efforts at Musk companies. "Our monster has turned against us."
2. Labor pains
Local and state union officials were not happy when Tesla sought economic incentives from Travis County, which ultimately granted them, clinching the electric automaker's decision to build a new Gigafactory in Southeast Travis County.
United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada and Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy, among others, cited Tesla's "troubled history with taxpayer subsidies" in a letter sent to commissioners last summer. They cited Musk's decision to open a California Tesla factory in defiance of state health officials' COVID-19 directors and reports of workplace injuries and other safety concerns.
Local elected officials also questioned the optics of subsidizing Tesla, given its close association with the billionaire. "I'm … concerned about some of our small businesses struggling right now, and what kind of message is sent to them for government to help wealthy corporations," Travis County Attorney (and former District 2 Council Member) Delia Garza told Austonia last June.
3. Bad COVID takes
@GerberKawasaki @thirdrowtesla Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignora… https://t.co/spZgw673Yf— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1589042083.0
Musk has drawn outrage far beyond Austin's city limits for his pandemic stances, which include questioning the safety of COVID vaccines, telling the New York Times he wouldn't get vaccinated, threatening to sue a California county that shut down a Tesla assembly line due to the pandemic and insisting kids were immune to the virus despite evidence of the contrary.
4. Crypto backlash
@BillyM2k https://t.co/p0DkFkWHfV— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1622779069.0
The cryptocurrency community also has a bone to pick with Musk, whose tweets have driven the volatility of Dogecoin and other cryptocurrencies, leading some to accuse him of market manipulation.
Disdain for the Elon Musk Effect is so great that one group of fellow crypto connoisseurs created a new coin: STOPELON.
5. Wealth gap woes
New: @ProPublica has obtained a vast cache of IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing.https://t.co/qdLfDo10mF— ProPublica (@propublica) June 8, 2021
But perhaps Musk's greatest offense is his billionaire status. He is the second richest person in the world, according to Forbes' 2021 index. So when his companies apply for property tax subsidies or other forms of corporate welfare it rubs many the wrong way.
"We simply cannot afford to give preferential tax treatment to our wealthiest corporate citizens, or prospective wealthy corporate citizens, under a 3.5% revenue cap," then-County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said last summer, as Tesla was applying for such treatment. "This is a 'like-to-have' that we simply can't afford under this new normal."
Musk also pays a far lower "true tax rate" than most Austinites—around 3.27% compared to the lowest federal income tax rate of 10%, according to a report published by ProPublica in June.
Using "a vaste cache" of never-before-seen IRS data sent in from an anonymous source, ProPublica showed how the 25 richest Americans pay little—and sometimes none at all—in income tax relative to their massive wealth. "Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most," the reporters wrote.
Love him or hate him, Musk provokes a strong response—and seems poised for success regardless.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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