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Elon Musk may be moving to Texas, but another tech billionaire isn't following in his footsteps. Oracle founder Larry Ellison announced while he is leaving California, he is headed for blue waters.
We've compiled the latest Austin news and information to help you keep up with interesting stories and breaking news around the city. Here is what we have shared so far this week:
Dec. 15: Housing market isn't matching historic trends this time of year and 4 more headlines you might've missed
Real estate immune to pandemic: Austin's housing market was already hot before major tech companies started relocating here. KXAN reports that record-low housing inventory is causing homes to sell faster—35 days—and at higher levels—$441,000 median sales price—in Austin than usual. Even the usual holiday sales dip seems unlikely this year, experts claim.
Another Silicon Valley departure: Oracle may be moving here, but Oracle's founder is heading the other direction. Billionaire Larry Ellison already moved from California to Hawaii, using "the power of Zoom" to keep connected with the continental U.S. Ellison, the world's seventh-wealthiest person, also has some business interests in Hawaii, Austin Business Journal reports.
Return of The Pier?: Historic restaurant The Pier on Lake Austin could soon return long after being forced to shut down in the mid-2000s, but it won't make any progress until at least January, Austin Monitor reports. The Pier, a Lake Austin restaurant for 47 years, is attempting to reopen at its old location but requires a zoning change to make needed repairs. A Lake Travis version of the restaurant was short-lived.
Tiny desk treatment: Black Pumas recently hosted an at-home, stripped-down set for the Tiny Desk music series hosted by NPR. Playing a Tiny Desk show has become a right of passage for many musicians, adding to the accolades Black Pumas has received this year, including three more Grammy nominations to follow up their Best New Artist nod.
P. Terry's ventures south: The 19th location of P. Terry's Burger Stand will debut Wednesday in New Braunfels, representing the Austin-based chain's southernmost location yet. It's a precursor to P. Terry's first San Antonio location, CultureMap reports, originally scheduled for this fall but moved to summer 2021.
Dec 14: H-E-B responds to reports and 4 more headlines you might've missed
HEB leadership responds: After last week's report from VICE that anti-maskers caused H-E-B to relax mask enforcement, Austin Business Journal talked with one of the grocery company's executives about mask use in stores and supply chain issues. Just as VICE reported, ABJ learned that mask-less patrons are not forced to leave H-E-B stores.
Country great dies of COVID-19: Charley Pride, a country music legend and trailblazer, died this weekend from COVID-19 complications. Pride, 86, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame 20 years ago, becoming the first Black singer to receive such recognition. He's also one of only three Black members of the legendary country music venue Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Austin City Limits TV recognized his 1981 performance during Season 6 of the long-running live music series.
Latin voices during the pandemic: Voces Oral History Center has interviewed nearly 100 people as part of its "Voices of the Pandemic" project documenting how the Latinx community members has coped with COVID-19. Austin Monthly profiled The University of Texas project, which began in 1999 well before the pandemic.
Hemp farmers in Hays County: The first-ever Taste of Texas Hemp Cup, a contest recognizing the state's top hemp farmers, took place this weekend in Hays County. Hemp, used to produce legal CBD products sold in Texas, looks like marijuana but doesn't give you the psychoactive effect of THC. KVUE reports the contest attracted hemp growers from the far corners of the state.
Stock cars at COTA: When NASCAR visits the Circuit of the Americas racing venue next year, the entirety of the 3.41-mile road course will be utilized. Originally designed for Formula 1 racing, COTA has 20 turns as opposed to oval track used in most NASCAR races. Jalopnik reports the late May race will be part of a full NASCAR weekend of events at COTA that will also include the Truck Series.
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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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