One of Austin's own was named among the top kids of 2020, according to TIME magazine. We've compiled the latest news headlines around Austin to help catch you up on this story and other breaking news around the city.
Here is what we have shared so far this week:
Dec. 4: Austin teen is one of TIME's best this year and 4 more headlines you might've missed
16-year-old Austinite Ian McKenna was named a finalist for TIME magazine's Kid of the Year honor.
1. Best kid in Austin: For the first time, TIME magazine awarded its first Kid of the Year, and Austin's own Ian McKenna was among the five finalists for the honor. The 16-year-old gardener was recognized for helping curb youth hunger with produce he grew himself.
2. Tourists might save music venues: Austin is dishing out $15 million in emergency relief money to "iconic" Austin music venues, pulling from hotel tax dollars typically used to fund the convention center. This is the first time the city has deemed it legal under state law to use tourism hotel taxes for this purpose, potentially setting a new precedent, Community Impact reports.
3. State troopers in the city: The state wants to take over law enforcement efforts from Lady Bird Lake to 32nd Street and from I-35 to North Lamar Boulevard—and possibly to MoPac, according to The Texas Tribune. That means state troopers would patrol the streets instead of city and school cops under a proposal touted this week by Gov. Greg Abbott.
4. Utah monolith doesn't stand alone: After a viral frenzy over a mysterious monolith appearing and disappearing in the Utah desert, Austin Community College is getting involved in the fun. KXAN reports that ACC's welding department built a metal triangular column similar to the one magically showing up across the globe.
5. Whole lot of office space: Whole Foods Market is building a second downtown office building next to its 15-story West Sixth Street tower, which was constructed in 2017. The new building, slated for completion by the end of 2021, will be shorter than the original. TOWERS reports this news helps explain the unique architectural choices of the original development.
Dec. 3: This South Austin strip mall is getting a major facelift and 4 more headlines you might've missed
Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will be revamped into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use development by late 2022 or 2023.
(Barshop & Oles)
1. Major South Austin project announced: Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will soon become a mixed-use development with more than 3 million square feet of newly developed residences, retail and restaurants—and one-third of the project includes office space, too. The development will be the size of two Barton Creek Square Malls, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and it won't be ready until late 2022 or 2023.
2. Tax bills behind schedule: Wondering why you haven't been hit by a Travis County tax bill yet? KVUE learned that most people haven't received their 2020 tax statement because the county waited to see how November's election might impact the city's tax rate. Keep in mind that property valuations were frozen last year, so the tax impact could be less severe in 2020—check here if you cannot wait for the mail to see the damage.
3. Slice of Sundance here in Austin: Austin Film Society will host a satellite location of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which is going virtual this year. Austin Chronicle reports the prestigious movie festival, normally held in Utah, is tapping independent theaters around the country to decentralize the event next year, with AFS hosting "social distant screenings" to festival-goers.
4. Pennybacker bridge jumper speaks: FOX 7 talked to the 21-year-old South Austin man who jumped off Pennybacker Bridge in a recent viral video. Naturally, he doesn't regret it and gained about 1,000 extra YouTube followers out of the whole deal—as well as a fractured skull, brain bleeding and emergency surgery.
5. Final call for COVID relief: The city is accepting applicants for its emergency relief funding, which still has more than $4 million leftover for Austin residents who lost income during the pandemic. The city told Austonia in mid-October that less than $1 million had been distributed so far due to low demand. Qualifications have since been updated to enable more access to the relief money, with nearly $8.5 million now distributed to needy residents.
Dec. 2: Mayor Adler called out for Cabo trip and 4 more headlines you might've missed
1. Mayor Adler doesn't lead by example: While COVID-19 cases spiked in early November following the Halloween weekend, Mayor Steve Adler urged Austinites to "stay at home." As it turns out, his message was broadcast from Mexico where Adler traveled after his daughter's wedding ceremony in Austin. Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski reports that health officials urged gatherings to be limited to no more than 10 people at the time, yet the wedding hosted about 20 guests who were "probably not" wearing masks the entire time, Adler admits.
2. 11 APD officers disciplined: Confrontations with police in late May resulted in several protestors getting injured by pepper spray, bean bags and foam bullets. Now KVUE has counted 11 police officers that have been punished for their actions during those protests—including a cop accused of calling a protestor "that gay dude." KXAN reports that multiple lawsuits have also been filed by protestors against APD, and Police Chief Brian Manley updated use-of-force policies following the protests.
3. Unemployed? Receive a $100 relief gift card: If you're a musician or worked in the hospitality industry, you likely qualify for a $100 H-E-B gift card from the Red River Cultural District. The business group of mostly music venue owners has distributed $155,000 so far this year in COVID-19 relief money, according to Austin360, and this fourth round of support includes $45,000 for unemployed music industry and service workers.
4. Road rage is rampant: Local officials think road rage is a greater issue locally than the 14 combined cases reported so far this year. FOX 7 talked to traffic patrollers who are concerned that COVID-19 and holiday stress could add to the road rage shooting in southeast Austin last week.
5. New mental health hospital: Austin State Hospital is being rebuilt in Austin's Triangle neighborhood as part of a $305 million, 380,000-square-foot project. The area for the 80-acre campus has been cleared, KVUE reports, putting the 240-bed mental health hospital on track to open by June 2023.
The Austin woman suspected of killing star cyclist visiting from out of town, Moriah "Mo" Wilson, has now been captured after evading arrest for more than a month.
Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, an Austin yoga instructor, is believed by officials to be the killer of Wilson, who was found with gunshot wounds in a friend's house on May 11. The murder is being investigated as a crime of passion after Wilson met up with Armstrong's ex-boyfriend.
According to the U.S. Marshals, Armstrong was located at a hostel on Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Officials said she may have been using her sister's name after fleeing Austin on May 14, the day after police questioned her. She was last identified at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18.
Federal authorities say they plan on returning Armstrong to the U.S., where she'll face charges of murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Here's a timeline of events since the night of Wilson's murder.
- The night of her death, Wilson met with Armstrong’s ex-boyfriend Colin Strickland, a fellow pro cyclist. According to an affidavit, the pair went swimming, then to dinner, before he dropped Wilson off at her friend's home where she was staying in East Austin at around 8:30 p.m.
- While Wilson and Stickland had previously had a romantic relationship, Stickland said the two were friends. The affidavit says Strickland lied to Armstrong about his whereabouts that evening.
- Video footage shows Armstrong’s Jeep pulled up nearby the home within a minute of Wilson arriving home.
- At around 10 p.m., Wilson's friend called Austin police after finding her in a pool of blood. Wilson had been staying with the friend ahead of the upcoming bike race in nearby Hico, Texas.
- Armstrong was brought in for questioning the day after the murder and released after appearing “very still and guarded” when confronted with video evidence.
- The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force said her black Jeep Cherokee was sold to a South Austin CarMax dealership on May 13 for $12,200.
- She leaves from the Austin airport on May 14.
- Shell casings found on the scene matched a gun belonging to Armstrong.
- Austin police obtained an arrest warrant for Armstrong on May 17.
- She took a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica on May 18 using a fraudulent passport, according to the Marshals.
- On May 25, another warrant was obtained for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
- On June 29, she was captured by the U.S. Marshals
On Thursday, the Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in regulating greenhouse gases, a move that comes at a time when experts have warned about the need to take action on climate change.
The ruling was brought after a challenge to a lower court opinion brought by Texas and more than a dozen other states.
Vaibhav Bahadur, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin called the SCOTUS decision significant, noting that Texas is the biggest energy producer in the U.S., and produces more energy than the United Kingdom.
“Power generation accounts for a significant fraction of U.S. carbon emissions, and the EPA loses its ability to control what's happening in about half of that sector,” Bahadur said. “And it's not just the U.S., I think people and environmentalists on pretty much anywhere on the planet will be disappointed because this is going in the wrong direction. We know we want to be decarbonizing, and this is essentially putting a roadblock on progress toward decarbonization.”
So, we’re going to need some insurance, Bahadur says. He’s carrying out work that’ll act as such through his research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the process of sucking carbon from the air and burying it.
For the past five years, he’s been working on a novel approach to storing carbon. It involves supercharging the formation of carbon dioxide-based crystal structures and storing billions of tons of carbon under the ocean floor.
“If all of this is successful, then we will have another option for safely and responsibly storing carbon at the bottom of the seabed for essentially eternity,” Bahadur said.
Still, Bahadur talked about a different approach to responsibly cutting down emissions in the next decade, and doing so in a meaningful and substantial way, then the environment will eventually heal itself and we might not need CCS.
But that’s not the path we’re headed down.
“We're already starting to see temperature records being shattered this year, and we're still to hit peak summer,” Bahadur said. “All of this just makes me think that we need CCS to a larger extent, and possibly sooner than what a lot of scientists anticipate, especially if we can't keep our emissions in check.”
Gary Rochelle, a professor in the department of chemical engineering at UT, thinks CCS was ready to be deployed in 2010 and those 12 years have made a difference.
“But now we've emitted all that CO2,” Rochelle said. “And unfortunately, unlike other pollutants, when you emit CO2, it's there. It's not going away.”
Gary Rochelle and Vaibhav Bahadur are both researching technology to address carbon emissions. (UT)
Still, the delay is good in that now researchers like him have had time to learn about and improve the technology, allowing for fewer problems once it's deployed.
In December, UT announced a licensing agreement with advanced technology company Honeywell. The technology from that is targeted at power, steel, cement and other industrial plants to lower emissions.
Rochelle has been working on the technology since 2000 as part of an international collaborative effort. When he talked to Austonia on Thursday, he had just had calls with collaborators in Germany and Norway. Currently, he’s working with some Ph.D. students on addressing a chemical reaction that can happen with the technology known as oxidation that could lead to ammonia emissions and cause problems for a large-scale commercial unit.
Rochelle says he’s driven to this work because he wants to make a contribution.
“We're trying to develop this technology so that we can make a difference,” Rochelle said. “It's a nice problem to work on. The students are motivated and those are the primary things which drive us.”
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the high court’s decision which acted as a blow to President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce emissions.
“Today’s landmark victory against an out-of-control administration is also a big win for Americans who worry about skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry,” Abbott said. “President Biden cannot keep attacking the energy industry and the hardworking men and women who power our nation.”
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