Ken Herman, the Austin American-Statesman's columnist for the past 12 years, announced his departure Sunday in a graciously-worded report that nonetheless revealed differences between Herman and the new Statesman editor Manny Garcia.
Herman, 67, said Garcia "brings new energy and focus at a time when both of those are valued. He has a different vision from the one I have for the job I now hold. His is a good vision, one that will benefit this newspaper."
Garcia told Austonia he had "great respect for the work that Ken has done" and "really valued his work." When asked whether there was a disagreement between the two of them, Garcia said, "I do not comment on any personnel decisions beyond (saying) that I have great respect for Ken and the work he has done."
Garcia, 61, became editor and vice president of the Statesman in February after leading ProPublica's Austin-based investigative partnership with the Texas Tribune. Earlier in his career, he served as senior editor of The Miami Herald, the head of el Nuevo Herald and then executive editor of the Naples (Fla.) Daily News. He was a regional executive for Gannett, a media company that owns more than 260 brands in 46 states. Gannett now owns the Statesman. Garcia also served as head of standards and ethics for the USA Today Network.
Over more than 25 years with the Statesman, Herman served as a political reporter, headed state Capitol coverage and was the paper's Washington correspondent during the presidency of George W. Bush, who was known to kid with Herman at press conferences. Bush once jokingly admonished Herman for wearing a worn-out seersucker suit.
"It's been a wonderfully broad portfolio that's allowed me to write about whatever interested me in hopes that it would interest you and the editors. In 12 years of column writing, there have been politics, sports, obits, weird stuff, happy stuff, sad stuff and the unrivaled joy and optimism of centenarians jumping out of airplanes," Herman said.
While Herman said he expected great things to come from the Statesman, he said "the business model that produced so much profit and so much employment for so long is so kaput, disrupted into a new frontier in which success is far from assured and must be earned."
At its peak in the late 1990s under publisher Michael Laosa, the Statesman employed 1,100 people--including more than 200 in the newsroom--and had a circulation of 190,000 daily and 220,000 Sunday papers.
The newspaper was then owned by Cox Newspapers Inc.
Current Statesman print circulation and overall readership numbers were not immediately available, but Garcia said digital subscriptions were at 27,000, up 7,000 since January.
Officials are asking certain residents in Bastrop State Park to evacuate as crews work to put out a “very active fire” that is currently 0% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to help local fire departments with the Rolling Pines Fire at 100 Park Road 1A, which is consuming 300 acres. Residents of Pine Hill Drive, Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane are being asked to evacuate.
Today’s Bastrop Rolling Pines Fire is burning along Power Plant Road towards Lake Bastrop South Shore. pic.twitter.com/YCvJkIAg1u
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) January 18, 2022
Aviation resources have been called to assist.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire sparked during a prescribed burn that took place today, despite wildfire warnings. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A had been closed for the prescribed burn.
The blaze is in the same location as the Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011, which burned for 55 days, killing two people, destroying 34,000 acres and around 1,700 homes and buildings. The fire, which started in 2011, became the most destructive wildfire in Texas at the time.
A hotbed for fires, the Hidden Pines Fire started at the same location in 2015, destroying 4,600 acres and 64 structures.
Some road closures have been put in place at State Highway 21 South Shore Lake Bastrop and East State Highway 21.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
After months of record-setting periods for Austin real estate, the Austin Board of Realtors announced Tuesday that the metro's housing market accounted for over $23 billion of economic activity in 2021, making it the biggest year yet for both home sales and median home prices in the metro.
The Austin-Round Rock MSA saw 41,316 homes sold in 2021, 2.5% more than a record-setting 2020. Median home prices skyrocketed as well, rising 30.8% from 2020 to $450,000. The housing market also saw unprecedented impact on Austin's economy, with sales dollar volume jumping to over $23.38 billion, and more homes hit the market in 2021 than any previous year, increasing by 5.9% to 46,449 total homes listed.
(Austin Board of Realtors)
As many recent Austin homebuyers have experienced firsthand, Austin Board of Realtors 2022 President Cord Shiflet said 2021 was the most "exciting, complicated, fast-paced and record-setting housing market" in Austin's history.
Shiflet dubbed the market as "complicated" for a reason—Austin became a case study on supply and demand in 2021, with demand far outpacing the number of active listings, which dropped by 48.2% to 2,348 homes in 2021.
The metro ended the year with 0.6 months of inventory, a far cry from a "healthy" six-month supply, and houses were snatched at breakneck speeds, spending 25 fewer days on the market when compared to 2020. The average home was on the market for 20 days.
But low inventory is more due to high demand than a stagnant homebuilding market, Mark Sprague, Independence Title's state director of information capital, said in the report.
“In 2021, the record number of homes sold were demand-driven transactions and that demand was influenced greatly by companies continuing to target the region for job creation and expansion," Sprague said. "Even though more homes are being built, listed and sold than ever before, our region is still nowhere close to having a comfortable amount of supply to meet the demand, which is why home prices continue to rise steadily.”
Over 23,000 jobs have been promised by companies across the metro as of December 2021, breaking the 2020 record, according to Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. With an influx of major factories and offices, including Tesla's Giga Texas, Samsung's Taylor plant and a planned 33-floor Facebook office, Sprague said the region's booming market paired with a struggling inventory and supply chain issues could be a double-edged sword in 2022.
"In short, 2022 will see a robust market for home sales and property values, but the region must do more to address inventory, ” Sprague said.
Shiflet recommended that potential homebuyers make a decision ahead of predicted increases in interest rates and home prices and said that he hopes local politicians will continue to prioritize affordable housing in the election year.
Still, Shiflet said a record-breaking housing market reflects Austin's growing reputation as a hub for talent, tech jobs and a good quality of life.
"With all the new jobs across the region from exciting companies like Tesla and Samsung, Austin was put on the world’s stage and captured the hearts and attention of so many," Shiflet said. "We are lucky to call Austin our home when it has so much to offer from a great quality of life to a wonderful destination for innovation and opportunity.”
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