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Native and adopted Austinites (those of us who have a few decades here under our belts) like to complain about how newcomers have changed the city, added to traffic woes, ratcheted up the cost of living and brought in shiny hotels and shopping centers.
But the less crabby among us realize that while people can bring problems, they can also bring progress: Good paying jobs, tax money to build cool things, a major league soccer team.
So if you're out there thinking about moving to Austin—I mean, as apparently everyone is—let us give you some insights on your new soon-to-be hometown.
1. We're not just for weird people anymoreDreaming about becoming an Austinite? Here are 8 Things You'll Love About Us. (Karen Brooks Harper/Austonia)
Part of Austin's draw is its unique bars, restaurants and small businesses like Wild About Music, the Continental Club and the Austin Motel. But Austin has grown long past weird, bringing in hip national restaurant chains and high-end shopping centers, along with sprawling mixed-use developments in the suburbs that cater to the tastes of newcomers and those used to living in more mainstream environments. Plenty for the Keep Austin Weird crowd, and more than enough for everyone else.
2. We are a town of foodies
A server at Uchi on South Lamar delivers food to curbside customers.
(Karen Brooks Harper/Austonia)
Austinites tend to be fit, healthy people, but we do love our food. Our chefs are international celebrities, and our choices range from homegrown Turkish wraps to world-famous sushi to award-winning pizza. During the pandemic, Austin lost some iconic places, but other long-time establishments are pivoting, digging in and staying afloat. Fonda San Miguel is still serving some of the city's favorite interior Mexican food for take-out and dine in, and promises a return of its famous Sunday Hacienda Brunch soon. Vespaio, one of the city's original South Congress eateries, is open for Italian dine-in and take-out. Mother's Cafe, serving vegan and vegetarian fare in Hyde Park since 1980, is also open for take-out and delivery.
3. We're a great city for bikes
(The City of Austin)
We are a bike-friendly city and we are getting more so every year. Over the years, the city has reduced auto lanes to make way for bike lanes, it has created bike-forward intersections to help traffic and cyclists flow together, and it has recently completed phase two of the Walnut Creek Trail System, which will eventually connect north Austin to downtown via 20 miles of paved, peaceful, zero-traffic bike trails. So far, more than half the miles have been built and are open. The town is peppered with bike shops big and small and is headquarters for Lance Armstrong's Mellow Johnny's bike shop, training center and cafe downtown. All that is in addition to the Thursday Night Social Ride (currently on pause until the pandemic passes) that has drawn hundreds of cyclists of all levels to the streets of Austin every week for more than a decade.
4. We have unique neighborhoods to fit your personalityBillion dollar company Rex Teams to join Austin's tech hub (Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock)
Whether your taste and means suit a penthouse in a shiny downtown high-rise or a room in a hostel over a Sixth Street bar, a funky duplex near the university or a comfy retirement community in the suburbs, there's a neighborhood to fit your profile. For instance: Young, hip, trendy and looking to avoid downtown? The East Side is for you. Old-school with some cash and a hankering for the good ol' days? There's a home in South Austin with your name on it. Small school districts, decent shopping, affordable housing and still close enough to see the skyline? Head north. And if you want to be a neighbor to the stars, head out to moneyed homes of Lake Austin and move in next to Sandra Bullock or Joe Rogan.
5. We have a love affair with high techHere it comes: Elon Musk says 'stunning' $1.1 billion Tesla Gigafactory will be built in Austin area (Mike Mareen/Adobe)
They don't call us Silicon Hills for nothing. Nicknamed for its place in the Hill Country and its status as the next Silicon Valley, Austin is one of the most attractive places for the world's biggest tech companies, and they keep on coming. Even as Austinites shake off the vestiges of PTSD in the wake of the devastating tech bust of the early 2000s, the city still loves its tech, welcoming wave after wave of industry barons who want to relocate, build and live here. The most recent, of course, is Elon Musk, whose Tesla factory in Southeast Austin will be home to the new Cybertruck.
6. We offer plenty of star-gazingMatthew McConaughey offers himself and UT football to raise funds for coronavirus recovery
In case you thought Beverly Hills or NYC had the corner on celebrity sightings, you should know Austin is absolutely crawling with famous people. Pretty much year-round—but particularly during our festivals—you really can't swing a stick without seeing Meg Ryan hanging out with Ben Harper at Amy's Ice Cream or Doug Benson wandering around Sixth Street or Bill Murray crashing house parties or Anthony Michael Hall behaving badly in a hotel swimming pool. Celebrities swing in and out of this town in part because Austinites are so used to seeing them that they tend to get left alone to enjoy their lives. But we also have some who actually eschew the million-dollar mansions in the Hollywood Hills and instead buy half-million bungalows in the city's hip neighborhoods or on the shores of Lake Austin. Variety Magazine recently rounded up the big ones, but let us highlight a few: Elijah Wood, Matthew McConaughey, Dan Rather, and most recently, Joe Rogan.
7. We're no place for introvertsTravis County bans outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, with exceptions (ACL Radio via city of Austin)
Get used to crowds—at least, when they're legal again. Right now, the festivals are off due to COVID-19. But when they're on, IT. IS. ON. From the gigantic South by Southwest to the dual-weekend Austin City Limits show, the iconic Eeyore's Birthday (and attendant drum circle), the Kite Festival on the shores of Lady Bird Lake and the Blues on the Green free concerts in Zilker Park, not a month goes by without some kind of festival or event for Austinites to come together and enjoy their beautiful city with their neighbors. To illustrate the pervasiveness of the festival culture in Austin: When the coronavirus made large gatherings impossible, more than 100 festivals had to be canceled.
8. We Are still the Live Music Capital of the World—even without live music
Local singer-songwriter Bonnie Whitmore plays live on Facebook.
Home to an estimated 8,000 musicians and performers, the Live Music Capital of the World feels quieter with all of its nightclubs and venues shut down. But the city is running financial assistance programs to keep its musicians in town and afloat, and has become part of a national pilot program for re-opening its venues safely in the face of the pandemic, which has kept them largely shuttered for six months. Meanwhile, musicians—creative innovators that they are—have taken their shows online for a robust virtual music scene that delivers us a satisfying piece of Austin's musical soul while we wait for the stage lights to come back on.
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Texas voters are split on whether Gov. Greg Abbott should run for a third term and whether Matthew McConaughey should run at all. But Democrats are clear: they want to see Beto O'Rourke on the ballot.
These are the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters released this week.
Abbott and McConaughey received the highest favorability ratings of the elected officials, candidates and potential candidates, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
- Abbott: 49%
- McConaughey: 42%
- O'Rourke: 34%
- Former Texas GOP Chair Allen West: 25%
- Former Texas senator and Republican challenger Don Huffines: 8%
Overall, 48% say Abbott does not deserve to be reelected to a third term compared to 46% who say he does. "A Trump favorite in a state that is turning less red in recent election cycles, Abbott has a decent but in no way overwhelming grasp on reelection," Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in a press release.
Abbott, McConaughey and Beto O'Rourke could vie for governor in 2022. (Office of the Texas Governor)
Voters are also divided on Matthew McConaughey, who is reportedly considering a gubernatorial run. Forty-one percent of voters say they would like to see him run, compared to 47% who say they wouldn't.
The poll found that Democrats and Independents favor the Oscar-winning Austinite, whose party affiliation is unclear. Forty-seven percent of Democrats would like to see him run, compared to 43% who wouldn't. Forty-four percent of Independents would, compared to 43% who wouldn't. Republicans, on the other hand, say 60%-29% they would not like to see him run.
Another possible candidate is former U.S. Representative and presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke, who is also reportedly mulling a bid. Overall voters say 52%-41% they would not like to see him run for governor. But 77% of Democrats and 50% of Independents would, according to the poll.
"McConaughey and O'Rourke may still be on the fence, but their numbers suggest they have the attention of voters," Malloy said in the same release.
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Austinites will soon be able to train like some of Hollywood's biggest stars as F45, a fitness franchise backed by major celebs, like Mark Wahlberg and David Beckham, is on its way to Austin.
F45 listed Austin as the location of its corporate headquarters in a June 21 federal filing—a big shift for the California company. The fitness franchise is preparing for its initial public offering, which will be as an Austin-based company.
F45 will be one of many California companies—Tesla, Oracle and Samsung—that have recently expanded in the Capital City. The company has several famous investors on its side—famed basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson and golfer Greg Norman in addition to Wahlberg and Beckham.
The fitness company is opening a 44,000-square-foot headquarters, located at Penn Field on 801 Barton Springs Road, with a lease running through 2029. F45 was one of the early adopters of Austin-based real estate-technology platform AnthemIQ, helping tenants find commercial real estate.
F45 focuses on one-on-one 45-minute workouts, which patrons watch on in-studio displays. With 2,247 franchise agreements spanning across 63 countries, F45 also has offices in Australia and England.
"We believe this flexibility will enable us to capitalize on our estimated long-term global opportunity of over 23,000 studios," the company said in its filing.
The greater Austin area already has 11 F45 locations, which take up 1,600 square feet of space each.
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The staffers are coming! Texas Lege staffers turn to Twitter after special session announcement, defunding
Texas Legislature staff members have taken to social media to raise awareness—and also just air their misfortunes—following the summer special session announcement and their own defunding.
In a game-seven-type move by Texas Democrats, the 87th Texas Legislative session was capped off by a last-minute walkout to avoid a final vote on a bill that would add restrictions to voting.
Needless to say, Gov. Greg Abbott—who cheerleaded the bill throughout the legislative session—was not thrilled.
Not up to date on your Texas Lege drama? Abbott was pointing to when former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis staged a dramatic hours-long filibuster over a 2013 abortion bill, which the public gallery aided. The "story" Abbott is referring to ended with him and other prominent conservatives sweeping the 2014 statewide election and the bill passing in a special session.
According to Abbott, the regular session centered around supporting "hardworking Texans and building a state that is safer, freer, healthier, and more prosperous."
However, the two items deemed at the top of Abbott's wish list for this session—election integrity and bail reform—did not reach his desk at the end of the session, both championed by Abbott to be "must-pass emergency items."
"It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither reached my desk," Abbott said in a statement. "Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas, which is why these items, along with other priority items, will be added to the special session agenda."
Abbott said he expected lawmakers to work out their differences prior to the special session and continue to pass other emergency items and priority legislation.
So, everything is cool, right? No worries?
Hours before the no vote, as the clock ran out on the bill that he championed, Abbott tweeted that he would veto funding for the entire state legislative branch. The decision would impact not only Texas lawmakers but their staff and aides. "No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities," Abbott tweeted May 31.
I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay… https://t.co/KNyuNvxP55— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott)1622484820.0
With pay, health insurance and other support for staffers on the line, the threats became a reality on June 18 with an official veto of the funds from Abbott.
The veto effectively nixes all funding for the legislative branch.
"Texans don't run from a legislative fight and we don't walk away from an unfinished business," Abbott wrote in the veto. "Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session."
However, questions have been brought up over the constitutionality of the veto itself. Section 24 of the Texas Constitution makes not paying members of the legislature illegal.
The special session is set to begin July 8. So, what does this mean for lawmakers, staffers and aides?
No pay, no insurance... and Twitter followers?
The staffers took their final stand on Twitter where they aired their grievances with the situation and asked for followers to increase their footprint.
Meet Jen Ramos, a staff member for Texas State Senator Judith Zaffarini—and also defunded by Abbott.
My name is Jen. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott. Apparently now I’m supposed to ask for Tw… https://t.co/pteKADP3Hj— Jen Ramos ✨ (@Jen Ramos ✨)1624466531.0
And she's not alone. Use the hashtag #txlege and you'll find other similar messages online, like Camille's and Hector's and more.
My name is Camille, my friends call me Cam or Cammie. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott. And… https://t.co/mOvcjxTiUL— Camille Lasin (@Camille Lasin)1624474153.0
My name is Hector. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott and who had to deal with elections stuff… https://t.co/88PINm9KCv— Hector 🏙🤠 (@Hector 🏙🤠)1624466987.0
My name is Jake Salinas. I'm the TX Dem that saved the film industry in TX and broke quorum on SB7 Now our Gov h… https://t.co/PLf9ScA4Ev— Jake Salinas (@Jake Salinas)1624464237.0
It's unclear whether Abbott and other prominent Republican lawmakers will come together with Democrats to overturn the veto and continue providing insurance and regular pay for lawmakers, staffers and aides.