UPDATE: Austin's mask mandate stays alive for at least two more weeks as Paxton's lawsuit is postponed
Editor's note: This story was updated after publication at noon to include the latest development in this story.
Despite a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Austin and Travis County will get to keep their local mask update for at least two more weeks per a state judge's ruling.
A day after Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Austin and Travis County for keeping the local mask mandate, Judge Lora Livingston rejected the AG's request to file a temporary restraining order against the city on Friday morning.
After denying the request, Livingston set an injunction hearing on the case for March 26.
Paxton had previously warned that he would sue if the local mandate was not lifted by 6 p.m. on Wednesday and stuck to his word, filing a lawsuit on Thursday.
City/county leaders must not be thinking clearly. Maybe it's oxygen deprivation from quintuple-masking. Whatever the case, they've tried this before. They lost.
Travis County and Austin have a few hours to comply with state law or I'll sue them. And they'll lose again. pic.twitter.com/eDqT1QHvGP
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) March 10, 2021
Despite Gov. Greg Abbott's order reversing the mandate going into effect on Wednesday, Austin and Travis County managed to keep their mask rule in place due to a previous order that allowed Escott to make ordinances to promote public safety. In a statement on Tuesday, Adler said that Escott would promote public health and keep businesses and schools safe by enforcing the mandate.
The order, which was signed in December 2020, said that any offense could result in a fine of up to $2,000, but Abbott said in a statewide press conference on Tuesday, March 2 that local authorities would no longer be able to enforce rules after the state's order was lifted.
Adler rejoiced the victory by Tweeting that "masking works," and the city would continue to follow the advice of health officials.
Good news! We learned this morning that Austin's mask rules will remain in effect for the next two weeks. We return to court March 26.
No matter what happens then, we will continue to be guided by doctors and data. Masking works. #MaskUpATX pic.twitter.com/tD4Gn6xPpk
— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@MayorAdler) March 12, 2021
With one battle down in Austin's favor, the city and state will go head-to-head once again on March 26 to see which COVID ordinance prevails.
The decision will depend on if the state or local governments are ultimately in charge of enforcing COVID-19 restriction.
While Abbott said that no district judge could enforce COVID restrictions, Austin's rule is by the order of the local health authority. Paxton will need to prove that the governor has full authority on COVID responses through the Texas Disaster Act, while the city will have to prove that they can undermine state authority.
Both sides are fully prepared to back themselves up with evidence in this battle. In the same tweet that said city officials could be confused due to "quintuple masking," Paxton said that Austin would "lose again" to the state.
"We have already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost," Paxton said. "If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we'll take you to court again and you'll lose again."
Adler hit back with a statement on Thursday and said that the AG is "simply wrong."
"Wearing masks is perhaps the most important thing we can do to slow the spread of the virus," Adler said. "We are not aware of any Texas court that has allowed state leadership to overrule the health protection rules of a local health authority."
- Some Austin businesses will keep masks despite Abbott's order ... ›
- Austin bars that lifted the mask mandate like Abbott - austonia ›
- Austin to keep mask mandate under health authority Mark Escott ... ›
- Paxton threatens legal action against Austin for COVID restrictions ... ›
- Ken Paxton sues after Austin bans late on-site dining for New Year's ... ›
- Austin can keep their masks after beating Texas AG in lawsuit - austonia ›
- UT, ACC students issued mask mandate from city of Austin - austonia ›
Austin is gearing up for another election, where voters will decide the fate of two local propositions—one being the highly contested police department reform ordinance—and eight state constitutional amendments.
Here's everything you need to know to head to the polls.
Dates to know and where to vote
Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 18 and runs through Friday, Oct. 29. On those days, residents can head to a polling location from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polling locations will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
If you're unsure if you are eligible to vote, check here (the registration deadline has passed for this election). You can also preview your personal ballot.
There are about two dozen early voting locations across the city. Here is where you can vote:
In Texas, you may be able to vote by mail if you are already registered and you are:
- 65 and older
- Out of the country during the entire election period
- Sick or disabled
- Expected to give birth within 3 weeks before or after Election Day
- In jail
You still have some time to apply to vote by mail. The application form, which can be found here, must be received by Friday, Oct 22. The form contains other detailed instructions.
What's on the ballot
Austin voters will be asked to weigh in on two propositions.
The more controversial, Proposition A, if approved, would establish new minimum standards for the Austin Police Department. By adding a new chapter to the department's established standards, the proposition would require the department to employ at least two sworn officers for every 1,000 residents of the city and would create other standards related to staffing, training, and recruiting. Implementing the proposition could cost between $271.5 and nearly $600 million over five years according to estimates reported by city staff.
Proponents say the measure will bolster APD, which currently faces a staffing shortage, and make Austin safer after the city has seen a high murder count this year. Opponents say it costs too much and ties the hands of city officials who will be forced to cut other city services to meet the new requirements. Beyond the financial implications, some opponents also disagree that more officers will necessarily make the city safer as its a national problem and the murder rate isn't unusual.
Proposition B asks voters to allow City Council to "convey or lease" 9 acres of parkland along Lakeshore Boulevard, which is currently being used as a maintenance facility, in exchange for at least 48 acres of new waterfront property and the "cost or construction" of a new maintenance facility on other city-owned land. Proponents say the measure will add greatly to Austin's parkland resources and allow for construction of a new maintenance facility. While the ballot language of the proposition is not specific, it's been reported that tech giant Oracle is the likely partner in this deal and that the parkland of interest to be acquired is adjacent to John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park in southeast Austin.
Voters will also be asked to approve or reject eight amendments to the Texas Constitution.
- Texas Proposition 1, the Authorize Charitable Raffles at Rodeo Venues Amendment, would allow professional association-sanctioned rodeos to hold raffles at their events.
- Texas Proposition 2, the Authorize Counties to Issue Infrastructure Bonds in Blighted Areas Amendment, would allow counties to issue bonds for infrastructure within certain limits.
- Texas Proposition 3, the Prohibition on Limiting Religious Services or Organizations Amendment, would prohibit state or local governments from prohibiting or limiting religious services.
- Texas Proposition 4, the Changes to Eligibility for Certain Judicial Offices Amendment, would increase restrictions on who is eligible to run for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.
- Texas Proposition 5, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct Authority Over Candidates for Judicial Office Amendment, would allow complaints against judicial candidates to be accepted and acted upon.
- Texas Proposition 6, the Right to Designated Essential Caregiver Amendment, would guarantee that residents of certain types of group facilities have the right to in-person visits from essential caregivers.
- Texas Proposition 7, the Homestead Tax Limit for Surviving Spouses of Disabled Individuals Amendment, would bring the state constitution in line with existing state law which already provides for this exemption.
- Texas Proposition 8, the Homestead Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Military Fatally Injured in the Line of Duty Amendment, would expand the homestead tax exemption that covers surviving spouses of those killed in military service to include those killed in ways other than combat, such as in training exercises.
- The money and the muscle behind No Way on Prop A - austonia ›
- Billionaire George Soros donates $500k against Austin's Prop A ... ›
- 3 former Austin mayors, 1 council member endorse Prop A - austonia ›
- Save Austin Now's Prop A will include their own language, budget ... ›
- Campaign to defeat Prop A launches at Barton Springs - austonia ›
A bill that would restrict transgender student athletes from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk after the Texas House accepted Senate amendments to the legislation in a 76-61 vote Sunday afternoon.
The legislation is now primed to become law, after the state Senate voted 19-12 on Friday to pass House Bill 25, authored by state Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, and the House voted to concur on Sunday. The Senate floor vote followed a swiftly held committee meeting where a 24-hour notice rule was suspended and the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance the legislation. Under HB 25, students would only be permitted to compete on sports teams that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate that was assigned at or near the time of birth.
Friday's vote is the fifth time this year the Senate has passed legislation targeting transgender youth participation in school sports. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have pushed for the legislation during this year's sessions. With HB 25 advancing, Texas joins at least five other states that have passed such legislation.
Critics of the legislation, including transgender advocates, say it unfairly targets transgender children and puts them and cisgender children at risk for being discriminated against.
Getting the bill through the House proved to be a major hurdle for lawmakers this year after legislation faltered in the lower chamber during the regular session and two subsequent special sessions, which included a House quorum break.
The birth certificate requirement under HB 25 goes further than rules from University Interscholastic League, which governs public school sports in Texas. According to UIL rules, gender is determined by a student's birth certificate, though the governing body also accepts birth certificates that were modified to match a student's gender identity. UIL has said the process for checking birth certificates is left up to schools and districts.
HB 25 would disallow acceptance of modified birth certificates by requiring a student's gender to be determined by their original birth certificate unless their original certificate contained a clerical error. However, the process for how a birth certificate will be checked for whether it has been legally modified is unclear.
An amendment was added in the House, but later removed in the Senate, to the legislation that defined "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female as determined by the sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous profile of the individual at birth." Another House amendment ensures the legislation complies with state and federal laws related to the confidentiality of student medical information.
Swanson has said that the intention of HB 25 is to "protect the right to fair competition in sports" for women and girls and uphold Title IX, a federal law that prohibits education institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.
State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who authored similar legislation this special session, said during a news conference in support of HB 25 that passage of the bill had "been a long time coming."
"A lot of times we say bills are transformational. This is actually one that drew the line in the sand: that biological females should stay with biological females and biological males should stay with biological males."
During the House floor debate on HB 25, Democrats said legislators should think about the mental burden such legislation would have on transgender children who already predisposed to bullying and thoughts of suicide.
"This [bill] is not about girls' sports, this is about trying to police people and their behavior and their gender expression," said state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, secretary of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus.
Major employers within the state have also signaled their opposition to the law, with about 70 employers and investors signing on to a letter from the coalition Texas Competes, speaking out against restrictive state policies that target LGBTQ people.
In the past year, more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide, and 1 in 5 have attempted suicide, according to The Trevor Project's 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. More than 90% of LGBTQ Youth reported that recent politics have negatively impacted their mental health.
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ Texans, said in a statement that HB 25 tells transgender children "that Texas is not a safe place for them to live."
"Transgender kids, adults, and their families are not political collateral," Martinez said. "They deserve every fundamental right and opportunity that all other Texans have."
Just weeks after music fest Austin City Limits, Austin will be host to another global event as the Circuit of the Americas hosts Formula 1's United States Grand Prix race for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
The weekend-long fest will have events stretching from Friday, Oct. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 31 for North America's premier Formula 1 race.
With three days of races, parades and more, it can be hard to know what to expect for an event that COTA chairman Bobby Epstein said would be "the biggest event on the planet this year."
Don't miss a beat:
But have no fear. Here's Austonia's complete guide to make sure your trip to the U.S. Grand Prix is out of this world:
What to bring
While some may have bought tickets just for the big race, others are planning for a three-day fest of constant outdoor activity. For the foreigners and out-of-towners, October weather in Austin may not be quite what you expect—many joke that a Texas "fall" is near-nonexistent. Check the weather often to see what's in store.
Our prediction is that shorts or flowy pants/skirts, a short-sleeve shirt and a light jacket may suffice. If it looks like rain is on the horizon, don't forget a poncho and/or small umbrella as there isn't much coverage from the elements once you're there.
Regardless of weather, it's a safe bet to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and some bug spray as well. Other not-so-typical items to pack in your bag—which should be smaller than 12x12x20 inches—include earplugs for the big race, binoculars and your phone camera to capture those Ferraris at full-speed.
Depending on your seats, don't forget a folding chair, and to pack a sealed plastic water bottle if you can—it's the only type of food or drink that's permitted on the property.
Keep all tents/canopies, coolers and large umbrellas at home. Check out more on what not to bring here.
Make sure you've got your tickets and you're all set!
trying to get from your parking spot to your seat 15 minutes before the race starts pic.twitter.com/2ly2DDcUVU— Circuit of The Americas (@COTA) February 8, 2021
COTA's notorious parking can be a doozy—F1 1 fan Kevin Andrew said he's spent two and a half hours in line for the venue's sprawling paved and grass lots.
If you're of the impatient sort, it may be smart to look for some early-bird treatment even before gates open at 7 a.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and 6:25 a.m. Sunday. Show up well before your first desired event starts, especially on Sunday.
For those looking to beat the crowd and keep some change, shuttles will pick up from five locations around the city for $15 a day. An additional Park-N-Ride lot, Lot Q, will also allow guests to drop their cars off and take the shuttle to COTA. Click here for shuttle information.
Additional transportation amenities include a drop-off spot for limos, taxis and rideshare apps. Bicyclists will have access to showers in the GEICO Premium RV Lot.
Food, music and more
COTA will become a "World Fair"-esque fest full of local eats, live music and out-of-the-ordinary activities as part of the U.S. Grand Prix. (Circuit of the Americas)
Once you've entered those gates, the actual event will be a lot to take in. Anywhere from 300-350K people are expected to attend the big race, and fans are more excited than ever after nearly two years with no F1 in North America.
But just as fun as the big race—at least for more casual viewers—are the many attractions leading up to it.
Some highlights include performances from Twenty One Pilots and Billy Joel on Friday and Saturday, respectively, two races for the all-women's racing championship W Series and junior championship FIA Formula 4, NASCAR demos and a driver's parade on Sunday just before the race.
This is also a chance for Austin to entertain guests from far and wide—like a "World's Fair," as Andrews put it—and COTA will ensure that Austin remains on the map.
The "Live Music Capital of the World" will earn its rep with over 20 concerts across multiple stages on Saturday and Sunday. Highlights include Kool and the Gang and 15 Austin ensembles including The Ghost Wolves, Mobley and three-time Best of Austin winner DJ Chorizo Funk.
That Austin flair is well-represented in cuisine as well—expect over 30 dining options including local favorites Bao'd Up, Easy Tiger, Amy's Ice Cream and Tiny Pies scattered across the grounds. Check out the Taste of Texas section for local eats, the Biergarten for Bavarian beer, food and polka dancing, Lone Star Land for Austin's classic Chicken Shit Bingo and line dancing, and La Cantina for some Tex-Mex and a Selena tribute.
Still not satisfied? COTA's Onederland claims to host the best F1 General Admission lawn in the world and is packed with more than just amusement park rides. Expect the annual SPAMARAMA (yes, a Spam-themed festival,) axe throwing, the Major League Eating Championship and plenty of performers on stilts. Don't forget to ink a COTA-themed tattoo with an on-site tattoo artist as well.
Formula 1—a breakdown
New to Formula 1? You're not alone—the sport has exploded in popularity in North America after gaining recognition from Netflix series "Drive To Survive." With a new track set to open in Miami, that growth will only continue.
Here's what you need to know to get caught up:
Formula 1 vehicles are arguably the fastest road-racing cars in the world. The open-wheeled single-seaters can reach top speeds around 215 miles per hour and all adhere to a "formula" set by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile.
Formula 1 is the top formula racing league in the world and consists of 20 drivers across 10 teams who compete in venues across North and South America, Central Asia and its native continent, Europe. F1 has existed in some form for over 70 years and features races on closed city streets as well as purpose-built racetracks like COTA.
The league is massively popular in Europe but has seen intermittent success in North America. The U.S. Grand Prix was first held in 1908 and flip-flopped across 10 different locales for 49 appearances over the next century, last spending seven years in Indianapolis from 2000-2007 before making a home in Austin in 2012.
This U.S. Grand Prix will be its 50th race and will be the 17th race of the season.
The Big Race—Hamilton v. Verstappen
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton is in for some stiff competition from a young Max Verstappen as they fight for the F1 Championship. (Mercedes-AFG Petronas F1 Team/Twitter) (Red Bull Racing/Twitter)
The league's 20 drivers have crisscrossed across the map through the season, adapting to locales across four continents with vastly different terrains. But one factor has remained constant—standouts Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have rarely left the leaderboard.
Just six points differentiate the two-star drivers with over a dozen races in—a margin low enough that the true winner may not be evident until the very end. With 262.5 points, Dutchman Verstappen holds the slight lead over Great Britain's Hamilton and both have over 1.5X the points of the next runner-up, Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton and Bottas make up Team Mercedes, the No.1 team in the league, while Verstappen and fifth-place Sergio Perez constitute second-place team Red Bull Racing Honda.
The evenly matched team, evenly-matched cars and neck-and-neck standings have brought forth a fan-fueled rivalry that F1 hasn't seen for quite some time.
This U.S. Grand Prix, much like the rest of the season, will be a testament of old vs. new. A 36-year-old Hamilton has taken home seven F1 championships, including a four-year dominance in the sport from 2017-2020, and has won on U.S. turf at COTA five times. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Verstappen was once the youngest F1 driver and youngest Grand Prix race winner ever and has since finished third for two consecutive years.
The heated rivalry has culminated in three dangerous crashes throughout the season, including one at the Italian Grand Prix Sept. 13. Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman Alex Wurz said it is "very likely" that they will again.
That next crash site may or may not be at COTA, but the U.S. Grand Prix will still see the two titans clash once more as the season nears its end. Expect either or both to end at the top of the leaderboard, and make sure to bring up either name to a committed fan if you're looking for some sideline banter.
Other racers to look out for include Bottas as a likely third-place contender and some mid-race fun from Perez and fourth-place rival Lando Norris.
For a full weekend schedule click here. Happy COTA days!
- NASCAR returning to Austin's COTA for second year - austonia ›
- Formula 1 is returning to Austin in 2021 - austonia ›
- NASCAR comes to austin, here's how it went - austonia ›
- Formula 1 is returning to Austin in 2021 - austonia ›
- W Series announce F1 partnership race at COTA in 2021 - austonia ›
- Formula 1 announces Miami Grand Prix, COTA no longer only U.S. ... ›
- Could the US Grand Prix 'F1 be done with Austin's COTA? - austonia ›