The final phase of Proposition B enforcement began on Sunday, giving Austin Police Department the authority to arrest individuals for camping in the downtown area.
Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon and Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss what the shift to Phase 4 would look like and how the city is working to get people off the streets.
Officers have been able to arrest some homeless residents camping since Phase 3 began, though no arrests have been made thus far as police continue to employ a "harm reduction" strategy.
"I think it's important for people to know that we continue to try to keep making arrests a last resort, and finding alternative methods to accomplish Prop B implementation," Chacon said.
Chacon said officers have continued the education and outreach that began in Phase 1 of the camping ban reimplementation. According to Chacon, APD has conducted 133 site visits where they surveyed 605 people, issued 572 warnings and 22 citations to those living on the street.
"As (shelter) information comes to the officers, that is being passed along to folks that we're encountering as part of this overall initiative," Chacon said. "We also have our two designated places in the city where people are allowed to camp—McKinney Falls State Park, as well as Emma Long Park—and that information is passed along as well."
Chacon said APD is working to direct displaced people to social services and have so far connected 124 people, including 34 veterans, to organizations to obtain housing or benefits.
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said that since the beginning of June, the City has moved 110 people in bridge shelters, opened two new converted hotel shelters and closed the sale on a third on Aug. 2, which will add 60 beds.
"That (new hotel) is going to provide deeply supportive, long-term affordable housing for 60 of the most chronically homeless individuals in our community," Grey said.
City Council has been criticized in its response to the camping ban reimplementation for not moving forward with a clear plan on where homeless people should go. Austin City Council has not said anything about approval for sanctioned homeless camps, places homeless people can stay with access to resources and without the threat of arrest, since July 20.
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.