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Austin Police Chief Brian Manley will step down next month after more than 30 years with the department and nearly three as its highest-ranking member. His departure comes amid an ongoing national debate over policing and after mass protests against police violence and racial injustice in Austin last summer.
Manley acknowledged that his decision to retire was a difficult one during a press conference on Friday. "I have many different emotions running through me right now," he said. "I am at peace with my decision."
City Manager Spencer Cronk announced Manley's retirement in a memo to City Council earlier in the day. "I want to thank Chief Manley for his leadership and service to the City of Austin," Cronk wrote, adding that he will immediately begin a national search for—and concurrent community engagement process regarding—the city's next police chief.
Manley has faced sustained criticism from local elected officials, criminal justice reform advocates and residents after APD officers seriously injured protestors over the summer. Four council members asked him to resign; Cronk faced pressure to demote him and the council voted unanimously to cut the police department's budget. Last August, the Austin Justice Coalition debuted a jingle, "No Confidence in You," as part of its campaign to get Manley to resign
The department has also come under fire in recent years for multiple officer-involved shootings, allegations of racism among its top ranks and reports of hazing at its training academy.
Manley said this criticism did not contribute to his decision to retire. "Anyone who steps into the role of police chief, you know there's going to be criticism," he explained.
But Manley also acknowledged that his department is at a crossroads and that its relationship with racial justice advocates is strained. "I know the policing profession is under scrutiny, under reimagining and redesign," he said, adding that he believes APD will emerge "a strong agency" under his successor.
Manley was appointed to police chief in 2018, after serving as interim chief for two years and leading the investigation of the Austin Serial Bombings. For his work, he was ranked 49th on Fortune's sixth annual World's Greatest Leaders list in 2019. An Austin native, he has spent his entire 30-year law enforcement career with APD.
Thirty years ago today my father pinned my badge for the first time and I began my career with APD. Hard to believe it has already been 3 decades! pic.twitter.com/VQqcthR0Zn
— Chief Brian Manley (@Chief_Manley) February 1, 2021
Manley is most proud of his work as a member of APD's child abuse unit and his efforts to improve officer health and wellness. "What we expose our men and women to, day in and day out, takes a toll," he said.
Local elected officials and advocates responded to the news, with some applauding Manley's leadership and others looking ahead to his replacement.
"As chief, Brian Manley championed efforts to expand community policing and confronted the public safety challenges of a growing city," Greater Austin Crime Commission President Corby Jastrow said in a statement.
Travis County GOP Chairperson Matt Mackowiak attributed Manley's decision to "the unconscionable war on Austin police conceived of" by local criminal justice reform advocates "and executed by" Austin Mayor Steve Adler and "comrade" Council Member Greg Casar in a tweet.
The unconscionable war on Austin police conceived of by Chris Harris and Chas Moore and executed by @MayorAdler and comrade @GregCasar has now cost Austin one of its finest police chiefs.
Wake up, Austin!https://t.co/YySoaM1ZwI
— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) February 12, 2021
Casar also weighed in on Twitter, saying that he hopes the "future path of our police department" both protects public safety and civil rights "for all neighborhoods and for people of all backgrounds."
With today's news about the departure of Chief Manley, the community is now tasked with choosing the future path of our police department. Our goal must be protecting public safety *and* civil rights, for all neighborhoods and for people of all backgrounds. (1/2)
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) February 12, 2021
This story has been updated to include the latest information on Manley's departure.
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After Austin voters passed Proposition B, reinstating a ban on public camping, City Council directed staff to look into possible sanctioned campsites where homeless residents could live legally. Now two members are asking to shelve discussion on the controversial topic.
Staff presented dozens of possible sanctioned campsites across each fo the 10 council districts in late May, following the election. But members mostly pushed back on the proposed locations, citing cost, wildfire risk and lack of transparency as concerns.
With updated criteria, staff recommended two sites—one in District 1 and the other in District 8—for further review last week. After being briefed on the options during Tuesday's work session, Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, and Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents District 8, issued a joint statement proposing "a pause" on further discussion of temporary sanctioned encampments.
"We are not convinced that these sites would be a cost-effective solution, but rather a band-aid tactic when we need to be supporting the long-term strategy to get folks off the street permanent," they said. "It is our responsibility to look at the situation holistically and objectively, and to spend out city's limited resources on solutions we know can work."
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey noted that the two locations were imperfect and would require a lot of time and money to outfit as sanctioned campsites during the briefing.
City staff and homeless experts have previously raised concerns about sanctioned encampments, saying they are expensive to maintain, challenging to manage and hard to close, even when intended to to be temporary.
In 2019, staff declined to make recommendations for such sites despite being directed by council to do so, citing 2018 guidance from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Neither authorized encampments nor parking areas provide housing for people experiencing homelessness," staff wrote in a memo. "Rather, each option detracts from the staff resources assigned to addressing this moral imperative."
But with Prop B being enforced and too few shelter beds and affordable units for the estimate unsheltered homeless population in Austin, the city is facing the same predicament that prompted District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo to pursue possible sanctioned campsites in the first place: "When individuals in encampments ask where they should go, we need to have places to suggest," she said at a May 6 council meeting.
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Don't lose your mask just yet—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is now recommending masks in areas that are surging as cases rise nationwide and the Delta variant looms.
The CDC announced Tuesday that even fully vaccinated individuals should mask up indoors if their community is experiencing substantial transmission—defined as areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Travis County is sitting at an average of 94.59 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, falling into the highest risk category, according to the CDC.
#DeltaVariant surging in U.S. New data show Delta much more contagious than previous versions of #COVID19. Unvaccinated people: get vaccinated & mask until you do. Everyone in areas of substantial/high transmission should wear a mask, even if vaccinated. https://t.co/tt49zOEC8N
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 27, 2021
After two COVID-19 recommendation stage jumps in the last two weeks, from Stage 2 to Stage 4, Austin-area cases are the highest they have been since February. The seven-day average for cases is on an upward trend, reaching 226 on Tuesday.
The CDC is also recommending that all students K-12 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A May executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits schools from requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status. Austin ISD is "strongly" encouraging students to wear masks.
Although vaccinated individuals are still protected against the most severe symptoms of the variant, infections are spreading rapidly and now make up 83% of confirmed cases in the U.S. At least a dozen cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in the Austin area, though there are likely more since testing for it is limited.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that hospital admissions are "almost exclusively" coming from people who are unvaccinated but those who are vaccinated can still catch and spread the virus.
"Unlike the alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn't believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant," Walensky said. "That leads us to believe that the breakthrough infections, rare that they are, have the potential to pool and transmit at the same with the same capacity as an unvaccinated person."
Research suggests those who become infected carry 1,000 times more of the virus than other variants and could stay contagious for longer.The announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration ramping up cautionary measures in the face of the Delta variant. Just last week, the CDC said it had no plans to change its May guidance of vaccinated not having to wear masks unless there was a significant change in the data. Officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence, according to reports.
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The Moody Center, a $338 million, 530,000-square-foot multipurpose arena at the University of Texas at Austin, celebrated its topping out on Tuesday.
With the final beam placed, the arena's steel-frame structural phase—which involved more than 5.3 million pounds of steel—is complete.
"This past year has been full of unprecedented events, not to mention weather challenges, and yet the women and men working on this project continue to deliver," Moody Center General Manager and Senior Vice President Jeff Nickler said in a press release.
To celebrate the topping out Oak View Group, the development and investment firm behind the Moody Center will affix a tree to the final beam in keeping with the time-honored tradition.
The practice dates back to ancient Scandinavian religious rites, which involved placing a tree atop new buildings to appease tree-dwelling spirits displaced during the construction process, according to the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers in Washington D.C.
After the steel-frame structure phase, the development will move on to enclosing and finishing the interior of the Moody Center.
The arena is set to open next April and already has some major acts scheduled for its inaugural year, including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, John Mayer and The Killers. It will replace the 43-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center and serve as the home of UT's men's and women's basketball games, among other sports and community events.
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