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With three more days left to vote and amid concerns about misinformation, local leaders convened Wednesday to encourage Austinites to support Proposition A, which would raise the city's property tax rate to help pay for Project Connect, a $7.1 billion plan to overhaul public transportation.
Mayor Steve Adler touted the benefits of Project Connect, which he said will create new jobs, provide environmental benefits, and make Austin a safer and more equitable city. He also mentioned the broad coalition of supporters, which includes business and real estate groups as well as environmental and social justice advocates.
"We must pass Proposition A so that we are not stuck in traffic, stuck in our homes and stuck in the past," he said.
Adler also cited the demographic projection that two million people will move to the metro in the next 20 years.
"If we don't do a better job of moving people around our city … then we're in trouble," he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who represents District 2 on City Council, emphasized Prop A's progressive bona fides.
"It embodies our desire to be about 'we' and not 'me,'" she said.
Garza also criticized opponents of Proposition A, which include the political action committee Our Mobility Our Future and the nonprofit Voices of Austin.
"The opposition offers no solutions," she said, and has taken up "Republican tactics of disinformation."
Both groups claim that Proposition A will raise property taxes by around 25%. In fact, if approved, it will raise the city's property tax rate by about 20%. However, because city property owners also pay taxes to Austin ISD, Austin Community College, Central Health and Travis County, the overall increase in their property tax bill will be around 4%.
"I am concerned about the lies circulating this election," Adler said. "I am concerned when people might be making decisions based on signs about what this costs that are six times higher than what this will cost."
Chas Moore, the founder and executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, also spoke in support of the proposed tax rate increase.
"Prop A is our chance to put our money where our mouth is," he said. "It's a direct investment in the quality of the life of Black people, of brown people, for everyone who's been marching because of their skin color or their bank account or what part of town they live in."
Adler pointed to the historic $300 million fund for anti-displacement initiatives included in the Project Connect budget.
"This is the project that is required to achieve mobility equity in our city," he said.
The group also addressed some of the criticisms leveled against Project Connect, including the financial hardships caused by the pandemic.
Garza said now is the time for this election given record-breaking turnout. "Why would we want to wait?" she asked.
Finally, Adler raised concerns about the role of "secret money" in the election.
As a PAC, Our Mobility Our Future is required to disclose its funders, who include car dealers, Republicans and long-time opponents of transit investment.
Voices of Austin, however, is a nonprofit and is not beholden to the same standards. Executive Director Peck Young has told Austonia that its funding comes from locals and that the group is unaffiliated with police unions or the Koch brothers. But there are no public records to verify his claims.
"I think when people are putting up dollars to influence an election, they ought to stand up and say who they are so that people can understand who it is who is sponsoring the message," Adler said.
Early voting ends on Friday, Oct. 30. Travis County residents can find early voting polling places here, where they are registered to vote here, voter identification requirements in Texas here and view their personal ballots here.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
More on Prop A:
- The pros and cons of Austin's $7.1B transit plan Project Connect ... ›
- Austin voters ask: How does the pandemic affect Project Connect ... ›
- Project Connect includes $300M to fight displacement - austonia ›
- Voting guide: local mobility propositions on the November ballot ... ›
- Austin voters ask: How much with Project Connect raise my taxes ... ›
- 5 reasons to support and oppose project connect in austin - austonia ›
- Early voting results: City of Austin Propositions A & B - austonia ›
- Early voters green light city of Austin's Props A & B - austonia ›
Everyone wants to be in Austin—tech, celebs and now sports. At least that's what it looks like.
In the midst of a first season for Austin FC, the city's first major league professional sports team, the Buffalo Bills are reportedly looking at a possible move to Austin.
The news comes from ESPN's Seth Wickersham, who reports the NFL team is saying it is considering a move from New York to Austin, possibly to push public funding of its new $1.5 million stadium.
An ownership source tells me that Austin is a possible destination—or threat—as one of the “other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it." https://t.co/zMf1oChO8K
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) August 1, 2021
Austin was without a major pro team until Austin FC came to town. While all eyes have been on Austin's "boomtown" status, the city isn't exactly expected to get an NFL team with two other major teams in the state—the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.
Nevertheless, the governor and mayor responded to the rumor.
- Austin FC's Q2 Stadium is the biggest party in Austin - austonia ›
- Austin FC spends less than most first-year expansion teams - austonia ›
- Austin's Latino's feels "close to home" with Austin FC - austonia ›
- Guide to Austin FC home game at Q2 Stadium this Saturday - austonia ›
Editor's note: Addie Broyles is a longtime food writer, who wrote for the Austin American-Statesman for 13 years. This piece was published in her weekly newsletter, "The Feminist Kitchen," where she shares stories about parenthood, grief, ancestry, self healing and creativity. Check it out here.
You know Bruce McCandless' most famous moment, but you probably don't know his name.
McCandless is the astronaut who, in 1984, became the first untethered astronaut in space. He's the guy on those posters, mugs, shirts and everything else NASA could sell with the image of his "leisurely waltz with eternity," as his son calls it in his new book, "Wonders All Around: The Incredible True Story of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II and the First Untethered Flight in Space."
'Wonders All Around' is a new book by Austinite Bruce McCandless III about his dad, the astronaut Bruce McCandless II. (Bruce McCandless III)
I met McCandless III, who lives in Austin with his wife Pati, for a coffee a few months ago, thanks to the introduction from a mutual friend. As we talked about losing our dads, being writers and parents and living in Austin while still dealing with COVID, his dad's famous flight didn't come up, but the process of writing such an epic biography of a complex, only recently passed man was something worth unpacking over coffee.
I hadn't read the book yet, but over the next few weeks, I got to know the McCandless family in such a sweet way that I wanted to write a little about the book here to perhaps inspire you to seek out a copy of "Wonders All Around."
As much as this is a book about space, it's also a book about grief. And persistence. And stoicism. And masculinity and maternality.
The elder McCandless died in 2017, just a few years after losing his wife, Bernice, to cancer.
This passing of the torch from father to son left the younger McCandless inspired to take on this decades-long narrative. McCandless III sets the tone for the book with a memory of the family sitting around the dinner table at their home outside Johnson Space Center near Houston in the mid 1970s, when his dad, who joined NASA in 1966 at the age of 28, wasn't sure he'd ever actually make it to space.
"Our dinners were somber affairs. We ate around a rectangular Formica table in the breakfast nook. Tracy and I sat on benches padded with orange vinyl cushions. Mom and Dad occupied faux-Spanish style chairs with green felt upholstery. Despite the informal, Howard Johnson's-at-the-airport feel of the furnishings, there was a tension in the air that set in right around the time the frozen string beans started steaming. I had the feeling that my sister and I had forgotten to do something important, though I couldn't figure out what it was, or that judgment had been rendered on us and we'd been found guilty of … something — again, it was unclear what. Horseplay was prohibited. The TV and all sources of music or other frivolity were turned off, and singing was strictly forbidden. The only sound came from the aquarium pump. My father had a 100-gallon tank along the wall behind his chair. Sometimes the big plecostomus would attach itself by its mouth to the glass facing us, and I imagined it sucking all the oxygen out of the room."
Imagining what it must have been like to require oxygen to survive, not in outer space but in the living room with your family, sets up the story of the McCandless ancestors, including a guy who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok and the author's grandfather, who was an admiral in the U.S. Navy.
No pressure, Bruce.
It was fascinating to read about the 18 years that Bruce McCandless II worked for NASA before he finally had his first flight, which debuted the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a jet-fueled backpack that he and Ed Whitsett Jr. spent so many years developing. (That's the joystick-controlled machine he's wearing in that mind-bending poster that hung on millions of Americans' walls over the following decade.)
The author McCandless has the unenviable task of trying to put into words what that flight must have felt like. His dad flew 150 feet away from the shuttle Challenger, which would, of course, break into a million little pieces just a few years later.
When President Reagan called the shuttle to congratulate the astronauts that day in 1984, the command center set up a demonstration space walk to give the president a live view of McCandless through the shuttle window.
Bruce McCandless II, trains with Kathy Sullivan, right, in preparation to launch the Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA)
The only problem was, there wasn't much fuel left. McCandless went out anyway, trying to stay within 10-15 feet of the spacecraft. He got into position and turned off the unit to preserve propellant. After the president said a few words and the video switched off, McCandless turned on the unit and "looked for the closest piece of the orbiter, pointed at it, put the hand controller in +X (and) got a sort of sighing noise as it accelerated in that direction." He ran out of fuel just as he grabbed onto a rail on the orbiter. Hand over hand, he brought himself back to the donning station.
It's that kind of suspense that made this book so thrilling to read.
There's space tension like when McCandless is operating as CAPCOM, the only person talking to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they are walking on the surface of the moon, and his commander wants him to break protocol and call them back early, even though there are no signs of distress.
The book is also so touching. I cried while reading about the declining health of Bernice, who survived so many astronaut wife struggles over the years and at the end of her life remained a loving partner and mother.
Bruce McCandless was a Navy pilot who was picked to join NASA in 1966. His first space flight wasn't until 1984. (NASA)
It's easy to forget that McCandless II had an entirely other memorable historic moment—launching the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990—and this one seems to have struck an even deeper chord with McCandless III.
The Hubble launch was McCandless' second and final flight. He was 52 and had worked at NASA for 24 years.
McCandless II spends the last chapters of the book making a compelling case that his dad's work to fix and update the Hubble are among the greatest achievements to science. He continued to work on Hubble for another two decades after retiring from NASA through his work at Lockheed Martin.
Bruce McCandless, left, and the flight crew that launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. He was 52 years old. (NASA)
He was the "nuts, bolts, screws, and wires guy," the auto mechanic rather than the scientist, who kept the telescope going 340 miles above Earth for more than twice its life expectancy. The Hubble has been cited in more than 18,000 scientific papers and has revealed countless secrets and unsolved mysteries from around the universe and beyond.
"The size, shape, and sheer spectral weirdness of the images boggle the imagination and make prophets and dreamers of us all," McCandless writes toward the end of "Wonders All Around. "Some of us pay therapists to tell us we're important and unique. Then we check in with Hubble so the satellite can inform us just how galactically marginal we all are. The truth is somewhere in the middle."
What a beautiful reminder.