Editor's Note: Joah Spearman is the founder and CEO of Localeur, a local travel startup that shares local recommendations in more than 185 cities around the world. He recently published "An Open Letter to a New Austinite," a guide on what a newcomer needs to know about Austin. The following is his personal response to the negative op-ed published by Californian Brett Alder in Business Insider reviewing his stay in Austin. Views are his alone and do not reflect the views of Austonia.
Yes, I've read it. I rolled my eyes repeatedly as person after person brought a certain Business Insider article to my attention last week. Heavy sigh.
For context, I spent much of my day on Jan. 20 feeling myself shed pounds of anxiety, fear and uncertainty from the last four years under Donald Trump. Four years in which access to healthcare, Black lives, the environment, the media, progressive policies, science and truth appeared to be under attack at all times–so forgive me for enjoying the moment. A moment that soon passed as I began seeing a Business Insider article about a California man regretting his move to Austin on my Twitter feed.
I'd never heard of Brett Alder. I looked him up on Medium and LinkedIn to try to see if I'd come across him, but nope. Couldn't tell him from Adam. For all intents and purposes, I realized Business Insider likely re-published this random man's blog from 2016 now, on the same day as inauguration in 2021, because he fit the profile of who most people assume is making or considering the popular move from California to Austin: a white man in the tech industry who wants lower taxes and can afford to buy a house.
Considering Austin seems to be the biggest winner of the pandemic from a tech industry and growth standpoint, I can imagine the editor of Business Insider thinking of all the clicks they'd get by pissing off the residents of the fastest-growing city in America and giving San Franciscans a rare thing to cheer about amid some of the country's most strict COVID-19 restrictions and constant headlines about companies and residents fleeing their city.
So, there it was, an article in a major business outlet, skewering my beloved city. And just a week or so after my own "Open Letter to New Austinites" had run in Inc. Magazine albeit with a much different tone. I took a moment before considering if Alder's piece merited a response.
Alder had lamented the weather, the people, the lack of green spaces, and the public schools among other issues he found after moving from San Diego to Austin, despite doubling his house size for the same price and forgoing California's notorious income taxes. For the day or two after inauguration, it felt like every other message I received—a DM on Instagram or Twitter, a text or an email—was someone sending the article. A response was inevitable.
But, after this past weekend, I've realized I really don't need to offer up a rebuttal to the points Alder made about his experience in Austin. It may pain you to hear this, but you shouldn't either. What one random man from California who works in tech thinks about Austin should not get this much attention, and the fact that it did speaks more to our unfortunate assumptions about whose voices are worth listening to and worthy of elevation via a national media outlet (an entire presidential cycle later) than how we should feel about our chosen city.
We should be far more interested in the viewpoints of a longtime Austinite priced out of the East Side and now living in Pflugerville, the result of gentrification and neglectful zoning. We should consider the opinions of Austinites whom moved to San Antonio or Houston to experience a city with more Black or Hispanic inclusion; something Austin must improve. We should wholeheartedly learn from women in Austin's tech scene who've felt excluded, people of color who've launched startups only to be underfunded, young people at A.I.S.D. public schools who lack the resources of their peers at Eanes I.S.D. We should listen to working musicians and service industry professionals trying to make a living and stay close to Downtown in a city where rent prices continue to rise, housing supply remains low, and the income divide in our city grows by the day.
Simply put, Austin has real issues, and these issues require we listen to the right voices. Simultaneously, Austin has real benefits for a newcomer, especially one from California where more space, lower income taxes, a "buy local" mentality and relative affordability are just a few of the pros. I can imagine the editor of Business Insider spent little time speaking to many former Californians still living in Austin because that would have hurt the effectiveness of their (successful) clickbait initiative.
But listening (and, worse, responding point-by-point) to a random guy in tech from California who bought a 4,000-square foot home, got lost at Enchanted Rock, didn't seem to appreciate great food and live music, struggled to make friends, and generally failed to make the most of a city that has so much to offer? Miss me with that.
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Expect some whiplash this week, Austinites: with an expected high of 103 degrees, Monday is predicted to be the hottest day of the year, but a midweek cold front is on the way to bring that first glimpse of fall.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport could see its first 100-degree temperature this year on Monday as temperatures citywide are expected to exceed this year's record of 102 degrees.
The cold front arrives Tuesday afternoon to evening.#atx #atxwx #cbsaustinwx https://t.co/rQni6ug3y4 pic.twitter.com/PoFeHPYtnM
— Chikage Windler WX (@ChikageWeather) September 20, 2021
After a typical summery Tuesday with highs in the mid-90s, Wednesday will welcome the first signs of fall as a cold front drops lows into the 50s.
Expect more wind and a chance of rain come Tuesday with a 40% chance of scattered storms. The cold front, which should last through Friday, will bring drier, crisper air that could cause fire hazards on Wednesday.
Highs will be in the upper 80s and lows in the 50s and lower 60s for the front's final two mornings.
After near record heat today, a cold front arrives tomorrow! Hang in there South-Central Texas, we have almost made it. pic.twitter.com/yd9UbNo7hY
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) September 20, 2021
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Around 75 dogs died in a fire Saturday night at Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown, according to the Georgetown Fire Department, leaving dozens of owners to mourn the losses of their furry companions.
The fire department arrived on the scene less than five minutes after 911 calls started flooding in at 10:56 p.m. At their arrival, they found flames and clouds of smoke, according to GFD Chief John Sullivan.
Twenty-five firefighters were on the scene, hoping to save as many lives as possible, initially trying to open some ventilation and control the smoke, though they were unable to save any dogs. Sullivan said his heart goes out to the families of the victims of the fire.
"I've been doing this for 29 years and this is the first incident that I've had where we've lost so many pets," Sullivan said. "I hate to use that term because, to me, a pet is a lot more than a pet—it is the closest friend. I wish I could convey my internal emotions adequately. I just wish I could go back in time to make it better."
Families of the fallen pets, who are believed to have died from smoke inhalation, have created a memorial outside the pet resort's fence complete with flowers, photos, notes and beloved toys of their friends.
No people were discovered at the scene—Ponderosa's boarding policies state that the staff feels that pets sleep better at night when no employees are there, so the pets are left unattended at night.
The fire department is still working to discover what caused the fire. Despite fire and smoke damage to the inside, the outer metal exterior survived the blaze. Based on the type of construction and occupancy type, the building was not required to have a sprinkler system.
"Quite frankly, I view my personal pet as probably my closest confidant, friend and the one that doesn't judge, so my heart just breaks," Sullivan said.
The fire claimed the lives of dog duo Bunny and Clyde, leaving owners and newlywed couple Don and Pam Richard devastated and angry KXAN reports, saying they wouldn't have left the dogs had they known they would be left unattended at night.
The Richard family is planning to petition the city of Georgetown, making it so that animals in professional care are never left unattended again.
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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."