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Norman Scales Jr. says he doesn't care whether you're "black, white, blue, brown or gray," he wants to get to know you if you live in Rogers Washington Holy Cross Heights—the East Austin neighborhood he lives in, went to school, started to play jazz and learned the meaning of the word 'segregation.'
You can often catch Scales, a 75-year-old second-generation resident of the neighborhood, sitting on his porch. Walking by, he might let you in for a glass of water while you "sit a spell" and have a conversation.
"Some people laugh about it, whatever, but we strive to keep this neighborhood. Rogers Washington Holy Cross Heights was a fight to get here," Scales said. "We took care of our own and the houses, our parents built what they could with the money they had."
Norman Scales Sr. was Austin's first Black fighter pilot. (Austin Parks and Recreation)
Scales followed in the footsteps of his father and became a pilot. Norman Scales Sr., was a Tuskegee Airman and Austin's first Black fighter pilot. History is important to Scales, which is precisely why he wants to preserve the neighborhood.
Norman Scales' house was built in 1958 and he plans to pass it on to his daughter. (Preservation Austin.)
The neighborhood, which is located off of Manor Road between Chestnut and Walnut Ave., was designated as a historic district in September 2020, the first in Austin to commemorate the history of a primarily Black neighborhood. The homes of the historic area were featured for the first time in this year's annual Homes Tour, put on by Preservation Austin.
Usually in person but held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the Homes Tour is an annual event that has been showcasing "our community's diverse heritage and incredible neighborhoods every spring" for the past 40 years. Proceeds from the tour benefit advocacy efforts of Preservation Austin.
"East Austin is undergoing, I think the most rapid redevelopment in the city and has been for some time now, and that's where historically our African American and Mexican and Mexican American communities were segregated," said Lindsey Derrington, Preservation Austin executive director. "New development is rapidly taking over neighborhoods, raising property values. We've got these giant homes going up next to post-war houses, raising property values and it's really problematic and it's just causing a lot of folks to move out of East Austin."
Houses in the Rogers Washington Holy Cross historic district were built there by Austin's Black residents during the Jim Crow era, mostly in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Most of the residents have been there for decades and almost all of them know each other.
Integrating in a segregated world
Lavon Marshall grew up in East Austin on Washington Avenue. As an adult, Marshall, her husband and her children moved to Georgia at the beginning of racial integration in 1957 and her children attended an integrated school as first and second graders. Marshall was "promised that we would have no problems" by the school's principal, and outside of a small, resolved incident, her children integrated fairly seamlessly.
Lavon Marshall moved her family into a new house her parents built in Rogers Washington Holy Cross. It only cost $15,000 to build back in 1959. (Preservation Austin)
It was a different story when Marshall's family returned to Austin to live in her parents' newly built home in 1966. Austin schools were not fully integrated until 1971—17 years after the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
"When they started to go to Blackshear Elementary, it was still segregated. They didn't become integrated until they closed Kealing (Middle School) and Anderson (High School)," Marshall said. "(After integration) there were bomb threats for the buses. There were fights. My husband and I spent, I'm sure, a third of our time going to either of the schools to quell threats."
Lavon Marshall was born and raised in East Austin. (Courtesy of Lavon Marshall)
It was the first Black principal of Anderson Hill School and the Marshall family's neighbor, Dr. Charles Akins, who drove their kids to school to their extracurriculars and pushed Black kids to succeed in an integrated school.
After a tough day at school, the kids would go home to being surrounded by friends. "Being in Rogers Washington Holy Cross, you knew you had friends. Everybody knew everybody in the neighborhood," Marshall said.
Preserving Rogers Washington Holy Cross Heights
After growing up and watching the neighborhood change, Scales and Marshall said they find it painful to see "McMansions" popping up and people moving into an area where just 20 years ago, "white people were taught that everything bad happened."
With the new historical designation, developers will have a harder time building in the neighborhood and asking homeowners to sell their homes, due to the "exceptional value" an area has in history. It's welcome news to the neighborhood that doesn't want to see any neighbors forced out.
"I listen to the people who come in here that are more affluent, or make more money than most of us do, and the first thing they want to do is change it, but they don't know the history and what these people went through," Scales said. "It represents something that can't be duplicated."
One of the homes featured in the Preservation Austin Homes Tour. (Preservation Austin)
There is still time to see all of the houses put forth in Preservation Austin's Homes Tour. Ticket sales will reopen for two weeks starting this Thursday until July 8.
"They're not gonna see something that's overly architectural here but you will see that this was a house of a person who served your country, no matter the color of your skin, and it's a place that says, 'look at this house, this is a house where people are welcome, no matter your ethnicity," Scales said.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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