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One of Austin's own was named among the top kids of 2020, according to TIME magazine. We've compiled the latest news headlines around Austin to help catch you up on this story and other breaking news around the city.
Here is what we have shared so far this week:
Dec. 4: Austin teen is one of TIME's best this year and 4 more headlines you might've missed
16-year-old Austinite Ian McKenna was named a finalist for TIME magazine's Kid of the Year honor.
1. Best kid in Austin: For the first time, TIME magazine awarded its first Kid of the Year, and Austin's own Ian McKenna was among the five finalists for the honor. The 16-year-old gardener was recognized for helping curb youth hunger with produce he grew himself.
2. Tourists might save music venues: Austin is dishing out $15 million in emergency relief money to "iconic" Austin music venues, pulling from hotel tax dollars typically used to fund the convention center. This is the first time the city has deemed it legal under state law to use tourism hotel taxes for this purpose, potentially setting a new precedent, Community Impact reports.
3. State troopers in the city: The state wants to take over law enforcement efforts from Lady Bird Lake to 32nd Street and from I-35 to North Lamar Boulevard—and possibly to MoPac, according to The Texas Tribune. That means state troopers would patrol the streets instead of city and school cops under a proposal touted this week by Gov. Greg Abbott.
4. Utah monolith doesn't stand alone: After a viral frenzy over a mysterious monolith appearing and disappearing in the Utah desert, Austin Community College is getting involved in the fun. KXAN reports that ACC's welding department built a metal triangular column similar to the one magically showing up across the globe.
5. Whole lot of office space: Whole Foods Market is building a second downtown office building next to its 15-story West Sixth Street tower, which was constructed in 2017. The new building, slated for completion by the end of 2021, will be shorter than the original. TOWERS reports this news helps explain the unique architectural choices of the original development.
Dec. 3: This South Austin strip mall is getting a major facelift and 4 more headlines you might've missed
Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will be revamped into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use development by late 2022 or 2023.
(Barshop & Oles)
1. Major South Austin project announced: Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will soon become a mixed-use development with more than 3 million square feet of newly developed residences, retail and restaurants—and one-third of the project includes office space, too. The development will be the size of two Barton Creek Square Malls, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and it won't be ready until late 2022 or 2023.
2. Tax bills behind schedule: Wondering why you haven't been hit by a Travis County tax bill yet? KVUE learned that most people haven't received their 2020 tax statement because the county waited to see how November's election might impact the city's tax rate. Keep in mind that property valuations were frozen last year, so the tax impact could be less severe in 2020—check here if you cannot wait for the mail to see the damage.
3. Slice of Sundance here in Austin: Austin Film Society will host a satellite location of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which is going virtual this year. Austin Chronicle reports the prestigious movie festival, normally held in Utah, is tapping independent theaters around the country to decentralize the event next year, with AFS hosting "social distant screenings" to festival-goers.
4. Pennybacker bridge jumper speaks: FOX 7 talked to the 21-year-old South Austin man who jumped off Pennybacker Bridge in a recent viral video. Naturally, he doesn't regret it and gained about 1,000 extra YouTube followers out of the whole deal—as well as a fractured skull, brain bleeding and emergency surgery.
5. Final call for COVID relief: The city is accepting applicants for its emergency relief funding, which still has more than $4 million leftover for Austin residents who lost income during the pandemic. The city told Austonia in mid-October that less than $1 million had been distributed so far due to low demand. Qualifications have since been updated to enable more access to the relief money, with nearly $8.5 million now distributed to needy residents.
Dec. 2: Mayor Adler called out for Cabo trip and 4 more headlines you might've missed
1. Mayor Adler doesn't lead by example: While COVID-19 cases spiked in early November following the Halloween weekend, Mayor Steve Adler urged Austinites to "stay at home." As it turns out, his message was broadcast from Mexico where Adler traveled after his daughter's wedding ceremony in Austin. Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski reports that health officials urged gatherings to be limited to no more than 10 people at the time, yet the wedding hosted about 20 guests who were "probably not" wearing masks the entire time, Adler admits.
2. 11 APD officers disciplined: Confrontations with police in late May resulted in several protestors getting injured by pepper spray, bean bags and foam bullets. Now KVUE has counted 11 police officers that have been punished for their actions during those protests—including a cop accused of calling a protestor "that gay dude." KXAN reports that multiple lawsuits have also been filed by protestors against APD, and Police Chief Brian Manley updated use-of-force policies following the protests.
3. Unemployed? Receive a $100 relief gift card: If you're a musician or worked in the hospitality industry, you likely qualify for a $100 H-E-B gift card from the Red River Cultural District. The business group of mostly music venue owners has distributed $155,000 so far this year in COVID-19 relief money, according to Austin360, and this fourth round of support includes $45,000 for unemployed music industry and service workers.
4. Road rage is rampant: Local officials think road rage is a greater issue locally than the 14 combined cases reported so far this year. FOX 7 talked to traffic patrollers who are concerned that COVID-19 and holiday stress could add to the road rage shooting in southeast Austin last week.
5. New mental health hospital: Austin State Hospital is being rebuilt in Austin's Triangle neighborhood as part of a $305 million, 380,000-square-foot project. The area for the 80-acre campus has been cleared, KVUE reports, putting the 240-bed mental health hospital on track to open by June 2023.
A majority of the charges related to the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer will be dropped.
County Attorney David Escamilla, set to retire at the end of this year, told the Austin Chronicle that none of the dropped cases were violent.
"Unless there's any aggravating factors, we just reject, and so that's what we've done," he said.
The decision affects 104 protestors out of the 178 arrested during the demonstrations this summer, most of who were arrested for low-level offenses like obstructing a highway, Escamilla said. That charge is normally a class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Escamilla does not have authority over all arrests. Some 51 protestors arrested over the summer were charged with both felony and misdemeanor offenses, putting them in the hands of District Attorney-elect Jose Garza, who will decide what happens to them when he takes office in January.
Four protestors charged with misdemeanors had already pleaded guilty and took time served to get out of jail.
Escamilla is still deciding on 19 cases, the Chronicle reported, some of which involve property damage. "Anything could happen with those," he said. "They're just more complicated."
Charges will also be dropped in arrests stemming from the International Working Women's Day protest on March 8, as well as the May Day March on May 1.
Escamilla has held the office of county attorney for the past 17 years. He will be succeeded by former council member Delia Garza.
After a Kentucky grand jury ruled not to charge two of the three police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, protesters across the country took to the streets, including at the Texas Capitol and Austin City Hall to stand against the decision.
The protest, titled "Justice for Breonna Taylor—Solidarity with Louisville," started at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The protest was not organized by a specific group or person, though groups like the Mike Ramos Brigade, a local anti-police organization with ties to antifa, and Back the Blue, a pro-police organization, were present.
Protester Ellie A., who was not affiliated with any group, said she was there to protest for what matters.
"Black lives matter," Ellie said. "That is not apparent from the things that happen in our world."
Shortly after the protest began, a group of protesters attacked Hiram Garcia, an independent streamer who often films protests and "history in the making," by shoving Garcia and his camera to the floor. Some protesters yelled and suggested he leave the protest.
A fight has broken out against Hiram Garcia, an independent streamer. Protesters became physical and tried to knock… https://t.co/MSCmkMy0Ay— Laura Figi (@Laura Figi)1600908523.0
Garcia, who streams on Facebook Live, said he has been attending protests since May 30 and said people are quick to recognize him.
"They just don't want me here, that's it," Garcia said. "The problem is I'm an unbiased host."
Protest attendee, who goes by the name Shera, has been protesting for racial justice since May and said she has faced dangerous situations, such as being pepper sprayed. Shera said Garcia was generally accepted at first, but while he elects to remain neutral, he has gained a right-wing audience he has yet to denounce.
"(Garcia has) talked to the cops in a way that a lot of the protesters don't like, or just giving them airtime (on the livestream) and loving them—pretty much speaking propaganda," Shera said. "It's okay if they don't want him here but getting physical like that … is just completely uncalled for."
About 45 minutes into the protest, protesters took to West Cesar Chavez Street and blocked traffic. Shortly after, they were followed by multiple police cars, who ordered them to clear out the roads under threat of arrest.
Groups of protesters continued to march through the streets, as several people were arrested. One protester was arrested on 3rd Street and San Jacinto, seen being patted down with zip-tied wrists.
Here on 2nd Street and San Jacinto, a protester is being arrested. An officer said she was being arrested for “thro… https://t.co/xKcMdeYi60— Laura Figi (@Laura Figi)1600910873.0
Several protesters were arrested for class B and C misdemeanors, according to the Austin Police Department.
Shera said the protests were meant to show solidarity with Louisville and Breonna Taylor, and the ruling was disappointing.
"We are not done," Shera said. "We are still waiting for a lot of justice to be served for the police that have hurt all of the protesters that are out here."
More on protesters:
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- Election protests could test new Austin police policies - austonia ›
- Protest recap: Austinites rally after election results - austonia ›
- Mike Ramos' mother sues for wrongful death by police - austonia ›