City staff will now bring forward an official tax rate proposal for the council to vote on by Aug. 7. The proposal will include an 8.75-cent property tax increase.
The city and CapMetro also approved creating a shared governing board for the project, with officials from both entities overseeing the massive transit upgrade.
"This is an exciting day to be taking a step forward," Mayor Steve Adler said. "This is both a scary time filled with uncertainties, and a time of hope as we are on the verge of real transformative change … We need to move forward to be the Austin of our aspirations, and our dreams."
The influence of the pandemic
The reduced ask came as a sharp turnaround for Project Connect—the city gave the nod to the full $10 billion plan as recently as late June. The plan approved today will be just over $7 billion, with 45% coming from the federal government and most of the rest from the planned November vote.
However, the property tax increase approved by CapMetro and the council was actually slightly higher than the reduced proposal—an 8.5-cent property tax increase—brought forward last week. The 0.25-cent increase will allow Project Connect to triple the amount of funding to help with housing displacement to $300 million.
For and against
Of the 84 people who signed up to comment on Project Connect, 68 registered in favor of the plan, with five registering against it.
The speakers who opposed the proposal called parts of Project Connect, such as the construction of an underground rail tunnel through downtown, "sketchy," poorly planned and a "fairy tale" that could easily go over budget.
"We're in the middle of a pandemic, and we don't have funds to do this sort of thing," said Caroline Reynolds, who lives near downtown and said she is drawing on her experience as an engineer.
Other residents called on the council and CapMetro to delay putting the issue on the ballot to 2022 and impressed upon the officials the possibility of the it failing during a year with such major financial crises going on.
Many spoke in support of the project, advocating for the need to work on improving public transit in the city sooner rather than later.
"I urge you all to go big on this project and support it moving forward," said Bay Scoggin, the director at Texas Public Interest Research Group.
Danielle Skidmore, a civil engineer and former candidate for City Council District 9, in Central Austin, also spoke in support of Project Connect.
"We will look back at 2020, and recognize it is the right time to begin this investment," Skidmore said. "Project Connect will define Austin in the 21st century."
Two more votes are required before the proposal can be put on the November ballot, the second of which will happen during the Aug. 12-14 City Council budget meetings.
This article was updated after the vote.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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