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A homeless encampment in Austin's Windsor Park neighborhood is accumulating trash after a cleanup effort earlier this month.
Kevin Ludlow, a resident and former Libertarian candidate for the Texas House, first posted a video of the encampment, which abuts his backyard in Windsor Park, on Aug. 2. The footage showed a large amount of trash as well as homeless residents engaged in substance use. It has since been viewed more than 72,000 times and shared widely on social media sites.
After the video was posted, the city's watershed protection department contracted a local nonprofit, The Other Ones Foundations, to clean up the site, which is along Little Tannehill Branch Creek between Broadmoor Drive and 52nd Street. Work crews removed tons of trash.
"The area was spotless on Aug. 9," Ludlow said in an updated video posted on Tuesday, showing what has happened at the site since the clean-up effort.
New campers began arriving Aug. 12, Ludlow said in voiceover. Last week, clothes and garbage began piling up, and he recorded what appears to be substance use and nudity.
"I don't believe the campers should be arrested nor do I believe that we should criminalize homelessness in any way," Ludlow said in the video, adding that given the increase in property taxes in recent years the city should have adequate funding to address the issue. "There is simply no way that a solution to this problem cannot be found with that bump in revenue to the City of Austin."
Windsor Park Neighborhood Association President Dan Strub previously told Austonia that the encampment has been around for years and many residents are reluctant to call the police "about much of anything that isn't directly crime-related these days."
A fight over public camping
Austin residents facing issues related to homeless encampments are encouraged to call the emergency 311 line. But there is little that city officials or police can do to force campers elsewhere. Last year, Austin City Council abolished the city's ban on public camping.
A local nonprofit, Save Austin Now, tried to overturn this ban via a citizen-led petition. However, Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall recently ruled that the petition is not valid due to duplicate signatures and other issues.
The group, led by Travis County GOP Chairperson Matt Mackowiak, is considering legal action but is up against a deadline; the Nov. 3 election is just over nine weeks away.
"We do not believe there is ANY CHANCE WHATSOEVER that 5,000+ signed petitions of the 24,000+ that we submitted were invalid," Mackowiak wrote in an Aug. 20 Facebook post. "We are not going to accept what has happened here."
The group is waiting for the city to respond to a public information request before deciding on its next steps.
If the court orders the city to place an item on the November ballot, it will, a spokesperson wrote to Austonia in an email last week.
Goodall, however, is confident in her decision. "The probability that checking all 24,201 submitted signatures would find a total of at least 20,000 valid signatures in less than 3 in one billion," she wrote in the ruling.
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In a match marred by injuries and key player absences, Austin FC lost 2-0 in Los Angeles for the second time on Saturday to West Division titan LA Galaxy.
Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver was tasked with the near-insurmountable task of holding back the LA Galaxy's Chicharito, who is now the league's top scorer this season, and he nearly succeeded.
The club saw its first major threat from the formidable Chicharito when a penalty was drawn on Jhohan Romana. In his usual game-saving fashion, Stuver leapt to the right to kept the scoreboard empty and block what many thought would be the league leader's first goal of the match.
With a Hector Jimenez injury midway through play, a Jon Gallagher absence due to injury and a man down as Captain Alex Ring sat the bench, however, the team was unable to get a win in their second trip to Los Angeles.
Austin FC was slated to play against the odds after Ring was benched due to a second yellow card last week. To cover the wound, the club put standout rookie Daniel Pereira in his stead and placed Danny Hoesen back at the crown of the lineup after fellow striker Gallagher stayed home.
Hector Jimenez got his first start with the club at right back in the stead of Nick Lima, but the run was short-lived. The 32-year-old suffered an injury after attempting to save the first LA Galaxy goal, but Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget still scored the match opener after popping a shot over Stuver to make the match 1-0.
Austin FC plateaued through much of the first half, and the forces of the universe were in the Galaxy's favor as they encroached on Austin's defense.
The club found new stamina, as they usually do, when a set of subs were brought in to up the club's tempo, and ten minutes of the match were entirely Kekuta Manneh's. Manneh, the club's only player with Austin ties, subbed in the 60th minute of play and immediately made an attempt on goal. The winger would make three more attempts, one of which just missed the top right corner of goal, before LA made its next advances on Austin's defense.
Head coach Josh Wolff said he hoped for a goal for Manneh, who doesn't often get to hit the pitch.
"His contributions were obvious, and I would have liked to see him get a goal there," Wolff said.
It looked like Austin might tie it up during the "Kekuta Era," but Chicharito played true to his stats. Stuver went head-to-head with Chicharrito once again and lost as he scored his seventh goal in five matches in the 77th minute of play.
⚽️ x 7️⃣@CH14_ scores his league-leading seventh of the season! #LAvATX pic.twitter.com/28zLnOmKWb
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 15, 2021
Matt Besler said he was up for a challenge as the club's central defender and he's unsurprised at Chicharito's success. Besler also said and he respects Chicharito on and off the pitch becuase of his openness about mental illness.
"I was looking forward to the challenge," Besler said. "His recognition of where the space is world class, and it's no surprise that he's scored goals everywhere that he's gone. I respect him as a player and I also respect him off the field."
Another attempt on goal was made by the Galaxy's Kevin Cabral, who sunk one in past Stuver just minutes later, but the goal was called offsides. Still, the match came to an anticlimactic end as Austin FC was unable to get one in goal and lost 2-0.
Besler, who has seen the ebbs and flows of his Sporting Kansas City, his club of 12 years, said that it takes patience to be a successful team. Still, he's impressed that Austin FC has made as much ground as they have in their expansion year.
"I understand that it's going to be a process, and we are in our fifth game of our existence, but the fact that we're at where we are at isa good sign," Besler said. "Towards the last third of the season, that's when hopefully we can peak and look a lot like our final product."
Austin FC will have a chance to snap their two-match losing streak as they head to Nashville SC for their sixth-straight road match at 8 p.m.on Sunday.
Nearly half of Travis County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated, as of Friday afternoon, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. And an even greater portion likely have immunity.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott estimates that around 70% of local residents have some form of immunity to COVID-19, either because they have recovered from the disease or are vaccinated. This is approaching the threshold for herd immunity.
"We're starting to approach that 70% mark of combined disease and vaccination, so we may start to see some significant changes when it comes to disease trends," he told council members and county commissioners on Tuesday.
Escott arrived at this percentage by assuming that there is no overlap between those who have had COVID and those who have been vaccinated. "While there's certainly some overlap … there does not seem to be a lot of overlap between those two," he said.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people are immune to a disease that it is unlikely for someone who contracts the disease to spread it. With no one to infect, the disease dies out.
Public health experts have said herd immunity for COVID will require around 80% of the population to be immune based on its relative infectiousness.
Although natural immunity contributes to herd immunity and is partially responsible for the sharp downturn in the number of new COVID infections in recent months, vaccination is the gold standard among experts because of the increased security it offers.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler celebrated the new CDC guidance as proof of vaccines' efficacy. "Since more people will not be wearing masks, it makes it even more important to get vaccinated," he said in a statement Friday.
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