News from Austin & Travis County
Austin City Council Meets Nov. 18, Dec. 2., Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. 301 W. Second St., Austin www.austintexas.gov/department/ city-council Travis County Commissioners Court Meets Nov. 30, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m. 700 Lavaca St., Austin www.traviscountytx.gov/ commissionerscourt Dripping Springs City Council Meets Dec. 7, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. 511 Mercer St., Dripping Springs www.cityofdrippingsprings.com Sunset Valley City Council Meets Dec. 7, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. 3205 Jones Road, Sunset Valley www.sunsetvalley.org MEETINGSWE COVER HIGHLIGHTS AUSTIN On Oct. 21, city, county and community leaders announced that more than 75% of the funding needed for a $515 million plan to house more than 3,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Austin has been lined up. AUSTIN Austin Water announced Oct. 18, after purchasing specialized testing equipment, it will begin conducting in-house testing of water for toxins linked to algae blooms that can make people and animals ill, speeding up the testing process. AUSTIN City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing Austin Pets Alive to take in animals from outside the Austin service area. APA requested the change, which became a sticking point between the city and the non-profit. TRAVIS COUNTY The county approved new commissioner district maps Nov. 10. The maps focus on adding more residents to District 4, on the east side, and redistributing others among the remaining precincts. The new maps take effect immediately.
Audit: Austinwas ‘unprepared’ for winter storm
BY BEN THOMPSON
major disasters but does not feature “specific details about managing them,” auditors found, and it is lacking in regard to winter weather and related power and water issues. Auditors said Austin should have readied residents for how bad things could get. During a Nov. 10 committee meeting, council members responded to audit findings on Austin’s overall preparedness and asked city management to more quickly address top recommendations for emergencies. “It’s extremely frustrating, and we need systems in place that don’t let that happen again,” District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said.
NEXT STEPS The report concluded with
AUSTIN A city review of Austin’s response to Winter Storm Uri showed the city was unprepared for a severe winter storm and failed to communicate effectively with residents before and during the storm. A city audit team found that, leading up to mid-February, the city was understaffed, undersupplied and did not have necessary accommodations for residents seeking food and heat. City staff were “exhausted” through the storm and the rollout of shelter spaces proved to be “chaotic,” the auditors found. The city’s emergency operations plan references the possibility of
• Increased training for city staff • Addressing emergency recommendations ignored in previous years • Stockpiling supplies and equipment • Continue to hold scenario-based training sessions • Establishing resilience hubs • Improving disaster preparedness education recommendations in 10 categories. Some of the tasks for improving all aspects of Austin’s disaster response systems include:
SOURCE: CITY OF AUSTIN/ COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Culture issues persist in police academy, per independent review
THE PLAN An independent committee will
examine the correction facilities plan.
Phase 1: spring 2022 Participants will be selected for an independent committee. Phase 2: summer 2022 Committee members
will discuss their thoughts on the criminal justice system.
BY OLIVIA ALDRIDGE & BEN THOMPSON
overseeing the academy. Brown said APD has successfully implemented new features, including heightened community engagement and racial equity training. They also praised instructors’ teaching of de-escalation tactics that minimize the use of force. However, Brown said a survey of cadets showed more than 54% of cadets reported their APD instructors had “ridiculed” the concept of a reformed police academy in training.
Phase 3: fall 2022 The committee will prepare an updated facility plan.
AUSTIN Months after the Austin Police Department’s cadet academy relaunched with targeted reforms, following allegations of a toxic and racist culture, an independent consultant said the academy was moving in the right direction but needs more buy-in from instructors. “A military-style culture still prevails,” said Rick Brown, a representative from the consulting firm Kroll & Associates, which has been
Travis County updates plan for aging correctional facilities
TRAVIS COUNTY Following a high- profile decision to postpone plans for a new women’s jail, BY OLIVIA ALDRIDGE
Travis County staff laid out a timeline to gather community feedback on a larger correctional facilities plan on Oct. 19.
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