Austin’s emergency management office lauded, earns elite accreditation

American-Statesman file photo

A national nonprofit group lauded Austin’s emergency management efforts Friday, certifying its program meets 64 industry standards.

Austin is just one of three Texas cities, along with Dallas and Arlington, to win accreditation from the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

“Emergency management accreditation represents a significant achievement,” said EMAP Commission Chairperson Robie Robinson in a statement. “We applaud the City of Austin’s leadership and we recognize the dedication to the safety and security of the residents that it represents.”

The city’s 15-member Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, and manages grant funding to improve homeland security and public safety. The agency co-manages the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.


Hate Austin rent prices? Online list says Leander is cheaper


We all know it’s expensive to live in Austin. One recent study suggested that it takes a yearly salary of at least $52,578 to afford a home here, something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to afford if you’re a single man or woman.

A house on Garden Street is for sale on Thursday November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But take heart, those of you who rent homes or apartments in Austin: At least you weren’t paying the area’s highest rent prices this past month. That honor goes to Leander, our neighbor to the northwest. That’s right, it was cheaper to rent a domicile in Austin than it was in Leander, at least, according to rental site Zumper.

Zumper released a report this week detailing the drop in rent prices throughout the Austin area, a swath of land that includes all the way from Georgetown to San Marcos. The report found that for the month of March, Austin had a median one-bedroom rent of $1,080 a month, while renting the same domain in Leander would set you back $1,110. Both are still much higher than the $887 state median, however.

The cheapest rent in the Austin area for March belonged to San Marcos, at $860 a month for a one-bedroom.

Read the full report here.




Watch Austin grow up in Google Earth’s mesmerizing time-lapse photos

People in Austin complain all the time about how fast the city has grown and how much their favorite neighborhoods have changed, but you can get a satellite’s-eye view of just how much by using Google Earth Engine. The site collects aerial photography from 1984 to 2016, a period in Austin that includes the real estate boom and bust of the 1980s, the late 1990s tech boom and bust in the early 2000s, as well as the 2008 recession and subsequent economic recovery.

The view of Austin from a macro view can be a bit muddled but you can see lots of activity on the outskirts of town, like the emergence of the Texas 130 toll road on the far right.

The city of Austin

But take a look at the neighborhoods and zoom in on certain high-growth areas and the changes are more impressive. For instance, between 1984 and 2016, the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport was closed. Its runways were razed and replaced with a planned community of retailers and single-family homes.

Robert Mueller Airport, then Mueller development

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was simply Bergstrom Air Force Base three decades ago. The military abandoned the base but the city turned it into an international flying hub. In the time-lapse below, you can see how the city added another runway to the existing airfield and rebuilt the terminal and parking for civilian use. When a large road suddenly cuts across the map on the right, that’s the construction of the Texas 130 toll road.

Bergstrom Air Force Base, then Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Also in southwest Travis County, you find lots of farmland and rural areas that haven’t changed much at all in the past 30 years. But in the space of a few years, the Texas 130 toll road appears – seen below on the left – and then, blossoming from the green space, the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.

Circuit of the Americas emerges in Elroy

Another transformation becomes evident on the other side of the county in Steiner Ranch. Here, you can see how development spilled along roadways and how houses sprouted on hilltops throughout the area.

Steiner Ranch

Just a few miles north, on Lake Travis, the aerial photos show the effects of fluctuating drought conditions on the Highland Lakes. Over the past 30 years, the exposed shoreline of Lake Travis flashes like a neon sign as waters recede and return, depending on the season’s rainfall.

Lake Travis
Lake Travis

Try Google Earth Engine for yourself. I learned a lot just by looking up my own neighborhood in South Austin near the corner of West Slaughter and Brodie lanes:



Travis County commissioner’s re-election ad stars his exasperated wife

Gerald Daughtery is preparing for Nov. 8, when he will defend his seat on the Travis County Commissioners Court. The current Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner released an ad on Oct. 5, starring himself and his wife, Charlyn Daughtery.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daughtery speaks at the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday January 6, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daughtery speaks at the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday January 6, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Gerald really doesn’t have any hobbies,” Charlyn says in the beginning of the video.

From the kitchen, she and a friend watch him grill dinner and explain tax rates to a bored man.

“Is he always like that?” the friend asks.

“Always,” Charlyn says.

The video has been watched more than 123,000 times, an impressive number. Daughtery has 1,131 people who have “liked” his page, which indicates that this video’s reach has far exceeded his own audience on Facebook. Other area politicians’ Facebook audience, for comparison: Travis County Precinct 2 Commissioner Brigid Shea has 512 likes; Austin City Council Member Delia Garza has 2,113 Facebook page likes; and City Council Member Sheri Gallo has 1,385 page likes.

Daughtery won the Republican primary for his seat in March with 71 percent of the vote. He is the only Republican on the Commissioners court, and he faces Democratic candidate David Holmes on Election Day.

Austin church has great response to ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign thieves

University United Methodist Church ....12/2/98 photo by Rebecca McEntee/AAS
University United Methodist Church  (File photo by Rebecca McEntee/American-Statesman)

A local church near the University of Texas campus is fighting back against crime with a little humor.

The University United Methodist Church’s Facebook page posted a photo on Monday addressing a recent theft from its property. According to the photo’s description, the church placed seven “Black Lives Matter” lawn signs in its front yard following the high-profile shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. Within two days, all seven had been stolen.

Despite the theft, the church placed five more “Black Lives Matter” signs in its yard and included two “freebies” if would-be thieves needed a yard sign.

The free sign reads “Wanna steal a sign off our church’s front yard? THIS IS A FREE ONE YOU CAN HAVE! Compliments of University UMC.”

This isn’t the first time the church has made its progressive stances known. In 2013, the youth director was temporarily removed from ordination track because she is a lesbian. Senior Pastor Rev. John Elford has called for others to engage with the Muslim community, and the church was one of several in the university area to hang banners discouraging anti-Muslim bigotry. The church’s Facebook page also currently features a cover photo promoting a sermon series titled “Jesus is a feminist.”