Missed any of our articles from last week? Catch up on Community Impact’s coverage areas in the Austin metro from April 10-14.

1. Broken Spoke invites public to historical marker dedication ceremony, free concert

The James M. White family, the owners of the Broken Spoke, are inviting the public to attend a Texas historical dedication ceremony for the honky-tonk hangout April 12.

The Broken Spoke is a bar, dance hall and restaurant that opened 59 years ago. On Nov. 3, Austin City Council passed a resolution to begin the process of designating the Broken Spoke as a historical landmark.

The resolution states the Broken Spoke has hosted legions of performers, including music legends such as Willie Nelson and George Strait, who started their careers at the venue in the late 1970s. Dolly Parton also filmed her 1980 movie “Wild Texas Wind” at the venue as well. In addition, the property has been represented in a variety of media and mementos, such as a photograph of the Broken Spoke on the cover of George Strait's March 2019 album, “Honky Tonk Time Machine.”

In the draft resolution, Austin City Council members said they believe the venue should be considered a historical landmark due to the following criteria:
  • The venue is more than 50 years old and retains the original integrity of its character of a classic Texas music and dance hall.
  • The property has significant associations with historical events, including famous performers, visitors and events, and provides distinct community value as a cornerstone of Austin's live music scene.
  • It has a longstanding significant association with persons and groups of historic importance which contributed significantly to the history of the city and state.
Read the full story by Amanda Cutshall.

2. Narcan to be distributed to all Texas counties to help fight fentanyl crisis

According to Gov. Greg Abbott, over 2,000 Texans died from fentanyl poisoning last year. In response to the growing fentanyl crisis, the governor announced that the opioid reversal medication Narcan will be provided to law enforcement in every county in Texas.

Abbott’s announcement came during an April 6 summit that included state leaders, local officials and the families of Texans who died from fentanyl overdoses. The Texas Division of Emergency Management will be responsible for distributing the medication to county sheriffs, he said.

An initial 20,000 units of Narcan are available now. Each county is eligible to receive a certain portion of this allotment based on its population, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

County sheriffs’ offices can request Narcan through the State of Texas Assistance Request portal.

“We are eager to distribute life-saving medication to counteract the impacts of the fentanyl crisis," TDEM Chief Nim Kidd said in the release. "As we work together to help Texas communities combat these deadly drugs, I look forward to working with local officials and first responders to provide medication that reverses the deadly effects of opioids.”

On March 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan, a nasal spray version of the opioid reversal medication naloxone, for over-the-counter distribution. The FDA did not release an official timeline, but said in a news release that Narcan will soon be sold in drugstores, convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations and online.

Read the full story by Hannah Norton.

3. Senate bill would allow universities to fire professors for ‘indoctrinating’ students

The Texas Senate approved a bill April 12 that would prohibit colleges and universities from compelling or forcing students to adopt certain political beliefs.

Senate Bill 16, by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would ban professors from “compelling or attempting to compel” students to adopt the belief that any race, ethnicity, sex, religion or sociopolitical ideology is superior. Colleges and universities could fire a professor or revoke their tenure for doing so.

Hughes said the bill would ensure higher education institutions respect intellectual diversity, including varying political opinions, while preventing indoctrination.

During a special legislative session in 2021, Texas lawmakers approved SB 3, which was also written by Hughes. The bill prohibits K-12 schools from teaching students about critical race theory.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, critical race theory, or CRT, is a group of concepts “used for examining the relationship between race and the laws and legal institutions of a country.” Critical race theory is widely considered to be an academic concept based on the idea that race is a social construct and racism is ingrained in many American systems.

CRT is typically taught in higher education, particularly law schools.

Read the full story by Hannah Norton.

4. Uptick in Travis County STI rates results in 38% increase in patients from 2021

Austin Public Health's sexual health clinic saw an uptick in sexually transmitted infections in 2022 with nearly 10,000 patient visits—up 38% from the 2021 numbers.

As a result of the increased number of STI cases, public health officials are urging residents to utilize the sexual health clinic services available to them for free or low-cost testing, treatment and education.

“Our sexual health programs are critical to the health and well-being of our community, and we are committed to providing equitable access to resources that promote sexual health and wellness for all residents of Travis County,” APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said.

In 2022, the sexual health clinic screened 7,000 patients for HIV and syphilis. The clinic also started 345 patients on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and evaluated 48 patients for monkeypox—which included 31 positive results, the department reported.

APH's sexual health programs offer a range of services, including testing and treatment for STIs, HIV testing and counseling, and education on safe sexual practices. The programs also provide free condoms as well as distributing them to various community locations.

Read the full story by Amanda Cutshall.

5. Short-staffed Austin airport could get $11M to avoid baggage handling breakdowns

With many of its luggage technician positions sitting vacant, Austin's airport is set to get a nearly $11 million staffing boost to avoid the possibility of significant baggage operation failures city staff warned are on the horizon.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's baggage handling system has traditionally been managed in-house by its employees. However, recent turnover has left the airport's airline maintenance division short-staffed on the technicians needed to operate, maintain and repair the baggage system.

While the airport has been able to work with airlines to minimize any negative effects, the staffing situation has already led to some issues on the baggage system. And more notable problems—delayed airplane boardings, increased passenger deplaning, less timely baggage delivery and noncompliance with Transportation Security Administration rules—could soon disrupt ABIA and the broader aviation industry flying through Austin if more staff are not brought on board.

“The Airline Maintenance division at AUS has experienced staffing challenges due to difficulties in filling positions with experienced personnel, resulting in supervisors and superintendents performing frontline staff tasks that are unsustainable,” an airport spokesperson said in a statement. “To minimize negative impacts on the baggage system, the team prioritizes critical needs and requests additional help from other divisions within the airport maintenance and operations teams, which comes at a cost to other essential services and functions. Additionally, the staffing shortage has been exacerbated by increased usage of the baggage system for longer durations and reduced preventative maintenance opportunities.”

Read the full story by Ben Thompson.