South by Southwest Conference and Festivals 2016

Austin Mayor Steve Adler discusses local education challenges March 10 during the annual SXSWedu Conference & Festival. Austin Mayor Steve Adler discusses local education challenges March 10 during the annual SXSWedu Conference & Festival.[/caption]

Austin mayor explains possible ‘tax swap’


Austin Mayor Steve Adler assessed the state of local education at a SXSWedu Conference & Festival town hall March 10.


Adler explained to a national and international SXSWedu audience the statewide school finance concept of recapture, or the transfer of funds from Texas school districts with high property values to the state of Texas to be redistributed to poorer districts. He added that AISD sends hundreds of millions of dollars back to the state annually, and that is slated to continue for the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year.


One strategy to address recapture locally is a “tax swap” with AISD, which could help increase revenue for the school district, Adler said. AISD would agree to lower its tax rate, and the city would agree to increase its tax rate by the same or lower amount, reserving funds for additional AISD services, Adler said.


Adler added that legal teams are reviewing the tax swap concept.


“We fight this guerrilla war all the time, so we’re constantly trying things,” Adler said. “And I think this one holds promise because I think that it fits within the rules, and I think we’re going to make it happen.”







Future of transportation a topic at Interactive


Self-driving cars, hyperloops and other transportation innovations are coming, and cities must adapt, South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals panelists said during a SXSW Interactive Conference & Festival session March 14.


Andrew Johnston, who runs the Austin-based transportation discussion community Energy Thought Summit, and Josh Rasmussen, CEO of electric bike maker Bolt Motorbikes, said with population growth throughout the world, cities and policy makers must plan for alternative transportation options.


Johnston said more areas should consider adopting what Austin and the city’s energy utility, Austin Energy, have done to encourage adoption of electric and alternative energy transportation options. The city and utility cover up to half the cost of some electric vehicle purchases, Johnston said.


“That’s a huge investment in emerging technology from a city and a local utility,” he said. “That really puts skin in the game and shows the city cares as well.”


Johnston and Rasmussen predicted that electric vehicle sales would outpace gasoline vehicles sales by 2050. There is a need for more electric vehicle infrastructure, Rasmussen said.


In a separate panel March 15, panelists discussed the potential success of self-driving cars. In recent months Google has begun testing self-driving cars in Austin, and General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. have begun working on their own plans for vehicles that do not require a human driver.


Self-driving cars, which would be operated by computers connected to a series of cameras and sensors, have the potential to change the way people travel, the way cities are built and the spending habits of consumers.


Johanna Zmud, senior research scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, said if drivers are not responsible for operating the vehicle, drivers could read or catch up on work during their commute.







Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz helped lead a session at SXSWedu on March 9. Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz helped lead a session at SXSWedu on March 9.[/caption]

AISD showcases ‘whole-child’ approach


SXSWedu Conference & Festival attendees participated in hands-on social and emotional learning, or SEL, activities at a March 9 session featuring Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz at the JW Marriott hotel.


An activity Cruz led during the session required pairs of attendees to stand up and explain the origins of their names to each other. Cruz said the activity made participants move, share their history, address diversity, build community relations and create narratives—all elements AISD incorporates into its “whole-child” approach to prepare children for college, career and life. The components to AISD’s whole-child approach are coordinated school health, creative learning strategies, SEL and culturally responsive strategies.


“A holistic approach results in more than improved academics,” Cruz said. “It provides students with a rich education with benefits that last a lifetime.”







President Barack Obama is interviewed during SXSW Interactive on March 11. President Barack Obama is interviewed during SXSW Interactive on March 11.[/caption]

Obama emphasizes government, tech industry collaboration


President Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to attend the South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals, emphasized using technology to make it easier for citizens to engage with their government during his remarks March 11 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.


Obama, interviewed by Evan Smith—CEO and co-founder of nonprofit news organization The Texas Tribune—discussed civic engagement and catalyzing people in the private and nonprofit sectors to help tackle some of the nation’s challenges.


“We are at a moment in history where technology, globalization, our economy is changing so fast,” he said. “And this gathering, South by Southwest, brings together people who are at the cutting edge of those changes. Those changes offer us enormous opportunities but also are very disruptive and unsettling. They empower individuals to do things that they could have never dreamed of before, but they also empower folks who are very dangerous [to] spread dangerous messages.”


He said it is important for people such as those attending the SXSW Interactive Conference & Festival, regardless of their party affiliation, to design the systems to improve voter participation.







Chef, delivery service CEO agree: Customers still their top priority


When it comes to delivering food fast, an Austin chef and the CEO of Austin-based Favor agreed the customer is still most important.


Chef Paul Qui and Favor CEO and President Jag Bath discussed striking a balance between keeping customers satisfied with both quality and speed during a March 13 Interactive panel at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Conference & Festival.


Qui said he decided to partner with Favor for delivery because he knew the company as a user himself. He also partners with uberEATS.


“At the end of the day, actually, most of my meals probably come through Favor right now,” he said.


Qui acknowledged not all food should be delivered fast. He said Favor would not work at his upscale restaurant, Qui, but it does work for East Side King and Thai Kun, which have locations throughout Austin.


“For me it’s all about the personal service and the guest in the end,” he said. “It’s about partnering with the right company that will allow my guests to experience what I want them to experience with my food and my concepts.”


Bath said technology companies such as Favor use location-based services that have allowed their companies to thrive.



MOST RECENT

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes leaders and Community First Village residents unveiled the planned third and fourth phases of the Austin development for the formerly homeless April 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Community First Village for the formerly homeless announces 127-acre, 1,400-home expansion

Officials with the community, which is intended for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness, said that two new expansion phases are expected to begin development in 2022.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Photo of hands holding a vaccine vial
After Austin Public Health appointments go unfilled, officials call for new distribution model

On April 12, APH filled 3,400 out of 14,000 available COVID-19 vaccine appointments in a registration window.

Masking continues to be required, with some relaxed circumstances for fully vaccinated residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin extends COVID-19 health rules through May 18, updates guidance for vaccinated residents

Masking continues to be required, with some relaxed circumstances for fully vaccinated residents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine wait after receiving their shot at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
National supply issues with Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect Austin-area shipments

After a manufacturing error ruined 15 million doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the supply will not increase until the plant in Baltimore is once again allowed to participate in production.