Archive for: November 2016

Awakened: Austin Vampires Recount Epiphanies


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Diversify Tech World


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Radio Station Brings Lowriders Together


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Keeping the Culture


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Campus Safety at UT


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Proposition for $720 Million Mobility Bond: Austin Voters Affirm Prop. 1


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At least one election went as expected on Tuesday night.

Austin voters passed Proposition 1 on Tuesday night with 59.6 percent voting in favor of the $720 million bond package that aims to improve traffic on several city streets as well as add bike lanes and safe routes to schools.

Opponents of the Proposition cited its vagueness and claimed that costs would far exceed $720 million.

“Prop 1 is half their plan” Linda Curtis, Director of Independent Texas said. “The real plan is going to cost 1.8 billion.”

Sarah Behunek of the Austin City Planning Department confirmed that completion of all of the city’s proposed plans for the roads and corridors would cost about 1.5 billion. But she described the Proposition as “a starting place for the city.”

Suspicion aimed at the city government was the hallmark of the anti-Prop. 1 campaign. All over the city signs could be found that loudly read “Prop. 1: 720 million. Deceptive. Lie.”  This mistrust of local politicians was essentially a microcosm of the national campaign with both sides feeling intensely divided and angry at one another.

“Stop clubbing homeowners every year with property tax hikes,” Austin resident Josh Atkins wrote on the pro-Prop. 1 Move Austin Forward Facebook page. “It’s bad enough our taxes go up as much as they do and you’ve priced half the families on the Eastside with hipster bars and apartments. We paid for your stupid hospital (That UT should have paid for) with our blood, sweat and tears, and now you want more. Take, take, take.”

The anger that Mr. Atkins expresses at City Hall is not dissimilar from the feelings expressed by Donald Trump’s supporters or the sentiments of the majority of the English populace who voted to leave the European Union earlier this year. People feel like their leaders are liars and the pinch that many are feeling is due to them being “priced out” of the new economy.

On the other side is Anthony Murray. He can see why some have qualms with giving the City Council $720 million to spend, but it is a cost he views as ultimately worth it.

“I feel it is important to get things done that the public doesn’t want to do [sometimes],” Murray said. “For example the public wants to add more lanes for personal vehicles but we know that wouldn’t help congestion. So you can’t always let the public decide what’s best for them, so I understand the reasoning about why you would want to package things that people want with a couple of things that they would never support.”

Murray also notes that the campaign on social media has become particularly insult-laden.

“I mean I’ve seen the responses on social media and it is just bashing on cyclists and walkers and it’s all of these people saying we need more for cars,” Murray said. “They aren’t realizing that they are the problem and it’s not the bikers or the walkers. It’s all these people who are driving cars.”

This resentment of the other felt by both sides spilled over into real-life destruction, as several local businesses woke up on Sunday to find their shop windows broken and their anti-Prop. 1 signs damaged or stolen according to KVUE.

Ashley Schor the owner of a jewelry store called Bead-It located on South Lamar was one of the business owners who saw her shop vandalized. She said it wouldn’t affect her opinion on Prop. 1.

“Are we really at a point in Austin where we have to feel nervous about talking about a proposition, about a bond!” Schor said. “That I have to walk into my store and erase my Sunday and deal with broken glass and danger on my front porch?”

It is clear that 2016 has been fundamentally different from most election years. Everything that was known about politics has been challenged and has left the so-called experts confused at every turn. Deep social divisions combined with anger at economic stagnation leaves America’s sense of decency frayed and its decorum broken.

Proposition 1 in many ways paralleled the national election and left many Austinites with a deep sense of distrust for the city government even after the final vote was tallied.

Despite the broken glass and hurt feelings Prop. 1 is now a reality.


Under the Lights: Reagan Football Academy’s Quest for Greatness


Reagan Football Academy coach Kelton Malone fits a new helmet on player Micah Thomas. Malone heads the program, designed to train players before they come to Reagan High School.

Reagan Football Academy coach Kelton Malone fits a new helmet on player Micah Thomas. Malone heads the program, designed to train players before they come to Reagan High School.

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By: Kate Beispel, Graham Dickie, and Lucas Lostoski

The Game

It so happened that the first football game of the year was occurring on one of Austin’s hottest days of the summer. The heat simmered off both the artificial turf and the black rubber of the track surrounding the field.

But the hellish weather conditions did not fit the mood for the day. For the newly-minted Reagan Football Academy and its 16 youth football players, today was a cause for celebration. Today the Reagan coaching staff would figure out if their two months of preparation had paid off.

They had scrambled to assemble their roster. Head Coach Kelton Malone spent much of his summer at East Austin recreation centers recruiting players and selling parents on his vision. At first, he met resistance and doubted whether he would even find enough interested kids to field a team.

His team certainly looked like a real football team today– all of the players wearing their Carolina blue jerseys over their shoulder pads, their heads adorned with white helmets that matched their pants.

Excited chatter could be heard during the pregame stretching:

“First game coming!”

“We got this!”

“Let’s get this ‘W’ and just keep getting ‘W’s!’”

The game did not go as well as the team had anticipated. It was a brutal 90-minute slugfest that ended with Reagan defeated 19-6.

After the game, the winded Reagan Raiders assembled along the sideline on one knee. Carl Frye, the Vice President of the Westlake Football Academy – Reagan Football Academy is a subsidiary of the Westlake Football Academy – spoke to the team.

“How many kids in your neighborhood are playing tackle football?” Frye said. “You gotta own that, you gotta respect that, and you gotta be proud to be a Reagan Football Academy player.”

The Academy

The Westlake Football Academy is an early development program that begins training football players and cheerleaders as young as first grade. The goal is to familiarize young athletes with each other and the concepts utilized by the high school football coaches in order to make the team more competitive in the future.

For the first time ever, kids living in the Reagan High School area will have a similar opportunity.

“The idea of a feeder system in youth football – to me, it’s genius.” Reagan High School football coach Keith Carey said. “It’s going to bring us back to where we used to be 10, 20 years ago when kids knew where they were going to go to school and the heartbeat of the community was strong.”

Carey left McCallum High School, also in Austin, TX, four years ago in order to head the football program at Reagan. He knew it would be a tough task – nearly monumental. He inherited a team that had gone 9-71 in the eight seasons before his arrival. In addition, many of his players faced economic hardship and had larger worries than whether or not the team was winning.

“[At first] people laughed at us and expected to score 70 or 80 points every time they played us” Carey said.

In Carey’s first three seasons at Reagan, his team won three games. Last year, they made the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Carey described the feeling in Texas on Friday nights as “electric.” Shows like “Friday Night Tykes” on Esquire Network expose the crazed culture behind youth football in Texas. Carthage High School located in Carthage, TX spent upwards of $750,000 on a scoreboard, and voters in McKinney, Texas recently approved a bond that included the construction of a $63 million high school football stadium. Meanwhile, Carey is forced to work with a relatively small $12,000 budget and relies heavily on donations from the Booster Club. His budget was $6,000 when he arrived at Reagan.

“It’s no secret that facilities and resources are a key to any program being very good,” Carey said. “We don’t want people to feel sorry for us, but there are inequalities in sports, in high school football here in Central Texas, and everywhere, and it’s something that matters.”

Football academies and other development clinics for youth are a vital aspect to a successful and competitive high school sports program. However, these don’t come cheap.

The Westlake Football Academy approached Carey with the idea of creating a league where kids from all over Austin would have an opportunity to play each other, while creating a consistent and strong feeder program for the East Side.

Reagan Football Academy might one day strengthen football skills in East Austin at the high school level, and help bridge the resource gap that exists for students on the different sides of town.

The Coach

Enter Kelton Malone.

Malone, head coach of the Reagan Football Academy, can be seen standing on the practice field, wearing his hat backwards and a smile that never leaves his face. He is an unrelenting optimist, despite the multiple difficulties that have come with building a team in Northeast Austin.

Malone notes that it is often tough to get 100 percent attendance to his practices that he holds three nights a week at Reagan High School. Since some of his players’ families don’t have internet access or a cell phone, he has to be mindful about how he communicates.

“I do this thing where I call every parent on the team every day to tell them about the practice because it is the only way to get any peace of mind that I will get 100 percent attendance, and even then we don’t get 100 percent attendance all the time,” Malone said.

Malone often drives two to three kids to practice, and he’ll often drive three to four kids back home.

The immediate goal of the program is to simply finish the year with a sixth grade tackle team and build from there. In richer areas, participation on various sports teams is often taken for granted, whereas in poorer areas, time and money are big deterrents, according to Carey.

“If we have kids that are growing up in a system where they are not receiving the same things that other kids are, it is not okay,” Carey said. “I’m here to be an advocate for my school and my community.”

The Outcome

The shadows descend upon the Reagan practice field as the sun sets for the night. The field is dark, except for the faint glow of street lamps coming from the parking lot.

Malone calls his team together in the end zone. Surrounding them are multiple fire ant hills, which dot the field.

In the distance behind Malone, beyond the chain-link fence that separates the field from the school’s campus, is the large athletic building. At the top of the building the school’s motto is spelled out in gothic lettering: “Not Without Honor.”

As the moon begins to rise on the practice, Kelton tells his team to stand up. They raise their hands to the sky together.

“Reagan on three,” he says.

The team responds:

“One! Two! Three! Reagan!”

No Shots, No Service


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It is not often one hears about parents opting out of something that will protect their children. However, it is becoming more common.Parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases and some doctors have decided not to treat these children.

The most common childhood diseases protected against with vaccinations, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Pneumococcal Disease. Children are prone to catch these diseases from other children or adults who are unaware they are infected.

“We don’t see those diseases anymore,” says Doctor Elizabeth Gershoff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We kind of think ‘oh, they’re not a problem, we don’t need to vaccinate anymore.’ And so a lot of parents think they have the luxury of not vaccinating. But as soon as we stop vaccinating, those diseases come back.”

Gershoff explains that one of the biggest issues occurs in the waiting room of doctor’s’ offices. Contamination is precisely the reason why pediatricians refuse care to unvaccinated children as they do not want to put other children in danger in their own waiting rooms.

Doctor Ari Brown of 411 Pediatrics in Austin does not accept new patients who have decided not to vaccinate.

“I would say that over the past 20 years, there have been questions that parents have raised about vaccines and concerns about safety of the vaccines and risks versus benefits,” Brown states. “Quite honestly,” she says, “I view vaccines as victims of their own success because parents today are not familiar with the diseases that they’re being protected against, and that’s because vaccines have done their job.”

Each of the 50 states has its own vaccine requirements for school and daycare entry: they all have medical exemptions and 21 states, including Texas, have philosophical exemptions. This means if a parent claims to have reasons other than medical ones to not vaccinate their child, they can file for a non-medical exemption.

“A parent in Texas may choose not to vaccinate their child at all and still that child would be able to enter the public school system or a daycare setting” says Dr. Brown. “That said, there is a recommended vaccination schedule that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, also by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization practices.”