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Travis County Confirms First Case of Zika Virus

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from a Thursday afternoon news conference by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. 

Travis County health officials on Thursday confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in the county.

A man under the age of 50 contracted the illness while traveling in Colombia, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.

On Tuesday, Dallas County officials confirmed the first sexually transmitted case of the virus. It also was the first confirmed case of a person contracting the virus within the continental United States.

Researchers have warned Zika could be linked with microcephaly, a condition causing children to be born with abnormally small brains and skulls. The World Health Organization on Monday called the virus a public health emergency, and the federal government has listed more than 20 Latin American countries, including Brazil, where public health officials say there have been roughly 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly since October and to which they are urging pregnant women not to travel.

The mosquito that carries the virus is endemic to Central Texas, but mosquito activity is low during the coldest months, according to Travis County health officials.

Jeffery Taylor, senior epidemiologist at the Austin/Travis County Public Health and Human Services Department, said at a Thursday news conference that 12 other people in the area who are ill and have recently traveled are also being tested for the virus.

While the Dallas County case is the only locally transmitted Zika virus infection, Taylor said mosquito movement will be closely monitored in the coming months.

“As temperatures get warmer in spring and summer, we’ll be monitoring what happens in Mexico, and if the virus appears to be moving northward, closer to Texas, the state health department will be monitoring whether we have cases in south Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” he said. “If the outbreak evolves and affects Texas, I expect it will be south Texas first. But it’s already affecting Texas due to travelers.”

[gdlr_icon type=”icon-camera-retro” size=”16px” color=”#999999″]TOP IMAGE: Epidemiologist Senior Jeffery Taylor of Austin/Travis Country Health and Human Services speaks to the media follwing one Zika virus case confirmation in Austin on February 4, 2016. / photo credit: Shelby Tauber

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-external-link” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#ffffff”]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/02/04/travis-county-confirms-first-case-zika-virus/[/gdlr_notification]

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Austin

Austin PRIDE Announces Date for 2019 Festival & Parade

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The Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, the non-profit organization that manages and organizes Austin’s PRIDE celebration, has announced that the 29th annual Austin PRIDE Festival and Parade will take place on SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2019. This year’s theme is Boogie Wonderland.

The 2015 Austin Pride Festival at Fiesta Gardens. Photo credit: Chase Martin/therepubliq

The festival will return to Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach in Town Lake Metropolitan Park (a/k/a Fiesta Gardens) from 11 AM – 6 PM and feature entertainment, games and activities, drinks, food, family zone, and 140+ booths featuring local non-profits organizations and businesses. Tickets on the day of the event will be $20 for adults (18+), $10 for youth (7-17 years old), and FREE for children six and under. Discounted advanced tickets will go on sale in the near future at www.austinpride.org.

The Apple contingent in the 2015 Austin Pride Parade
The Apple contingent in the 2015 Austin Pride Parade. Photo credit: Chase Martin/therepubliq

The parade will step off at 8 PM. The route through downtown Austin remains unchanged from previous years; starting at the south gate of the Texas State Capitol Building, heading down Congress Avenue, then turning on 4th Street going through the Warehouse District before ending at Republic Square. The parade is free and open to the public.

The parade and festival are projected to bring in over 400,000 attendees, making it the largest single day event based on attendance in Austin. By comparison, the Austin City Limits Music Festival has 75,000 attendees and South by Southwest has 285,000 attendees.

Registration for booths at the festival and spaces in the parade is now open online at www.austinpride.org/paradeandfestival.

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Austin City Manager Announces Assistant City Manager Hires

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Austin City Hall
Austin City Hall. Photo credit: Todd Ross Nienkerk / That Other Paper under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk has selected Rodney Gonzales and Chris Shorter as Assistant City Managers in his first steps toward reorganizing the executive team to align with Austin’s Strategic Direction.

Mr. Gonzales will oversee departments and projects focused on economic opportunity and affordability. Mr. Shorter will manage efforts on health & environment and culture & lifelong learning.

“Rodney and Chris stood out amongst the other candidates as people who understand the challenges facing Austin. It was clear to me that they’re well-prepared to work with our community and our employees to advance strategies that can address those challenges in a way that aligns with our priorities,” said Cronk. “Both of them are ready to hit the ground running.”

Rodney Gonzales

Austin Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales
Austin Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales will oversee departments and projects focused on economic opportunity and affordability. Photo courtesy: City of Austin.

Rodney Gonzales comes to the Assistant City Manager role having served in leadership roles in Development Services and Economic Development for the City of Austin over the past 12 years. Mr. Gonzales began his career in finance, serving as the Director of Finance for the cities of San Marcos and Luling, TX. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.

Chris Shorter

Austin Assistant City Manager Chris Shorter
Austin Assistant City Manager Chris Shorter will manage efforts on health & environment and culture & lifelong learning. Photo courtesy: City of Austin

Chris Shorter has served in leadership roles for the District of Columbia (DC) Government for the past 10 years. Most recently he has been the district’s Director of Public Works which provides environmental services and solid waste management for residents. He has also held roles as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for DC’s Department of Health and as COO and Chief of Staff for the district’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Mr. Shorter received a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public & International Affairs and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida.

The Selection Process

This process started in late July when Cronk issued a memo outlining the restructuring of the City Manager’s Office around outcomes articulated in the Strategic Direction 2023. His memo detailed the process for an open recruitment for four Assistant City Manager positions and one Deputy City Manager, beginning this Fall with the recruitment of these two positions.

In September, a survey was released to the public asking them to identify the skills and characteristics they felt were most important for City leaders to possess. The response to the survey helped build the job posting and candidate profiles. Cronk solicited additional feedback in September from the quality of life groups and with community groups related to the areas of responsibility on which each Assistant City Manager will focus. This information was used to inform Cronk’s selection.

“The feedback I received at the start of the process has been invaluable in identifying leaders whose background and approach will align with the expectations of our community moving forward,” Cronk noted, adding his recognition for those who have served in interim roles during the search. “Both Sara Hensley and Joe Pantalion deserve thanks and credit for the seamless leadership they’ve provided. They’re an example of the incredible skill and deep professional depth we have here at the city.”

Hensley and Pantalion will return to their jobs as Director of the Parks and Recreation Department and Watershed Protection Department, respectively.

The recruitment for the next two Assistant City Managers, overseeing Mobility and Safety, opened on November 20. The search for a Deputy City Manager is slated to begin in Spring 2019.

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UT-Austin Reaches Deal For New $338 Million Basketball Arena

A corporation, Oak View Group LLC, will pay to construct the arena in exchange for future revenue generated at the venue.

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A tentative design of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System's Board of Regents.
A tentative design of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System's Board of Regents. Photo credit: The University of Texas

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously voted to authorize its flagship university in Austin to arrange for a private group to construct and manage a new $338 million on-campus basketball arena.

A tentative design of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System's Board of Regents.
A tentative design of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents. Photo credit: The University of Texas

The California-based Oak View Group will build the 10,000-seat venue and then convey it back to the university, school officials said. In return, the group will manage the venue, sell its naming rights and collect revenue from concerts and other events. Revenue from managing the stadium will allow the company to recoup its cost, officials said. 

The venue is scheduled to open in 2021. The Oak View Group will reserve a specific number of dates for University of Texas at Austin basketball games and other events. 

A tentative design of the interior of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System's Board of Regents.
A tentative design of the interior of the $338 million on-campus basketball arena that was approved on Thursday by the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents. Photo credit: The University of Texas

The arrangement — set to last for 35 years — means the university will get a new arena without having to spend any of its own money, school officials said. UT-Austin President Greg Fenves touted it as a first-of-its-kind deal. 

“This is a very exciting day for the University of Texas,” he said. 

Once completed, the arena is expected to replace the university’s 41-year-old Frank Erwin Center as the venue for basketball games, and outside events, like concerts, brought in by the corporation. 

Shannon Najmabadi contributed reporting. 

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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