Axios Austin

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Happy Tuesday.

โ˜€๏ธ Today's weather: Hot again. Sunny with a high of 91.

Situational awareness: The city of Austin is sending more overdose response kits to city departments, community organizations and businesses across Travis County after a surge in opioid-related deaths.

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Today's newsletter is 940 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Austin's child opportunity gap

2024-04-11-child-opportunity-index-Austin
Data: Brandeis University; Map: Jared Whalen and Alice Feng/Axios

A new map throws into relief Austin's child opportunity gap โ€” or how children in some neighborhoods are less likely to graduate high school than peers living just a couple of miles away.

Why it matters: Children who grow up in high-opportunity neighborhoods tend to be healthier, have higher incomes in adulthood and even typically live longer, per the Child Opportunity Index 3.0.

The big picture: The index measures social and environmental factors such as school quality, parent employment levels, neighborhood income, park access and air pollution.

State of play: Racist housing policies, redlining and segregation have historically kept people of color confined to low-income neighborhoods without the opportunity to move out.

  • Suburban neighborhoods, such as Westlake, and some central neighborhoods like Clarksville and Zilker have very high opportunity zones compared to parts of the East Side.

By the numbers: 36% of Hispanic kids, 29% of Black children and 7% of white kids live in neighborhoods in greater Austin with very low opportunities.

Zoom in: Bouldin Creek received a Child Opportunity Score of 67, lower than Rollingwood's perfect score of 100, but significantly higher than Rosewood, to the east of I-35, which scored only an eight.

  • The higher the score, the greater the opportunities for children to prosper.

Flashback: Voters approved a $350 million housing bond in 2022 to help homeowners fix their homes as well as help the city pay for land purchases and home construction.

The bottom line: "The differences in neighborhood opportunity are so profound that it is as if children in the United States are growing up not in one country, but in five different nations," the report says.

Go deeper: Look up your neighborhood

2. Austin author's book a Texas Great Read

Author Elizabeth Crook. Photo: Courtesy of Texas Center for the Book

A novel by Austin writer Elizabeth Crook has been selected as the National Book Festival's 2024 Texas Great Read for adults.

Why it matters: The recognition is the latest sign of Austin's literary muscle.

Zoom in: "The Which Way Tree," a 2018 novel set in the 1860s Hill Country, follows the resolve of a young girl determined to hunt down a panther that mauled her and killed her mother.

What they're saying: "We liked how it was set here and had an iconic feel to it," Michele Chan Santos, coordinator of the Texas Center for the Book, tells Axios.

Between the lines: The novel is inspired by what Crook in 2018 told the American-Statesman was "the most traumatic night of my life."

  • Her family was in the Hill Country, near Bandera, celebrating her daughter's birthday. Her then-14-year-old son and a friend decided to go camping at a nearby cabin, but they never turned up.
  • The birthday party devolved into parents driving up and down rural roads for nine hours โ€” and a sheriff's deputy spotted a mountain lion in the area, per the Statesman.
  • Eventually, the kids were found in fine shape when a helicopter spotted their campfire.

After everyone was reunited, a deputy told Crook, "I don't mean to scare you, ma'am, but when I got there that cat had its eyes on your boys."

What's next: This summer, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission will host a video interview with Crook, with the opportunity for readers to ask questions.

3. ๐Ÿค  The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿฅ– Texas French Bread hopes to open with a new building in 2024. (KVUE)

๐Ÿšจ Austin-based jobs firm Indeed announced another round of layoffs. (Spectrum News)

๐ŸŽถ Childish Gambino will play the Moody Center in September. (KXAN)

๐Ÿ›ฃ๏ธ An effort to freeze funding for the I-35 expansion through Central Austin over air quality concerns was defeated on Monday in a vote of the board of a key regional planning group. (KUT)

4. ๐ŸŒณ Stat du jour: Our tree canopy

Trees shade an Austin street on Monday. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

Austin's tree canopy is at 41%, per the city's newly released State of Our Environment report.

Why it matters: Who doesn't love a good tree, especially in these increasingly scorching times of ours?

Zoom out: The city has set a goal of 50% by 2050.

By the numbers: 2018 to 2022 saw a 5-percentage-point increase in the area of canopy measured.

A map of tree canopy in Austin
An aerial view of what the tree canopy looked like in Austin in summer 2022. The dotted line is I-35. Image: City of Austin

Between the lines: Wealthier neighborhoods typically have more trees โ€”ย and there tend to be fewer trees and more roads and buildings where people of color reside, per the city report.

  • City officials point to Westlake, where the canopy is 69% and the median household income is $238,000.
  • Meanwhile, the St. Johns neighborhood, which has a $41,000 median household income, is 21% covered with tree canopy.

5. ๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Bite club: Dosa Shack dosas

A dosa from the Dosa Shack trailer. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

๐Ÿ‘‹ Asher here.

As a college student, I spent a memorable summer working for the Bangalore bureau of the Times of India.

  • I was 20 years old, feeling keenly cultural dislocation and distance from home, even as I was generously welcomed by a host family and newsroom journalists.

Flashback: My hosts made excellent food โ€” including dosas, which are large, thin, lentil-and-rice-based pancakes stuffed with potatoes, or spinach and cheese, or any manner of ingredients and served with chutneys.

  • I always think of them, flaky and tubular, as culinary bazookas.

Biting into a dosa this weekend at Dosa Shack,ย a food trailer on Burnet Road that opened in 2022, brought that summer vividly back.

What I ate: A spinach, paneer, corn and cheese dosa ($12.95) and a classic potato-and-onion dosa, both of them both crisp and soft, tangy and tasty.

  • The paneer tikka ($6.99) โ€” skewers of paneer served with jalapenos and mint mayo โ€” was fine, but the dosas are the star.

Six-word review: Parking lot delivers South Indian goodness

The bottom line: I'm still thinking about that wonderful newsroom moment every afternoon when a crew of kids distributed small cups of sweet chai.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales and Bob Gee for editing and Caitlin Wolper and Anjelica Tan for copy editing this newsletter.

๐Ÿฎ Asher is reading about a key moment in Austin barbecue history.

๐Ÿ“š Nicole is reading "Real Americans" by Rachel Khong.