Axios Austin

Picture of the Austin skyline.

Nice to be back with you this Monday.

🌤 Today's weather: Partly sunny, with a high of 57°.

⚕️ Situational awareness: New orders for free COVID-19 test kits begin shipping today.

  • Households can order four free tests here.

Today's newsletter is 852 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The state of Texas' migrant busing

Illustration of a dollar sign made out of buses with the centerline made from the double yellow lines on a road.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Texas has spent $86.1 million and counting to bus migrants and asylum-seekers out of the state, per data obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: What started as a Texas GOP effort before last year's gubernatorial election has led to leaders in multiple cities and states, including many Democrats, spending significant resources on long-term attempts to send migrants to other parts of the country amid record border migration levels.

By the numbers: Texas has taken the most aggressive approach toward the border, sending state law enforcement to patrol and busing more than 66,200 migrants and asylum-seekers to other states since April 2022.

  • The state has spent roughly $1,650 per person between April 2022 and October 2023 on these efforts, according to data Axios got through the Texas Public Information Act.

Yes, but: Texas officials don't coordinate with the cities — including Washington, D.C.; New York; and Chicago — receiving the migrants.

The big picture: The Texas Legislature has also allocated nearly $10 billion for Operation Lone Star, the state's latest border security initiative that began in 2021.

What they're saying: "Governor Abbott has chosen to waste millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on a political stunt that will help no one," Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, an Austin-based nonprofit that provides legal services for immigrants, tells Axios.

The other side: "Until President Biden upholds his constitutional duty to secure America's southern border, Texas will continue to deploy as many buses as needed to relieve the strain caused by the surge of illegal crossings," Gov. Greg Abbott said in September.

💭 Our thought bubble: As long as stiffer border protection is popular among voters — and opinion polls show that Republicans overwhelmingly support it — Texas lawmakers and the governor will continue to pour money into it.

2. When that funny co-worker does stand-up

Brian Gaar doing standup.

Brian Gaar trying to be very funny. Photo: Courtesy Brian Gaar

We all have a funny co-worker, but very few of them get a comedy special on Amazon Prime.

What's happening: Brian Gaar, Asher's former fellow journalist at the Austin American-Statesman, performs tonight at 7pm at the Far Out Lounge.

  • Gaar also recently launched the podcast "Having Fun Online," which is about the weird stuff you find surfing the internet.

Flashback: "Jokes I Wrote at Work," Gaar's hourlong standup special produced in 2015, is currently available on Amazon Prime. For a glorious, weird moment seven or eight years ago, he wrote and hosted the nightly comedy show "ATX Uncensored(ish)" on Austin's NBC affiliate.

We checked in with Gaar, an expert in professional wrestling and classic video games, about some very pressing matters at the intersection of Austin and comedy.

You have to get a last-minute costume for a party, and Lucy in Disguise is no longer with us. Where do you go?

"Lucy was the best. I once went there because I wanted to dress up like Link from 'Legend of Zelda' for a standup flyer. They were great. What would I do today? Probably flake on the party."

You're on a standup roster with EvilMoPac. Is Evil opening for you, or are you opening for Evil?

"I'm headlining. I refuse to open for a congested highway."

Finish this sentence: Surfing the internet is good for kids because ...

"Video game guides. They're everywhere now! When I was a kid, you had to call a hotline (which cost money) to speak to an actual human. And they'd have to look up how to find the high-jump boots in 'Metroid,' or whatever. It was awful. This is the only case where technology has made things better."

Red Bull and time travel

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration of an armadillo holding a taco.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🚙 Robotaxi operator Cruise is plotting a slow return to service, starting in one city — potentially Austin — as it works to overcome safety concerns and a lack of public trust. (Axios)

🏈 The 11-1 Longhorns will face Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game Saturday in Arlington. (Burnt Orange Nation)

Three relatives of an Austin man were among the Israeli hostages who have been released by Hamas. Two other relatives remain hostages. (Austin American-Statesman)

Quote du jour

"If you are a parent of a toddler, or a child from one to six, we want this to be your place; this is your 'Cheers'!"
— Suzette Reynoso-Bevins, owner of the Tot Box Play Cafe, a cafe with an indoor playground that opened Saturday in Round Rock (CBS Austin)

4. ☕️ 1 cup of toasty goodness to go

A cup of coffee at a bike shop.

Preparing to sip the Chingona at Flat Track. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

👋 Asher here.

When it comes to hot drinks, I'm a child.

  • I like them creamy, not too bitter and just a little sweet.

When I recently told the barista at Flat Track — the bike-shop-cum-cafe on East Cesar Chavez — my criteria, he ordered up a La Chingona.

  • The Chingona, which translates roughly to "badass woman," is a combo horchata and mocha.
  • Foamy, nutty, sophisticated and kidlike at the same time, it's my current favorite hot bev in Austin.

By the numbers: The Chingona will set you back $5.75.

Bottom line: I mean it as a whole-hearted endorsement when I say this is basically the same drink my precocious-but-not-too-precocious 14-year-old self would have happily ordered.

Read about our not-for-children recommendations here

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Katie Lewis and Keely Bastow for copy editing this newsletter.

🏀 Asher is wondering if the Spurs, who lost their 12th straight last night, are angling to snag the No. 1 pick once more in next year's NBA draft lottery.

🌲 Nicole is decorating her tree.

Editor's note: A story in Wednesday's newsletter about President John F. Kennedy's planned visit to Austin on the day of his assassination should have said the Municipal Auditorium was later repurposed into the Long Center for the Performing Arts, not the Palmer Events Center.