Community Round-up, week of March 23rd.

Social distancing does not mean social isolation.

Here are my top links of Austinites taking care of each other, and things that made me and my office smile throughout the week. Stay home, y’all.

  • Desert Door, and Zilker Brewery making and donating hand sanitizer. 

How we’re going to get through this…

(spoiler alert…. the answer is *together*)


Make no mistake… we get to decide how quickly–and with what force–this virus enters our city. As individuals and together as a community, the choices are ours to make.  And everywhere, I see our community pulling together with concern for our neighbors. Once again, I’m proud of Austin. 

A lot has happened since I declared a local disaster to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. More local positive test results have surfaced and we have reason to expect some degree of community spread. Reports from other affected areas paint a picture that grows clearer by the hour. What Austin does in this moment matters. Data indicates that limiting contact between individuals can slow the spread of the virus, giving our healthcare facilities and staff some breathing room to prepare for the next phase of the response. 

Cities have been making difficult decisions for weeks and finally states and the federal government are taking some action designed to slow the spread of the virus in order to protect the most vulnerable and conserve medical resources. 

Now, we need your help. 

Here’s how you can be an active part of our community response: 

  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well.  Perhaps nothing is as important as this! 
  • Stay home when you can. Where possible, tele-commute and use online education tools. 
  • Limit your exposure. Avoid non-essential travel and exposure to groups of more than 10 people. 
  • Stay informed. Go to for a lot of key information in one place, including up to the minute updates on cancellations, facilities safety and the latest on local orders with links to local, state and national information and resources. 
  • Practice excellent hygiene. The “social distancing” (keeping 6 feet between yourself and others) and handwashing/sanitizing REALLY DO WORK. So keep at it.  
  • Ensure supplies for others. Grocery stores continue to be restocked with food and Austin Water is safe to drink. No need for excess bottled water, food or cleaning supplies. Buy what you need, but leave some for your neighbors. We should all consider not going to grocery stores the first hour they’re open so that older folks can shop in less crowded, recently sanitized conditions. [Note: the elderly and medically fragile should have someone else doing their shopping for them.] And, if we all practice normal buying patterns, everyone will have enough and the lines will shorten.   
  • Call your doctor if you feel sick. Don’t go to the emergency room if you think you have symptoms. A phone call to a doctor is the first step toward possible testing. If you don’t have a primary care physician, call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015. 

As we work together to remain calm, support one another and slow the spread of the virus, we’re also working hard to help vulnerable workers and businesses weather the storm. It takes an army of retail staff, restaurant workers, childcare professionals, creatives, musicians and artists of all stripes to make this city a great place to live in and visit. Until Austin reopens for business, we’re taking steps to provide support, help keep businesses alive and workers afloat.  

To help with that, I’m asking vendors, lenders and landlords to work with their customers. With flexibility and integrity, we can get through this singular historical moment and emerge in the best position to restore our economy. This is the time to show grace as much—and as often–as we are able.  Our priorities include: 

  • Lending support for businesses. Helping small businesses connect to federal, state and private lending programs to keep their businesses afloat. 
  • Worker/Employer relief and assistance. Working with state and federal governments to unlock maximum benefits and activating the local philanthropic community to help mitigate lost wages. Workforce Solutions, Capital Area has resources and tools to help avoid layoffs and to offer support and planning when they need to happen.
  • Business resilience planning. Helping all Austinites think creatively about how customers, companies  and communities can connect and continue to do business… from a prudent distance. 

If you’re looking for other ways to help, the Stand With Austin Fund of the Austin Community Foundation is accepting donations to help those economically affected—and least likely to recover without help—by the cancellation of major events. My office will be sharing regular updates on ways to contribute, show support and continue to look out for one another.  

As a city, we are at our best at times like these. We work together to do what is required of us and we do it with humor, great food and more often than not, a little music. So don’t panic. Take care of your mental health and your loved ones. Order out and tip well. Right now, you can even catch virtual performances by some of Austin’s best acts

I’ll be in touch again soon, but if you have questions not answered by the City’s COVID-19 website or know of a community need my office should know about, shoot us a line at 

Thank you for your efforts. We’re all in this together. 

Steve Adler 

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a big year in all the ways we expected and a few we didn’t. We made major progress on affordability and mobility, putting bond money authorized by voters to good use and showing continued leadership on issues of equity, sustainability and climate. We continued to support the music and arts community and invested in good government practices and transparency. After seven years of hard work, study and community comment, Council ended the year by approving the first reading of the new draft land development code, a crucial step toward increasing housing stock, creating more affordable housing, reducing flood risk and providing transit options to meet the needs of our rapidly growing city.

2019 was also the year we took on homelessness as a city. Every corner of the civic debate was energized by Council’s efforts to decriminalize non-violent activities associated with homelessness and the resulting sense of urgency helped mobilized resources and focused a spotlight on the issue as a burgeoning national crisis. Working together with a coalition of service providers, Mayor and Council have made housing a top priority.

Here’s a look at what we accomplished together. (Actions taken by City Staff and/or by City Council.)

Defending Austin: Promoting the city’s values, character and priorities

  • 86th legislature brought big city mayors together to protect local priorities. 
  • Mayor and Council take steps to decriminalize homelessness 
  • Citywide Iftar features Ilhan Omar, welcomed by Mayor and members of Council promoting the Austin value of coming together.

Affordability: Keeping Austin affordable for the people who make it special.

  • The ‘Affordability Unlocked’ Development Bonus Program built on the 2018 Affordable Housing Bonds Began spending 2018 mobility and affordable housing bonds
  • Chalmers Court in East Austin opened a section of housing and broke ground on another on the way to more than 400 eventual units.
  • Increased the zoning capacity under UNO, North Burnet / Gateway, and Mueller
  • Provided a loan to Workforce Solutions to allow them to relocate and grow
  • Right to Return pilot program launched
  • Convened team to study cross-boundary collaboration around affordable housing through the Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative
  • Austin’s housing strike fund (Austin Housing Conservancy Fund) ended the year with new funding and 3 long-term affordable properties under management.
  • Allocated $42M of planned spending from the 2018 affordable housing bond
  • Allocated a historic $14.4M for the Housing Trust Fund from the FY 19-20 budget in support of permanent supportive housing, housing rehabilitation, and land acquisition for affordable housing

Mobility: Working toward safe, efficient access to all parts of town… now and in the future

  • In September, announced Austin’s participation in Ford AV pilot with Ford Motor Company
  • In August, celebrated the completion of the Guadalupe/Lavaca project, the first corridor construction project which is part of the 2016 Mobility Bond
  • Continued work on Project Connect
  • Community gathering around transportation through: PUMA, Transit for Austin launch, MoveATX
  • Approved ASMP (Austin Strategic Mobility Plan)
  • Downtown MetroRail station 
  • Mayor was CAMPO chair and helped with the Capital Express Project Vote
  • Austin remains a testing space for new multimodal transportation, council leading nation in rules for micro mobility
  • Worked with UT on straightening Red River

Equity: Ensuring that Austin’s growth and success affect residents fairly 

  • Passed first reading of land development code
  • Austin’s first Latina Mayor Pro Tem 
  • Census Complete Count Committee
  • Funded start up costs for new Pre-K classrooms in Austin and surrounding ISDs 
  • Approved voter time off resolution 
  • Opened up City Council’s invocation than more than prayer through “Opening Moment”
  • Third party complaint system for sexual harassment 
  • Automatic library card to all AISD and Del Valle students
  • Permanent funding of parent support specialists at Title 1 schools
  • Trained over 400 people in the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop,” developing anti-racist capacity among City staff and Austin community members
  • Reached over 2000 people milestone at the Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations About Race with Leadership Austin
  • Have 14 Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) Facilitators in Training preparing to offer one-day Beyond Diversity seminar
  • Developed the City’s first-ever “Request for Grant Applications” for the Equity Mini-Grant Fund, removing barriers and providing access to $75,000 of City funding for innovative, grassroots community organizations
  • Performed an assessment of the City’s bond election programs, ensuring funding was received for a community health center in the majority-People of Color and low-income neighborhood of Dove Springs
  • Worked with the 9 Commissions represented on the Joint Inclusion Committee to transform Quality of Life commissions budget recommendation process, delivering over $10 Million in funding over the last two budget cycles
  • Created online training on sexual harassment for all City employees to be rolled out in October 2019, with additional training targeting sexual harassment in the sworn departments in FY20
  • $200K allocated in FY 19-20 budget to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities
  • $250K allocated in the FY 19-20 budget for the equity mini grants program (up from $175k from the prior year)

Music and Arts: Nurturing the people and institutions and make Austin a music destination.

  • Voters rejected Props A & B 
  • Added a dedicated fund and approximately $3.5m/yr towards music
  • Unanimous approval to expand Convention Center
  • Moved funding for Red River streetscape improvements. Fixed 7th street alleyway issue
  • Expanded the Creative Space Assistance Program
  • HOT Tax spending of $12.8M in support of cultural arts
  • $3.5M allocation in the 2018 bond towards new community creative spaces plus $750K in operating funds to assist arts and music groups at risk of being displaced

Climate: Working toward a livable planet for future generations through thoughtful planning and leadership

  • August – Mayor & Council Declared a Climate Emergency
  • In December, announced participation in Climate Mayors Steering Committee
  • Participated in C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen
    • Signed Global Pledge to Reduce Air Pollution by reducing their local emissions and advocating for reductions in regional/state/national emissions
    • Climate Equity Pledge — Took pledge to increase action on community-led development, inclusive climate action and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental, health, social and economic benefits especially in low-income and vulnerable communities.
    • Signed Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration — pledged to transition to Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets by: 1) procuring, with our partners, only zero-emission buses from 2025 and 2) ensuring a major area of our city is zero emission by 2030.
  • City of Austin Fleet:  200 electric vehicles by end of year, rising to 330 in 2020
  • Approved new floodplain maps and rules in response to Atlas 14

Preservation: Protecting the places that embody Austin’s rich history

  • In September, helped the Elizabet Ney Museum win $150,000 in grants to preserve the legacy of women’s history
  • In December, council voted to add historic designation to World War II veteran Richard Overton’s house
  • $11.9M spent in support of historic preservation

Government that Works: A commitment to transparency and good data in the execution of city business.

  • Opening of the new $122M Planning Development Center (summer 2020)
  • $8M in the capital rehabilitation fund for critical facility maintenance needs
  • $450K increase and additional staffing in the Office of Police Oversight to improve the transparency and accountability of community policing
  • $200K to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities

Homelessness: Laser-focused on making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. 

  • Decriminalized homelessness
  • Made historic investment of $62.7M in homelessness solutions
  • Traveled to Seattle and Los Angeles to better understand issue
  • Participated in several public forums to engage with the community directly
  • Participated in panel at this year’s Texas Tribune Fest focused on the issue
  • Homelessness blockchain project received $409,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help safeguard the personal info of people as they try to secure housing and services
  • Opened Terrace at Oak Springs – permanent supportive housing thorough Integral Care
  • Approved Riverside redevelopment with affordable housing + immediate units for homeless
  • The completion of the Rathgeber Center
  • Pay for Success approved
  • Progress toward a TPID to support homeless efforts
  • Cut youth homelessness PIT count by half
  • Re-did the ARCH contract, paying living wages, and changing the operational focus to housing and case management
  • Ramped up the Workforce First Pilot

Public Safety: One of the country’s safest big cities… and working to keep it that way.

  • Investigation of racism in APD
  • Sexual Assault Oversight
  • 30 new police officers as called for in the Police Department’s staffing plan 
  • Temporary fire staffing for D2 firehouse
  • Funded Bridge to Safety Program (domestic violence)
  • Funded Wildfire Mitigation

Reform and Progress: Big ideas, big plans and getting better all the time.

  • In September, broke ground on the Austin FC stadium. MLS officially coming to Austin!
  • First reading of new draft Land Development Code passed
  • Funded abortion support services in the budget 
  • Approved the long term plan for parks 
  • Approved plan for Asian American Resource Center (and initiated planning in on adjacent property), Dougherty Arts Center, and Brush Square
  • Started construction and acquired land for new fire stations.
  • Worked to set up a Municipal Management District to raise money to acquire MUNY
  • Passed an election day time-off resolution
  • Audit of Cultural Centers
  • Removed a 100+ year exclusion from taxes for lakefront property
  • Improved training resources and made recommended changes for mental health first responders
  • Allocated $3M in the FY budget in support of workforce development providers

Noteworthy Extras

  • Sent queso to the moon!
  • Mayor Adler named Best elected Official by Austin Chronicle 4th year in a row
  • Received United States Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo 2019 CommunityWINS $100,000 Grant for Outstanding Achievement Metropolitan City for Affordable Central Texas, Inc. to support the Affordable Central Texas Project (housing strike fund)
  • Announced Texas Capital Bank as first bank investor in Austin Housing Conservancy Fund
  • Austin announced as USCM 2020 host City

Budget for 2019-20 reflects what matters to Austin

The budget Council has approved is responsible, innovative and focused on equitable solutions. It embodies the priorities and character of Austin, with investments in arts and music, affordability and mobility, public safety and making chronic homelessness a thing of the past. The budget accomplishes all of this while preserving city service affordability for residents and homeowners.

State leadership has made this kind of budget very difficult to achieve in the future. While tying the hands of cities with revenue caps, the legislature has also opted not to promote or fund statewide solutions for major challenges that affect major cities, including homelessness. We remain hopeful that state leadership may yet consider help for Texas cities as other states have recently done.

In the meantime, our budget will take on sexual assault and mental health services and execute the solutions promised by the 2018 affordable housing bond. It improves the transparency and accountability of community policing and assists arts and music groups in danger of being displaced.