Get ready; looks like we’re going to have another bond election in November. Soon, the Council will get the recommendations from the citizens panel, and I’m excited to hear that it’s likely to include a call for significant investments in affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and flood mitigation, capital maintenance, and the Mexican American Resource Center, the Asian American Resource Center, and the Carver Museum, among other needed projects. The work being talking about for the bond is long over-due. It will pay dividends far into the future.
If we’re going to do the big things that are needed to plan for the future, we’re going to have to work together.
And if we’re going to work together, we have to address what can charitably be called a gigantic honking mess in our civic life.
The recent indictments of Russians for influencing our political life have given focus to a gnawing realization that our political discourse – simply the way we talk about our future as a city, as a state, and as a country – has apparently been intentionally poisoned.
It’s not just that it may have happened. Look at the tools they chose to use. The alleged Russian infiltration of our political discourse set out to exacerbate divisions in our country and to increase our distrust of our own institutions. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, we see those divisions and distrust on the rise, even in our own city. Hyperbole in political discourse is making enemies of those that merely have differences of opinion.
We can’t let that happen here in Austin. And some see warning signs. We’re not going to plan successfully for the future unless we fix our present. We need everyone pulling together to be our best selves.
Tonight, let’s take a second to consider that Austin has a rare opportunity to lead the way out of this mess. Austin is emerging as a voice offering reason and progress in a world that isn’t getting enough of either these days.
We can show that to move past this crisis point in politics, we will get better at listening to each other and speaking as if we are all bound together as Americans, Texans, and Austinites.
We are each, so much more than the labels that are used to reduce us to one dimension. As a city, we should reject politics based on dangerous stereotypes and simplifications intended to make us scared of, and to distrust, one another.
This coming year we choose what kind of future our children will face. It’s going to be a big year.
This year we must act deliberatively, affirmatively, and pro-actively to set ourselves on a course to meet the challenges of our future in a way that preserves who we are. We are Austin, Texas.
This year we will be considering and hopefully adopting:
A new land development code, the first in 30 years.
A comprehensive Strategic Mobility Plan.
A first ever, short term, Council Strategic Plan.
A Regional Mass Transit Plan.
Our first ever Regional Workforce Development Plan.
A new Economic Development Incentive Program.
A 100-year Water Plan.
Dedicated funding for homelessness… perhaps an associated…
…Convention Center Expansion.
Bond Propositions, to go before voters in November.
I’m looking at my colleagues… there’s a lot coming to us next year…
That list doesn’t even include other real big issues, like:
…Taking Real Action on Displacement and Gentrification, once we hear from the task force.
…And public safety contracts, including the consideration of a new approach to Public Safety that keeps us safe, honors what’s brought us here, improves processes and institutions, and explores new officers for community policing in the context of a budget that seeks to minimize crime, not just respond to it.
There is a lot on our plates this year.
You want to know who does most of the work? Would all the members of city staff please stand up so we can recognize you and express a city’s appreciation?
City Manager Cronk. Welcome Home. You sat through a 14-hr, midnight Council meeting last week. You’re still here. Please know that you arrive with both great expectations and abundant good will.
Many wonder what the future holds for our great city. So let me say this clearly: Austin can, must and will lead in this new century.
Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new Austin moment, a moment when our statewide, national, and global leadership is essential, even if we must lead in new ways.
It is a moment when those things that define us as a community — openness, innovation, and creativity, our determination and devotion to core values of compassion and sustainability… and yes, our keep-Austin-weird, risk-taking attitude — have never been more needed.
This is a moment that must be seized through hard work and bold decisions, with an eye on the future, as we lay the foundation for lasting, and more equitable, prosperity for decades to come.
Yes, we’re still Austin, Texas.
We’ve done big, forward-looking things.
And yes, we’ll keep doing big things to get ready for the future.
It is our moment. Austin is up to the challenge.
Regardless of what happens elsewhere, together, we will show the world what Austin is made of.