Remember when I said last week was busy? This week started off with SXSW announcing that the President and First Lady are coming to town, U.S. News & World Report naming Austin the 2nd-best city in the country to live in, and my declaration of a breakfast taco war with San Antonio. But more importantly for Austin, the Council made a lot of progress on affordability this week.
Here’s what we’ve got to report:
Work from home on March 11!
SXSW rolled out some great news this week. President Barack Obama is delivering the keynote conversation with area man Evan Smith at the Long Center for SXSW Interactive on March 11, and First Lady Michelle Obama is coming to SXSW Music on March 16 to discuss the Let Girls Learn initiative. It’s great to have the President and First Lady headline SXSW, but to those of us in town, this means downtown traffic will be even more of a mess than it usually is during SXSW. Here’s a map and here’s a list of street closures for SXSW when the President’s not in town. Safe to say, when his motorcade is on the move, you won’t be, at least downtown.
That’s why I am asking you to strongly consider either working from home or asking your employees to work from home on those days. I know some departments in City Hall are doing so, and I hope more downtown employers follow suit. Of course, many local businesses can’t work from home, and I hope you make an effort to support them as well.
If you can’t work from home, SXSW has a great rundown of all your transportation options. This is a great opportunity to take the bus to work. Go here to plan your trip. It’s really not that hard, and thanks to the dedicated bus lanes downtown, you’ll be able to move around much more easily.
PASSED! Austin Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution
With SXSW coming to town this month, it’s odd that the big music news is our resolution to help the local music industry and creative ecosystem. Billboard magazine just did an article on it, as did our friends at Austin Chronicle. I’m including the latter’s picture because the caption is really funny.*
The really good news is that at this week’s Council meeting, we passed the Austin Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution. We won’t be the Live Music Capital of the World if we keep losing musicians and music venues. The need for creative spaces is an extension of our need for affordable housing, so we can use housing tools, e.g., land trusts, to preserve music venues and studio space.
This is not just about our creative sectors surviving. We want these industries to thrive and expand vertically, because inherent in our problems is the promise of transformation. The next step, though, is for the City Manager to get back to us in 90 days with a prioritized action plan.
*If you don’t get the joke, Steve Adler is also the name of the drummer in Guns N’ Roses, a rock ‘n roll band from the late ‘80s. It’s also the name of the editor-in-chief of the Reuters news agency, but this is not as funny.
If you want to learn more about this, you can read my prepared remarks where we also posted video of the press conference.
PASSED! Affordability Audit ordered
In last month’s State of our City address, I made you a promise:
We talk a lot about affordability, but we don’t know exactly and we certainly don’t agree on what that means. That’s why tonight I announcing this year we will have an “Affordability Audit” of city government. Your City Council has appropriated the money, and in the next few weeks we will order the City Auditor to undertake such a government system-wide audit. When it comes to affordability, we need to get smarter, more deliberate, and more focused. This will be a first-ever audit of its kind in Austin. We desperately need it, and we’re going to do it.
At this week’s Council meeting, we kept that promise and ordered the Affordability Audit. We need to know exactly what city government is doing that affects affordability and how we can make the biggest difference for you.
PASSED! Council to tackle food access
Did you know that some people in Austin live 15 miles from the nearest grocery store? This week U.S. News & World Report named Austin the 2nd-best city in the country to live in, but that certainly isn’t true for those who don’t have access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. This is one more manifestation of our affordability crisis, and it comes with negative health outcomes for those who live in food deserts.
Yesterday the Council voted to make the new Equity Office prioritize food access. We are the most economically segregated metropolitan area in the country. We have to do big things to address our affordability crisis. And one way we can do that is taking steps to close the equity gap, in this case by ending food deserts.
Inherent in our problems is the promise of transformation. If we can address equity in food access, we’re not just erasing food deserts. We are creating greater health outcomes for people who will then be able to realize more of the opportunities this city has to offer. We will be more like the Austin that we think we should be.
We could not do this without the leadership of Council Member Delia Garza and the other cosponsors for their work on this policy – and especially so many in the community who have been working on this issue for years. Here’s a video of the press conference I participated in before the Council meeting that Council Member Garza led.
We declared a taco war
The Great Breakfast Taco War of 2016 has been getting national attention, and while I in no way whatsoever am taking this seriously, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to have some fun with it when I spoke to 1,500 UT students last weekend.
There was video:
This is edited down a bunch. If you want to read my full remarks, err, declaration of taco war, click here. But fear not. I suspect this conflict, though deeply felt by some, will be resolved peacefully and quickly. Until then, vaya con juevos.
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That’s it for now. Enjoy this amazing weather. Me, I’m throwing out the first pitch at Huston Tillotson’s game against rival Wiley College. The game is at noon on Saturday at Downs-Mabson Field on East 12th Street. Should be a beautiful day and a great game. Hope to see you out there.
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