Mayor Adler was sworn into office in January 2015 and has focused primarily on Austin’s growing affordability crisis and worsening traffic.
On affordability, Mayor Adler and the Council created a 6% homestead exemption in 2015 to provide a property tax break to homeowners, raising it to 8% in 2016. Under Adler, the Council also increased the senior and disabled property tax exemption to $82,500 in 2016 and to $85,000 in 2017, and approved a settlement with Austin Energy in August 2016 that lowered electric rates for everyone in town. Also in August 2016, HUD Secretary Julián Castro recognized Mayor Adler for completing the Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. In April 2017, the Mayor and Council adopted the Strategic Housing Blueprint that set a strategic goal to create 60,000 housing units affordable to households at 80% of median family income. In June 2017, Mayor Adler and County Judge Sarah Eckhardt unveiled the Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan to lift 10,000 local residents out of poverty and into middle-income jobs over the next five years.
On mobility, Mayor Adler convened a broad community coalition to win support of the Smart Corridor mobility bond before the Council in August 2016. In Nov. 2016, the $720-million mobility bond, which was “more than four times larger than any Austin transportation bond previously approved in Austin” and bigger than all the transportation bonds cumulatively passed in the previous 20 years, passed with 59.1 of the vote. Thanks in part to the $46 million in the bond dedicated to Loop 360, in March 2017 the Texas Transportation Commission approved about $620 million for road projects in Austin: $204 million for Loop 360/Capital of Texas Highway, $296 million for I-35 and $120 million to add two lanes to U.S. Highway 183. The first project paid for by the bond — the Chesterfield Lane Sidewalk Project — was completed in June 2017.
Mayor Adler has received recognition for his innovative ideas and leadership. In Jan. 2018, Mayor Adler was elected Vice President of the National Council of Democratic Mayors. In Jun. 2017, his fellow mayors elected Mayor Adler a Trustee of the United States Conference of Mayors after putting him on the Advisory Board the previous year. In August 2016, Mayor Adler was voted by mayors surveyed by POLITICO Magazine as the co-winner of the Rookie of the Year award. In September 2016, Living Cities included Mayor Adler on the list of 25 Disruptive Leaders (along with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, author Ta-Nehihi Coates, and actor Jesse Williams) to mark that organization’s 25th anniversary. Also that month, his office’s application for a crowdsourced minibond campaign to save Austin’s iconic music venues was picked as one of five winners of the Neighborly Bonds Challenge. In September 2016, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx named Austin one of the winners of the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets. Austin, which won for its Smart Trips Austin program in the Rundberg neighborhood, is the Mayors’ Challenge Ladders of Opportunity (Large City) Award Winner. In Nov. 2016, the readers of the Austin Chronicle named Mayor Adler the Best City Official and critics named him Best Drag Mother for his turn as Mother Ginger in Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker. The readers of the Chronicle named him Best City Official again in 2017, and the Chronicle critics named him Most Devoted Pen Pal for his Wonder Woman letter. And in August 2017, Austin Monthly named Mayor Adler “Best Politician” for “fearlessly speaking up for Austinites [and] proving that a little snark goes a long way to support the morale of a community.” In May 2017, the U.S. Conference of Mayors presented Mayor Adler with the Small Business Advocate Award for his dedication to the small business community. In Dec. 2017, Foreign Policy named Mayor Adler to its 2017 list of Global Thinkers “for standing up for immigrants in the heart of … Texas.” That same month, the Anti-Defamation League of Austin gave Mayor Adler and First Lady Diane Land the Ray and Audrey Maislin Humanitarian Award.
He also delivered perhaps the most stirring defense of taco trucks in this country or any other in September 2016 some six months after ending the Great Breakfast Taco War with San Antonio without firing a shot, and in June 2017 he wrote a letter about Wonder Woman that received worldwide news coverage.
He was born in Washington, D.C., to parents who worked hard so that he and his brother and sister could be the first in his family to go to college. His parents wanted them to have more opportunities than they had. His dad died when he was 21; his mother followed him six years later. But they are with Mayor Adler today, every day, and they have always served as motivation to make sure others have the opportunities they gave him. He later attended Princeton and then UT Law School on scholarships and part-time jobs. Within 45 minutes of first arriving in Austin, he was swimming in Barton Springs, and he was hooked.
After law school, he devoted much of his practice to civil rights law. He defended workers and women facing discrimination and sexual harassment – hard workers who were being denied equal pay for equal work. When he won in court for Hispanic construction workers, they won the chance to operate the heavy equipment. That meant they could earn the higher pay and promotions they deserved. He also defended land owners in South Texas who had land the federal government wanted to take to build a border wall. Later, Mayor Adler became chief of staff and general counsel for State Senator Eliot Shapleigh doing public policy and learning governance, fighting for increased public school funding, higher teacher salaries and greater environmental protections.
For over 20 years, he worked with and chaired many of Austin’s large civic and non-profit boards. He has fought discrimination and promoted the benefits of diversity as chair of the Anti-Defamation League. As board chair of the Texas Tribune, he helped build a business model for the thoughtful, factual and independent media Texas needs. He has worked to expand opportunity for girls, women and first-generation college students as a board member of GEN-Austin and Breakthrough. At the Long Center and as chair of Ballet Austin, he helped ensure that all our communities have access to the arts.
Throughout his career, he defended renters and landowners when the government or big corporations were unfairly taking their property. He spent a lifetime fighting for equity, access, fairness and opportunity. He protected working families, small businesses and women from discrimination and abuse. He defended families in the Blacklands neighborhood on the east side of I-35 when the University of Texas was expanding. He defended small and large businesses of all kinds across the state, over a dozen churches, and environmental organizations — and he has seen that the government does not always work for everyone. That is why he works hard every day to ensure that our city government works for all of us in Austin.
He invites you to contact his office with your questions, comments and ideas.