Event Recap: BRD at the State of the City

April 14, 2015 by Bailey Harrington

BIG RED DOG had the privilege last night of attending the state of the city address given by Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

The event kicked off in typical Austin style with a poetry slam, special surprise acoustic set by Austin musician Max Frost, and then speeches given by a local high school student and AISD Superintended Dr. Paul Cruz.

 

Max Frost with a surprise acoustic set before the State of the City
Max Frost with a surprise acoustic set before the State of the City

Mayor Adler took the stage reflecting on the new Austin City Council’s achievements over their first 100 days in office and the potential Austin has moving forward.  He hit upon Austin’s popularity and uniqueness amongst other large cities in the country.  However, Mayor Adler was quick to point out the challenges facing Austin as a newly emerging big city.  As he put it, Austin did not intend to grow so much-so fast, but now we are a big city with big city problems.  The largest of which the Mayor is afraid of is the diminishing cultural diversity and increasing inequality amongst Austin’s citizens.

Mayor Adler: "Austin Must be Big City Bold"
Mayor Adler: “Austin Must be Big City Bold”

With these concerns in mind, the Mayor laid out a vision for Austin’s future which include:

  • Inclusion: because Austin’s challenges require input from everyone in the city
  • Innovation: because Austin’s unique challenges will not be fixed through standard solutions
  • Intentional Improvisation: because “change is tough, and we don’t have time to waste”

With the above mentioned vision, Mayor Adler identified the following key issues as priority for the City Council moving forward with several specific goals:

  • Mobility and Transportation
    1. Our traffic is a Central Texas regional problem, and will require a Central Texas regional solution.
    2. Austin needs to remove 17,000 cars from the road; specifically during peak rush hour on the major expressways around town.  The Mayor, City Manager Ott, and Travis County Judge Eckhardt pledge to adjust work hours to allow for flexible work hours, work from home, and innovative modes of transportation.
    3. Limiting left turns during rush hour.
    4. The new “Don’t block the box” campaign.
    5. The announcement of Mobility ATX; a public-private partnership to get input from all stakeholders and advise the council.
  • Affordability and Housing Shortage
    1. The Mayor emphatically stated Austin must look beyond the median household income as the sole measure of affordability in Austin.
    2. In order to put a dent in the current housing supply shortage is in, Mayor Adler has set a goal of building at least 100,000 new homes in Austin by 2025.
    3. City Council would like to implement a 20% homestead exemption from city taxes to aid in affordability for home owners.
    4. The Mayor will hold the city accountable for enforcing the Homestead Preservation Tool passed by previous councils to ensure current residents aren’t forced out.
  • Permitting
    1. Mayor Adler addressed the concerns from the results of the Zucker Report and acknowledged the current permitting process takes too long and costs too much. He and City Manager Ott have committed to the following goals:
      1. Within 30 days identify specific metrics for clearing up the permitting backlog
      2. Within 60 days determine and recommend permanent solutions for fixing the permitting process.
    2. The Mayor also forcefully stated that finishing the CodeNEXT rewrite is one of his top priorities moving forward.
  • Health and Hunger
    1. Mayor Adler is specifically targeting areas east of I-35 facing a lack of accessible health clinics and knowledge of health related issues.
    2. “Food deserts” currently plague the Austin; and currently five zip codes within Austin City Limits do not have a fully functioning grocery store. Mayor Adler pledges to bring them stores and provide healthy food options.
  • Homelessness
    1. The Mayor pledged to finish former Mayor Leffingwell’s goal of ending homelessness amongst veterans. Currently there are an estimated 250-300 homeless veterans in Austin.
    2. City Council will begin offering a Landlord Incentive Program for all landlords that rent to a homeless veteran.
  • Ethics and transparency: the city council will make all campaign contributions and lobbyist registrations available online for the public to see.
  • Education: echoing the Governor’s pledge of addressing issues with pre-kindergarten, the Mayor is committing to affordable and accessible pre-K for Austin’s tiniest residents to set them up for success.
  • Utilities: The Mayor is proposing changes to the current models of organizations such as Austin Water Utility and Austin Energy to make them more efficient but still effective in situations such as prolonged drought.

Being local and staying current is everything in our business. Design regulations get stricter. Code interpretations change. Political winds regularly shift. That’s why it’s important for your engineering consultant to be an active participant in your project’s local market. The BIG RED DOG team knows that your success is dependent on our local relationships and knowledge and we take that responsibility seriously. We look forward to working with you on your next project. 

Written by Bailey Harrington

Bailey Harrington

Bailey Harrington is our Hospitality Services Market Director and is a BIG RED DOG shareholder. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, and is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas with more than five years of engineering leadership experience as a project manager leading engineering projects in the United States and Afghanistan.