In the final week of 2019, Austin celebrated its 180th birthday. The city of Austin has changed a lot since its foundation in 1839. While some things inevitably change as a city grows and evolves, we remain dedicated to our community’s vision of Austin as a beacon of sustainability, social equity, and economic opportunity. With that vision in mind, my second year as Austin’s City Manager served to lay the groundwork for the future.
During 2019, we saw changing leadership. Austin welcomed two new City Council Members and, in addition to hiring 17 other vacant Department Director positions, I completed hiring my new executive team organized around the six key outcomes that reflect our community’s priorities. Based on public input and support from the City Council, we made important strides in:
- Economic Affordability & Opportunity: We adopted the Strategic Housing Blueprint Implementation Plan and Displacement Mitigation Strategy, because we know that creating new homes and retaining affordable housing for individuals and families with low incomes is essential to preventing homelessness for many. We also embarked on a journey that will shape our City for years to come -- revising the Land Development Code. In 2020, pending Council’s final adoption of a new code, we will focus on implementing the Land Development Code and complementary programs designed to improve affordability and economic opportunity.
- Mobility: Transportation costs are another driver to affordability. To address this, we adopted the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (ASMP), Austin’s new city-wide transportation plan. The ASMP will guide our transportation policies, programs, projects, and investments for the next 20+ years. In partnership with CapMetro, we will focus future efforts on expanding public transportation options to improve mobility and reduce congestion.
- Safety + Health & Environment: By adopting new flood plain maps in response to Atlas 14, we took necessary steps to prepare for the local impacts of climate change and ensure the safety of our residents and property. But, climate change poses a continued safety concern. While we will be making infrastructure improvements to address Zebra Mussels in our water system during 2020, the emergence of toxic Blue-Green Algae in our rivers and lakes reminds us of new challenges in a changing climate.
- Culture and Life-Long Learning: As our city continues evolving, we continue encouraging, preserving, and investing in what makes us unique. More than 15,000 artists used the Artists Access Program which provides free or low-cost access to rehearsal and production spaces to local artists. As our city continues its phenomenal growth, we will continue to encourage the preservation of our unique cultural heritage by investing in our cultural centers and programs.
- Government that Works for All: A government that works for all is also more easily accessible to all. Over the year, we expanded our ability to accept permits, applications, and complaints online from residents and businesses. Future plans include upgrading the City’s website to be mobile friendly and designed around the user, our residents. Additionally, in 2020, we’ll be engaging the community about protecting the civil rights of our residents and improving coordination regarding immigrant affairs issues.
Lastly, we built a solid foundation for another decade of success that will benefit every resident, not just a fortunate few. In 2019, we made a historic investment of $63 million to expand homelessness services in partnership with local service providers. In doing so, we took critical steps to establish the infrastructure needed to make homelessness in Austin rare, brief, and non-recurring.
We would not have accomplished so much this year without dedication from our residents and the hard work of City employees. In this new decade, we will build upon the groundwork we’ve established. Key initiatives such as finalizing and implementing the Land Development Code revisions, exploring downtown placemaking ideas, investing in public transit, and increasing the community’s permanent supportive housing stock will take center stage in 2020 and shape our community’s future. We have much to do. Because of our community’s passion and commitment to continually improve, I am confident we will have even more to be proud of in the new decade ahead.
City Manager Spencer Cronk