State of the City Highlights
Mayor Leffingwell's annual address encourages a 'yes and' attitude
By Monica Riese, 2:22PM, Tue. Feb. 5
When Mayor Lee Leffingwell addressed a crowd at the Four Seasons Downtown this afternoon, he knew what topics were on the minds of Austinites. And, truth be told, he covered most of them. But if you missed it, you might be looking for Cliff's Notes.
In his intro, Leffingwell himself said it best: "It’s really impossible to do it justice in one short speech without going on way too long, or leaving out something that’s important to someone," but here we attempt to boil it down even further: to keywords and quotes. Here goes:
"Austin, Texas is today – I think without question – one of the most widely admired and most emulated cities in America."
"[I]n order for Austin to stay the same, Austin has got to change."
"[D]uring my lifetime here in Austin, I can tell you that there have been only two constants: change, and people complaining about change."
"[I]t would be very dangerous to allow our incredible success as a city to make us into self-satisfied protectors of the status quo."
"[A] good quality of life begins with a good job."
"Our unemployment rate today is an almost unbelievable 5%. That’s 1.1% below the state rate, and almost 3% below the national rate."
"Whether it’s gaming, mobile, or social media, technology innovation is still, today, center stage in Austin’s economy and culture."
"[T]he University will gain a medical school – and our community will gain 15,000 new permanent jobs, and nearly 2 billion dollars annually in new economic activity."
"I think we need to look closely and carefully at the opportunity to transform an area in the northeast part of Downtown Austin – near the future medical school, near the UT campus, near the Capitol complex, and near the revitalized Waller Creek – into a new 'innovation district' for this industry."
"[N]ever in my 8 years at City Hall have I seen as much rancor directed at anything as I did at Formula 1."
"In the end, never have so many been so upset about what turned out to be so little. Ultimately the race was everything that most supporters hoped, and nothing that most opponents feared."
Growth and Tourism
"Believe it or not, I remember some flack flying around when ACL was being planned for Zilker Park 10 years ago. When SXSW started to get big, I recall that some people started to get nervous. Today, I think you could find folks in this town who would prefer that FunFunFun Fest be DoneDoneDone Fest.
"Even when the upside of big events like these is hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity – and thousands of jobs for people who need them. In fact, partly because of successful events like ACL, SouthBy, F1, and others, Austin is doing better today than ever before as a tourist and convention destination."
"So let’s review: People come here, they spend their money, they go home. I keep missing the downside in that."
"I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t fight hard for the things we support – or against the things we oppose."
"Because, to continue to thrive, I believe Austin needs to be a city that starts every conversation with 'yes' – instead of starting with 'no.'”
"You don’t need me to tell you this, but Austin has a traffic problem. And our traffic problem is a direct result of the special ability we have here to deny that change is happening around us."
"It threatens our economy. It threatens our environment. It threatens our safety. It threatens the livability of our city and entire region."
"I remain convinced that an urban rail system in Austin – a safe, reliable way to move people into and around the central business district is real and good change this community needs."
"And I know we’ve been talking about urban rail for what seems like a very long time. But now, it’s time to act."
So let's see where the next year takes us, shall we?