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I wholeheartedly agree with Michael King's comment, "I also wish there were a local political consensus to create and pay for a substantial mass transit system …" [“Point Austin: Loaded Dice
,” News, July 27]; but we need leadership from the City Council, and that has been sorely lacking. Mayor Adler should be taking the lead, but his 2016 bond measure did nothing for transit. Now Adler says that the state Legislature should allow for more transit funding, but he has not said how he plans to accomplish that. In 2014, then-Council Member Laura Morrison and candidate Adler both supported the poorly designed rail bond measure that was opposed by many transit advocates and soundly defeated by the voters.
Council is discussing, as part of CodeNEXT, the need to increase density along the corridors to support transit, and that is part of the solution, but we need density not only along the corridors. We also have to take road space from cars to prioritize transit, and Council has not had the courage to discuss that.
Transit is important not only for climate change, but to help with congestion, affordability, access to jobs, and air pollution. If you care about transit, ask the City Council candidates what they will do to support it and hold them accountable.
I would like to bring to your attention that there’s an obvious way the [Austin Independent School District] can begin to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, and likely even more, with money that is already at their disposal: Use in-hand bond money to install solar panels on school roofs. [See "AISD: Thinking Outside the Schoolhouse
," News, July 20, for more about the AISD budget.]
In 2013, Austin voters approved $20 million for energy efficiency as part of Proposition 1. Half of this money was allocated for installing solar panels on the roofs of Austin public schools. However, most of this money has yet to be touched.
Four schools that did install solar panels are now saving $83,727 on their electricity bill each year. These savings are in addition to the Austin Energy’s Performance Based Incentive program, which would issue compensation of $398,411.90 within 10 years to AISD. The district could shave off a million dollars from their electricity bill each year if they just leveraged this available bond money.
With solar panels now on 44 of our schools, AISD is a national leader in developing a sustainable future. Solar schools are helping AISD to save money, curb emissions that contribute to global warming, and improve public health through reduced air pollution. The benefits of solar also extend to the classroom: Solar energy principles can serve as valuable learning opportunities that connect traditional classroom learning with hands-on, state-of-the-art technology.
By simply committing to solar on 100% of our schools, we can simultaneously provide healthier living conditions for our communities and help the growing budget deficit.