Public Notice: In Defense of Socialism
Government does a lot of good things that aren’t possible to achieve privately
No, this has nothing to do with Bernie. But even as his presidential campaign sinks slowly (but honorably) into the sunset, I am reminded by current happenings on the local level, and by County Judge Sarah Eckhardt's fine recent State of the County speech, that there is a lot of good that can come from government-owned and -run programs, that we can't expect from the private sector.
Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo attended the groundbreaking this Wednesday for Aldrich 51, an affordable housing development at Mueller that will be at ground zero of the long-awaited Aldrich Street town center district. It was a project made possible, not only by the fact that the city owned the dirt, but by $4 million in financing from the city of Austin, through the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. As part of the Mueller Affordable Homes Program, 85% of the 240 units at Aldrich 51 will serve families and individuals who earn 30-60% of Austin's Median Family Income, which is, the city press release notes, "a level of affordability that ordinarily could not be achieved through conventional financing." No kidding. The affordable housing component most developments promise (if any) is that some units will be available for 80% MFI – that is, "affordable" for families making over $60,000 a year. "Market rate," meanwhile, means at least half their market is folks making incomes in the six-figure range.
None of that is the developers' fault; new construction is expensive (especially in a boom town), and land is, too (especially in a boom town), and it just costs what it costs (plus 10%). But anyone who still claims the free market is going to build our way to housing affordability is either delusional, or more likely, trying to sell you something. For more on that, see "Rosewood" and "Cactus Rose," Mar. 25, and "The Grove," coming soon.
As reported last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected Austin as one of seven semi-finalists in its Beyond Traffic Smart City Challenge, which will award up to $50 million in funding for one city to create a proposal that uses data, technology, and creativity to shape the transportation network of the future. The Austin proposal, "Vision for a 21st Century Mobility System," is now available online – albeit as a 30-page PDF, which probably puts us a little behind the curve on the graphic wow factor. Anyway, the plan envisions a Mobility Innovation Center running five major initiatives: Automated and Connected Vehicles; Electric Fleets; Packaged Mobility Service; Sensor Systems; and Travel Access Hubs. (See the proposal here.)
"No" to Writing Your Own Laws
Let the campaigning begin. At their county convention Saturday, the Travis County Democratic Party passed a resolution asking Democrats to vote "No" in the May 7 Uber/Lyft referendum election, and pledging that the party will "support campaign efforts to defeat the ballot measure, actively engage in 'get out the vote' efforts, and encourage voters to vote 'No' on [Prop 1]." An accompanying statement declared that the TCDP "rejects any corporation going around our duly elected representatives to write their own laws."
... take it outside! The Next Ten Years is the Travis County Parks countywide parks master plan, which the county just released in draft form. They're now trying to gauge community support, and gather feedback, before Commissioners decide whether to ask voters to approve bond funding for proposed park improvements. The plan focuses on conserving land in unincorporated parts of the county, and prioritizes a 19-mile greenway and trail system on Gilleland Creek in eastern Travis County, and a regional park on the Pedernales River in western Travis County. See the plan at parks.traviscountytx.gov/news-alerts/parks-master-plan, or attend a meeting:
• Tuesday, March 29, 5:30-7pm, at Bee Cave City Hall, 13333 TX-71, Bee Cave;
• Wednesday, March 30, noon-1:30pm, at Travis County Administration Building, 700 Lavaca;
• Thursday, March 31, 5:30-7pm, at the Jonestown Community Center, 18649 FM 1431, Jonestown.
The city's Aquatic Division is in lifeguard-hiring season, and, the Austin Parks Foundation is again offering a $100 bonus to the first 400 lifeguards who are trained and hired by May 23. PARD conducts Hiring Days at their Aquatic Administration and Training Facility, 2818 San Gabriel, to help you through the process; the next one is 1-4pm Friday, March 25. Bring valid ID and Social Security card; see more info or register online at www.austintexas.gov/swimming.
Here's a unique opportunity: Circuit of the Americas is looking for media relations volunteers for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, coming up April 8-10. They're offering backstage access to COTA and the world of MotoGP, for students in communications, public relations, sports management, journalism, photography, and related fields. Apply via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.