In the throes of a noisy, painful week when the ugliest people in Texas saw their darkest fantasies come true, Austin Mayor Steve Adler spent the better part of an hour on Monday bringing you the good news about where you live now. And even as Adler, in his penultimate State of the City address, dipped his toe into the clear, cold springs of Austin exceptionalism – "We are a city where people genuinely care. This is what is so magical about our city." – he also brought some salt and heat. The wowser stats and positive performance indicators and checked-off action items that make "the state of our city ... the strongest in the country," he noted, came in the face of disastrous adversity as well as pathological hatred from the leaders of the state of which we are the capital and, increasingly, from within our own confines. "Our sense of community is at risk," Adler said. "Our days seem harder and meaner, and far too many of us feel overcome with weariness and emotional fatigue. We're tired and we've had enough." Preach!
Adler did not call out anybody in particular, except for Gov. Greg Abbott, the Maskless Marauder. He did take aim at "those working hard to create the perception that we are unsafe," meaning Save Austin Now, but nothing those jarheads and tuff-guyz haven't heard before. It was a pretty gentle and not at all unexpected use of the mayoral pulpit, in an address than began with 10 minutes of thanking, literally, everyone in town. "Let us all remember to say 'thank you' to everyone we encounter," Adler told his flock.
When he went high, they went low. "Harder and meaner" is a good way to describe the 2021 evolution of the formerly calm and almost cuddly Matt Mackowiak, the local GOP chair and SAN main man whose ubiquity as a local TV talking head, engaged in civil discourse, may start to fade now that he's discovered the Tyler Durden within. In a statement to the daily, which distilled the State of the City speech into "Adler attacks critics," Mackowiak (and, OK, his one Democratic friend Cleo Petricek, SAN's "co-founder") said, "Steve Adler's State of the City should have been a short apology for destroying [the] standard of living in a thriving city in two short years." Boo-yah!
The Save Austin Now 2.0 campaign to lard up the Austin police force with hundreds of new officers that the city does not need to be safe, because it is safe, still has to convince Austin voters who bother to show up for an off-year election – even the constitutional amendments are boring – that what's true is false and that they should feel unsafe anyway. This is a harder lift than SAN faced with its initiative to reinstate Austin's public camping ban, where the signs of disorder and failure of the city's approach to homelessness were visible to all, and in SAN's view still are. They've filed a lawsuit claiming the city is still not enforcing the ban, and now that a similar ban exists statewide (as of Sept. 1), it's probably inevitable that Abbott and Indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton will get involved, because beating up Austin and its (in their minds) bums and vagrants makes them feel good and The Base happy.
It remains true, as Adler also noted in his address, that there is simply no place to force people who are camping to go, but this is not SAN's concern; they simply want to keep "dangerous" unsheltered Austinites in front of people's eyeballs while they aim to execute their 2.0 grift. Otherwise, the idea that Austin is unsafe would literally only exist inside of The Base's heads, and that's normally not enough to sway an Austin election. Hence, they have to make Austin's days seem harder and meaner.
Adler said in his speech, "It's almost as if creating a climate and a movement that seek to separate and divide us from one another has become a pastime or sport." As leading institutional Democrats often are, he is probably being too gentle. This is not a game to SAN, although what's at stake is really just Mackowiak's reputation and however much he's paying himself with other people's money. The actual long-term, grinding realignment of Austin's public safety budget with what the city actually needs and its citizens want, rather than what the cops and their GOP fanboys seek to collect through grift and graft, will go on with or without him.
Throughout Texas, and thus even within Austin's friendly and prosperous bubble, the damaged people who run this place have shown that the climate and movement Adler decries are not only not a game but have become the preferred mode of projecting the power of a decadent regime and its sclerotic and impaired Base. The new abortion ban, as all of America now suddenly and maddeningly realizes, has been made possible by a totally ratchet and embarrassing, yet totally insidious and effective, scheme of vigilante enforcement. Any abortion care provider in Texas that dares flout the six-week ban, even though it's unconstitutional under current (for now) law, will get attacked by the flying legal monkeys dispatched from Gilead, while the state does literally nothing. Paxton is extending the theme by encouraging parents to rat out schools that make kids wear masks, after they're done ratting them out for teaching kids that racism is real. Harder and meaner, indeed.
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.