Public Notice: Think Globally, Act Locally
Planning for mobility; hoping for democracy
Odds are, if you're not overwhelmed by SXSW, you're probably stressed about Ukraine, where totalitarianism seems to have seized the moment – emboldened by neo-nationalist movements it helped foster, which have weakened liberal democracies from Hungary to Brazil to the United States itself – moving to change the arc of history back in its favor, to turn the clock back to the 1950s when Vladimir Putin's idol Joseph Stalin ruled all of Eastern Europe behind an iron curtain.
The Ukrainian resistance has been spirited and surprisingly successful thus far, but military experts still seem unanimous in their opinion that the weight of Russian force will prevail in the end. Given Putin's ruthlessness and willingness to target civilians, it seems a matter of time until the resistance either surrenders, or is ground to dust. On the other hand, it's worth noting that military experts have often underestimated the efficacy of guerrilla actions, which have repeatedly thwarted the world's superpowers over the past half-century. And indeed, Russia is already facing persistent insurgencies in others of its far-flung territories, and if it comes to that, it's not clear they have the manpower to occupy an area of roughly the size and population of Afghanistan.
If you're looking for even further optimism on that front heading into the weekend, consider a recent piece by Francis Fukuyama in the online journal American Purpose, which predicts that "Russia is heading for an outright defeat in Ukraine." More strikingly, "the collapse of their position could be sudden and catastrophic, rather than happening slowly through a war of attrition. The army in the field will reach a point where it can neither be supplied nor withdrawn, and morale will vaporize."
And one more prognostication: "Putin will not survive the defeat of his army. He gets support because he is perceived to be a strongman; what does he have to offer once he demonstrates incompetence and is stripped of his coercive power?" (And he can take those neo-nationalist would-be authoritarians – from Viktor Orbán to Jair Bolsonaro to Donald Trump – with him.)
Read Maggie Quinlan's story about some Austinites with Ukrainian ties here.
Back to Austin
Do you have opinions about mobility in town? With a range of planning efforts going on, there are public input opportunities through the rest of the month.
• The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan is, as it says, the city of Austin's long-term strategic plan for mobility. As such, it is amended from time to time as circumstances and priorities evolve, and at the end of February, Austin Transportation Department staff released an updated draft of the most recent proposed amendments, which they presented to the City Council Mobility Committee this week. And due to concerns about sufficient notification, staff has extended a second round of public engagement until the end of March, while they make the rounds of various boards and commissions leading up to the Planning Commission May 10. See the plan, the proposed amendments, and the feedback form at austintexas.gov/department/austin-strategic-mobility-plan.
• The 2022 Mobility Annual Plan (MAP) is, as it says, the city of Austin's short-term spending plan – outlining projects that the city is spending money on this year, with money available from the 2016, 2018, and 2020 mobility bond – and it's now available for review and comment. Go to the MAP website, data.austintexas.gov/stories/s/2xkd-czyh, to see the plan, plus an interactive map of the projects, and provide feedback through April 3.
• The Longhorn Dam Bridge is a city of Austin project – a brand new bike and pedestrian crossing over the eastern edge of Lady Bird Lake, right next to Pleasant Valley Road. Their 30% Design Virtual Open House launched recently, with updated plans and drawings of a wishbone design connecting to the north shore in two places, with a plaza feature mid-lake, along with a new underpass under Pleasant Valley Road and parkland improvements along the shore. The basic design concept has remained the same since around 2019, $15 million in funding was approved in the 2020 bond election, and the city Public Works Department's Urban Trails Program is leading the design process. See the plans and comment through March 24 at austintexas.gov/newlhdbridge.
• The vertical mixed-use density bonus program is one of the city's primary tools to encourage mixed-use developments, and to get some amount of affordable housing included in the projects, or funded elsewhere through payment of a "fee in lieu." Most everyone agrees the program could work better; exactly how that should be achieved is the question now at hand for the city's Planning Commission. They heard a presentation of staff's proposed amendments at their last meeting March 8, are hosting a virtual community listening session as we go to press on Wednesday, and will hold a public hearing on the subject at their next meeting this coming Tuesday, March 22, at 6pm. Meanwhile, you can see the proposed amendments at austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=378243, and watch the last meeting at the city's ATXN TV website, austintx.new.swagit.com/videos/156347.