Adler: Big City with Big Challenges

April 20, 2015 by Kate Harrington

Austin Mayor Steve Adler gave his first State of the City address last week – also the first State of the City Address since the new 10-1 Council took office – touching on its strong economy, challenges surround affordability and income inequality, and traffic.

Adler reiterated the call for tackling traffic congestion with a combination of efforts, including strategies to decrease the number of commuters driving alone during rush hour. The City has committed to reducing its employees’ rush hour solo commuting by 20%.

Adler called for the County and State to implement similar policies. He might get his wish from the State: the Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would make it easier for state employees to work alternate hours.

He also discussed a need for housing that can accommodate all income levels and address Austin’s affordability problems. That’s an area of concern for groups like the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA), which published a white paper on affordability earlier this year.

Like RECA, Adler said reforming development codes – which is what CodeNEXT is tackling – will be part of the solution.

He also proposed an Austin Bond, similar to U.S. Savings Bonds, that would allow citizens to invest into “social progress in our city with a promise that, after a long hold, they’ll get paid back their investments plus a little interest.”

And Adler came back to an idea he’d proposed during his campaign, of reducing property tax burdens through a 20% homestead exemption. City staff are currently researching options for implementing a homestead exemption.

Regarding Austin’s infamous permitting process, Adler said City Manager Marc Ott will present a plan within 60 days for fixing the permitting process. That issue has been in the limelight recently, due to the release of the Zucker report. The report outlined a dire need to reform the City’s overly complex permitting process.

Did you catch the Mayor’s speech? What stood out to you? Let us know!

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.