Live Blog: Mayor Leffingwell's 2014 State of the City Address
Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell delivered his final "State of the City" address today at noon.
Leffingwell's office billed the 40-minute speech as an overview of the mayor's two terms in office. Leffingwell was elected mayor in 2009 and 2012; Austin will elect a new mayor this November. Read below for a real-time report on the mayor's remarks. Video of the mayor's speech will be included in this post once it is available.
That's a wrap: Leffingwell ends his speech with a call for interconnectedness going forward into single-member districts. On to a Q&A session with the crowd.
Not many major proclamations coming out of the mayor's address: calls for a medical school innovation district and urban rail were big moments from the mayor's speech last year. Still, the address can be viewed as doubling down on initiatives Leffingwell wants to accomplish before leaving office; as soon as his speech ended, his office issued a statement titled "Mayor defines focus for final 10 months in office."
'Rail or Fail:' That's the mayor's bumper-sticker quip for urban rail's necessity. Frames the issue before the development-friendly crowd as a question of Austin's continued business competitiveness with other cities. Stops short of any mentioning anything specific regarding rail – route alignment and the like – but says the question before voters this November will be a simple "yes or no."
Combating a Traffic 'Crisis:' Leffingwell teeing up what will undoubtedly be a pitch for urban rail and the Project Connect process by describing a traffic "crisis" that "threatens to undermine what we have accomplished … a deadly serious threat."
In the 'Innovation Zone:' Leffingwell reiterates call for "Innovation Zone" around med school and hospital complex – one of the key themes of his last State of the City address.
Med School a 'Special Opportunity:' Now onto the UT medical school/Seton teaching hospital development slated downtown – a "transformative" development, according to the mayor. Leffingwell ties development to Waller Creek development project, pulling a million square feet of developable land out of the floodplain. Can an urban rail tie-in be far behind?
Defending incentives: Moving on to industries Austin has targeted for economic growth – tech, tech manufacturing and film, to name a few – Leffingwell offers a defense of using economic incentives. He specifically lauds the Apple incentives agreement the council approved.
'With an Economy Like Ours:' Leffingwell pivots to Austin's economic boom; he reiterates his top priority as mayor is "doing everything I can to ensure that our local economy is as strong as it can be, and our residents have good jobs."
Doubling down, he says "In its 174 year history, the state of our city has never, ever been stronger – and its getting stronger every day."
Early remarks: Thanks to friends and office staff make up Leffingwell's initial comments – along with some wisecracks. He jokes that he won't run for a seat on the new 10-1 council ("I'd rather slash my wrists"), and that his former career as airline pilot – "flying that Boeing 767 across the Atlantic" – was "sometimes the less stressful job."
Getting started: Platitudes owing to the speech's setting – a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon – make up the hour's early moments. Introducing the mayor: development attorney Tim Taylor.
Original story: Here's a preview from Leffingwell's office:
The speech will highlight accomplishments achieved during his two terms as Mayor of the 11th largest city in the country, as well as pay attention to the challenges facing a community that has been named the fastest growing in the U.S. several years in a row.
Likely topics: an expected referendum on urban rail this November, which Leffingwell vowed to pursue in his 2013 State of the City address; the city's change to geographic city council representation, also coming to voters in November; and the perennial topic of Austin's growth and affordability.