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Adler's First State of the City Breaks With the Past in More Ways Than One

Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT News

It's been 100 days since the new Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler took office, and last night Adler delivered his first State of the City address.

It was a packed and very diverse event — with nearly a thousand in attendance — which was a change of pace from the typically subdued addresses of the past.

While the event was free and open to the public, it wasn't free for the Mayor. As he told reporters afterwards, he and his wife paid to rent AISD's Performing Arts Center for the occasion. While he didn't say how much it cost, he did say he also footed the bill for a set from Austin musician Max Frost, who performed "White Lies," perhaps a curious choice for a political event.

As Adler delivered his speech, however, he sounded almost as if he was still in campaign mode, championing the slogan of his mayoral race, "A New Way Forward." 

He called Austin a "magical place" with great needs, and touted a three-point plan to bring about what he called necessary changes in the city.

"We have to work together like never before," he said, adding that Austinites must be open to successful change, which "means 3 things: inclusion, innovation and intentional improvisation."

Adler said he is open to try ideas, new and old, even if some don't change.

For instance, an old idea that could be freshened up to address the city's housing shortage? He offered: "an Austin bond."

Similar to the U.S. Savings Bonds of years past, this one would be open to thousands of people who would buy bonds to finance social causes and would, over the years, get their investment plus interest back.

Adler addressed Austin's traffic woes, saying the city "cannot pave its way out of congestion" and offering staggered work schedules, better use of existing lanes and fast-tracking park and rides in lieu of more road construction. Adler also commended City Manager Mark Ott for pledging to reduce rush hour commutes across all city departments by 20 percent before the year's end.

In regards to the city's affordable housing shortage, Adler said he would find ways to end homelessness among veterans, floating a possible incentive program for landlords who open their doors to homeless vets. Adler also encouraged Austinites to offer out-of-the-box solutions to solve the city's most pressing challenges. He said he's willing to try all ideas – even if some don't work.

While Adler offered dozens of ideas, now it's time to turn at least some of those ideas into reality.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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