Austin Mayor Steve Adler gives his final State of the City address
Austin Mayor Steve Adler delivered his final State of the City speech at City Hall on Thursday evening.
The mayor reflected on his two terms in office as his term-limited tenure comes to a close. He discussed major policies passed during his time at City Hall, including efforts to decriminalize homelessness, the city's attempt to revamp its land development code and its push to address issues of affordability and mass transit.
Watch the video courtesy of KVUE and read a transcript below of Adler's speech as prepared for delivery.
Good afternoon. It is such an honor and privilege to stand before you as your mayor.
And by now you know me well enough to know that I never use one word when I can use ten, but I do have one short and simple message for you today:
Thank you to the 10:1 city councils, my partners, colleagues and friends these last eight years.
Thank you to our city employees, city staff and its leadership. Your resourcefulness and dedication have impressed me from the moment I began my service.
Thank you to the many community advocates and organizations whose expertise and energy made our ideas sharper and our policies more just.
Thank you to my staff at City Hall over the course of these past eight years, without whom I’d just be some guy with a lot of crazy ideas. I will miss you all.
Thank you to my family, especially my wife Diane, who’s been with me every step of the journey and my partner in this job in ways few know. I’ll make it up to you someday, I promise.
And thank you to the people of Austin.
To everyone who came to a town hall or a public meeting and made their voice heard. To everyone who voted. To everyone who loves this city enough to give something of themselves to make it better. Thank you.
Austin holds itself to a very high standard. We are not comfortable celebrating our successes while we know there are still Austinites struggling.
But tonight, we’ll heed the advice of one of our own, the great Molly Ivins, who reminded us to fight for freedom and justice and have fun doing it. To rejoice.
And we should. Because the state of our city is one we can be proud of.
In 2015, when the new 10:1 Council and I were first elected:
Some city employees and contractors were making as little as $7.25/hour. There was no mass transit in sight. Affordable housing investment was modest, and we were building to a four-year backlog in untested DNA rape kits with far too many survivors waiting for delayed justice.
We had unsheltered neighbors living perilously in our creeks and storm drains, and we had no comprehensive plan to address workforce opportunities for our region. A rising national tide of extremist politics was increasingly threatening our local values. Meaningful and constructive police reform was an untouchable issue.
Enter Austin’s 10:1 Council, a council with a mayor and members representing 10 newly created districts. With it came the representation of communities that had never before had a seat on this dais and with that, the promise and potential of unprecedented levels of justice and equity across our city. It created the power and need for new coalitions. Coalitions that have passed historic, progressive initiatives. Coalitions that have made the big, hard and disruptive decisions and historic investments to make good on the hopes and dreams of this new governmental system.
It is true that much remains to realize the work we have begun over the past 8 years. But for tonight, we pause and celebrate where we are and what we’ve achieved, how we got here, and where we need to go.
The state of our city, as measured by almost every metric used to compare cities, is exceptionally strong.
- Austin is among the top five best big cities to live in in the country, and the best in Texas.
- It remains one of the safest big cities in the country.
- Austin is among the top ten healthiest cities in the country, and the healthiest in Texas.
- We rank number 1 in wage growth among major American cities.
- Number 2 in the country in job growth. We’ve made up all of our pandemic-related job losses, and added more jobs on top of that.
- Austin has one of the lowest unemployment rates among large cities.
- The city budget, completed just last week, is not only balanced but projects surpluses for each of the next four years.
- We’ve been ranked the best big city in the country for job-seekers.
- The best place for entrepreneurs to launch a startup.
- And, since it’s not all business, all the time, We’re in the top ten most fun cities to live in, and the most fun city in Texas.
- And of course, we are still the best city in the country for live music, and the reigning Live Music Capital of the World.
This is our city as it stands today. The state of our city is worth celebrating.
One of my favorite memories from my first years in office was going to Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy for the Annual Tie Ceremony. Mayor Garcia, Austin’s first Latino Mayor, was a great Austinite, my mentor, and a champion of equity, especially in education.
The school that bears his name continues his tradition of leadership. Every year the older 8th graders help the first-year middle schoolers tie what, for many, is the first tie they have ever owned. It is a symbol of the students’ bond with each other.
I was supposed to help the younger students tie their ties, but I discovered pretty quickly I was unnecessary; the eight-graders had it covered. In fact, the new sixth-graders proudly helped me tie my tie. This very gold tie, as it happens.
I have two grandchildren and two more on the way, a greater source of pride and joy than I could have ever imagined, greater even than being the mayor of the city I love.
The young students at Gus Garcia, like mine and all of our children and grandchildren, will inherit Austin years from now. They will inherit the decisions we make and the culture and expectations we set.
And we have made hard choices these last eight years. Choices that disrupted our lives and the status quo; made tempers flare; occasionally set us against each other.
We did that not because we seek conflict. It’s easier, less disruptive, to try for only incremental change, sometimes to settle for half-measures, or even to kick a problem down the road entirely. Every city in America has examples of this, of hard choices deferred and deferred again until the hard choices became impossible ones.
I am so proud and grateful that on one difficult problem after another, the buck has stopped with us. The 10:1 Council has stood resolute and taken action, supported by the community, including on some of the most difficult challenges our city faces - like mobility; social justice and equity; housing and homelessness.
We have pursued those priorities despite the disruption and the political havoc that follows; even while facing other decisions, great and small, hard and easy, that will shape Austin for generations; even while managing and overcoming an unprecedented succession of unique disasters and hardships.
No statistics - however stellar - can capture the story of the last eight years. It is a story of big plans, and the hard decisions that make them possible.
In the 2014 election cycle, when the 10:1 Council and I were first running for office, the dominant issue was mobility. And today, eight years later, we live in Austin’s Golden Age of Mobility.
Our city is finally moving forward with a comprehensive, public transit system. Project Connect, a very long term series of projects, is already underway, with the neighborhood circulators already in operation, the Pleasant Valley and Expo Center bus rapid transit lines and McKalla Station under construction, and the Blue and Orange light rail lines in active planning. $100M in anti-displacement funding has been raised and turned over to the city, with $20M already deployed to buy up land near transit centers and corridors for future affordable housing.
A $4 Billion project to double the size of Austin Bergstrom Airport is underway, the first $400 million being spent as we speak.
We have begun work to transform I-35, a $9 Billion project that includes sinking and capping the main lanes.
Today we have almost 400 miles of newly built or repaired sidewalks and safe routes to schools.
Our bicycle network is expanding faster than almost anywhere else. By 2025, we will have completed one of the largest bicycle networks in the country.
Throughout the city, our major corridors are safer, faster, and being transformed for 21st-century travel.
The architect Daniel Burnham, in his lifetime a man who shaped American cities perhaps more than any other, admonished us to “make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.”
And we have, in the past, made big plans in mobility. In the forty years before the 10:1 Council was elected, there were five big mobility projects that stand out to me: Austin moved our airport; and we turned Research and Ben White Boulevards into Highways 71 and 183; and built SH130 to the east and MOPAC to the south.
That is a good pace - for a small city. And it’s fair to say that until recently we have sometimes been guilty of acting as if Austin were still the small city it hasn’t been in a long time.
But that era has passed, and Austin has put away childish things. A great city must make bigger plans; start them faster, do more of them, and rely more on itself.
And over the past eight years, we have done just that. Austin (and the state) did those five big mobility projects over forty years; we’ve initiated five in the last eight.
In the same year that the 10-1 Council and were first running for office, the people of Austin were voting down a mass transit mobility project for the second time in fifteen years.
Our charge was not to persuade the people of Austin that a big plan was necessary; it was to demonstrate that we properly understood the scale of the problem, and restore confidence that we could solve it at all. To present to Austin a plan worthy of a great city. To change our destiny by disrupting the status quo.
Our guiding light has been our adoption of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, adopted in 2019, the city’s first multimodal, integrated, and comprehensive plan for transportation. This visionary plan is foundational to our goal of long-term, sustainable change, and disruption, in seeing transportation not as an exercise in moving cars, but a commitment to moving people.
We went to the people of the city, and asked the community to make big plans with us, and to face the hard decisions that come with them.
And our city did. Over the last eight years, the people of Austin have approved not one but four separate mobility initiatives - in 2016, 2018, and two in 2020 – raising revenue in excess of $10 billion. This, in a city that did not pass more than $640 million, cumulatively, in the previous twenty years.
These initiatives, combined with other city, county, state, and federal funds, have enabled us as of today to have started work on over $20 Billion in projects - an historic investment in tying our city together.
What we do now and where we have gotten today set the trajectory for where we will be tomorrow.
Our current path leads us toward being a city where owning a car - currently the second highest financial burden for Austin families - is optional.
Hundreds of thousands of Austinites will cross the city cheaply, cleanly, and quickly, without any of them having to put a single car on the road, thanks to our world-class light rail system, supported by expanded bus routes and service.
The homes and businesses of people who have lived in Austin for decades will stand side by side with new enterprises, performance venues, and public spaces as some of our most important community hubs are our light rail stations.
Our global city will connect to the world through a new airport that is as large as our dreams and ambitions.
We will walk and bike, eat and shop and come together in public spaces that stand on top of a relic of deliberate segregation in the sunken and capped I-35.
Austin will be the most walkable city in Texas, with over 4000 miles of sidewalk.
Our bicycle network will be one of the largest in the country, on par with New York City.
Because of the hard decisions we made, our children and grandchildren will inherit a city bound together with the new sinews of rail, road, and trail, a clear sign of Austin’s strength and unity.
Our transportation system will be our visible commitment to the idea that Austin is more than just a collection of distant and disparate neighborhoods, more than just the sum of its individual parts.
Mobility is Austin’s commitment to being a city.
Unity in a city is, of course, about more than infrastructure bonds that tie it all together. It is about a shared culture, a sense of spirit, of community. Austin has had, in my nearly fifty years living here, a powerful sense of its obligation and responsibility to social equity and justice.
In the past years we have defended and preserved that spirit and, to an ever increasing degree, delivered that justice to those for whom it has too long been denied.
Today, Austin centers equity in every decision we make, and everything that we do, to an extent unmatched by other cities.
Our city has committed $300 Million to mitigate displacement and promote affordability as a specific line item in Project Connect, a scale unheard-of in a public mass transportation project.
We have doubled the city’s investment in public health. We have committed to paid sick leave,
Austin has on its ordinance books a guarantee for Fair Chance hiring, to help formerly incarcerated people start new chapters in their lives.
We’ve launched a guaranteed income program pilot seeking to find new more efficient, just and cost effective ways to help keep families from becoming unhoused.
Our city does not prosecute truancy or the personal use of marijuana, both of which have historically been used to disproportionately bring into the justice system and incarcerate communities of color. As a result, we’ve helped cut the number of people held in the Travis County jail by 40%.
We have done as much or more than any city in the country to actually reimagine the concept of public safety, not just to talk about it, and to begin to change the culture of our police force. We have enacted new ways of training police cadets, including community-engagement and anti-racism training; changed the rules guiding when and how police use force; and increased funding and training for mental health-related 911calls.
Eight years ago the portion of our budget devoted to building our city, with spending on social services, public health, parks and our quality of life, was 30%. Today, it is almost 40%, and growing. And we’ve done this while still just passing the largest police department budget in the history of our city.
Our city leads among cities that honor and support the rights of LGBTQIA+ residents, and Austin is, to the best of our ability, a safe place for transgender children and their families.
Austinites will not face investigation and prosecution if they choose to exercise their long-held right to an abortion.
These measures are emblematic of our city’s belief in the dignity and worth of every Austinite.
But belief is only as good as the action that backs it up. When the 10:1 Council took its seats on the dais, our city lacked the kind of infrastructure needed to ensure that equity and justice are at the heart of our government and everything that it does.
The work in our office truly began with the Spirit of East Austin community conversation, an exploration of equity that empowered hundreds of East Austin residents to tell us, in their own words, what their dreams and ideas were, as we asked all of Austin to “turn and face eastward”, and to listen. It was then that the term “Eastern Crescent” entered Austin’s popular lexicon, bringing long-overdue focus to a long-neglected part of the city.
We experienced progress, both here at City Hall and out in our community, coming out of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities, working with partners and advocates to ensure that city decisions confront and change, rather than ignore and perpetuate, the inequities of the past. That Task Force made about 270 recommendations to improve social equity in Austin, more than half of which have been implemented. Thousands of Austinites have attended two-day racial equity training because of the expectation created by the Task Force (and Leadership Austin’s leadership).
Those were not simple decisions, or easy conversations. There were people who refused to participate in the Task Force simply because of the use of the word “racism” in its name. It can be very hard to accept the extent to which institutional racism worms its way into so many facets not just of our country but of our city, our neighborhoods, and our lives.
That is especially true around policing, where the conversation turns to how people feel safe. When and where they feel safe. Who gets to feel safe. Communities across the country have torn themselves to pieces over this.
No wonder so many cities avoid these conversations, and the undeniable decisions that must follow.
Being an equitable city is not a goal you achieve - it is a decision you make every day.
That is why we founded the Equity Office of the City of Austin, a permanent team to ensure that equity is integrated into every decision we make and everything our city government does.
It’s why we started the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission. The Civil Rights Office. The Office of Police Oversight.
And why we began the Reimagining Public Safety project.
The progress we have made in better realizing true public safety is a credit to the city, to the activists who stood their ground, and to the police leadership and officers who buy into the vision of an APD that works in partnership with the people of this city, where officers see themselves as guardians, not warriors, and whose presence reassures everyone in the city that they are safe.
I cannot claim that Austin today has overcome the often iniquitous legacy of our past - that can only be the work of generations - but I believe we can say with honesty that when America reached yet another critical moment in its long reckoning with our original sin of white supremacy, that Austin was not found wanting. That even though we knew that opponents of that reckoning, some with pretty big megaphones, would seize on our efforts and cynically mischaracterize them for their own political ends, we nonetheless faced the challenge for no reason other than that it was necessary, and it was overdue.
Austin is often at odds with the leaders of its state, and, for a while, with the leaders of the country. These are not fights that we have sought - no one with a city to build would choose to spend focus and spirit on hard, exhausting, and needless political battles. But as elected leaders of this great city we are not free to turn away from those fights either, because to do so would yield the field and betray the character of the good and decent people who entrusted us with these offices.
When Donald Trump ordered raids to round up undocumented immigrants, and expected cities to comply, we resisted instead. We fought lawsuits. I went to Washington and argued directly with the Attorney General, in his office, about the Administration’s overreach. We stood with our friends in the Mexican Consulate to provide support and assistance to the people former President Trump wanted to persecute. There are not many cities like Austin, that spend public money on legal aid to ensure that fairness, due process, and the rule of law still have meaning for all residents, regardless of immigration status.
While it is easy and tempting to pass the buck, and say that these are statewide or national issues, they are not.They are local. They are about the fear on our neighbor’s faces when their mosque is vandalized, or there is a knock on their door in the night and they worry they will be taken from their families.
That was the point of the ICE raids. It was the point of the Muslim travel ban. It is the point of the persecution of transgendered people and their families, it is the point of trying to claw back the right to abortion, and it is the point of every other one in a littany of outrages against good conscience and common decency. The point is to make people afraid, to make them wonder if their community is going to turn against them, to throw into doubt whether their neighbors truly recognize the full measure of their humanity.
And when our state or indeed our country has threatened the rights and dignity of our fellow Austinites, we have made it clear - and I will take this opportunity to say it again - that this is and will forever be a just and fair city, where all are welcome.
Each of us, in our time, are the trustees of the Austin spirit and soul. And just as we have done, we challenge the generations who come after us to leave Austin an even more equitable; more welcoming; more just, and more worthy place than it was when they found it.
Over the last eight years, I have had too many occasions to say, and it will still be true when our children and grandchildren inherit the city:
“No legislature and no election can change who we are. The world can completely lose its mind and we’re still going to be Austin.”
I said earlier that Austin holds itself to a very high standard; that we struggle to celebrate all that is great about it when we know that our city is in some way failing to live up to our collective vision for what it should be. That aspiration, that ambition for Austin and each other, especially when realizing our better selves requires fundamental change, makes our disagreements all the more fiery, and fraught.
Nowhere have we seen this more clearly than in providing for the fundamental human need for a place to call home.
Austin is in the midst of a housing affordability and supply crisis. This is an existential challenge. We are losing neighbors who can longer afford to live here and with their loss, we lose the diversity that is our biggest asset – our people. There is much work to be done.
This challenge looms large, and this City is fighting back.
Austin is poised to be the first major American city to end homelessness.
Thanks to the continuing HEAL initiative, we have already moved hundreds of people without homes out of tents and off the streets.
Today, a veteran who becomes homeless in Austin has stable housing and services in less than 90 days.
We have reduced the number of children on our streets without homes by more than half.
Perhaps most critically, we have raised well more than 80% of the $515 Million needed to fund the community driven, Finding Home ATX 3-year plan to get 3,000 more people out of tents and into homes. This project, the work of a remarkable and broad coalition, puts Austin on the path to end homelessness for good.
We have quadrupled our investment in affordable housing units in the city since 2014, investing more in the last six years than in the city’s history up to that point.
While it’s still not enough, last year Austin built more housing than any city in the country - in absolute numbers and also adjusted for population.
It is not a secret that we in Austin have not always seen eye to eye on how to help our fellow residents who live without shelter.
Homelessness is not a challenge of recent creation. The issue had been tearing up neighborhood associations and setting Austinites against each other for years.
It is not a problem that lends itself to quick solutions. In fact, in the modern history of American cities, homelessness is the issue that is most often pushed out of sight and out of mind. That was us.
But there are also enough cities on the West Coast that show us that, if homelessness is left unaddressed, thousands of people become tens of thousands. A difficult problem becomes unmanageable. That was going to be us.
I knew, as sure as I knew the sun would come up the next day, that if we did not act in bold and unprecedented ways, in six years we would face a spiraling crisis that would exceed the will and resources we would need to address it.
So we chose instead to face the challenge and make the hard decisions.
The debate in this city over public camping brought out strong words, motivated by strong feelings. Decriminalizing public camping changed the way we thought about homelessness; it quite literally changed the way we saw it.
This was, of course, incredibly disruptive.
We could, and should, have done a better job managing shared public spaces. And our failure to do so caused levels of anxiety and acrimony that could have been avoided. But the decision not to put people in jail, or hide them in the woods, simply for not having a place to live, was going to be fundamentally disruptive, regardless.
And without that disruption, we would never have come together to agree on a common solution. We would never have raised the funds we are raising now to get the job done. We would never have been, as we are today, the first American city our size poised to end homelessness.
But homelessness is, of course, only one aspect of our city’s larger housing challenge.
We talk a lot about affordability in this city (and indeed in this country). Housing is at the heart of it. This is, ultimately, a simple problem: there are too many buyers for too few houses where people want to live.
Our current land development code does not allow us to maximize the needed housing supply in the city. In the six disruptive years of CodeNext, the City Council twice voted to comprehensively change the Code, but was also twice sent back to the drawing board by court decisions. Being willing to think big and make the hard and disruptive choices does not always work out, but you don’t give up.
Recognizing the present limitations and the need for a broader consensus, the current council has acted to trade greater density and supply for greater affordability. Final ordinances should be passed before the end of the year. We didn’t give up.
The Council just before us also did not give up when they followed a failed $80 Million housing bond with a successful $65 Million housing bond one year later.
We could have learned one of two lessons from their experience. We could have concluded that the people of Austin did not want to make big investments in housing, and future proposals would need to be more modest.
Instead we concluded that we should not set future investments with a focus on minimizing risks but by determining what the community truly needs to solve the problem, make that case strongly and clearly to voters, and trust the voters to make the right choice.
In 2018, we went to the city and asked not for $65 Million or $80 Million but for $250 Million dollars to invest in affordable housing - and we got it.
This November, Austin voters will have the chance to approve another bond, this time for $350 Million, to build even more affordable housing, and to repair houses so that families can stay in their homes. We are facing an affordability and housing supply crisis and this bond is appropriate to the scale of the challenge we face.
There are, incidentally, two other bond propositions that will also be on the November ballot and both also address affordability by calling for investments in public education and our community college. Even as the city increases our supply of affordable homes, education is another key to affordability by helping people have more money to spend.
The Austin of the future must keep and care for its people. When we confront the issues of housing and homelessness, we are deciding who we are and who we will be.
This is about the spirit and soul of our city. If so many people want to live in Austin that it becomes impossible for anyone except the rich, we won’t be Austin.
If we lose our diversity and our creativity, we will no longer be an Austin that creates art in everything we do.
If the young leaders of Gus Garcia, and all of their generation, cannot afford to live here, we won’t be an Austin to be proud of.
Austin ensures its future if it honestly confronts its present. That’s not easy, because the solutions need to be as big as the challenges we face. It is hard, because it requires us to confront base cultural and political differences in our city.
And it will be disruptive, because it will pull at the threads of our community, and encourage us not only to disagree, but to distrust each other’s motives.
Austin must live up to this challenge, because we simply must ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a city where everyone can not only survive, but thrive.
If we had only confronted mobility, or social equity, or housing and homelessness, we could be justifiably proud of our work over the last eight years. We did all three.
And more besides, because the city will not simply stop while we address one problem. There have been many others that demanded our focus and our spirit. The present state of our city today reflects the broad agenda on which the 10:1 council has delivered.
Austin has led on climate change mitigation and when Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords, we kept Austin in.
We have a 100 Year Water Plan.
As of June, 78% of our energy is carbon-free, and we’re on track to meet our goal of 100% by 2035.
We’re installing electric vehicle charging stations and bringing composting to every corner of the city.
We have cleared a four-year backlog of DNA rape kits and invested in victim services and a new domestic violence shelter.
We have raised the City Living Wage twice, including the 33% jump to $20/hour last week.
We brought thousands of clean manufacturing jobs to our city and our region to help people and families move out of poverty.
We have a soccer team. And a stadium.
We started, and won, a taco war.
We removed the Confederate battle flag from the city’s Veterans Day Parade.
We helped create the Waterloo Greenway park with a nine figure investment – our own High Line linear park that could be the only thing that we’re remembered for 100 years from now.
We cut the ribbon on our new Downtown Library, one of the 100 top places to visit in the world -- Austin’s cathedral to our intellectual and cultural traditions.
We have our first ever Wildfire Preparedness Plans.
We created and implemented the country’s model for preserving workforce housing.
We support our artists and artistic venues at historic levels in order to preserve the unique alchemy of Austin’s culture and keep our city the Live Music Capital of the World.
Our city’s reputation for innovation is unmatched.
All these things we have done, while still developing and executing big plans on mobility, social equity, and housing and homelessness. And even more remarkable is that we have done these things despite a previously-unimaginable sequence of disasters and crises.
In 2015 we faced a record drought and an historic flood.
In 2016 we saw the rise of an extreme and hostile politics that profoundly, and perhaps permanently, damaged our understanding of our country and each other.
In 2017, we were forced into court to fight both the Governor of Texas and the President of the United States.
In 2018, we faced a serial bomber. And another 100-yr storm.
In 2019, we faced another water crisis - this one brought about by zebra mussels, of all things.
In 2020, our city stopped for COVID. And the summer became a reckoning for America’s sins.
2021 brought Winter Storm Uri. When that passed, we were left to face the enormous political turbulence and disruption of the Big Lie, a threat to our very democracy.
Covid was the disaster that hung over us the longest and that most imperiled our economy and our health. For two years we were isolated. Our children didn’t go to school. Those that were able, didn’t go to work. Businesses closed - some permanently. Our friends and family got sick around us - some of them dying.
We had to spend so much time and resources fighting to keep our community safe. We fought the Governor in court for the right to protect ourselves; and sometimes, it must be said, we fought each other over how to manage the danger and cope with the trauma.
But we endured. Even with everything else going on, we had a job to do, and we did it.
Some things only become clear after the fact, and some truths can only be seen in numbers.
We lost people in Austin, each of whom was a person, each of whom was someone important to someone else. It neither disrespects nor diminishes our grief to say that in the midst of that tragedy, Austinites did something remarkable.
The rate at which Austinites died of COVID was half of that in the state of Texas as a whole.
We masked up. We washed our hands. We isolated when we needed to. We got vaccinated. We protected ourselves and each other.
If the rest of the state had protected lives at the same rate we did, over 45,000 Texans would still be alive today.
These crises could have derailed all our other efforts, and sapped our focus and our will.
But we did not falter. We held fast, without wavering, to the hope that we confess, our eyes on the future we want for our city, and we made the hard and difficult decisions to get there.
That is the Austin way.
If we retreat from the progress we have made or if we don’t confront and own our most serious challenges - if we nibble at problems, rather than facing them head on; if we shy away from the cost and conflict and disruption that attend anything important enough to be worth doing - we imperil the future we seek.
For the sake of that future:
We must fix the Land Development Code to unlock the needed housing supply.
We must reinvent the development process, so that building in Austin no longer costs too much and takes too long.
We need to realize the South Central Waterfront, the Palm District Plan, and the Colony Park neighborhood, and get the expanded Convention Center built.
We must enact tuition-free community college, in service of enabling every Austinite to earn a living wage.
We must establish free, universal childcare, making an historic commitment to the competitiveness of our city and the wellbeing of our families. No investment could be wiser.
We must do what is necessary for Austin - San Antonio to be the next great US metroplex.
These are big plans, the kind of plans that shape the future of the city and everyone who lives in it. Some would be disruptive. All would be hard.
But none of them are bigger, none of these decisions harder, none more disruptive than any of what we have done together in the past eight years.
None are harder than a historic investment in mobility approved by voters in the middle of a pandemic. None harder than a generational commitment to social equity at a time of deep political turmoil. None harder than a comprehensive and vigorous solution to housing and homelessness that truly tests who we are as a community.
Austin is a city that can make big plans, the kind that inspire us, the kind that move our blood.
But this is a choice that cities make. If the last eight years are remembered for anything, let it be that we confronted our biggest challenges, head on, without reservation. That we addressed big problems with big solutions. We made hard decisions. We weren’t afraid of disruption, and paid the necessary price in focus, spirit, and political capital.
We do these things so that our children and grandchildren can inherit a great city, its spirit and soul intact.
I would ask that you remember that in the days to come. Because there are forces abroad in our politics that will ask you to forget what we did, and why we did it.
Extremism, distrust, and misinformation. Some of which ask you to believe things that aren’t true, and all of which - ultimately - ask you not to believe at all.
To trivialize the idea that we are even capable of making big plans and hard decisions. To forget all that we have accomplished together. And to dismiss as nonsense what we know as truth - that we are a living community, bonded by common dreams and graced with a shared destiny.
If we hold fast to the belief in ourselves - confident that there is no challenge bigger than our imagination and no decision harder than our resolve - if we believe in Austin and each other, we will pass through all the turmoils we may face, and deliver for future generations the city that they deserve.
Being Mayor of this magical place, the third longest serving mayor in its history, has been an honor beyond description. I love this city, and I always will.
I will leave my office with a glad heart. Because I believe that today’s Austin is a little bit more just and prepared than the city we inherited. And the city we leave to our children and grandchildren is one they will be proud to call home.
We have done this together, during the short time that we have been its trustees.
I am grateful for the wisdom, kindness, and support you have shared with me these eight years.
I am humbled by the courage and grit and grace and love Austinites show for their city and for each other every day.
Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you, Austin.