This past week, the Austin Chamber raised its collective voice on several key issues: transportation, affordability and innovation. We provided testimony at hearings, spoke at committee meetings, participated in press conferences, drove direct action alerts to ensure decision makers heard our collective voice and met with decision makers in Washington, D.C. to drive our legislative agenda. Below is an update on these issues.
Joint Statement in Support of Mayor Adler’s $720M Mobility Bond Proposal
The Austin Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Council of Austin, Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, Austin Technology Council and Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce applaud Mayor Steve Adler for his bold vision and leadership to address both transportation and affordability in his proposed mobility bond referendum. Improving Austin’s corridors will help enable the realization of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan and the CodeNEXT process through increased density, better connections throughout the city and enhanced mobility, in addition to the other major arterial road improvements recommended that provide real congestion relief. Our organizations directionally support the proposed bond pending the outcome of the June 23 City Council meeting. Provided that bond proceeds will be used for projects that will make a meaningful impact on alleviating congestion, we support a bond package for the full $720 million of funding. We look forward to continuing to provide our input and industry expertise throughout the process.
Joint Statement on Opposing Casar and Kitchen bond proposals from Austin Chamber, Real Estate Council of Austin, and Asian Chamber
On Thursday, June 15, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Council of Austin and the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce reiterated its support for Mayor Steve Adler’s bold vision and leadership to address both transportation and affordability in his proposed mobility bond referendum. Mayor Adler was elected by all Austinites and his proposal for the $720 million mobility bond is balanced on the right transportation improvements for all of Austin.
The organizations’ opposition to Council Member Greg Casar’s proposal is that it is focused on the core of Austin and ignores 80 percent of Austin’s population and over 75 percent of the voters who do not live in the core of Austin. The proposal also says it focuses on the future. For a significant majority of Austinites, the future is NOW. Poll after poll of citizens indicate that Austinites by a 2:1 margin want real traffic congestion relief and road improvements now. We believe the Mayor’s proposal better understands and better addresses the pain of traffic congestion suffered by Austinites in all parts of the city.
The opposition to Council Member Ann Kitchen’s plan is that it is not bold enough and does not contain enough funding to do what Austin needs now. We commend Kitchen’s comments that her plan only represents a starting point, however, we believe that starting point to be timid at best.
CTRMA votes unanimously to move forward on SH 45 SW
The Chamber provided live testimony during the Central Texas Regional Mobility (CTRMA) board meeting this week. The comments centered on keeping the SH 45SW project moving forward. In addition, a significant number of Chamber members used the Chamber Action Alert to send a letter to encourage decision makers to move forward on the project. On June 15, we are pleased to report that the CTRMA board voted unanimously to move forward with procurement of construction services for the project.
This important vote came at a time when anti-growth activists and some local elected officials had strongly advocated against the project. A lawsuit has also been filed.
Despite that pressure, the Mobility Authority kept the project moving. SH 45SW is badly needed. It will bring better mobility to our community and to those who live just outside our community – including people who teach our children and contribute to our thriving hospitality industry, but who cannot afford to live in the city limits.
Coalition Calls for City to Complete Land Development Code
The Chamber spoke at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, June 15. We joined several organizations to encourage city leaders to move forward on addressing affordability through CodeNEXT. Below is the joint press release.
(June 15) – Exactly four years after the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan was unanimously adopted by Austin City Council, a broad coalition of eight local organizations is calling for the City to hold firm on its planned release of a draft land development code in January 2017. At a press conference at City Hall Wednesday morning, the coalition also made recommendations that would help produce the smart, comprehensive code that’s needed to house Austin’s rapidly growing population.
The coalition includes AURA, Austin Apartment Association, Austin Board of Realtors, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Austin Alliance, Evolve Austin, Home Builders Association of Austin and Real Estate Council of Austin. “It’s been four years since the roadmap for CodeNEXT was laid out in Imagine Austin, and we’re still without a draft of the code,” said RECA President Ward Tisdale. “Today, the project is two years behind schedule, hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget and in jeopardy of collapsing under its own weight.”
“Now is not the time to re-litigate Imagine Austin. It is time to allow staff to do their job and start moving the needle on household affordability and traffic congestion by approving a robust CodeNEXT that is true to Imagine Austin values and metrics,” said Cid Galindo, President of Evolve Austin Partners.
In addition to expecting a January 2017 release date of the draft code the coalition has made the following recommendations:
- The code should include programs that incentivize the construction of below-market housing. Those programs need to be clear, effective, easily implemented and uniform throughout the city.
- The code should provide options for missing middle and other more affordable housing options throughout the city, with limited or no specific regulations as to quantity, density, or lot and unit sizes.
- The code should revise current concepts of compatibility to support denser options throughout the city.
- The real life impacts from major code proposals should be measured using the Envision Tomorrow tool and other metrics-based planning tools. The impact of the proposed code must be analyzed before it is finalized.
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Chamber delegates drive advocacy on D.C. trip
The Austin Chamber this week led a delegation of 60 business, civic and elected leaders to Washington, D.C. to meet with the White House, Senators Cornyn and Cruz, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the seven members of our U.S. House delegation.
The Chamber delegation, led by 2016 Chair Fred Heldenfels IV, Pete Winstead and Ben Barnes, represented 17 CEOs and 53 other major leaders. These individuals gave their time to represent our region in our requests regarding how we can better partner with decision makers in Washington, D.C. to improve our local innovation ecosystem and infrastructure.
Central Texas doesn’t have natural resources to exploit. Our economy prospers on the private sector’s ability to create new technologies, markets, and small, high growth companies. That growth is fostered by an effective partnership between the federal, state and local governments, higher education and private sector.
Primarily, our team asked those in Washington, D.C. to continue to invest in innovation and talent. Click here for our Federal legislative agenda.