Spirit of East Austin Initiative February Update - City Manager

Feb 22, 2017 - 7:11 pm

While I may be new to the City Manager’s seat here, I’m certainly not new to Austin. Like many of you, I’ve seen this city grow and transform over the past two decades. I’ve also seen many of the unintended consequences of that growth – including the growing disparities within our city and our residents.

The Spirit of East Austin initiative was one of the first items I took up with Mayor Adler when I started as interim City Manager. That’s because it was important to me, and I know it’s important to him, to the entire Council and – perhaps most notably – to you.

Having spent most of my time on the financial side of the City, I know how much work is being done. I help get the projects funded, and help get the bills paid. It’s clear to me, though, that sometimes we don’t do a great job of sharing what’s been done, or what we have planned.

So I’m excited to share with you some of the achievements our staff has led over the past year, and take a look ahead. Not all of it will grab headlines, but I believe every investment in East Austin is a meaningful one. It represents the nuts and bolts vital to build East Austin’s success and future. 

Believe it or not, there were 89 projects started or completed in the “Eastern Crescent” last year. That included building new playscapes, installing public art, replacing old water pipes and establishing mother-friendly worksites. 

View a list of all of the Spirit of East Austin projects the City completed in 2016

Notably, we updated the amenities in some of our key public spaces – Colony District Park, Norman School Park and Dove Springs District Park – to make them safer and more accessible for nearby residents. That included new trails and new playscapes – including a pioneering “treehouse” playscape in Dove Springs that enables families with children to better connect to the natural environment.

We continue to address vital infrastructure needs by rebuilding roads and upgrading infrastructure.  You’ll see that commitment reflected in our list of current and planned projects – projects like the Howard Lane water line extension, which brought water service further into East Austin.

We know that there’s a need to help develop 21st Century skills that will help lift up those who grow up in Austin. Our Connected Youth Centers project brought dedicated computers and printers for youth ages 10 to 18 to more than a half dozen East Austin libraries, along with the staff to support them.

These successes are just a part of the pledge we made when we kicked off the initiative in September 2015. We said we would do things, and we said we would continue to listen. In this next phase, we will do just that.

We officially launched this website, spiritofeastaustin.org, to continue collecting feedback and reporting back to you. I hope you take the time to click on the Initiatives tab to comment on proposed policies that could stimulate economic opportunities in East Austin.

        Creating opportunities in East Austin and addressing historical inequities is a shared responsibility for both our policymakers and our staff. I can tell you that we’re all determined to continue our momentum.