In September 2015, we made a promise to East Austin. We promised to listen with our hearts and our minds. We promised to learn from our collective stories and experiences. And – most importantly – we promised to take all of that and report back to you with a plan for thoughtful and meaningful action. We, like you, are eager to continue the momentum established at the Spirit of East Austin Summit on September 12.
We both recognize the need to “face East” and set a new path for equitable prosperity in Austin. We acknowledge that previous efforts have fallen short, failed to materialize or simply didn’t live up to their promise. Much of that was the result of failing to involve you in the fundamental conversation: What is it that we really want, and what part should each of us play in realizing that vision?
The Spirit of East Austin set out to change that, and more than 450 of you invested your time to dive deeply in to the issues facing your neighborhoods. We received nearly 2,000 comments with ideas, requests and observations about issues past, present and future. We cleared a space at the table for you to help determine your own destiny, and you delivered.
What we heard was profound. We heard from a community that believes it is disconnected, fearful of losing its identity and mindful that Austin’s divide is not only historically-based but also based on today’s economics and opportunities. As one participant wrote: “The divide between the haves and the have-nots is intense. I live on the edge. It is painful.”
We heard consistent calls for connection, communication and continued participation. We heard the desire for cultural preservation, and for equity among all of our diverse cultures. At the same time, we also heard great hope, pride and confidence from participants.
We learned that to be successful, it is not enough for projects to be designed to meet the goals of equitable economic development. Projects for East Austin should engender trust, by creating them with residents rather than for residents.
We’ve been thoughtfully reviewing and processing all of your feedback. We’re using your notes to align projects already on the horizon, and identify areas where new initiatives should be focused.
In the coming weeks, we will re-engage with the communities of East Austin to review what we’ve learned, talk about where the opportunities lie, and organize resident-staff-policy working groups that will develop plans for implementation. Those teams will identify and prioritize projects, programs, policies and processes that can lead to immediate as well as long-range gains.
We intend to be thoughtful, inclusive and thorough. It is time for those on the sidelines to be engaged.
By January, we intend to bring forward an initial set of specific programs and policies that can move the dial on economic opportunity, access, and development on the East side of town. We can’t celebrate being the most economically vibrant city in the country as long as we’re also the most economically segregated.
We made a commitment that this conversation would be different, and that it would continue. We intend to keep that promise.
Mayor Steve Adler
Interim City Manager