State Representative John Bucy III returns to The Clawback this week with Austin Chronicle Mike Clark-Madison – and special performance by Moving Panoramas Leslie Sisson!
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Hello District 6, hello Austin! Hello Clawback viewers. Here we are another week in paradise although with everybody staying home, it could literally be any week of any year of any month. I don't know if you all seen the like the I mean literally, I don't even know what the weather is like I've been staying in my house so much and I see the news reports of 100-degree heat, but I have an air conditioning vent right above me in the spare bedroom where I film this so it literally could be any weather whatsoever outside. Losing all track of time and space. It's such a crazy situation. I wanna take my name doesn't need to be up there like that. So we're in July, we took the show off for two weeks and then came back last week – had a great show. Got a great show today: Representative John Bucy is with us. Leslie Sisson is our musical guest. Mike Clark- Madison of The Austin Chronicle. It's gonna be a really good show, talking about very different stuff than that we normally talk about on the show, but I do wanna start with the topic of the day and bring up our pandemic dashboards. Here's the risk-based guidelines the thing that determines what is the level of stay-at-home order that the community is gonna operate under the mayor does a great show. His 'Got a Minute?' show that he does every day. So if you want the minute to minute update, you can follow Mayor Adler's show that he does every night. But you can see that we're - in terms of this metric, which is what we use to determine the stage is - we are leveling off right at that line between Stage 4 and Stage 5, and you know while we had that really dramatic spike in June and early July, it looks like we're settling into something - which is not great, but it's certainly better than it getting worse. In fact, when you look at the other dashboard and for a reminder – you can see both of these dashboards and all of the information that the city has put together on this pandemic at AustinTexas.Gov/covid19 and you can go to the two dashboards: the Digital dashboard and the staging dashboard. This is the staging one determines the stages. That's what it's called that, and then this is the general dashboard where you can see kind of the high level metrics facing this community, and again as a reminder for my constituents in Williamson County - I am also a resident of County - while the title of this is Travis County, it does include the Williamson County part of the City of Austin and the Williamson dashboard does not include the Williamson County part of the city of Austin, so they're not overlapping. Nobody's getting double-counted, but you can see the stats here. We still have a pretty dramatic disparity when it comes to the impact based on race. We have a still a large number of hospitalizations happening in the Hispanic community, much greater than the Hispanic community's percentage of our community. So there's still a lot of work to be done on getting that back in line and ensuring that this pandemic is not being - that we're not missing something when it comes to addressing the impacts of this pandemic. We wanna make sure that nobody's being left behind frankly.This is a very challenging you know. I was gonna say like it's challenging and unprecedented. I mean we just we've heard all the words. I'm out of the words! And you get into the ZIP Code Apple the ZIP Code map, not a fan of this map because this ZIP Code map is based on count. But it's not the same amount of people in every ZIP Code. The 78660, which is Pflugerville, has a huge population compared to ZIP Codes in District 6. So you know it's it's it's interesting but I'm not quite sure how valuable this map is in determining where cases are being located, cuz it's just not right. If it was the percentage of population, then maybe it would work better. But we've got to keep going. We've got to keep sticking to our stay-at-home orders. We gotta keep sticking to our mask orders. The governor has now has said local school districts can determine when they open all three school districts covering District 6. Let me take that off. All three school districts covering District 6 now, I think Leander did it as well, delaying the start of in-person classes while you know more data keeps coming in. The letter that I saw from RRISD, I was really glad to see them making that move, thanks to Superintendent Steve Flores and the whole school board, Amy Weir, Cory Vessa, who's a D6 resident. And good luck to Steve Math who has now stepped down from the board of trustees in Round Rock ISD taking his career to a new place. It's interesting, when I work with other Council members on the City Council, they generally speaking just look at AISD, but the vast majority of District 6 is Round Rock ISD And Leander ISD but for the area just around Davis Elementary, which is on Duval Road, Angus Valley Mesa Park, Balcones Woods neighborhoods. So I as it is, right, half Wilco, half Travis County, three school districts. It is not a simple set of jurisdictions when we're trying to solve problems in D6. The other thing I wanted to just give you all an update: normally in July, the Council is kind of on break and as a practical matter, what it means is, we're not doubling up on the meetings, so it gives us time to kinda play catch up on all the other work that normally needs to happen, but usually means I don't have a ton of meetings I have to go to. Well my calendar looks like a calendar in the middle of the busy season right now. Just in the last week I've had meetings on Project Connect, I've had budget, right? Cuz the city budget came out. Meeting with the Austin Youth Council, which is just really cool program where there are representatives from high schools that form kind of a City Council-style body and then try to do work for their community. We've got the newest representative from District 6, who's a student at McNeil High School. Talked to some small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce about impacts related to the pandemic. Talked to Seton. They're building the a new children's hospital in District 6 out on property near Avery Ranch Boulevard and 183. We're working on some stuff with them in terms of the community benefit. A lot of conversation of course around public safety, you know chairing the Public Safety Committee it is a pretty big- It's pretty tall order to be the Committee that is responsible to oversee what is a majority of the city budget. Once you get police, fire, EMS, code enforcement. and municipal court, you're pushing 60-70% of the city budget. So there's a lot of work to be done there. Our next Public Safety Committee meeting is on Monday, tune in on ATXN.TV For that meeting. We're gonna be digging in to the metrics around how you measure safety, specifically the police department - gonna dig into that police budget. A lot of interesting work to be done there, and have a conversation with some with a consulting firm out of New Orleans that did a preliminary analysis of 911 calls, which is gonna be a great starting point to think about how we might reimagine some of the systems we've created that respond to 911 calls, and not to have a spoiler alert, but it turns out, violent crime is not a majority of the 911 calls. There's a lot of other stuff going on in this community and we are asking police officers to do all that work. Other stuff on my calendar this week: talking to the Parks Foundation about their budget requests; talking to EMS; talk to the Transportation Department and the Anderson Mill Rd project is under way. You'll probably start seeing the equipment coming out there on Anderson Mill Rd, the project that I've been working on for quite a long time. Then yesterday on Thursday, we had all, nearly all-day special- called meetings talking about Tesla, talking about tax rate issues, and the possibility of putting a tax rate election on the ballot in November. And kudos to the media who covered that. There was a risk of confusion because this Tesla deal that you may have read about is actually a deal with Travis County and Del Valle ISD. They're not coming to the city of Austin for a tax break of any kind. In fact this factory they wanna build is not in the City of Austin. It is just outside the city limits on the other side of town from us, kinda closer to the airport area, but because of the weirdness of how state law says, who can say what, there's a couple of development rules that the city is still responsible for so we're trying to figure out what those need to be. When you're building a Factory that is many times the size of a football field, you don't really have development rules set up for that type of development. So we have to figure out how to make that move forward. And then talking about again like 911 public safety budget, there's the Spicewood Springs Hotel that some of our folks in District 6 are concerned about, you're gonna see some stuff move forward on that in the coming weeks, just a lot of a lot of great work happening. Next week, my calendar, full again heading into a public hearing on the city budget. The 23rd of July. If you wanna come and speak to the Council virtually you can sign up on the city website. AustinTexas.Gov. I think that's enough for me.
State Rep. John Bucy III
I wanna bring up my first guest, someone with whom I have worked closely and have benefited from his leadership at the State Legislature, State Representative John Bucy. Hello John! Hey Councilman. Thanks for having me, I appreciate it. Yeah. Thanks for returning to the show, you are our first returning guest on the Clawback. Any time you need me. I like to be here. Councilman Flannigan and I have been working together for many years, and it's been it's been a haul. Whether it's been building grass roots initially, going through defeats together, and building each other back up, and then now working on legislation between state and local city and our needs and collaborations. So it's been a great relationship, and I look forward to our continued success and working together. Thanks John, and happy birthday. You had a birthday recently right? Yeah I turned 36. I'm getting up there. Well in honor of that: Uh oh! [a capella] Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear John Bucy. Happy birthday to you. Yeah. I couldn't help myself. We had that on the big screen. We did a drive-in movie theater, social distanced, everyone stayed in their cars, but we had you on the big screen, Jimmy. So there were three of you on the big screen, so it's a little better but don't tell the Republicans, they'll lose their mind. Three Jimmys, Oh my gosh! There you go. Yeah, they wouldn't be able to handle it. So you're on the campaign trail. We're both on the campaign trail right now, headed to the November elections in Williamson County, we had some primary runoffs. Those are finally over. We have a slate of candidates now, so we can all get to work as a unified team and you know work up and down the ballot, which is so important to be Unified and to support our ticket and with us from top bottom. I mean you know primaries are hard. Those of you in Austin know that for sure. Primaries are a challenge. Sometimes our people don't win them. The people we wanted to win them, don't win them, but you know, I believe in the greater purpose of the Democratic Party, and so I'm happy to be on the team and move forward and work for the slate. I'm happy to be on the team with you, too, Representative. So how's your baby girl doing? She's good! Almost six months old. She's been her entire life really thinking that there's only three people in this world, because my wife and I, and my mother-in-law has been quarantined with us and helping and being a part of it. So so I think she thinks there's three of us, and then a bunch of people on Zoom meetings. I'm glad I hope everybody's healthy and safe and doing really well. She's doing really well. That's great. You know we're dealing with a lot of stuff in the city as I kinda daylighted in in my introduction, and a lot of that stuff ends up being governed by the state Legislature. But one of the things that you worked on You've led on as a Freshman Rep was Medicaid expansion, and I just saw a story that Oklahoma is now gonna expand Medicaid. What what's up with that? I don't know how the Texas Republicans let Oklahoma to beat us to Medicaid expansion. You know it's - I'm happy for their people in their state, It makes no sense to oppose Medicaid expansion. I think it's important to always remind people that whether we pass Medicaid expansion or not, you still get taxed on it. So you're still paying for it. So let's bring our tax dollars home to Texas, and take care of Texans. And as we've seen the numbers shift, the benefits are only growing, more people will be impacted, more of our tax dollars will come home. We used to talk about 1.4 million Texans and 100 billion dollars over 10 years. That number has gone up and in more recent estimates and now we'll be bringing home 110 billion dollars. That's 1.5 million Texans that could get coverage just by passing Medicaid expansion. I mean the governor can even get it done this November, if he wanted to. We could get it on the ballot. There are options available. We can make it where the people get to vote on it. That's one of the pieces of legislation I filed was where it would go to the voters. So then the Republicans don't have to own it. They can say, let's let the voters decide. And that's what Red States like OK have done is they've let the voters decide on the matter, and we see what happens when they do people vote for it. There's studies that indicate that a vast majority of Texans want Medicaid expansion. I think it was something like 65, 64-65 percent in a poll showed that Texans wanna pass Medicaid expansion. This is bipartisan. It's common sense. It's our tax dollars, and it saves lives, and here's the other kicker: If you already have health insurance, you're already taken care of, it will lower your premium. And we'll also lower your County and city bills, so it's just a win across the board. It's dumb politics that we haven't passed Medicaid expansion. It all stems from kind of a Republican political movement to be anti- President Obama. I would hope we are so many years removed from that fight now that we can get past the politics and just do what's right for the people of Texas. So it's time for the governor to act. Let's pass Medicaid expansion. Let's save Texas lives. Let's bring our tax dollars home. Let's save everybody's pocketbook Everybody would benefit Well. Thank you for your leadership on that. It is not common for a freshman representative to take point on such an important piece of legislation. I think it's a real testament to the leadership you provide in the state of Texas, not just in House District 136, which is the Williamson County portion of Austin, Cedar Park, and Leander, where you are a rock star in my opinion, but also amongst your colleagues in the House being able to take that on. How many votes was it shy. So we got 67 votes, which came down the party line. You know you need 76, so you need a majority in the House and then to you know to pass legislation. Now on an amendment like this, we were trying to do an amendment to the budget because they wouldn't even let the legislation be heard. So in Committee, I mean that's how visceral this fight has gotten - that they won't let committees even hear these types of legislation. So it's it's pretty depressing, but I tell you the the majority of the house is at stake in this election cycle. We're gonna flip the Texas House. We'll pass Medicaid expansion next session, and then you know the burden will be, will the Senators continue to ignore the health and lives of the people of Texas and to find out. That will be on the table next session. So we definitely got a big election coming up. There are six House districts that overlap my one City Council District 6! And your House District 136 is the largest of the six but also representative Talarico, who represents the other third of Williamson County and then Representatives Isreal, Goodwin, Howard, and Hinojosa, somehow through gerrymandering, represent - I have six House Representatives for My one Council District. And three of us are freshmen that really have to work hard to defend our seats. You know that first defense is your most vulnerable time right now, so we gotta be working, Goodwin, Talarico, and myself. Well, thank you so much for joining the show today. If folks wanna help you or other House members who are trying to do right by this community, if you wanna help them get reelected, what do you suggest? Well, you obviously can go to BucyforTexas.com and donate. We're gonna need volunteers, and that's gonna mean a lot of phone calls this time. I mean we're gonna be COVID safe so we're gonna be making phone calls, and we've got to connect with our neighbors, still. We don't get to take campaigns off because of the pandemic we just have to do it differently. So so if you go to our website, you can sign up to be a volunteer. You can sign up to make sure you have a yard sign. Lots of people are taking healthy walks in their communities, so yard signs might make a bigger impact than they usually do, so we hope to get those out to your yard, and we'll need you to sign up to be volunteer phone callers for us. It's gonna be important. Alright. Well, you heard it from the Representative, everybody get involved and sign up to volunteer. Representative Bucy, thank you so much for being our first returning guest on the Clawback LIVE. Councilman, Thank you so much; any time. I appreciate it. Alright. Buh bye. There we go, got that better. Yeah so Representative Bucy and I, well we both ran back in 2014 and came up short in our elections then, and but we did not give up on this community. And now I serve representing far North-West Austin on the Council and John serves representing far North Northwest in Cedar Park, Leander, in the Texas House, and he's been such a great partner. Not just doing good work for the state, but also for the city of Austin, having brought two different bills to the House on our behalf. One that would have allowed us to bring, create senior discounts or veteran discounts on the drainage fee, which is a fee you see on your utility bills, and another that would have would have undone an old exemption that lets developers not pay for the cost of infrastructure in the area around Lakeland Mall. It's common wisdom that in the House, you gotta bring a bill more than once, so none of those bills moved to the finish line, although our drainage fee bill made it all the way to calendars, which I thought was great and definitely thanks to Representative Bucy for being a great partner.
Leslie Sisson with Moving Panoramas
I wanna bring up our musical guest. This is Super exciting. We've been bringing on musical guests. Last week, we had Monsoon Dance Company; this week We are returning to our roots, bringing on a local musician. I wanna welcome Leslie Sisson with Moving Panoramas. Hi Leslie! Hi Jimmy, How are you? I am doing - Well? You know I don't know? How do we answer that question anymore? I don't know: Long answers cuz there's more time? Oh not for you but for me. Yeah, for us, I've talked to other council Members about this. For us, we're busier. Yeah. We're somehow busier. I don't have to sit in traffic two hours a day like I used to driving from Williamson County to City Hall, but I somehow now have more than two hours of additional meetings than I otherwise had. Yeah, it's crazy. What about you? What - What has your life been as a working musician during this pandemic? Well, it's not working. It's been quiet. I you know, I don't do a lot of live streams, and I don't, I mean I'm home alone most of the time, and my band you know we keep in touch and we talk about things that we might do. We did one live stream together in the very beginning of all this and then I've done a few solo things and yeah, I just haven't felt the time. I have actually been busy more than I normally am but with different elements of my life I'm focusing on at the moment, but I mean it's not so bad. I'm healthy, and I'm safe and I'm just trying to figure out what now, you know? So that's where a lot of folks are, certainly as I've worked with many folks in the arts and music industries in the local area. It's a lot of how do we how do we move forward? Tell me more about Moving Panoramas? You've got a whole band that you front for. It's hard to bring a whole band onto a show in this way, so I'm I'm glad to have you here but I Wanna hear more about your band. We originally started off as a three-piece and now we're a five-piece, and you know it's dreamy rock, it's melodic, and loud. But also sensitive and quiet sometimes. It's my outlet. I never expected it to get as much response as it's gotten, but it's it's been my heart for the past five years, and this town has done a lot for us. We've toured nationally and internationally if you count Canada. We've done all the things that bands do. I was realizing before the pandemic hit that things were starting to change in the music world anyways for bands and at my level. Touring just wasn't a wise option anymore, and how we reach people if we don't tour, and we were getting like massive radio play nationally and internationally, but I mean we just didn't wanna take the band on the road, because it costs a lot of money, and probably didn't return much either. Hey, one of the editors of the Austin Chronicle told me: Austin is Oasis, is the oasis for music! So why would you wanna leave the island? If you build it, they will come, and it's true people have come here to see us if we can't make it to them, you know, so it's - we're just kinda making do cuz the music industry was changing before all this, and now this is forcing a lot of change that probably didn't need to happen. But I don't know, it's it's great. I love my band, and I'm still writing music, and we're talking about doing new things. So you know, we aren't... We're just taking a long nap! Yeah, when you said that you toured, you toured with the city into Asia recently, isn't that right? Were you doing that solo? Did you tour with your band? Tell me about this tour? Well, this was project ATX6, which is kind of an ambassador program for Austin Musicians, and each year they select six musicians to collaborate and play each other's music and travel internationally to kind of spread the word of Austin music. It's a wonderful program. I was a part of it this year. And we were in Thailand and Japan right when this pandemic started, and when we left the States, we were like, should we get masks? So there were like a few cases in Thailand or Japan, but that was it. We were there for a small chunk of time and then, by the time we came back, it was it had already spread, and it was already here. So you know we were masks, and we did all the things that people were doing here, and it was wonderful. The experience was beautiful, and I mean, to play a music festival in Thailand. I never thought I'd put that one on the books. Yeah, but it got cut short because we were supposed to be in England in May, and of course we weren't, because of the pandemic and that's okay, you know. I mean, that's the one thing about all this for me is that it's okay, because you know there's always a place for music elsewhere in my life and other people's lives and people are figuring it out. So but yeah, I mean we were you know I came back and I wasn't feeling too well and I know a few people in my group were sick, but there weren't tests at that time, and I don't know if it was COVID, but we were definitely on planes that shared people with China, and you know that was where it was really thick at the time. So we were lucky. I think if I'd known what was gonna happen going into it, I may've reconsidered but I don't know. It's one of those things where you know if we had an even minimally functional federal government, there might have been more protections in place and more preparation. Oh my gosh, I know. Unfortunately we do not have a minimally functional federal government. My staff is reminding me, before I get letters from my constituents. ATX6 Tour: it was a nonprofit entity that put that program together. Yes. It's not, you're not paying your property taxes to send musicians to Thailand. No! Everybody calm down. It's all private owners. Yeah. It's a private donors, and we raise money too. So yeah, and we don't get paid, which it's like, it's just for the experience. We do so much work with the music community here in Austin, it's it's you know it's important that we're bringing in partners to do that work and the city does some of it too, primarily funded through hotel tax and through other corporate partners through Visit Austin and - all good stuff. I keep thinking I'm gonna do a 30-minute show but I never do a 30- minute show anymore. You've got a song prepared for us? You're gonna share some of your music with us? Yes here goes Hazey. All right, Hazey! Put the dog down; pick up Conway! Conway? Conway is the name of this guitar, because it used to belong to Conway Twitty, True story. Wow. That's crazy. It was my dad's, and it was probably in my house most of my life. He got it in the 80s from Conway Twitty's bus driver who needed 500 bucks when their bus broke down, Conway and the crew flew to the next show and the bus driver took the bus to this business next to my dad's business to work on the bus and he needed 500 bucks cash to fly to the next show. My dad gave him 500 bucks and held the guitar for him and he said, Well, this is Conway's guitar! But it doesn't even have an electric input in it or anything. So who knows how many songs were written on it? And my dad was invited by the tour manager to go on a cruise with Conway, and he was like, Oh, should I bring the guitar? And he was like, nah you keep it! Wow! So it's a 1950's Gibson anyway. That's a long story that I made short but usually I make my own stories long. So I'm gonna do a song called Dance Floor. I'm editing iy a little bit for time, for the sake of time because you know I know I think we all wanna kinda be on the dance floor right now. And it's also about you know living your dreams. Not being afraid to do things that you're afraid of. Dancing is a metaphor for living. So I know we can all use a little bit of living right now. So yeah, this is a Moving Panoramas so song that I wrote called Dance Floor. [guitar] Stepping off the stage, Putting gear away, Don't make eyes with the Guys trying to make it cross your way. Can I have this dance? No thanks I can't Don't be afraid, Allow me to show you the way. What are you waiting for? Now's your time To get on the dance floor, Move your feet from the back door Don't be scared of the dance floor! Holding up the bar, Leaning on the pole Turn around when they try To turn you on so bold, It's ok if you can't I used to could not to We all started somewhere Now it's time for you start too What are you waiting for? Now's the time To get on the dance floor! Don't you fret about your feet no more. Take my hand to the Dance floor! Dance floor! Dance floor! Da-hance floor! That was awesome, It's usually louder with the other people, but we'll get back to that someday. Yes, we will! Yes we will! Leslie, Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your music with me and with District 6 in the city of Austin, and be safe and stay healthy as as we as we work through this as a community. Thank you so much You too. Thank you, Jimmy. Better off of there. Another great musical guest for the Clawback! Thanks again to my amazing team who helps pull these guests together, especially our musical guests, and gets them set up with the right audio equipment and makes the audio sound better. I hope you all have noticed as you've watched the episodes that we've really been trying to step up our game, and Leslie was another great example of that.
Mike Clark-Madison, Austin Chronicle
Alright, let's move right into our final guest. I don't even know how to introduce this guy. He's either the secret controller of information in our city, or he's the guy who you might disagree with when you see his name in print, the amazing editor at the Austin Chronicle, Mike Clark-Madison. Hi Mike. Hey Jimmy. How are you doing? Can you hear me? I am here? Yes, I am somehow still here. How are you Mike? I mean first off, what is it been like at the Chronicle during these last four months? I know there was a case that had hit one of the staff of the Chronicle, but what's it like just being media right now? Well, it's intense. I mean we, as you said, the Chronicle for me- remember the timing of this: The primary was March 2nd, and then the day that I was cancelled was March 5th. Then by the end of March, we had a diagnosed case from one of my coworkers, and so we had our building shut down and so we you know pretty much in a hurry had to figure out how to put the paper out remotely. In the beginning, we were Only doing it electronically. We've gone back to print. We're doing a weekly print issue and people are really engaged right now. We're getting lots of pickup of the print issues. Lots of people are following us online. You know just because we have news, and it's not just you know cuz we don't have all- just, sort of the Health Department News from COVID like you had opened the show with. We do a lot of coverage of how it's been affected. Obviously, the food scene, the music scene, the film scene and as well as the political things How we were moving to recovery and how we are now not moving toward recovery is for a while, but yeah, I mean people have wanted to know all of this. We've always had- even as our advertisers were struggling, our circulation was great. so yeah we were trying to like balance that, and we have a you know a fairly small paper and we're working you know completely remotely. Our office is back open, but we're not there every week. All of that together has been really intense, but it's been good. It's been good and intense. Yeah, and I think you know the Chronicle for many years has done some of the best long-form journalism on City Hall. You know, you might get a two -minute spot on KXAN, but if you really wanna know what's going on, you almost have to pick up the Chronicle. It's not that easy for my district, so much. It's always a challenge to try and cover the far edges, but I know the online edition is always really valuable and a lot of my folks still read. But you know, The last four months is not your whole experience covering local news in the city. I mean, you- I don't wanna be indelicate, Mike, but you've been around. I started covering, yes, I started covering City Hall in 1990 and I was at the Chronicle from 1990 to 2005. I actually was at the Business Journal for a while before the Chronicle, but then in 2005, I left the industry, did some consulting that I thought would be a few years turned into a dozen, and then I came back to the Chronicle in 2018 as the gray beard - sorta gray. I got it here. Yeah, I see. So yeah, I've I've seen some stuff. I know people. So yeah and I've been able to you know, try to at least bring some of that institutional memory to covering what we're dealing with now, and realizing the ways in which some of this is very- some of what we're seeing in the reaction, in response to COVID, the impacts on the economy, the questions about policing, public safety. What we're looking at with this budget. Some of this reflects like enduring Austin political issues. It takes 30 years to really resolve some of these. And some of it is a paradigm shift that is really recent, immediate, as with, and particularly on the police reform issues. I mean that is what in Austin political terms is like an overnight change between what was the norm and what is now, yes, I keep writing it and in my column, they're exactly zero members of the City Council who are in line with kind of what had been standard 'public safety is the most important thing council does, so it should get the most money' and you know there's really no amount of money that's too much to spend on it. And now it's completely different. So. I think you know part of that is not assuming that heavily armed officers is the only way to spend public safety dollars, right? Sure. As a community, as we go through this work, we're still gonna spend a lot of money on safety - arguably more than we spend now. Oh yeah. Once we do better at targeting the resources to the needs. And realizing that there are more things that are public safety, like you have mentioned when we're talking about PSC and your scope, you know: Code enforcement that was not considered a public safety function really back in the day. The way we do code enforcement now in the Austin Code Department, I mean that is more intentional than it ever used to be. Public-facing, trying to actually engage with citizens and realizing that some of the things that people call 911 for, are actually things that could be handled by code enforcement or mental health- Mental health is kind of it's own glaring need that we've known about for a while. Like I tell people, it's you know if we had better code enforcement, better handling of people who are intoxicated, and we do have Sobering Center now which is great- better road design so that we didn't have as many traffic fatalities, and better handling of - and as this of course is a bigger problem - better handling of family violence, then we really would not need- it would be very clear that we do not need to spend $440 million a year on policing. And when people have reacted badly at first, people, you know probably like many in District 6 to the concept of defending the police, or were just stunned by it I don't think they react badly, they just didn't they were shocked. They didn't know again the more that you talk to people about how much money this is, relative to the budget, the general fund budget as you're saying, then they start to say, 'well, yeah, what is that all being spent on? And and what is it for? I mean, no I don't have much fear of violent crime in my neighborhood, and I don't often interact with the police. So you can start to have that conversation. It takes longer and is more systemic and needs to be more systemic than just saying let's cut a hundred million dollars because their passions in the moment make it politically possible to do so. But I think that the commitment, that at the end I would say, this is obviously more for you to answer but, in the next couple of years, you know by end of the fiscal '21 or '22, we will have done this, and that's- I mean part of me is, this is something that I remember writing about in the 90s, about how much we spend on policing. Like when the first contract was signed with the APA in 1999, at which point they became the highest paid police officers in a metro area in Texas, and we had reasons for doing that, and we thought that it would be important to do that, to create a more stable and more professionalized Police force. And in return for that, we got the beginnings of oversight with the police, but even back at the time when we were going through the Dot Com bust, various instabilities in the economy and cut backs all over the city. Taking that hard look at police at police spending and saying is this really something that we should be spending? 40% of our budget on you know, what's very politically unpopular and nobody really wanted to do it. And now, everybody wants to do it. Well that it all comes down to being able to answer the question about who shows up when you call 911. Yeah. As I've made it clear to folks, as I've also made it clear to officers, no one is saying that a call goes unanswered. The problem is we built one ginormous department to respond to all the calls and you just, you know, it's- I've got my hammer logo up here almost as a sign, right? Every problem is a nail, so we built a bigger hammer. Well that's just not realistic as you know when we're on the cusp of being the 10th largest city in America. Mmm hmmm. The last thing I wanna ask you about Mike, since you've covered this area for a long time: We are contemplating putting a transportation item on the ballot this November, that is, itself, unprecedented in scale. And this isn't the first crack at doing significant public transportation in this community. I'm really curious about your thoughts on where we are with that, and how it relates to the past. And this is another thing where I think you're seeing a fairly - not as rapid as with policing, but a paradigm shift in the way that Austinites are thinking about that and you know, kind of pushed along by the way that Austin has grown and changed and the way that you know like your political community's development in District 6. You know, back in 2000 when Cap Metro first put a rail plan on the ballot, I don't think anyone in District 6 was particularly into it, but now you can see that yes, transit alternatives would be important to all parts of the city. And the fact that we missed that opportunity in 2000, by less than 2000 votes. On Election Day 2000, the same Bush-Gore Election day, it was one of the most surreal days of my life. We would have had rail, and Central Austin and we would already be like in Phase 3 of expanding a rail system. So now that we have to do it, we have to buy two or three generations worth of development all at once, but I think people understand that, yes, that's better to do that, than to kind of do half of that. Start from the premise that it's, again, it's going to be unpopular to spend money on transit, so we have to be -do as little of it as possible and always balance it off with road spending- within the city as opposed to regional, for political purposes. That's what you know, the polls were telling people is that they would only do so much for transit. I think that's changed because people realize that what they want is results; they want something that's actually gonna be effective. They don't, you know want something that does to little. That's the old mantra for defeating rail in 2000-2014 from our friend Gerald Daugherty, who's now, you know an elder statesman. Cost too much, does too little. And he was kind of right about it in the sense that it wasn't as ambitious as Austin needed even at the time, and after 20 years of constant growth ever worsening traffic. A greater awareness of the impact of that traffic, not just on you know, stress and stuff, but you know physical actual health impact and the environmental damage and the climate emergency, people are getting on board with this. So I think that's where we are, and being able to come in and position it in a way that- also, there's another part of that was that Capital Metro was not the city and was sort of a for all of the reasons Capital Metro didn't have as much political support as it needed to to be competent all the time at what it was delivering, and so it ended up having a fairly bad reputation for a long time, that it has now been able, I think under Randy, to move past, I mean there have been past CEOs who we have moved past that reputation periods of Capital Metro. But I think this time, it's really stuck. And the part of it is because they've got a really good partnership with the city and with other entities in the region, and what we're looking at doing here is kind of, it's more like what we did when we created Central Health and then expanded it to do the medical school or you know or expanded ACC to cover a much larger area, so it's tax rate - So you're looking at a tax rate for Project Connect that's gonna be about equivalent to those two, which is something that you know people are willing to pay for something that they know the community needs. And so I think that it's- the pandemic is confounding all of this of course. And I don't know what an Election is really going to be like under the circumstances on this issue. But absent that, you could finally see that yes, after 30 years of trying to do this, we finally kind of figured out how to do it in a mature way that actually solves the problems that we have and that everybody can buy into. So I think it will be a shame to not happen. I'll add another another common phrase to the the opposition campaign back in 2000: "If we don't build it, they won't come." That very much has been proven false: proven false. Yes, yes and District 6 probably more than any other part of town knows knows that you can't just build more roads and expect your traffic to improve. I moved out to D6 before it was District 6. You know, you talk about 2000, right, there are whole neighborhoods in my district that did not exist back then. Of course. And I moved out before 183 turned into a highway, lived through all of that road construction, and traffic is worse now than it was then. So when you expand the highway, right, What do you? You make you make it possible to build more homes in Cedar Park, Leander, in Liberty Hill. You're not actually helping the folks that live along that newly expanded highway. I have some similar issues with I-35, but when you talk about transit, that's a very different game. Now you're talking about benefiting the community that is around that investment. And with District 6, at least, we're the one part of town that has a train. We have a train now. And that train is full -right- by the time it leaves District 6 - pre-pandemic when everyone was going to work. Every day. Yes. Full. Every day full, and you know it's not the world's greatest train. The route is circuitous because we were doing it on the cheap under a freight line and you know there hasn't been development at the stations, and- There's all the stuff that would make it better, but even even that train, full. Imagine how many people will benefit from a well-planned, right through the heart of the city, Train to the airport?! You mean, I can take a train to the airport? I'm excited about it, and you know if the Council were unilaterally raising taxes to that scale, I don't know that I could go there. But the opportunity to lay out the right plan and make the case to the voters is something I'm very excited about for this November. And there's gonna be a lot more work coming on that as we get into our budget adoption and our ballot adoption and contract with the voters, and we got just a couple of weeks left to get that done, Yeah, it's gonna be it's gonna be pretty action- packed and then there'll be a Council election. Yeah, I get to share the ballot with the items, so that that'll be fun, too. Yeah. It'll be fun too. Well, Mike, thank you so much for joining the show today. You know, the Chronicle's doing great work, doing great coverage. The reporters that work in your in your area, they really do a good job giving the nuances and all the challenges that we face trying to do the right thing at City Hall. And love your column; on point, man. Your column is on point. Thanks so much, Mike. I appreciate appreciate the opportunity. Thanks, Jimmy. All right. Thanks. Yeah, you know they do some great reporting. They really do, and as you know if the issues we were addressing were easy, you wouldn't need a City Council, but these issues are hard. I really would love to have him back on and talk about the history of homelessness in this community, because that's another issue that didn't come out of nowhere in the last year. Something that councils have been wrestling with, and I would argue, failing to address for many many many years. And we'll see. We're gonna take up parts of that in the Public Safety Committee, as well. Because there are public safety elements to that situation. All the things, right? That's what it comes down to for the City Council; everyone expects us to solve all the problems and dammit, we're gonna do our best. That's all we've got for the show today. This might be my longest show ever, sorry for everybody, or you're welcome! Either way, depending on how you look at it. I hope everybody stays safe out there, please stay home. Please keep wearing your masks. You know order, have food delivered from local restaurants, everything that we can do to keep this community safe. We will get through this pandemic together, but only if we're taking care of each other. So, Stay stay safe and stay home.
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