3 Things We’re Paying Attention To

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“Make informed decisions. Not Influenced ones” – Sneha Acharekar

# 1: Decisions, Decisions

The beginning of the month can feel like a new start. After the May 1st election this past weekend, Austin is primed for a fresh start. A few contentious propositions were on the ballot, and a few flew under the radar, but we would be remiss to not be reflective. So the first thing we are paying attention to is our continued responsibility to make informed decisions.

As we navigate a world where social equity is at the forefront of our policy decisions, no matter how you cast your ballot this past weekend or if you decided to skip the election altogether, we always have a responsibility to be informed. 

There are a lot of things to say about this subject, but a few things come to mind about our news sources: 

  • Avoid sharing information that you have not read. Always relevant and always accurate. If you don’t have time to read it, you don’t have time to share it. 
  • Making assumptions about any group of people (or listening to people who do). Our attitude and approach to any group of people matters. Sometimes it means making a concerted effort to talk with people from that group. That is the only place where common ground is found. 
  • Articles with name-calling. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, you know the rest. It’s easy to forget what name-calling looks like when you agree with an article, news pundit, but we have to be vigilant. There are still sources that you can trust that do not engage in name-calling.    

You might be thinking, “Thanks for the pep talk, but is there a solution? Not a perfect one, but sometimes when I wonder if I am reading an overtly biased opinion, I go and check out Allsides.com to see other articles on the subject. 

Their tagline, “Don’t be fooled by media bias and fake news: Unbiased news does not exist; we provide balanced news and civil discourse.” and I am not sure if I agree with this 100%, but it’s a good reminder to check the bias of things that we’re reading. We can’t possibly agree on everything, but what we feed our brains impacts our worldview. Our responsibility is to check biases at the door and make a little effort to hear all sides and be informed. 

The City Council is always full of essential items, but we wanted to note a couple of things during the upcoming work session and voting session, May 4th & May 6th respectively. (Don’t forget we keep up-to-date agendas, streaming links, and other important information for City Council and Travis Commissioner’s Court: here)

#2 Police Academy Restart and the Prop C Follow-Up

This week the City Council will be voting on the final step that reinitiates the Police Academy cadet classes. There has been a lot of work by the Office of Police Oversight (OPO), community members, the Austin Police Department (APD), and the hired consultants Kroll Associates to reform and create change in the Austin Police Academy. You can see how the Kroll Associates have tracked progress and implementation in section 8 of Kroll’s report. This work along with an emphasis on collaboration between OPO and APD will be top of mind for Council as they decide the fate of the next cadet class.

After City Council determines if the cadet class will start, they will have to take next steps on where the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) will now sit. The passing of Prop C on May 1st moves OPO from under the City Manager to the City Council which has the potential to allow for better accountability for the office. City Council will have to determine whether OPO will report directly to them or create an independent governing body. Quoted in The Austin Monitor, the President of the Austin Police Union sees City Council as the more viable option between the two.  

The actions that the City decides to take regarding the cadet class and the OPO are essential for a city that voted to reimagine the Police last year. Stay tuned, we will be!

#3: One Step Closer: The Dougherty Arts Center

Access to affordable performing arts space and seeing public art has never been more critical.  Art spaces continue to close due to the rising property costs of Austin and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dougherty Center is inching one step closer to construction. This project is a long time coming (over ten years).  I am no Austin old-timer by any means, but I have enjoyed the energy every time I attended an event pre-covid. Creating spaces for people to participate with art, having creative conversations while making these spaces accessible is key to maintaining a vibrant community such as Austin. Art should be accessible for all.

We’re paying attention, because there are a few design options (and the narratives), 4 to be exact, that have been considered. Option 1A and 1B are the options really in contention. The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is proposing Option 1B. The Parks and Recreation Board (a volunteer board) initially recommended Option 1B on February 23rd to align with PARD; however, on March 23, 2021 – the Parks and Recreation Board voted to rescind the recommendation and approved Option 1A with direction to investigate underground parking under the facility.  

The action by the Board is not necessarily an indication of what the City Council will do, but we’re looking forward to seeing how the Council members move forward… as long as they move forward. There are some arguments to Option 1A, but we agree with Commissioner Aan Coleman that “There’s not a bad site plan here,”. Check out the linked article for more information.

That’s all for now, but with less than 30 days before the Texas Legislature reaches sine die (the end of session), our next edition of 3 things we were paying to will surely be a #lege special! 

Until Next Time, 

Fran