Has a foreign government infiltrated the CodeNEXT process?
Well, no one’s saying that. But in his annual State of the City address on Tuesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the "alleged Russian infiltration" on our nation’s politics has inflamed divisions across the country – and highlighted rifts at the local level, as well.
CodeNEXT, the city’s rewrite of its land development code, is certainly one example.
“The recent indictments of Russians for influencing our political life have given focus to a gnawing realization that our political discourse – simply the way we talk about our future as a city, as a state and as a country – has apparently been intentionally poisoned,” Adler told the audience at City Hall.
“Hyperbole in our national discourse is making enemies of those that merely have differences of opinion," he said. "We can’t let that happen here in Austin. We’re not going to plan successfully for the future unless we fix our present. We need everyone pulling together to be our best selves.”
City staff released the final draft of CodeNEXT last week. Council members could vote on it as early as April.
"I am encouraged that the most recent staff recommendation for CodeNEXT is closer to the 'Austin Bargain' of preserving and respecting neighborhood identity and quality of life and focusing our housing supply growth on our major corridors," he said. "I still want to see more in the way of achieving affordability in housing."
The mayor spent most of his hour-long speech naming the challenges that have long been on the minds of Austin residents: traffic, affordability, racial inequity. He highlighted the work City Council members have done on these issues over the past year, including the creation of an Anti-Displacement Task Force and a pilot program to address downtown homelessness, and using mobility bond funds approved by voters in 2016.
While a good number of accomplishments Adler mentioned were directives the city passed to study issues –including commissioning University of Texas researchers to study a potential expansion of the convention center – he closed his speech by calling for action.
“This is a moment that must be seized through hard work and bold decisions, with an eye on the future as we lay the foundation for lasting, and more equitable, prosperity for decades to come,” Adler said.
The speech could be his last State of the City; Adler faces re-election in November.