Austin City Council
1:13 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Live Blog: Mayor Leffingwell's 2013 State of the City Address

That's a Wrap: That does it for Mayor Leffingwell's remarks. At the bottom of this post, you can view a video of the mayor's remarks. And keep reading below for a recap of the mayor's speech. 

Wages for Construction Workers: Speaking about city economic incentives, Leffingwell says he does not support a hard wage floor for construction workers on projects receiving city benefits. "I don’t think we ought to change our economic incentive policy to make it an entry-level position," he says. Instead, he says a living wage floor should count as an additional credit to businesses applying for incentives. He also floats the idea of paying a wage difference with public funds.

Q&A Time: That's it for Leffingwell's speech. We're now moving on to questions from the audience. First question from the RECA audience: What can be done to further visiting conventions? Leffingwell argues that "Austin needs international non-stop flights," and cites work being done to link ABIA with a major European air hub. 

Vote on Urban Rail 'Before I Leave Office': "To address traffic congestion we must invest in a robust and truly multi-modal transportation system," Leffingwell says. Saying Austin "needs to step up" on rail, he Leffingwell has set "a goal for a public vote on urban rail before I leave office."  

Defending Formula 1: "Never have so many been so upset and what turned out to be so little," Leffingwell says of the Formula 1 fracas. While he says some would still prefer "Fun Fun Fun Fest to be Done Done Done Fest," he defends Austin's growth in tourism in general. 

Call for a Medical 'Innovation District:' Leffingwell now applauds the creation of an Austin medical school, with a nod to Sen. Kirk Watson. "I think we need to look closely and carefully to transform an area in the northeast part of downtown Austin -- near the future medical school, near the UT campus, near the Capitol complex, and near the revitalized Waller Creek -- into a new innovation district for this industry," Leffingwell says.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Trumpeting an unemployment rate of five percent, Leffingwell lauds Austin's job creation: "the largest MSA with the lowest unemployment rate." Moving from familiar successes like Dell and Sematech to newer industries, Leffingwell says venture capitalists have invested $1.2 billion in local initiatives over the past two years. 

'A golden era:' Austin native Leffingwell says there's only two constants in the city: "Change, and people complaining about change." That said, Leffingwell says Austin is currently the strongest it's ever been in its history, marking "a golden era" -- yet "in order for Austin to stay the same, Austin has to change."

That change applies to Austin's changing population, he says -- a growing elderly demographic, and Austin's emergence as a majority-minority city. 

'A few humble observations:' "More and more, every year, this city is the subject of unbridled enthusiasm" from the rest of the country, Leffingwell says. And moreover, he says, Austin's popularity has little to do with the work of the present crowd, owing to the city's weather, university and seat of state of government. "We've grown so fast," Leffingwell notes, Austin is exhausting the 512 area code

Still, Leffingwell says Austin's continued growth owes somewhat to city policies making it "well positioned" for the future.

Introductions: Leffingwell begins his speech with the usual acknowledgements of family, friends and staff, including his fellow council members. "It's a pleasure working with each one of you, almost all the time," he says.

Getting Underway: RECA President Nikelle Meade is getting things started after a brief technical snafu. Also in the house: Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Rep. Mark Strama, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, and Austin City Council members Mike Martinez, Laura Morrison and Bill Spelman. And Sen. Kirk Watson is apparently en route. 

A Change of Scenery: In contrast to recent years, today’s speech is happening at a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon at the Four Seasons. SOTC speeches had occurred at RECA functions for years until they were held in council chambers the past few years. With a recent hubbub over lobbyists at City Hall, a surprising choice?  

Original Post: Akin to the Texas Governor’s State of the State address, the mayor’s speech is traditionally a rosy affair, full of references to the city’s economic and civic achievements. But Mayor Leffingwell has also used the occasion to champion big initiatives, like a push urban rail or single-member districts.

Speaking of which: Today’s speech shouldn’t be Leffingwell’s last State of the City assessment. But it is the first to pass since Austin voters approved a 10 district single-member plan for future elections (over a competing plan the mayor endorsed) – and Leffingwell isn’t expected to seek office again under Austin’s first single-member district election in 2014.