About 60 neighborhood activists from throughout North Austin gathered for a Town Hall meeting January 28 to discuss political priorities for the new City Council Districts 4 and 7.
Mary Rudig, editor of the North Austin Community Newsletter, organized the event.
“Don’t Imagine Austin, Imagine Solutions,” Rudig said in introducing the agenda. She then described North Austin as a place of great strengths and diversity, but also of challenges and risks that City government had been neglecting for too long.
Rudig said that districts 7 and 4 were siblings, sharing many of the same challenges thanks to a common street network and similar style of early suburban development. The districts also have the highest density of children and seniors in the city, she said.
Rudig, who has been collecting feedback on community issues over the last few months, shared an initial list of priorities for the two districts:
- Vehicle congestion, with both the highways and neighborhood streets at risk of failure in the coming years
- Hostile conditions for pedestrians and transit users on the big commercial streets – Burnet, Lamar, Airport – all of which need upgrades
- Crime, with District 4 suffering greatly, and District 7 on the edge
- Gaps in the region’s infrastructure – storm drains, erosion and flooding
- Age segregation, with new infill housing designed to exclude children
- North Austin’s public space desert, with few parks in support of the many growth zones between Walnut Creek and 45th.
- Restore Rundberg – a program to reduce crime, revitalize businesses, and raise quality of life in the blighted Rundberg area.
Mary Jo Hernandez from Heritage Hills then walked through the top 4 objectives of the Restore Rundberg program:
- Revitalize four key properties in the Rundberg area
- Establish a community center and health clinic, with the needs of the elderly a particular priority
- Enhance affordable after-school programs for children 10 and older, and vocational training for adults and teens
- Achieve accountability for enforcement of housing and property code violations
Following the presentation, Rudig went around the room, asking the other gathered leaders to share their own priorities, or to comment on those identified. Feedback included the need to define a 5-year strategic plan for the City, outreach to business leaders, especially near North Burnet Gateway, additional transit improvements to reduce congestion, tax-increment financing to pay for local improvements as growth occurs, targeted recruitment of non-IT businesses to North Austin, more police, more parks and trails, and engagement in the process of re-inventing the City’s volunteer boards and commissions to accommodate 10-1 redistricting.
Rudig told attendees that more action would be required over the coming year to bring attention to these and other priorities. District 4 leaders will be meeting again on February 17th at Showplace Lanes, 9504 N IH-35, at 7 PM. An online survey of community priorities is online at www.lovenorthaustin.com, and an overlapping survey is at a new site covering the District 7 election, www.austindistrict7.org
Rudig also stressed the need to register voters, especially in District 4.
Finally, the group will be promoting candidate forums to be held in September.