AURA Response to the Project Connect Vision Plan

AURA, a grassroots organization that believes in an Austin for Everyone, got our start doing transit advocacy. In 2014, we worked to improve the previous Project Connect plan. Unfortunately, our data-driven input wasn’t accepted, which led us to oppose the overall 2014 bond because it would unsustainably increase the per-rider cost and would lead to an overall reduction in ridership. We’ve hoped that this round of Project Connect goes better, and so far it is. We appreciate the data and analysis that went into the corridor selection, that there has been more transparency in general, and particularly that the Orange Line seems like it could be a transformative high-capacity transit line. Our approach to Project Connect this go-around is to call for strong corridor selection, careful selection of mode, and a focus on more sustainable future for Capital Metro by limiting unproductive and inequitable expenses while increasing the transit agency’s income. A key way to do this is by focusing on reducing the per-rider cost for new investments, which frees up funds to accommodate more riders. A focus on a high-quality transit network for Capital Metro will increase equity, focus the fight on climate change, and improve the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Continue reading

AURA Statement on Police Oversight, Transit Justice, and Vision Zero

AURA believes in an Austin for Everyone, and one of the main ways our city can do that is by finally desegregating our neighborhoods. That will mean that everyone can afford to live in the neighborhood they want to live in, and that the place is designed so that they can. A big part of a place being “your” neighborhood is that it feels like home. That’s why we’re in favor of implementing an Office of Police Oversight in Austin as quickly as possible. The Office should ensure that information about critical incidents or policy violations be released to the public so that public confidence in the police and police safety can be improved.  Continue reading

AURA supports dockless vehicles

AURA has joined with Bike Austin, CNU Central Texas, Environment Texas, Vision Zero ATX, Walk Austin, and TexPIRG to send the following letter to the Austin City Council urging the city to increase protected bike/scooter lanes to meet the high demand, and decrease conflicts between street users:   Continue reading

AURA endorses in 2018 elections

AURA has completed endorsements for Austin Mayoral candidates, City Council candidates, and ballot propositions. Endorsement is determined by AURA member vote. We held two candidate forums in May and August and asked candidates to fill out a questionnaire—responses available here. For Mayor and City Council, AURA's members endorse: Continue reading

AURA applauds CapMetro's Bus Enhancement Plan

AURA is pleased with the CapMetro’s announcement of a renewed focus on the user experience of the bus system. The staff presentation at the June 25, 2018 CapMetro board meeting mentioned an array of improvements, including stop upgrades, schedule optimization, and service reliability. We are especially excited for shelters that actually shelter: shade screens at bus stops are essential in a Texas summer. (Or a Texas Fall, or a Texas Spring, for that matter.) But, after years of a focus on suburban and “choice riders” it is refreshing to see commitment to the city’s humblest, most important transit mode. Continue reading

AURA Hails Start to Dockless Pilot, Calls for Enhancements

Austin began its pilot program allowing dockless bikes and scooters in May, 2018. Despite the limits placed on deployment during this period, the pilot has powerfully demonstrated the potential of tiny vehicles to give Austinites greater mobility, augment the reach of the Capital Metro transit system by solving “last mile” problems, and take a giant leap toward achieving Austin’s Big Jump goals. If Austin is to be as innovative, progressive, and forward-thinking as our reputation and own self-image, we must “go big” on this innovative new low-carbon, low-cost, zero-pollution mobility option. There are two major fixes to the pilot program necessary for it to achieve its full potential as a learning tool: Continue reading

AURA Condemns Ken Paxton's Lawsuit Against Austin Planning Commissioners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 5, 2018 Austin, Texas — AURA released the following statement today about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recently-filed lawsuit against eight individual volunteer members of Austin’s Planning Commission: AURA is appalled that Fred Lewis and Austin’s anti-housing groups have succeeded in enlisting Attorney General Ken Paxton to target Austin’s all-volunteer Planning Commission. The slap in the face to hundreds of hours of work by dedicated volunteers is intolerable. Continue reading

The Case For CodeNEXT’s Elimination of Conditional Overlays

We strongly support CodeNEXT’s proposed elimination of “conditional overlays,” commonly called COs, as a tool for future rezones. As explained below, COs greatly complicate the City of Austin’s zoning process, significantly increase costs, and require extensive lot-by-lot rezonings that detract from the City Council’s ability to focus on broader land use planning decisions appropriate for a legislative body. They are a vestige of a highly transactional zoning culture that keeps Austin from pursuing its larger vision and goals. Continue reading

Broad Base of Community Organizations Announce Support for $300 Million Housing Bond

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 8, 2018 Austin, Texas — In response to Austin’s housing crisis, fourteen local community organizations announced today their support of a $300 million housing bond for the City of Austin this fall. The endorsing organizations include the following: AURA Austin Democratic Socialists of America Austin Justice Coalition ADAPT of Texas Austin Cooperative Business Association Austin Tenants Council Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association Family Eldercare Friends of Austin Neighborhoods Left Up to Us Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Texas Appleseed Texas Low Income Housing Information Service Workers Defense Action Fund These organizations advocate for a broad variety of issues including criminal justice reform, immigrant justice, low-wage workers’ rights, transit, and more.  They have joined together in support of the largest housing bond ever proposed to support Austin families and prevent further displacement. A $300 million bond will provide thousands of homes for working class families, help struggling homeowners stay in their neighborhoods, and will create thousands of construction jobs with wage and safety protections. Continue reading

Yesterday's Advocacy For a Strong Affordable Housing Bond

Yesterday, AURA member Kaz Wojtewicz testified before the Housing and Neighborhoods committee in favor of a $300 million bond for affordable housing with an emphasis on public housing.  To address our housing crisis, we need CodeNEXT to deliver a housing market that is easy to build in, allows supply to catch up with and meet demand, and deliver new homes where people want to live. We also need a strong housing bond to target low income Austinites.  The Strategic Housing Blueprint shows that almost 50,000 new homes are required for families that make 60% or less of the median income, and we're doing very little to meet this need.  We need to do as much as we can to develop as much market rate housing as people want so they can live where they want, and also spend as much as we can afford to make sure that low income families can afford to live where they want too. $300 million focused on building public housing by buying public land and awarding RFPs to build on that land to the developer who builds the most public housing there would demonstrate a good way to meet that need.  Together with existing publicly owned land, this could move Austin towards a sufficient housing supply - for everyone.  By mixing market rate and public housing together, we can also help to reduce the rental occupancy rate across the city and help every renter, not just those in public housing.   The Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Austin Justice Coalition, Texas Appleseed and others also joined in on the call for a $300 million investment.  The Austin American Statesman noted that Kaz identified other recent bonds in other cities that invested big in affordable housing and easily passed the bonds. "They included a $1.2 billion housing bond plan passed by Los Angeles; a $258 million proposal passed in Portland, Ore.; and a $290 million plan passed in Seattle. All were approved in 2016 with at least 62 percent of the vote. Wojtewicz recommended Austin officials reach for $300 million." Bond Issue $ size population outcome Los Angeles 2016 $1.2 billion 4,000,000 76% in favor Portland 2016 $258 million 640,000 62% in favor Santa Clara County 2016 $950 million 1,900,000 68% in favor Alameda County 2017 $580 million 1,600,000 73% in favor Portland 2016 $290 million 790,000 68% in favor We won't be able to rely on Donald Trump and Ben Carson to be able to deliver affordable housing for Austin, especially given that Austin is a welcoming community to everyone, regardless of their citizenship.  We need to do what we can on our own.   Let's get a strong affordable housing bond and invest at least $300 million in affordable housing.