Protecting the Water of the Texas Hill Country: Studies, Research, and Advocacy

June 22, 2017 | 7-9 pm
Sustainable Food Center
2921 East 17th Street, Austin TX 78702 (map)

Please join us for a forum on protecting the water of the Texas Hill Country. This forum is part of the LWV Austin’s 2017 study of our position on environmental quality. 

Our featured speaker, Mr. Jim Blackburn, will help us understand the science and legal issues involved in protecting Hill Country Water. Our two other speakers will comment on legislative work on the part of the LWV-Texas to protect water, and about results of the local study of flood mitigation needs in Austin. This program is free and open to the public. 

Speakers:

Jim Blackburn,  TESPA (Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association, tespatexas.org). Jim will speak specifically about protecting the water of the Texas Hill Country. 

A practicing environmental lawyer and planner since 1973, Mr. Blackburn is a Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University, where he teaches courses in sustainable design and advanced sustainable design and is the Director of the Undergraduate Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. Blackburn is the Co- Director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice. He is also a Rice Faculty Scholar at the Baker Institute and is the owner of a planning firm called Sustainable Planning and Design. His publications include The Book of Texas Bays (2004), and A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast (fall, 2017). He has also authored numerous legal papers and has received several local, state and national awards for environmental advocacy. 

Jensie Madden, LWV-TX Issue Chair for Land Use, and member of LWV-Comal Area. Jensie will speak about “Protecting Groundwater Quality,” and she will describe the LWV-TX efforts during this past legislative session to prohibit direct discharge of wastewater into Hill Country streams.

Carol Olewin, LWV Austin, former president and current League member. Carol will speak about the results of the “City of Austin Flood Mitigation Task Force Report.” Carol will be joined by Ana Aguirre and Dorsey Twidwell, of the Flood Mitigation Task Force.

Questions? Contact Lea Masiello, LWV Austin VP for Programs, at leamasiello@gmail.com

We will have plenty of time for our featured speakers and discussion. Feel free to bring snacks or non-alcoholic beverages.

A Review of the LWV-AA Forum on CodeNEXT and Affordable Housing

June 4, 2017, Sustainable Food Center 2921 E 17th St. Building C

Possibilities, Problems, and Recommendations: Get Involved; Revise the Code, Don’t Kill it; Use the CodeNEXT Draft as an Opportunity to make Austin Affordable, Diverse, Livable our Reality, not just our Dream.

 We had a wonderful gathering at the Sustainable Food Center to learn more about CodeNEXT and Affordable housing, as part of our LWV Austin study this year on our current position locally on affordable housing. Five distinguished speakers helped us understand some of the complexities of the new land development policy in CodeNEXT, the problems of affordable housing in Austin, and what we might do as advocates for more affordable housing. Everyone needs to get involved in the process of commenting on the draft and suggesting changes.

Our five speakers offered a diversity of perspectives, ideas, facts, and suggestions; here are a few of their comments:

Greg Anderson. Director of Operations, Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Anderson pointed out that the last time such a code was written was 1984, and today, we are more interested in walkability. We are now short of at least 48,000 affordable housing units, and we must find a way to create change without driving up cost. Creating opportunities for more diversity in housing will enhance diversity of neighborhoods, which can only be a good thing. One major challenge is how to add more density. View Presentation PDF.

Jim Duncan. Duncan Associates. Urban Planner, former national president of the American Planning Association, Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners . Mr. Duncan gave us insights from his perspective as a city planner who has worked with other cities to revise land development codes.  He pointed out that accessory dwellings such as garage apartments, can help with increasing the number of affordable units. His powerpoint presentation is listed below for more information about city planning and our need to include best practices from other cities, such as Portland. He stressed that we must put affordability ahead of financial gain, and that we must look for a middle ground in all areas, and that adding density by itself will not solve the problems. View Presentation PDF.

Francisco Enriquez. Co-Founder and Managing Director at Glasshouse Policy, a first of its kind policy crowdsourcing think tank based in Austin. Mr. Enriquez encourages us to use a fact based analysis process to help determine what we want Austin to be as a place where people live, work, and play. A crucial question is “How do we design an Austin for all?” He noted that at least 350,000 people commute to work in the city of Austin every day, and as a result, we have a mobility crisis that demands our creativity to ameliorate. We need a good, fact-based policy conversation to help us make meaningful changes. He, along with other speakers, recommended the White House Affordable Housing Tool Kit. He emphasized also that we need to improve how quickly we are increasing affordable housing. View Presentation PDF.

Amy Wong Mok. Founder & CEO of the Asian American Cultural Center and President of the Asian American Community Partnership. Dr. Mok is especially concerned about the challenges faced by seniors, especially those in the Asian American community, who find themselves isolated and no longer caretakers of children and grandchildren for whom they relocated to Austin to help raise.  She is also concerned about how we are spending so much family time on the road. She stressed that this is our opportunity to put community interests first, to connect communities, to create intergenerational communities, to create spaces for intercultural exchanges, and places for people to learn about and find their roots. She is very concerned about maintaining the integrity of the Asian American Community Center in light of these values. Her presentation slides are included below and illustrate her vision of community. View Presentation PDF.

Kathie Tovo. Austin City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem. Council Member Tovo emphasized that CodeNEXT presents an opportunity for change.She noted that that the policy for what is called “up zoning,” which makes it possible for buildings to move from housing two units to up to eight, is a concern for many. She encouraged everyone to provide feedback through the established channels, to attend meetings and speak up for those values and concerns that we have. She noted that the Code draft is an intimidating document to get through, and it is presenting us with a new paradigm for land development, which adds to the challenges of responding to it. 

LVW-AA CodeNEXT Recommendations

LWV-AA hosts an expert panel on CodeNEXT and affordability on June 4, 2017

Members of the League of Women Voters Austin Area have attended meetings on the proposed City of Austin CodeNEXT land development code in all ten Austin council districts. LWV-AA also hosted a public forum with experts on land development and housing affordability, to give us insight into these crucial issues in Austin. 

After careful review of the proposed code and consideration of the public input, the League offers these comments and suggestions to specific parts of the code. They conform to these principles of the League:

  • An open and transparent system of governance; 
  • More public participation in the land development process;  
  • Adequate opportunity for the public to weigh in on decisions; 
  • Opportunity for decision makers to receive more public input to carefully weigh the issues before them.

View LVW-AA’s CodeNEXT Recommendations in PDF format

If you agree with these recommendations, please contact your City Council Member and request they support the League’s suggested comments. If you don’t know which council district you live in, click here for details.

Upcoming Programs: May-June

These upcoming meetings are designed to help us review and update the existing LWV Austin Area Policy Position Statements in six areas:

  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Health Care
  • Environmental Quality
  • Criminal Justice
  • Affordable Housing

Committees will be formed to review each of the six issues. Members: for more information or to volunteer for a committee, please contact VP of Programs Lea Masiello.

 

Environmental Quality: TESPA

Thursday, June 22
Sustainable Food Center 2921 E 17th St. Bldg. C 7:00-9:00 p.m.

The subject will be “Fighting for the Protection of the Edwards Aquifer.” The director of TESPA (Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association tespatexas.org), Jim Blackburn, will discuss his research, legal pursuits, and action alerts to help keep water flowing through central Texas. See the report, “Protecting Water in the Texas Hill Country,” by Jim Blackburn, and much more by clicking here.

Jim Blackburn is a practicing environmental lawyer and planner. He is a Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University and is the Director of the Undergraduate Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. Blackburn is the Co-Director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice. Blackburn authored The Book of Texas Bays, published in 2004 by Texas A&M Press, and he has written a new book, A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast, scheduled for publication in the fall of 2017.

RSVPs are appreciated for all program attendance. They are not absolutely necessary except for the Wed., May 24 lunch. Please join us for some very interesting discussions. Contributions of healthy snacks are ALWAYS welcome!

 

Recent Past Programs:

Health Care: Jane’s Due Process

Wednesday, May 17
Unit Meeting – North
7917 West Rim Drive 7:00 – 9 p.m.

Join us for a conversation led by Tina Hester, Executive Director of Jane’s Due Process. Jane’s Due Process (JDP) is an organization whose mission is to ensure legal representation for pregnant minors in Texas. Jane’s Due Process is one of the few organizations in the country dedicated to pregnant teens and is considered a pioneer in delivering legal services to this group. The core of the JDP program is its statewide toll-free legal hotline and lawyer referral service. Our speaker Tina Hester served as hotline coordinator for three years and was named Executive Director of JDP in 2011. She has spent her career dedicated to social justice and women’s reproductive health at both the state and national levels. She will update us about teen pregnancy and legal rights in Texas.

Education: Foundation Communities

Wednesday, May 24
Lunch at Sierra Vista Learning Center, 4320 S Congress Ave. 11:30-12:30 p.m.

Simple lunch (provided by Foundation Communities) and discussion of the successes of After School Support Services provided by Foundation Communities for ALL students in the neighborhood of their communities. We will learn about their after-school enrichment support programs, attended by over 60% of the neighborhood elementary school. There have been amazing successes to come out of their programs, and the especially impressive way they care for the WHOLE child, providing tutoring, exercise, nutritional information, enrichment activities, and even dinner! 

Affordable Housing: CodeNEXT

Sunday, June 4
Sustainable Food Center 2921 E 17th St. Bldg. C 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Specialists in this area will help us understand how the City of Austin’s new land use CodeNEXT maps will affect the development of more affordable housing in Austin. We will hear from these individuals (and possibly others): Greg Anderson, Director of Operations, Habitat for Humanity; Francisco Enriquez, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Glasshouse Policy; Jim Duncan, a leading national urban planner, from Duncan Associates; and Amy Wong Mok, Founder & CEO of the Asian American Cultural Center and President of the Asian American Community Partnership.

Greg Anderson, Director of Operations, Habitat for Humanity, https://www.austinhabitat.org/. Greg Anderson joined the Austin Habitat team in January 2015 after spending five years at City Hall as Policy Director for Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole. He has more than 15 years of experience in real estate development, including the 360 Condominium Tower and the Austin Habitat for Humanity Community Home Center and currently serves on the City’s Planning Commission.  Greg received both his MBA and his undergraduate degrees in Urban Studies and Geography and the Environment from the University of Texas in Austin.

Francisco Enriquez, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Glasshouse Policy, a first of its kind policy crowdsourcing think tank based in Austin, Texas. An advocate for citizens of the Austin community in the local and state government. Enriquez believes that people want to be a part of the political conversation and help shape public policy but don’t have an easy way to do that. Glasshouse Policy holds forums, online discussions and events to get people involved in local politics.  https://glasshousepolicy.org

Jim Duncan, Urban Planner  http://www.duncanassociates.com Jim has been one of America’s leading urban planners for more than half a century. He co-authored the best-selling APA publication, “Growth Management Principles and Practices” and wrote the “Public Infrastructure” chapter in the ICMA “Planner’s Greenbook.”   Jim has served as national president of the American Planning Association and as president of its Florida chapter.  He is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, the highest honor of his profession.  Jim has a master’s degree in regional and city planning from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of Texas at Austin.  OU has honored him with both an Outstanding Alumni Award and a Regents Alumni Award, the University’s highest honor short of an honorary degree. 

Amy Wong Mok is the Founder & CEO of the Asian American Cultural Center and the President of the Asian American Community Partnership. She currently serves on Austin Arts Commission, the Board of KLRU, Capital of Texas Public Telecommunications Council, Inc., and chairs the Advocacy Committee on the Board of AAEYC (Austin Association for the Education of Young Children). She is a member of the Advisory Council of Texas Center for Education Policy and a member of AARO (Austin Area Research Organization). 

May 2017 VOTER Newsletter Available

Our monthly newsletter with lots of information about what is happening at the League of Women Voters of the Austin Area is now available. You can download the pdf file of the newsletter and/or subscribe to get future versions sent to your email address. Better yet, join the League to get the newsletter every month along with the other benefits of League membership.

Here is a summary of upcoming events taken from the latest VOTER newsletter. Check out the League calendar for more info.

CodeNEXT Map District Meetings

Please plan to attend one of the upcoming CodeNEXT Map Open Houses in your district and others. The City of Austin is making big decisions for the future with the feedback it receives from public engagement events.

CodeNEXT is the City of Austin initiative to rewrite our outdated and complicated Land Development Code. The Land Development Code sets requirements for what, where, and how much can be built in Austin.

Not sure what district you’re in? Find out here.