Join us for our 2017 Fall Kick-Off Meeting

The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area
invites you to join us for the

2017 Fall Kick-off Meeting

Presentation and Status Report: Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities

Sunday, September 24, 2017
2:00-4:00 PM
King-Seabrook Chapel, Huston-Tillotson University
900 Chicon Street
Austin, Texas 78702
(Map)
Registration begins at 1:30

Featuring Hon. Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin

and Task Force Report Co-Authors:

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President, Huston-Tillotson University

Dr. Paul Cruz, Superintendent, Austin Independent School District

Followed by Travis County Volunteer Deputy Registrar training by Hon. Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar (4-5 PM.) 

Everyone is welcome and admission is free!

Read the Task Force report 

2014-09-07 LWVAA Kickoff-4001 2014-09-07 LWVAA Kickoff-1002 2014-09-07 LWVAA Kickoff-4005 2014-09-07 LWVAA Kickoff-4016

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A Review of LWV-AA’s Forum on Environmental Quality with TESPA

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

This forum was part of the LWV Austin’s 2017 study of our position on environmental quality. During this forum, we heard from a variety of perspectives about water management in the Hill Country and Austin. Many people commented on how the perspectives offered a broad and deep picture of the “water grab” in the Hill Country, as well as flood management, two sides of the same topic. Our featured speaker, Mr. Jim Blackburn, discussed the science and legal issues involved in protecting Hill Country Water. Our two other speakers commented on legislative work on the part of the LWV-Texas to protect water, along with results of the local study of flood mitigation needs in Austin.

Jim Blackburn, TESPA founder and director (Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association, tespatexas.org), was our featured speaker. His presentation is on our website. Mr. Blackburn emphasized that the current and intense water grab in the Hill Country is, in part, due to landowners hoping to hold on to the possibility of having water available in the future, even if they do not need to use it at the moment. He explained how the particular Karst geology is an important factor in how water in the Hill Country works in synch with the springs, and if the Karst formations are compressed due to water drainage, they will not recover. We need to talk comprehensively about protecting Karst geology and groundwater. And we need uniformity in district regulations. He has had litigation success by following the Endangered Species Act, which protects species but also a baseline level of water in the springs in the Hill Country. He reminded us that the public owns the water, not individual landowners, that it is a public resource, but our elected officials are not protecting public water. Finally, he urged us to join the fight to help develop a comprehensive reconsideration of Texas groundwater law. We need to be ready to litigate locally. 

Jensie Madden, LWV-TX Issue Chair for Land Use, and member of LWV-Comal Area, spoke about “Protecting Groundwater Quality,” and LWV-TX efforts during this past legislative session to prohibit direct discharge of wastewater into Hill Country streams. She is not discouraged by the failed bills this past year, but ready to prepare for the next legislative session.

Carol Olewin, LWV-Austin Area, former president and current League member. Carol, along with other members of the Task Force, Ana  Aguirre, and Dorsey Twidwell, and spoke about the results of “City of Austin Flood Mitigation Task Force Report.” They all emphasized the dire situation of flooding in the Austin area and highlighted the real safety issues which cannot be ignored. There are complexities in the mitigation plan that still need to be addressed, but it’s clear that the situation is currently very dangerous for Austin residents who are in areas that flood. They noted that in Austin, we have “flood amnesia,” which prevents us from taking action to prevent future flooding catastrophes. We need updated drainage infrastructure and a great deal more money to support the work that needs to be done in replacing storm pipes, a process which is extensively backlogged six years. This process could be integrated with redevelopment plans proposed in CodeNext. 

Lea Masiello
VP Programs

Download Jim Blackburn’s presentation (PDF)
Download the Flood Mitigation Task Force Report (PDF), courtesy of the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department.

League’s Journey to 2020 and Beyond

A message from LWV-US President Chris Carson:

“I am pleased to share with you this video describing the League’s journey to strengthen our role in creating a more perfect democracy as we approach our 100th anniversary and look to our second century.

Throughout the League, we are having important conversations about where we are as an organization – and where we want to be in 2020.

We are looking at ways to grow our mission impact by engaging new members, increasing our visibility and sharpening our focus on core issues.

We are exploring opportunities to make us a stronger organization at all levels.

We are aligning our Making Democracy Work™ campaign to ensure that our organization flourishes for generations to come.

The next stop on this transformation journey will take place in June at National Council where we will talk with state League leaders to get their feedback and ideas. We’ll update you on that work this summer.

Until then, thank you for all that you do and for being our partners during this exciting time for the League.”

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.