In order to raise awareness of civics and government in Travis County, Austin Tech Alliance conducts periodic interviews with our elected officials. ATA sat down with Council Member Jimmy Flannigan and his Communications Director, Kate Messer. We talked about tech, the 2020 Census and voting.
ATA: From your opinion, why is it essential for the tech community to become more civically engaged?
JF: Well, I mean, there’s the basics like getting registered, vote, pay attention. You people think you’re smart, so we need your smarts at the ballot box.
Then there’s the piece… where the government isn’t structured, by design, it is not structured to work like a start-up. So the tech community has an exciting role to play about helping support innovation in a system that kills it. It takes effort, a lot of pushing, and support to move a change through a government structure. And that’s not because the government is terrible but because that is the American system. So it’s a critical role for the tech community to help us be creative and provide solutions.
And then the third piece is the role to educate. I think that there’s an open question nationally about the role the tech community plays in providing accurate information to the public.
ATA: Like a responsibility?
JF: Yes. So it’s not just, “we created a platform and washed our hands of it.’ No, you designed a platform, and that platform’s design is incentivizing behaviors. That part you have to own.
ATA: From your own words, why is a complete count on the 2020 Census important, and are there any specific needs that relate to Austin or D6 to getting a complete count.
JF: The Census is everything. It determines who your elected officials are, how much of your money stays in your community, and what level of funding we get for roads and transit. All of the things we want to do will have a positive or a negative impact based on the Census.
The fact that we have state and federal structures, whose job it is to ensure that the count is accurate, but who are intentionally underfunding that effort is scary.
Texas is the only southern state that sends more money to the federal government than it receives. Every blue state does that – sends more money than it gets. All of the urbanized, well-functioning economies in states are subsidizing rural areas. And that’s not necessarily good or bad, but it’s a fact. And if we undercount Texas, it gets worse. What that means is that Texan’s taxes will go up, and we’ll get less for it. We have departments of the city that are majorly funded by state and federal grants. Those dollars will decrease if we’re undercounted. We will have fewer representatives in Congress, we will have fewer representatives at the State House. These things are absolutely critical for the functioning of American democracy, and some forces are really trying to break it.
Nonprofits that are working toward a complete count on the Census in Austin/Travis County and accepting donations include the League of Women Voters and the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Please conta
ct us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to partner with ATA for Census related work or donations.
To learn more about District 6, visit Councilmember Flannigan’s City of Austin website.
Additional nonprofits working toward a complete count on the 2020 Census in Austin-Travis County include the League of Women Voters and the Travis County Complete Count Committee. They are currently accepting donations. Please contact us at email@example.com if you’d like to partner with ATA for census related work.