Austin Tech Alliance’s mission is to promote civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector. Part of that work involves an advocacy focus aimed at using tech as a tool to help solve civic challenges and promoting tech-forward policies at both local and state government.

Today, we released our new policy agenda reflecting their efforts to encourage a variety of initiatives in the Austin community in 2019-2020. These priority areas include affordability, connectivity, mobility, open government, community engagement, and voting/elections. With the help of local organizations and tech spaces, Austin Tech Alliance will work to influence policy and local initiatives in these point areas during the next year.  

Voting and elections

Informed.vote 

What: Far too many Central Texans do not know where candidates for elected office stand on issues important to them. The most robust ways to find out – candidate questionnaires from community organizations – are not easy to find unless a voter already knows about a particular community group or does significant research into the causes and candidates they care about. 

Why: Informed.vote provides a single resource to get educated about candidates running for local office and their positions on community issues, helping Central Texans cast an informed vote at the ballot box. 

How: Last year we partnered with Leadership Austin to create informed.vote – a website to help Central Texans cast an informed vote at the ballot box. informed.vote allows users to filter community questions by district, candidate, or cause. Users will be able to search all questions posed by community groups and get answers direct from the candidates – all in one place. The website will be updated for the 2020 election with design and engineering enhancements.

Voter registration

What: Every new Austinite should have the opportunity to register to vote if they meet the requirements. According to City Demographer Ryan Robinson, “The net addition each day to that metro area [Austin] is about 105 people.” 

Why: Voting is our constitutional right and privilege. Leading into the 2020 Presidential election, it is important to register Travis County residents so they may participate in civic action. 

How: Host TechVotes voter registration drives at member companies, participate in National Voter Registration Day, and participate with nonpartisan organizations to coordinate block walking efforts in under registered precincts. We will partner with the Travis County Clerk’s Elections Division to host VDR trainings, and other voter education events under our TechVotes program. 

Get out the vote efforts

What: While about 94% of Travis County is registered to vote, according to the Secretary of State, only 63% of Travis County votes in elections. 

Why: Many residents simply do not know there is an election happening, are unaware of downballot candidates, are intimidated by the ballot, or do not know who is running for office. 

How: Our TechVotes program will issue blogs on terminology and ballot measures so that Austinites become comfortable with ballot language before voting. We will also partner with other nonpartisan organizations to host debates and community forums for local offices. Additionally, TechVotes will issue educational voting guides for upcoming elections. 

Affordability

Compact and connected city

What: Promote more affordable housing options by allowing for more diverse and dense housing types throughout the city. Tech hubs and metro areas across the country are facing housing crunches as workforce opportunities attract more and more people to growing cities. 

Why: The median salary of high-tech industry jobs is double that of non-high-tech jobs—higher salaries equal increased housing and cost of living costs. To support affordable housing options, Austin’s City Manager assembled a cross-functional team that is in charge of drafting a revised Land Development Code (LDC). This team is responsible for reviewing previous CodeNEXT feedback and drafting new code language. In addition to providing affordable housing for all Austinites, the new LDC will impact Austin’s tech sector’s ability to recruit the most talented employees. Having a LDC that accommodates Austin’s growth is the biggest and best public policy opportunity to ensure Austin can create enough housing units to meet rising demand and city growth.

How: Support community education and awareness of Austin’s new Land Development Code through articles, social media, and community engagement efforts.  

Homelessness 

What: According to Austin ECHO “The 2019 Point in Time Count showed that there were 2,255 individuals experiencing homelessness in Travis County on a single day. Of the 2,255 individuals experiencing homelessness, 1,169 were sheltered and 1,086 were unsheltered.”

Why: Homelessness, community displacement, the wealth gap, and increased cost of living are issues exacerbated in tech hubs like Austin. There are other factors that contribute to homelessness in Austin: population growth, lack of affordable housing, racial inequity, low wages or limited income and lack of access, among others. 

How: Keep Austin’s tech industry informed about homelessness initiatives and City of Austin advisory committee meetings that are guiding efforts to mitigate homelessness. We will encourage member organizations to use volunteer hours for homelessness community outreach. The Point in Time (PIT) count takes place every January, and we will organize a team for tech workers and establish additional PIT teams at ATA member companies. We will host educational events with tech for social good companies that are working to mitigate homelessness and offer volunteer opportunities with these organizations. 

Connectivity

Small cells rollout

What: Facilitate the introduction of 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, by allowing the successful deployment of small cell nodes.

Why: Small cells help bolster network capacity and better meet surging demand for more data and faster connectivity while preparing for the next generation of technologies and services like 5G, the Internet of Things, and smart cities applications.

How: Austin city officials can facilitate the deployment of small cells to bring residents enhanced coverage and capacity, while also helping to accommodate future technologies in our community, by: 

  • providing fair and reasonable terms, conditions, and rates to access right of way and city infrastructure;
  • requiring no more than reasonable parameters on size, height, and location for small cells and poles; and 
  • offering reasonable permit processes, including batch submissions and a shot clock with permits deemed approved if not timely processed.

Mobility

Transportation awareness 

What: Austin’s metro population just hit 2 million and it’s projected to double by 2040. At that same time, road capacity is expected to increase by only 15 percent.  Austin needs a transportation solution that will alleviate congestion and move people quickly and efficiently. 

How: Raise awareness of Project Connect, an initiative by Capital Metro to connect Austinites to affordable transportation options that can provide them access to their jobs, schools, healthcare, and other important locations. The plan aims to be fully adaptable so that it can eventually become fully electric and at some point autonomous. In partnership with other organizations, we sit on the ProjectConnect Ambassador Network and the Transit for Austin coalition. ATA will encourage the community to take action by giving feedback about the project, and educate members through blog posts and community events.

Raise awareness of Austin’s Strategic Mobility Plan, designed to solve the various issues with Austin’s transportation system. The plan is 346 pages of maps and policy proposals relating to transportation safety, environmental standards, and transportation operations. The plan will guide the future of the public transit system in Austin for the next 20 years. A brief, readable overview of each of the chapters will be posted on the blog section of the ATA website. 

Expanded transportation options

What: Expand knowledge of transportation options in Austin, including on-demand transit solutions, autonomous vehicles, docked and dockless bikes, stand and sit scooter rentals, bus rapid transit and carpool-ridesharing. 

Why: With Austin’s well-known congestion challenges, getting drivers out of their cars and onto an alternate mode of transportation, or rapid transit is an essential part of helping residents get from point A to point B as easily as possible. Austin’s tech sector has the opportunity to influence smart, clean and technology-driven transportation solutions to enable a livable city that attracts the best talent and companies. 

How: Continue to raise awareness of the transportation options in Austin. Austin has had docked bike-share since 2013 when Austin B-cycle first launched. In 2018, dockless scooters entered the city and now includes companies such as Uber, Lyft, VeoRide, Bird, and Lime. According to the City of Austin, the number of rides has amassed around 5 million from April 2018 to July 2019. CapMetro offers many transit services including electric busses, off-board payment through mobile apps, connected wireless vehicles, on-demand services, bulk purchasing for organizations and rideshare opportunities. 

Community engagement 

2020 Census

What: Engage the community to draw attention to the 2020 Census, which will launch in April, to ensure that Austin and Central Texas achieves a complete count.

Why: The annual Census is approaching in April, and the city of Austin has already begun efforts to ensure that all Austinites are counted. A complete Census count is important for Travis County for a variety of reasons. Federal funds are allocated to communities based on Census data, and Census data determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. 

How: We are honored to be appointed to the Travis County Complete Count Committee (TCCCC), a working group established to ensure that all in Travis County are counted on the Census — including hard to count populations such as young children, college students, those experiencing homelessness and those who speak languages other than English, among other groups. As the Census continues to draw closer, we will continue to support the efforts of the TCCCC.

Along with business leaders and ATA member organizations, we chair the Business Subcommittee underneath the TCCCC. This group will galvanize the Austin business and tech sectors to encourage the completion of the Census. We will work with the subcommittee to create awareness campaigns, lunch-n-learns at ATA member companies, events, and a blog series. 

Open government

Open City Council meeting agenda and vote data

What: Make City Council meeting agendas and vote data more accessible.

Why: City Council agendas and minutes should be easily navigable and searchable with persistent ID codes for items that come under consideration in multiple meetings and public meeting information for each phase of decision making. Council members’ votes should be released in an open data format. With improved navigation and ease of accessing vote histories, residents will better be able to follow an issue or specific policy debate as it progresses through the policymaking process. 

How: Support resolution 20150129023 which will enable Council Members to vote at meetings electronically, and to consider options for making voting records more easily accessible to the public.

Data from city surveys

What: Support researchers’ access to raw data from city surveys.

Why: Transparent survey methods and data can help to determine whether the survey reached a representative sample of respondents. Researchers might also use them to determine whether the results can be merged with other datasets to support a larger study, such as a study comparing community services in multiple cities. Survey data, such as the City of Austin Community Survey, should be made publicly accessible in appropriate formats, including raw data, data maps, questionnaires, and details about survey methodology. 

How: Support partner organizations and the City of Austin Open Data team to publish raw data on the City of Austin open data portal.

 

Header photo taken by François Hogue and used with Creative Commons license.