Now, more than ever, I value opportunities for us to take stock of a year’s progress and to measure ourselves against the needs of the future.
In these turbulent times, we must deliberately and seriously speak and act in a way true to who we are. Our city continues to face formidable challenges. We cannot pretend we don’t see them. We need to act and to plan for what the future will bring.
The question you should be asking is whether your Council has the will to seize the moment and to act on the scale of our challenges. The answer to that question, when you look back a year and look ahead a year, is “yes.”
Ten years from now… 20 years from now… a new generation of Austinites will ask us what we did, at this time of great risk, to preserve and protect the magic of Austin. This is our moment.
We must act with our eyes focused clearly on the future.
Last year, I said that if the world completely lost its mind, we’d still be Austin, Texas.
I did not mean that as a challenge, but the world certainly held up its end of the bargain. It seems our country is losing its way in the world. Here in Austin, though, we know who we are. And if we remain true to ourselves, we will always find the solid ground on which to build our future.
We know the state of our city is stronger than ever. And this past year, we repeatedly re-affirmed who we are… In fact, we shouted to the whole world, we are Austin, Texas.
The Austin metropolitan area added 30,000 jobs last year. We’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in two decades. In fact, we have the second-lowest unemployment rate in the whole country. We’re still the safest big city in Texas. We lead the state in startups, venture capital, and patents. We’re the best place to start a small business in the country. And the best place to live in America.
But in Austin, we should never measure our progress by how well we are doing compared to other cities. We can only say the state of our city is strong if we are affirmatively building a future in which we preserve the spirit and soul of Austin.
In this last year, your City Council and City Staff laid an important foundation for that future in many ways, chief among them on traffic, affordability, racial and economic inequality, homelessness, and climate change. This coming year we are poised to build further on that foundation in even bigger and more transformative ways.
Many wonder what the future holds for our great city. So let me say this clearly: Austin can, must and will lead in this new century. Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new Austin moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.
It is a moment when those things that define us as a community — that is, our openness, innovation, and creativity, our determination and devotion to core values of compassion and sustainability . . . and yes, our keep-Austin-weird, risk-taking attitude — have never been more needed.
This is a moment that must be seized through hard work and bold decisions, with an eye on the future as we lay the foundation for lasting, and more equitable, prosperity for decades to come.
Yes, we’re still Austin, Texas.