June 12, 2017
It seems that some folks might not think too much of the people of Austin, what with our sincerely held beliefs about equality and apparently funky smell.
Without question, there’s a distinct odor coming from Congress Avenue from time to time. It’s pungent, plentiful and unique to the Capitol City.
But let’s blame that aroma on the bat guano from the bat colony under the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. We’ll ignore the, uh, bull guano emanating from a little farther north.
Before folks diss their fellow Texans too much, they ought to hold their sensitive noses and appreciate how much Texas depends on Austin and its happy, booming, self-described weirdness. Texas, in all of its glory, is the sum of its component parts. And Austin is a rose in that bouquet.
As a hub of the knowledge economy, Austin provides economic stability even when the volatility of the oil and gas industry is roiling other parts of the state. Take a deep breath and breathe in the sweet smell of success.
We’re helping to prop up the state budget, providing more than $1.1 billion in property taxes over the next two years to help the state fund public education. That’s a lot of money. It’s about half of the property tax revenue that Austin ISD is expected to collect over that period and almost a quarter of the $4.7 billion siphoned by the state through the so-called “Robin Hood” program. I smell something that stinks, but it’s not Austin. It’s the rotting Texas school finance system.
The taxpayers of Travis County are also making significant investments in health care and higher education that benefit the entire State of Texas. They’ve displayed a visionary willingness to invest in the future of their community, research and better health care for everyone. That don’t stink at all.
Sure, Austin has its problems. For example, lots of people are struggling with rising property taxes (again, that’s mostly because our state is failing us in the funding of the state school system). And traffic is a beast. Trying to navigate the rancid rush hour traffic on I-35…oh, wait, that interstate road should be primarily the state’s obligation. I smell a rat, but the stench is coming from the years of the state’s neglect and refusal to find new funds to keep up with Texas’ infrastructure needs.
We take a special pride in our town, particularly its beautiful natural environment. You might not care about our trees, but we certainly do. So do the employers, big and small, who set up shop here knowing that their creative employees appreciate and enjoy being outdoors.
Even more, those folks appreciate being able to openly be who they are. They value being able to vote for and elect local leaders that will help them craft the quality of life they want in their neighborhoods. That’s true freedom.
We get that we’re the blueberry in the tomato soup or whatever preferred trite expression people want to use to describe those who may not do as those in power command. That blueberry symbolizes the liberty to think and do things differently. We should all be defending it. Yeah, it’s easy to take political pot shots at us. It might even win some votes elsewhere in the state.
But we’re Texans who are proud to call Austin home. If some folks don’t recognize the fragrant smell of enjoyment, achievement and the committed desire to work and make greater progress, they should at least respect those that do.
Aromatically and sincerely yours,
The People of Austin