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Invest In Your Home: Austin

By George Cofer, Executive Director, Hill Country Conservancy

Picture this:  What if the size of your family doubled every generation, but you all continued to live in the same house?  Would you simply ignore a leaking roof, a busted pipe, or a cracked foundation?  Probably not.

So it is with Austin.   Our home is now the 13th largest-city in America, having recently surpassed San Francisco.  Since 1890, Austin’s population has doubled every 20 to 25 years.  During just the next 30 days, we’ll gain nearly 2,000 new residents!

Every day, the strain on our city’s infrastructure and quality of life grows.  That’s why it’s time to invest in our home, and in our future.  You can do just that by voting to support all seven Austin bonds that will appear on the November 6th ballot – Propositions 12 – 18.

This is the first time in six years that a multi-purpose municipal bond package has appeared on the Austin ballot.  Importantly, approving all seven of the bonds will not raise the city property tax rate.  Not even a little.  That’s because as the city pays off old debt, it can issue new bonds without raising the rate.

The community projects funded by the seven bonds, totaling $384.9 million, were chosen from an initial city-wide “needs assessment” of more than $1.5 billion.  A citizen commission worked for six months to select these projects with a great deal of public input, and the City Council voted unanimously in August on the final package.

In a nutshell, here’s what each of the seven bonds will do:

Proposition 12 will invest $143.3 million in transportation and mobility, including road improvements for I-35, 51st Street corridor, MoPac, and provide for new and upgraded sidewalks, bikeways, and the 30-mile hike and bike Violet Crown Trail. Clearly, fixing Austin’s transportation mess should be one of our top priorities.  The Violet Crown Trail will connect Zilker Park, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and many central and south Austin neighborhoods and will be a key part of our city’s multi-modal transportation system.

Proposition 13 will invest $30 million in preserving open space and protecting water quality and quantity.  As Executive Director of Hill Country Conservancy, I consider these investments vitally important to our community.  Preserving the scenic beauty and natural areas around Austin, and keeping our water clean is good for our environment, our economy, and our souls.

Proposition 14 will invest $77.7 million in parks and recreation projects, including repairing and upgrading neighborhood parks and pools. A vibrant parks system helps make Austin a truly special and healthier city.  This bond will invest in parks in nearly every part of the city, including Zilker Park and three of the original downtown squares.

Proposition 15 will invest $78.3 million in building, repairing and renovating affordable housing in all parts of Austin.  As Austin has grown, housing costs have soared.  Prop. 15 will help build and repair thousands of homes for Austin’s low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income working families.

Proposition 16 will invest $31.1 million in public safety improvement projects, including a new fire station and police substation. Austin has been ranked among the safest big cities in America, and we need to keep it that way by investing in the police, fire and EMS facilities we need to service every part of our community.

Proposition 17 will invest $11.1 million in health and human services projects, including repairing and expanding a women and children’s shelter. In my view, what really makes Austin stand apart is how our community comes together to help all citizens have a better quality of life.  This bond will help ensure that we continue to invest in affordable health and human services for all citizens in every neighborhood.

Proposition 18 will invest $13.4 million in library and cultural arts projects, including renovations to six neighborhood libraries and an expansion of Austin (Film) Studios. ? Austin will soon break ground on the new Central Library voters approved in 2006.  This bond will invest in neighborhood branches across Austin.  It will also help expand our city’s film industry, which brings us a broad range of benefits.

The bottom line is simple:  If we fail to invest now in the basic infrastructure of our home as our population grows significantly and critical needs increase, the result will be that we will pay more later to fix problems that will have grown worse, and our quality of life will suffer in the meantime.

Let’s not make that mistake.  Please join me, hundreds of other community leaders, and dozens of endorsing civic groups, and vote for all seven city bonds.  More information can be found online at our campaign website, www.LuvATX.com.


Be Prepared for the Inevitable Crisis

How long has it been since you’ve reviewed your organization’s crisis management plan? Or do you have one in place at all? Whether you work for a company as its public relations professional or represent a client on an important project, you undoubtedly realize that bad news can hit 24-7 creating a challenge made even more difficult by the relentless hunger of social media.

As Randy Pruett says in an essay for Dallas’s Pierpoint Communications, “What happens in Vegas stays – on YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook.”

We can all think of many current examples where company reputations are either crushed or salvaged, depending on prior planning and the expertise and training of the leadership, employees and public relations team.

Here are several of Pruett’s key tips for avoiding public relations nightmares:

  1. It is crucial to get your side of the story out as quickly as possible. In a crisis, one member of your public relations team should respond to all inquiries. This avoids conflicting, inaccurate or incomplete information.
  2. Role-play different crisis scenarios before they happen. Be authentic and avoid brainless spin. Avoid speculation when you don’t have a clear direction.
  3. Tell your employees what’s going on in person versus in writing, if possible. Although personal meetings can certainly be recorded via cell phone, emails and internal memos definitely get leaked to the media, posted on blogs or appear in all types of social media.
  4. Communicate with clients and customers. As much as possible, business should continue as normal.
  5. Know that public relations has limits. PR alone can’t fix a 10,000-barrel a day oil leak or improve disastrous financials. But it can enhance your reputation in the long term by the way you handle a crisis when it strikes.
  6. Keep your public relations team in the loop and seek their guidance when choosing a course of action. They are your company’s first line of defense.

For a look at some interesting social media statistics go to Erik Qualman’s popular “Social Media Revolution 2” video and www.socialnomics.net.


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