Friday, May 2, 2008

Open government lessens crime!

We can always use a little inspiration as we fight for justice to provide perspective on what it is we are working for. While there have been riots over the immigration issue all over Europe, Marseille remains relatively calm despite the large variety of immigrants making it racially, culturally and religiously "France's most diverse city." All pillars of the citizenry have become extraordinarily politically engaged which has lent towards a pervasive sense of ownership and a comaraderie rarely known in modern democracies. The example in Marseille proves that an open, inclusive government fosters trust and accountability across the board and provides responsive leaders who ensure that basic needs are met before implementing window dressing (like subsidy packages). When social services needs are met, public safety needs diminish in response. You don't steal if you aren't hungry....and you can afford the time to be engaged in your community after your own basic needs are met.

Listen to this story and be inspired to help turn Austin into "Marseille on the Colorado!" (Or if such a metaphor is blasphemous in your world - how about just help make Austin Better Today!)

In justice and safety,
Debbie Russell,
secretary, Better Austin Today

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Climate Protection and Traffic

When launched by high profile press conference in February 2007, Mayor Will Wynn declared that Austin’s new “Climate Protection Plan” was the best in the nation.

The “plan,” however, was really just a two-page outline. You can read it here.

Now compare it to Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in September 2006. It’s a real plan.

The title “Seattle, a Climate of Change: Meeting the Kyoto Challenge,” makes it clear that Seattle was committed to meeting its fair share of the Kyoto Protocol targets. By contrast, Austin’s alleged “best of” plan made no such commitment. When the glaring absence of a commitment to the Kyoto targets (or any other citywide goal) was brought to the entire council’s attention, they quickly moved to . . . do nothing.

Seattle’s plan tackles the most important task – car and truck traffic – first. The first chapter, following the introduction, is titled “Reducing Seattle’s Dependence on Cars.” Straight to the point – addressing greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, and the necessity for transportation alternatives other than spending billions more on highway (or toll road) expansions and extensions.

What does Austin’s climate protection plan say about car and truck traffic? On page two of the plan/outline we see the heading “Community Plan” and, within that heading the phrase “Key areas for study include: Transportation; . . . “ Above that it says the City will create a “Climate Action Team” to develop inventories of emission sources, and “report to council in one year recommendations for short-term and long-term reduction targets and implementation strategies for the metro area.”

Who is on the Climate Action Team? Who knows about it? Did they make their one year report to council in February 2008? If so, what does it say? One might think that the answers to these questions would already be widely known in the community or, at minimum, readily available on the city’s website. Alas, no such luck.

So is our City’s “best in the nation” Climate Protection Plan more “green” or “greenwash’? You might think about this when you decide whether to vote for BATPAC endorsed challenger Jason Meeker or incumbent Lee Leffingwell.

Written by Bill Bunch, Board Member of Better Austin Today

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Texas emissions data at a glance

Stats from the US Energy Information Administration
  1. In 2003, Texas was ranked #1 in the United States for most Greenhouse emissions, with 670 million metric tons of CO2.
  2. Based off of this data, Texas would be ranked #7 in the world for Greenhouse emissions if it were considered it's own country.
  3. For the registered 23.5 million people in Texas, there are 20 million registered vehicles. Of those, 1 in 4 are pickup trucks.
  4. Based on 2003 data, transportation accounted for 28% of all carbon emissions in Texas.

For the entire United States, Texas has the greatest concentration of the worst air quality for the next two days. This in April, before the summer road trip season begins and before air conditioners really start cranking up.

There is clearly a problem in Texas, and it is time we start to effect the change necessary to protect all of us and our environment.

New Blog for Better Austin Today

Better Austin Today has evolved from print and word-of-mouth advertising to the 21st Century blogosphere.

This venue is where we will post ideas, thoughts, rants, raves, and diatribes about all the issues we at Better Austin Today see as important to the public of Austin. We at Better Austin Today will do our best to cover the hardest issues that face City Hall today and will continue to do so in the future, and promise that the comments and views expressed here will be given in all honesty and are, in our opinion, essential for the betterment of the city of Austin.

Keep posted to this site for more in-depth analysis of Austin's most pressing local issues.