This past weekend I attended the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival on behalf of The Bingham Group.
The most popular events centered on the Trump Presidency, and what that means for the nation and Texas’s future.
While important, The Bingham Group, however, recognized the need for community engagement in more local issues and my agenda was set to cover the panel discussions with topics that hit closer to home.
I spent most of my time on Saturday (the main day of the Festival) in either the Cities discussion track or the Transportation, Energy, and the Environment tracks, which focused heavily on local politics.
A panel on Local Control vs. Local Liberty quickly moved from discussion to debate with David Brown of The Texas Standard, moderating.
Representative Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) a freshman Democrat this past legislative session, began by stating she “would have called this panel local control vs. state overreach instead.”
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt (D) quickly responded with “Local control *is* liberty in a democracy.”
The most pointed statement of the morning came from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (D), who stated, “The people closest to the problems can make the best decisions."
Next was The Tyranny of the Commute panel moderated by Ben Wear of the Austin American-Statesman, which focused on a big problem in Austin especially.
The first question, “How would you make the commute easier?”, left panelists in silence for almost five seconds.
Representative Celia Israel (D-Austin) broke the silence stating, “There should be an incentive to ride the bus in Austin, we need to think about serving the community through park and ride programs with daycare and dry cleaning amenities for bus patrons”, which encouraged other panelists to join in for what grew to be a very productive discussion on new ideas and agendas.
The remaining discussions of the day brought to light a common theme that tracked throughout each panel I attended, perfectly summed up by Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) while discussing Texas roads: “As long as we have growth in Texas, and we like that growth, we will have a strain on infrastructure”.
The biggest issue in Texas is growth, and that is a good issue to have to deal with. Progress in Austin will come, our job is to make sure the communities that make up this city are prepared and equipped for the changes coming in tech, transportation, and population especially. The Texas Tribune Festival allowed me to bring together my knowledge of the State Capitol and Legislature and my ongoing education on the needs of Austin communities. I am excited for the coming months!
//Logan Cheney, Associatie Intern