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Carlos B. Lopez, Constable

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Bruce Elfant

Bruce Elfant

Notebook Archives



Constable's Notebook - January 2006

I came to Austin from Houston to attend the University of Texas in 1976 and like so many others, I stayed. As a 30 year resident of Austin, there is no place in Texas where I would rather live. When I came to Austin the population was about 300,000 - less than half of what it is today. The University of Texas then was a lot closer in size to the original ”40 acres”. Hwy 183 (Research Blvd.) was a two-way street as was Ben White Blvd. MOPAC didn’t exist south of Town Lake or North of Hwy 183. In fact several elections were held to determine where MOPAC would go. The Armadillo World Headquarters and Liberty Lunch were hosting great concerts and the Stallion and all the Night Hawk restaurants were still serving great food.

Thirty years ago city leaders struggled with how to manage growth in the Austin area. There was a great deal of conflict between developers, neighborhoods and environmentalists about where and how roads and the inevitable growth should occur. The Austin Tomorrow Plan of 1980 recommended that light rail be included in the transportation mix and that neighborhood density be limited. There were many proposals regarding roads, growth and the environment that were debated, passed by city council members, voted on at the polls, litigated and imposed on Austin by the Texas Legislature. For better or worse, that is how democracy works.

How do you believe Austin has fared over the last 30 years? Some argue that traffic, pollution and urban sprawl have not been handled well, while others believe that City leaders did as much to manage growth as the voters, courts and the state legislature would allow them to do.

What do you think Austin should look like thirty years from now in 2036? Here’s a hint. Demographers and history tells us that Austin’s population will double. Will we build enough roads (or toll roads), light rail or use other strategies to ease traffic woes? Will we manage growth in such a manner that protects the natural beauty of our Central Texas area and our water supply? What types of new industry will be attracted to Austin and will our schools be able to meet industry’s demands for an educated work force? Will we have finally broken down ethnic and racial barriers that are still all too common? Are there lessons to be learned from Austin’s history that could help us avoid past mistakes?

Since all citizens have a responsibility to do our part to leave our community a little better off than how we found it, I want to hear what you believe government leaders can and should be doing NOW to ensure that Austin’s best days are still ahead of us. Please send your thoughts to me at Bruce.Elfant@co.travis.tx.us or P. O. Box 1748, Austin, TX 78767. It is my hope the Austin citizens of 2036 will judge us kindly for the course we set for our great city’s future.



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