A Declaration of Austin Independence
July 4, 2017 brings another hot summer day to the oasis of liberalism and forward-thinking innovation that is Austin, the large urban area that sits conspicuously in the middle of red state Texas.
Invoking the letter that Colonel William B Travis wrote from the Alamo in 1836, Mayor Steve Adler best described the city’s current plight via his not-so-tongue-in-cheek blog post from early June:
“I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the bills and laws of the State under Governor Abbott — Austin has sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for five months. The State has demanded a surrender, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the City is taken — I have answered the demand with a taco joke & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.”
A much more lengthy examination of this challenge is provided by Austin-based author and playwright Larry Wright in the July 10 issue of the New Yorker. Titled “America’s Future is Texas,” his 20-page explores how the influence of the Lone Star State’s bigger cities have been thwarted via deft political maneuvering:
“Today, the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives includes twenty-five Republicans and eleven Democrats — a far more conservative profile than the political demography of the state. The Austin metropolitan area, the heart of the Texas left, was divvied up into six congressional districts, with city residents a minority in each. All but one of these districts are now held by Republicans. . . . Texas’s redistricting process has since been replicated in statehouses around the country, creating congressional districts that are practically immune to challenge and giving Republicans an impregnable edge in Washington.”
As illustrated in Wright’s piece, the gulf between local and less-local government is a Texas problem that has metastasized into a national epidemic. For Austin at least, I am heartened that Adler and other leaders will continue to fight the good fight to retain the city’s ability to chart its unique destiny.
As we celebrate independence from non-representative government on the nation’s birthday, preserving the future of America’s most progressive cities has never been more important.
Hugh Forrest tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often (but not always) cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith or meditating, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.