On October 24th, the first day of early voting, Austin’s tech and entrepreneur community held the first ever Austin Tech Votes Rally. This event engaged and educated the tech and entrepreneur community about the upcoming election and introduced new policy organizations and political education tools in support of Austin’s new economy agenda.
The ATC Policy Coalition (a new group of established and emerging community leaders co-chaired by Dan Graham and ATC Board Member Lawrence Waugh), the Austin Tech Alliance, and TechVotes welcomed Mayor Adler and a full house of tech citizens, entrepreneurs, investors, and activists representing the spectrum of tech ecosystem stakeholders. Speakers provided in depth perspectives on the ballot, the campaign landscape, engagement opportunities, and what’s at stake if tech remains disconnected from city government and municipal priorities.
A panel of young community leaders and activists, moderated by the Austin Monitor’s Michael Kanin, offered perspectives on the disconnect between city government and the tech community and how to develop a policy and political landscape that more accurately represents the interests and needs of a growing Austin. Thomas Visco of BVE Partners, Joe Deshotel of RideAustin, Jennifer Houlihan of Austin Music People, and Ainee Athar of FWD.us highlighted the value of a collaborative approach to engagement and the need to introduce new economy and innovation priorities at City Hall.
Mayor Adler provided his perspective on this election cycle’s Proposition 1 Mobility Bond campaign - widely endorsed by the room - and cautioned against maintaining Austin’s reputation as a “do-nothing” community. The stakes are high, particularly when considering Austin's blistering growth rate and the investments competing municipalities are making in their infrastructure. Seattle, for instance, has a $54 billion transportation improvement bond on the ballot in November. Mayor Adler distanced this year’s efforts from previous, failed bond initiatives by recommitting to a contract with the voter on transparency and community inclusion to assure that bond dollars are spent on approved improvements.
Capital Factory and Austin Tech Alliance co-founder Josh Baer announced the completion of a new Austin Tech Alliance voting app and guide for tech voters. TechVotes introduced a new voter registration and education platform several weeks ago.
RideScout co-founder and moovel Group President Joseph Kopser closed the event with an ask that tech learn about candidates and the issues and get out to vote. In addition to Joseph and Mayor Adler, other attending tech leaders and influencers included District 3 Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Dan Graham, Josh Baer, Barbary Brunner, Lawrence Waugh, David Edmonson, and Erin Defosse.
As we approach the conclusion of the most divisive national campaign in modern history and the first local election after the switch to a 10-1 district system, there are few city-wide issues or candidates on the ballot around which the regional tech community can rally.
The passage of Prop 1 would deliver a clear community preference to protecting Austin’s sustained growth and prosperity. And that's a good place for tech to start a new discussion on how the community prioritizes, engages, and assesses issues on the way to 2018.
Grover Bynum, BVE Partners