When critiquing the built environment, many people have many of the same ideas: build more, build higher, build denser. However, with these ideas come trends, and the unfortunate truth is that the world’s spatial existence is determined by trends, not by people. During an election year in the United States, most people wait with baited breath to hear the new ideas of politicians, and for how the ideas will be enacted. Thanks to a conglomeration of crises, most of the people running for office on all levels have made one thing abundantly clear: they have absolutely no new ideas. Furthermore, they have no interest in doing anything other than attempting to distract the populace into supporting the raging dysfunction that currently exists.
Currently, there are four major crises that are plaguing the citizenry in the United States, though some are not limited to this country alone. The global pandemic is first and foremost on international minds, and the death toll continues to rise based on the insistence of continuing activities as planned. Racial unrest has been reignited as yet another unjust shooting has occurred, and no accountability has been seen for any other shootings and/or deaths at the hands of law enforcement. Climate change is bringing multiple storms and burning heat all over the world, and few people are equipped to handle the ravaging affects. In addition to all those problems, the recession is about to make countless people homeless as well as food insecure, due to the loss of jobs that are most likely never returning.
With all the above crises, what are the plans of the City of Austin? Luxury housing and entertainment that depends on excessive disposable income. Even though the cost of living is continuing to rise in Austin, there are no plans to throttle back on the luxury development and expensive entertainment. Contracts may been signed, but the city would rather continue to shirk its responsibilities to its constituents, and peddle the same narrative that has led to the destruction of historic racial communities and the loss of a racially diverse middle class. No contract renegotiation, no rent freezes or mortgage moratoriums, and no financial agreements have been implemented–nor has the city shown any impetus to change its behavior. In theory, the police budget is supposed to be reduced, but those budget reductions are not guaranteed to be dispersed to housing relief, day care, or any of the other issues that Austinites currently face. In short, there are no new legal structures that are being actively crafted to reshape the lives of everyday residents.
All of the development demonstrates a lack of recognition of all the ways the life costs money, let alone how all of the crises may have affected residents. Even in a city as devoted to technology as Austin, there are still people who only receive internet through their phones, especially since most of the working class rents, rather than owns their homes. Internet service is often an additional bill, and when people are struggling to feed families, internet is seen as a luxury, rather than a necessity. Many working class families will also be charged for daycare, since school is a limited option until September 8. Public and private officials alike see nothing wrong with continuing to build facilities that fewer people can afford, just like tax incentives keep being seen as normal and expected. The expiration of unemployment and the rising joblessness are nothing to the elite “leaders” who still fervently believe that the answers to all the troubles are the same answers that they have always used.
Finally, people with excessive resources control all of the solutions, and none of them are demonstrating that they have any compassion for the populace. No local banks or credit unions are rising to the occasion; all employers are still relying on job applications that keep Austinites unemployed for weeks and dependent on unemployment benefits–which may never come. Are city councilmembers coming up with ways to develop cooperatives with required onsite gardens equipped with internet and collaboration with educators? No. The only ideas that inspires any of the leaders in Austin are the ideas that keep people stressed and depressed, and wondering what crisis they will have to endure next.