Every city in America experiencing significant growth like ours faces a particular set of social and economic challenges that can be incredibly daunting when approached as a whole.
From affordable housing to environmental sustainability to quality healthcare, the list of concerns for a city goes on and on, each one battling it out as a city's top priorities for resources. If one area gets neglected, it can affect all of the other areas and ultimately undo the fragile balance of a city's quality of life.
Luckily for Austin, in addition to our bounty of nonprofit businesses, we also have a brave and innovative network of committed activists and ideamakers called Liveable City that has spent the last decade tackling these macro-issues on an interconnected, city-wide scale.
"Once people get together and talk about the gaps, they can understand and figure out how to address these issues," says Liveable City Executive Chair and former Texas State Representative Ann Kitchen. "Children who are hungry, who have no place to live, who are sick cannot learn. Another example: people end up in jail often when they are sick with no place to live and no access to mental health care."
Kitchen, who has served as chair for the past two years, has been with Liveable City for six of the organization's past ten years. During that time, she has, among other projects, helped Liveable City build renewable energy sources with Solar Austin, created the affordable housing coalition HousingWorks and passed the ongoing long-range plan for the city, Imagine Austin.
"What doesn't get done or changed most of the time are those stubborn problems that exist between silos of issues," states Kitchen, who knows firsthand from her time spent in the Texas Legislature. "Once people get together and talk about the gaps, they can understand and figure out how to address these issues."
As advocates for quality of life of all Austinites, Liveable City members regularly engage in the difficult, necessary discussions that most people would not like to think about. They follow this up with research and advocacy, supporting the causes that need immediate and long-term attention.
"We’re very concerned that Austin isn’t moving to address our growing affordability problem," Kitchen cites as the primary concern our city is currently facing. "Add that to our growing population and the serious unanswered housing, water, health and transportation issues, and we may be living in a very different place in the not too distant future."
Liveable City meets together at least once a month for mixers or lectures or open dialogs where everyone is welcome to advocate a position, express their personal concerns or weigh in on the group's final position on the matter. What is most important, Kitchen reinforces, is breaking out of those silos and working as a comprehensive unit.
To recognize the achievements of the group and also fundraise for future operations, Liveable City is hosting their First Ten Years Happy Anniversary Party this Tuesday at the historic Driskill Hotel.
The anniversary party is the perfect opportunity to meet the leadership team for Liveable City as well as the past recipients of their annual Vision Awards, which go out to those making a significant difference to improve quality of life in Austin.
As the downtown skyline continues to transform and many of our neighborhoods undergo significant socio-economic redefinition in reaction to unbelievable growth, the need for a group like Liveable City is more important than ever.
At this critical junction, the group is in a unique position to look back over the past ten years of hard work and use it to inform their progress in the future.
Liveable City's First Ten Years Happy Anniversary Party begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the Driskill Hotel. Tickets are $35.00.
Liveable City is always looking for additional volunteers and members. Membership to Liveable City begins at just $35.