Austin Parks Foundation is continuously involved in community engagement to ensure that our projects and work align with community values and needs. What is your philosophy on community engagement, and how would you engage with the community to ensure that their needs around parks and open space are appropriately addressed?

During my two terms on the City Council, I was a strong champion of community engagement in all city policies, including those that are parks’ related. I believe that the community closest to the issues is best suited to develop the solutions. I always insisted on inclusive and transparent processes. Working with the community, my accomplishments as a Council Member included efforts that:

  • Parkland for Underserved Areas: Created a policy to identify city-owned land that could become parks for underserved areas.
  • Oertli Park: Facilitated the donation of Oertli Park in Northeast Austin. Event Impacts: Analyzed impacts of large for-profit events at Auditorium Shores and Zilker Park to provide a balanced solution that supports public access to these parks.
  • Aquatics Master Plan: Developed an Aquatic Facilities Comprehensive Master Plan to ensure appropriate planning for Austin’s public pools.
  • Brentwood/Highland Neighborhood Park: Brought the community to consensus on parkland use at 401 St. John’s Avenue.
  • Equitable Design Efforts: Successfully redesigned our now-popular Bartholomew Pool with community-driven solutions.

This last effort is particularly indicative of my approach to working with the community. The initial community “outreach” for a new pool design (before my time on the Council) apparently consisted of a meeting that drew only 6 community members. Once the construction had begun but was stalled due to an unforeseen condition, the area neighbors and I first became aware that the new district pool would have no diving board and in fact, no deep end. Given the critical need for equity, including the need to acknowledge the high rate of drownings in the demographic of the area, this was unacceptable. I partnered with the community and the Parks Department staff to work through some extremely angry neighborhood reactions and to come together with positive alternative suggestions. I then rallied my colleagues to allocate the additional funding needed to correct this oversight. And now, Bartholomew Pool is one of the biggest draws in our aquatics system.

As mayor, I will continue my commitment to public engagement by encouraging resident participation in the ongoing development of the long range plan, including city-sponsored community meetings in each Council district to elicit input. In addition, I will recommend that each park have clearly posted city contact information for residents to communicate park concerns, compliments or recommendations to city staff.