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The Costs of Police Violence: Measuring Misconduct

February 1, 2021

This report provides data on the costs associated with police misconduct in Austin, TX, during the years 2012 through early 2020. Police misconductencompasses the violation of Austin Police Department policies or individuals' constitutional rights by police officers in their duties or the illegal or unethical actions of police officers on duty. Police misconduct can range from verbal assaults to bystanders to excessive force that results in aperson's death. The goal of this report is to understand how much taxpayer dollars are spent on police misconduct. One article from an Austin NPR news radio story that discusses some of the challenges of measuring police misconduct costs said that the decision to settle a case of misconduct that early ends up saving money for attorney's fees and can result in a lower settlement. Insurance policies and local budgets usually pay for judgments and claims in cases of police misconduct.

Field Notes: Equity & State Climate Policy

September 5, 2019

For more than a decade, states and cities across the country have served a leadership role in advancing science-informed climate policy through city, state and multi-state efforts. The rapid pace by which state climate policy is emerging is evidenced by the number of new laws, directives and policies adopted in 2018 and the first half of 2019 alone. Currently, there is an active ongoing dialogue across the U.S. regarding the intersection of climate and equity objectives with efforts targeted at addressing needs of disadvantaged communities and consumers. This climate/equity intersection is due to several factors, including recognition by many cities and states that climate change is and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations and will exacerbate existing stressors faced by disadvantaged communities and consumers. Research indicates that a greater proportion of environmental burden exists in geographic areas with majority populations of people of color, low-income residents, and/or indigenous people. It is well known that certain households (including some that are low-income, African American, Latino, multi-family and rural) spend a larger portion on their income on home energy costs. States and stakeholders are realizing that a transition to a low-carbon future by mid-century will require significantly increased participation of disadvantaged communities and households in the benefits of climate and clean energy programs.

Case Study - LifeWorks

August 21, 2018

Implementing the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model boosts employment outcomes for transition-age youth facing barriers to employment. LifeWorks, a non-profit organization serving transition-age youth and their families in Austin, TX, realized that workforce models popular within the youth development field may not address the significant and complex challenges faced by their participants. LifeWorks staff began to look toward behavioral health approaches to employment and discovered the Individual Placement & Support model. This case study discusses how IPS offered LifeWorks a new approach to workforce support for youth that might better address the types of challenges their participants faced.

Community Voices: A Participatory Approach for Measuring Resident Perceptions of Police and Policing

May 24, 2018

Community Voices, a participatory research project, aimed to change the ways residents are heard and police are held accountable. The central tenet of the project was that creating an authentic representation of community sentiment towards the police has the capacity to reshape power dynamics between law enforcement and marginalized communities. This brief provides an overview of the pilot of Community Voices in Austin, Texas, discusses its impact, and includes attachments that provide more extensive details about the findings and related products.

City Profile on Racial Equity Austin, Texas

March 6, 2018

The City of Austin was named the U.S. News and World Report's Best Place to Live award and Forbes' Next Biggest Boom Town in the U.S.But despite national accolades and the city's immense growth, Austin must face the historically overlooked truth of racial inequity. The Martin Prosperity Institute ranked Austin as the most economically segregated city in the country, a designation no city wants. Taking this challenge head on, Austin has worked to reverse trends that exclude people of color from the bright future of their city. 

Exploring the Green Infrastructure Workforce: Jobs for the Future

March 28, 2017

How many people work in green infrastructure? What are the jobs? What level of compensation do they offer? What are the educational requirements? How much potential is there for job creation as green infrastructure investments increase? How is the green infrastructure workforce within the six U.S. cities examined for this report similar to—or different than—that in the nation as a whole?This issue brief attempts to answer these and other questions about current and emerging workforce trends related to the rise in green infrastructure activities. It summarizes the results of research conducted by Jobs for the Future (JFF) as part of NatureWORKS, a national initiative to understand the jobs, careers, skills, credentials, and potential of the U.S. green infrastructure workforce. The study was funded by the U.S. Forest Service's National Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program as recommended by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, NUCFAC.The research focused on occupations involved in the direct installation, maintenance, and inspection (IMI) of the green infrastructure (GI) and their first-line supervisors. This report describes the GI-IMI involvement of occupations whose work includes green infrastructure activities. It also discusses the emerging movement to certify green infrastructure workers in the stormwater management field as a way to both raise the quality of GI work and promote green infrastructure implementation, thereby expanding the workforce.

A Boomtown at Risk: Austin's Mounting Public Pension Debt

November 28, 2016

The increase in Austin's pension debt over the last decade is due in part to the fact that as the population grew, demand for public services increased and the city added more than 1,000 public employees between 2010 and 2015. As the cost of providing benefits rose, the city failed to keep up with contributions to the system—skipping nearly $170 million in payments to the Employees' Retirement Plan, which is the city's largest retirement plan, over eight years. At the same time, it suffered a series of investment shortfalls system wide, which compounded the effect of the missed contributions and led to a widening gap between assets and liabilities.Despite the fact that the city is paying more and more into the plans each year, unfunded liabilities are continuing to rise. In fact, Austin spends more than half of its pension payments on debt—rather than benefits for public workers. Yet even these payments might not be sufficient to pay off the unfunded liabilities, and if the city earns less than expected on its investments, debt will rapidly rise.The brief explains that the city must take immediate steps to pay down the unfunded liabilities in order to improve the stability of its pension plans. Local leaders in Austin should take note of the pension crisis that is unfolding in Dallas. Two years ago, Dallas' pension system was in a similar position to the one that Austin is currently in. However, Dallas' pension debt doubled to $4 billion and its funded ratio plummeted to 56 percent after the plan administrators made a series of reckless decisions that have pushed the city's largest plan, the police and fire fund, to the brink of bankruptcy.The situation in Dallas should provide a cautionary example of how quickly debt can spiral out of control. In the brief, McGee and Diaz Aguirre call on Austin's leaders to make the changes necessary to ensure that the city is able to uphold its retirement promises to public workers. The authors present a number of recommendations that would help stabilize the system and address the plan's underlying structural flaws, including:Making adequate funding non-negotiable and committing to pay down current unfunded liabilities in 30 years or less.Establishing prudent and realistic funding and investment policies.Establishing local control of the pension fund in order to improve oversight and accountability.Consider enrolling new workers in plans that are simpler and easier to manage, like Defined Contribution or Cash Balance plans.

The Science of Policing Equity: Measuring Fairness in the Austin Police Department

February 23, 2016

This brief is a partnership between Urban and the Center for Policing Equity's National Justice Database, in collaboration with the White House's Police Data Initiative. The brief analyzes publicly available data in 2015 vehicle stops and 2014 use of force incidents on the part of the Austin Police Department. Findings indicate that even when controlling for neighborhood levels of crime, education, homeownership, income, youth, and unemployment, racial disparities still exist in both use and severity of force. We also document that APD has a high level of transparency, and the analysis demonstrates the value of that democratization of police department data in examining whether community-level explanations are sufficient to explain observed racial disparities.

Creating Spaces: Performing Artists in Sacred Spaces: Austin, Baltimore, Detroit

January 6, 2016

Ewing This study builds upon a successful pilot program of Partners for Sacred Places that facilitates long-term, mutually beneficial space-sharing relationships between arts organizations -- with inadequate or no home space -- and houses of worship with space to share. The findings of this study demonstrate a range of issues, challenges, and opportunities facing performing artists and clearly establish that these artists:overwhelmingly see a need for more performance, rehearsal, and administrative spaces;see a home space as critical to artistic development and community engagement; andfeel that a historic sacred space could enhance the experience of their work.This research confirms that many sacred spaces face diminished membership, limited resources to support and maintain their facilities, and a desire to provide value as a community resource and asset, but lack the resources to create these links. The findings from each city establish a significant amount of available space, the desire of sacred spaces to serve as a broader community asset, and their minimal concerns about artistic content and control. This report and its findings could have implications for artists, sacred spaces, and the funding community not only in the three cities studied, but also throughout the country.

Intersecting Worlds: Promoting Affordable Care Act Enrollment Through Community Tax-Preparation Programs

September 15, 2014

This report tells how four tax-preparation programs are breaking the mold and tackling the world of health care enrollment. Readers will learn the challenges and opportunities associated with such a move, which has the potential to help millions of low-income Americans take a critical first step toward a healthier future.

Lessons from Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S.

June 1, 2014

This report presents finding from research evaluating U.S. protected bicycle lanes (cycle tracks) in terms of their use, perception, benefits, and impacts. This research examines protected bicycle lanes in five cities: Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C., using video, surveys of intercepted bicyclists and nearby residents, and count data. A total of 168 hours were analyzed in this report where 16,393 bicyclists and 19,724 turning and merging vehicles were observed. These data were analyzed to assess actual behavior of bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers to determine how well each user type understands the design of the facility and to identify potential conflicts between bicyclists, motor vehicles and pedestrians. City count data from before and after installation, along with counts from video observation, were used to analyze change in ridership. A resident survey (n=2,283 or 23% of those who received the survey in the mail) provided the perspective of people who live, drive, and walk near the new lanes, as well as residents who bike on the new lanes. A bicyclist intercept survey (n= 1,111; or 33% of those invited to participate) focused more on people's experiences riding in the protected lanes. A measured increase was observed in ridership on all facilities after the installation of the protected cycling facilities, ranging from +21% to +171%. Survey data indicates that 10% of current riders switched from other modes, and 24% shifted from other bicycle routes.

Food on Wheels: Mobile Vending Goes Mainstream

September 19, 2013

Mobile food vending generates approximately $650 million in revenue annually. The industry is projected to account for approximately $2.7 billion in food revenue over the next five years, but unfortunately, most cities are legally ill-equipped to harness this expansion. Many city ordinances were written decades ago, with a different type of mobile food supplier in mind, like ice cream trucks, hot dog carts, sidewalk peddlers, and similar operators. Modern mobile vending is a substantial departure from the vending typically assumed in outdated local regulations. Vendors utilize large vehicles packed with high-tech cooking equipment and sanitation devices to provide sophisticated, safe food usually prepared to order. Increasingly, city leaders are recognizing that food trucks are here to stay. They also recognize that there is no "one size fits all" prescription for how to most effectively incorporate food trucks into the fabric of a community. With the intent of helping city leaders with this task, this guide examines the following questions: What policy options do local governments have to regulate food trucks? What is the best way to incorporate food trucks into the fabric of a city, taking into account the preferences of all stakeholders?Thirteen cities of varying size and geographic location were analyzed for this study. Information on vending regulations within each of these cities was collected and analyzed, and supplemented with semi-structured interviews with city staff and food truck vendors.