To quote just about every millennial out there, “I can’t even anymore.” Not when it comes to Austin, capital of Texas.
The latest idea from the city council almost defies belief. The city council is drafting a “social contract” for the city. It reads like a set of platitudes you might see written in Magic Marker on the wall of a toney private kindergarten, not a city government that wishes to be taken seriously as an authority and guarantor of the peace.
Local media call it “groundbreaking.” Because of course they do.
The contract should reflect values shared by the people of Austin, reads the resolution. Those values are outlined as:
- Be respectful
- Listen to understand
- Act with good intentions
- Support ideas with evidence and experience
- Disagree without being disagreeable
- Critique the idea not the person
- Invite wonder
Austin’s social contract would not be a legal document, but rather serve as a “written agreement outlining a community’s core values and instructs the direction of laws, regulations, policies, contracts, culture and more.”
Let’s critique this idea. City governments do not exist to say or do any of this. Austin’s proposed social contract is not measurable as it provides no performance metrics. It’s childish feel-good pabulum on a pogo stick.
Austin’s city council spent 2019 abandoning its core duty to citizens to keep the streets clean and orderly when it allowed homeless camping all over town (except city hall, of course). Result: trash and feces everywhere across a city that is rotting from within.
Austin’s city council spent 2020 undermining, demoralizing, and then defunding its police department, resulting in a major rise in violent crimes including homicide and an ongoing brain drain of experienced officers. This move also reflects the city’s abandonment of its core duty, to provide for public safety.
Austin city government has not been respectful of other opinions. It hasn’t even listened to other opinions at all.
Were either of those actions above done with “good intentions”? They probably were, yet they’ve created disaster all the same. Perhaps results should count for something, anything at all, in Austin’s social contract hierarchy of needs.
What’s that they say about “good intentions”?
With this new social contract the city council proposes, Austin abandons all pretense to even care about its core duties so that it may fulfill its true ambition, to become a council of busybodies and scolds.
City governments exist at the pleasure of their states. Rather than “invite wonder,” Austin may be inviting a state takeover once the legislature convenes in January.