Austin Tech Alliance Hosts its First Tech Town Hall at WeWork Domain with District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool

Austin District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool with David Edmonson, executive director of the Austin Tech Alliance, at the organization’s first tech town hall meeting at WeWork at the Domain.

The biggest challenge for Austin and the Texas Legislature is tackling school finance, according to Austin District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool.

“More than half of the property taxes that are paid by Austin homeowners, commercial properties and businesses go back to the state under recapture,” Pool said.

That’s more than $400 million this year and $536 million next year that goes back to the state under the Robin Hood Law, passed in 1993 that redistributes money from “wealthy” districts to poorer ones, according to Pool.

“The school districts here are suffering from that,” Pool said.

Pool spoke Tuesday night at WeWork at the Domain during a Tech Town Hall organized by the Austin Technology Alliance.

About 40 people turned out for the event which featured Austin Technology Alliance Executive Director David Edmonson asking Pool questions along with audience members. Pool is also concerned with the anti-sanctuary city law, Senate Bill 4, that the Governor signed earlier this year. THe law, which goes into effect September 1st, allows state law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status and residency when they detain someone and to work with federal immigration authorities.

Adam Wacenske, general manager of WeWork South Region.

WeWork hosted the event because it’s important to engage its 1,200 plus members at the Domain location with local government and issues that related to them, Adam Wacenske, general manager of the WeWork South region said. WeWork at the Domain opened in December of 2016. Overall, WeWork has 3,000 members at its three locations throughout Austin.

“WeWork’s mission is to help people create a life and not just a living,” Wacenske said. “Part of that is to get away from only work and to connect people with the issues that matter to them. Council Member Pool talking about what affects their day to day lives is really important to members and the community.”

Council Member Pool said it’s important to reach out to the tech community to get them engaged.

“I would meet with any group to help them understand what we do and to demystify the workings of municipal government,” she said. “I help people negotiate and navigate and get involved.”

Pool has also seen explosive growth in the tech community in her district.

The Austin Tech Alliance was formed last year as a nonprofit organization focused on forging relationships between the tech community and policy makers, said Edmonson. The organization has several hundred members including companies as well as individuals, he said. Its company members include Data.World, WP Engine, Silicon Labs, BazaarVoice, Google and others, he said.

The event Tuesday was the first in a series of town hall meetings designed to bring the technology community face to face with policy makers, Edmonson said.

“There is always something to be said for meeting someone in person, and hearing them talk about what they are working on and what’s important to them,” he said.

The tech community, traditionally, has not been civically engaged, he said. The next meeting is August 24th at Capital Factory with Mayor Steve Adler.

One of the major issues the tech community is concerned about is the so-called Bathroom Bill being considered in the special Texas Legislative Session that began last week. The Austin Tech Alliance put together a letter in opposition to the legislation with 433 people signing it and presented it to the Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Edmonson said. The bathroom bill would regulate what public and government restrooms people could use based on the gender listed on their birth certificate or another form of government ID.

“This is legislation that will make it harder to recruit the best and brightest and most talented individuals to Austin,” Edmonson said.

The Texas State approved the bathroom bill early Wednesday morning, according to the Dallas Morning News. It is now in the hands of the Texas House, and House Speaker Rep. Joe Straus is reported to be in opposition to the bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.

CodeNext, the rewriting of Austin’s land development regulations, is another big issue on the agenda for Austin Tech Alliance, Edmonson said. It sounds boring, but it’s really important because it regulates who gets to build what and where he said.

“That is going to have a huge impact on Austin’s tech sector’s ability to compete with other tech hubs,” he said.

Affordability for real estate and mobility for efficient transportation are other big issues, he said.

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