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In the News

Senator Watson addresses regionalism at General Assembly

Friday, January 08, 2016

The General Assembly of the Capital Area Council of Governments held its annual meeting in December at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos, which featured Senator Kirk Watson as the keynote speaker.

Senator Watson, who was the first recipient of CAPCOG’s Leadership in Regionalism Award, discussed the need for local governments to work as a region when addressing issues such as transportation, economic development, affordable housing and air quality.

Watson, during his tenure as Austin Mayor in 2000, initiated the Clean Air Coalition at CAPCOG, which has become a model for city and county elected officials working to maintain EPA ozone standards and prevent a nonattainment designation that would decrease transportation funds and economic development opportunities.

He noted the region faces challenges concerning affordable housing, jobs and transportation. These issues are better addressed on a regional level, because they are intimately tied together and their impacts on one community affect communities region wide making the challenges hard to tackle independently. Efforts such as regional economic development initiatives can further improve access to affordable housing and jobs while limiting transportation strain by supporting balanced growth in communities increasing the possibility for more people to live near where they work.

Senator Watson’s comments opening the meeting were supported by the State of the Region report that closed it; CAPCOG’s Economic Development Manager Chris Schreck focused on the region’s population growth, economic growth, educational attainment, workforce availability, housing and regional transportation.

By many measures, 2015 was another banner year for the Capital Area, Schreck said. The region is attracting huge numbers of highly skilled workers. Firms are growing and jobs are being created. The unemployment rate is at 3.3 percent. However, the continued growth in the region has exacerbated long-standing issues and has created new challenges in the Capital Area. Inequity in educational outcomes limits the opportunity for everyone to benefit from the region’s growing economy. Rising housing costs are displacing many residents in Austin and parts of Hays and Williamson counties, forcing them to move to more suburban and rural locations. This has the effect of isolating them from employment opportunities and from the public services many low-income households depend upon.

> Read more about the 2015 State of the Region.

The General Assembly also elected a new Executive Committee for 2016, which will hold its first meeting of the year on Jan. 13, including Leander Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Navarrette and State Representative John Cyrier, the two newest members.

Twenty-five elected officials serving in CAPCOG’s 10-county region are elected to the Executive Committee each year after interest is solicited from member cities and counties. Texas COGs are also required to have at least one slot for a state legislator; however, CAPCOG solicits interest from the 17 who serve all or portions of its ten counties and typically selects 3-4 to serve.

Navarrette has served on Leander City Council since 2003. Cyrier, state representative for House District 17, was elected in 2015 to serve the residents of Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes and Lee counties. He is a former Caldwell County commissioner and served on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The Executive Committee meets monthly to oversee the management of the agency and focuses on the administrative policies and practices such as budgeting, auditing, procurement, and other operational policies necessary to carry out a wide menu of programs, many of which are dictated by contractual scopes of work from state and federal agencies. The Executive Committee is led by five officers who will be elected at the January meeting. It also serves as the managing board for the Capital Area Emergency Communications District, which governs the region’s 9-1-1 systems.

> See a full list of 2016 Executive Committee members. 

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