In November 2014, Austin ISD submitted an application to HUD for ten-year Promise Zone designation for a large region of Austin, sweeping from the North Lamar/Rundberg area east and south through much of east Austin to Dove Springs, to include almost a quarter of the city’s population.
Process and Status
The Austin application, developed in a brief series of closed meetings, was submitted without the knowledge of the Austin ISD Board of Trustees, the Travis County Commissioners’ Court, or the Austin City Council, or most of the neighborhood-based organizations in the zone. When it was presented to the AISD Board December 2014 for routine approval, Trustees raised a number of concerns:
- joint activities are what the joint Travis/City of Austin/AISD committee is for
- affordability hadn’t been considered
- the impact of Rosewood Choice on Kealing Middle School and their elementary hadn’t been considered
- AISD as the lead application suggests they support the goals of the other partner groups
- community members hadn’t been consulted
- white people don’t understand the impact of gentrification on people of color
- why it was coming to the board after it was already submitted
The Trustees voted 8-1 to refer the decision to the Joint Committee of those bodies for their March 27 meeting.
Austin ISD agenda item and backup
Video of the Austin ISD Board of Trustees discussion and vote (Time 1:40 through 2:15)
While the application map includes an area labelled as “Byrne grant area”, the Promise Zone application actually omits much of the DOJ grant area and instead includes Wooten and part of Highland.
The Promise Zone administrative structure would “invite” one resident from “Restore Rundberg” to serve on a steering committee, along with one resident from each of St John, Colony Park, Dove Springs, and “Rosewood Choice”. Any other participation in decisionmaking by North Lamar/Rundberg, Wooten, or Highland residents, other stakeholders such as business and property owners, or neighborhood-based organizations, would only be through “Restore Rundberg”. Steering committee membership would consist primarily of agency representatives, with a voting majority over residents, and no participation by non-resident stakeholders such as business and property owners.