When people talk about Austin’s quality of life, they invariably mention our great outdoors and the mostly mild year-round weather that allows us to enjoy it. Even when it’s 100 degrees, people are outside running, paddling and playing.
I have enjoyed the outdoors in Central Texas my whole life, and it’s a big part of why I love Austin. Running or walking my dog Houdini on the Hike & Bike Trail is one of my favorite things, along with swimming at Barton Springs Pool. I’ve even joined the die-hard New Year’s Day “polar bears” who jump in the pool no matter how cold it is. It’s fun … really.
One of the many reasons we are proud to be Democrats is that our party supports policies that preserve the environment, and I was glad to hear President Obama hit hard on the need to do better at his Inauguration — in spite of Republican opposition. It’s an uphill battle in Texas, where Rick Perry and his pals oppose almost every federal regulation to help our air, land and water quality. As a result, Texas is No. 1 in greenhouse gas emissions (more than the next two states combined) and has one of the worst overall environmental rankings in the country.
On a smaller scale but just as important is the threat to our parks from the tight-fisted budget slashers in the current Texas legislature. As Keep Texas Parks Open Director Ian Davis says in this week’s “On the Record with Diane Holloway,” funding for Texas parks has been “cut to the bone,” with the very real threat of some state parks being forced to close. Money from the sporting goods tax is supposed to support our state parks, but too much of it has been diverted to gimmicks to balance the budget.
Closer to home, from Bull Creek to Zilker, from Auditorium Shores to Walter E. Long, we have many great municipal parks to enjoy. We also have lots of county parks and state parks in Central Texas. Every weekend we see soccer and softball games, cook-outs, birthday parties and more as people get away from their walls and computers.
Whether you are an Austin native or a newcomer, I hope you get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. And I hope you will help protect the parks that play a big part in our good quality of life. Check out some opportunities with Keep Texas Parks Open, be sure to check our TCDP Calendar for events and become a Sustaining Member of the TCDP. We’ll keep you posted.
Travis County Democratic Party Chair