December 30, 2015
As we head into 2016, I think it’s important that we take a moment to reflect upon our joint accomplishments over the last year. From growing our membership to holding another successful KnockOut Night and strengthening our advocacy, I’m proud to say that 2015 was a great year for RECA.
Thanks to the hard work of Membership Vice Chair Corby Jastrow, Director of Development Katie Comer and the Membership Committee, membership this year is up 15 percent and we’ve just crossed the 1,800 member mark. By increasing the size of KnockOut Night and expanding our event offerings, overall association revenue is also up 11 percent.
In January, RECA released a white paper titled - Affordable Austin: Building the Housing We Need at Prices We Can Afford. The paper took an in-depth look at our city’s housing shortage and set targets to build 100,000 new units over 10 years to meet the demands of our growing population. Mayor Steve Adler later adopted that number as the city’s goal. Later in the year, we issued a follow up white paper, looking specifically at what’s keeping us from building the housing supply we need in Austin.
Affordability remains the biggest challenge we face as a community and until we have policy that encourages more housing supply, more diverse housing types and reduces red tape in the review process, we will continue to have this problem. RECA will continue working hard on this issue in 2016.
We also continued our successful RECA Ideas Forum Lunch series, which brings industry, business and policy leaders together to discuss various topics. Attendees heard experts discuss everything from the legislative session to some of the new projects going up throughout town. We’ll continue with a great series of topics in 2016, including our January 13 lunch, where we’ll have a panel of media experts looking at the 10-1 Austin City Council system one year later and talking about how it’s gone so far — if you haven't registered for that yet, you can do so here.
In February, more than 1,700 people attended our big annual KnockOut Night. For the first time ever, RECA members boxed each other and we had no major injuries, but a lot of fun, so that tradition will carry into 2016. If you haven’t secured your table already, you need to get it done this week as we are expecting to sell out very soon.
We also successfully expanded the traditional Mid-Year Economic Forecast Lunch into the RECA Exchange at the JW Marriott. More than 800 people attended the new half-day event, which included a keynote breakfast by noted transportation expert Jarrett Walker, as well as four educational breakout sessions. We’re going to continue improving upon the success of this year’s RECA Exchange as we develop it into RECA’s annual conference.
I’m especially proud of all the great volunteer work RECA members did this year. Our quarterly community service program included activities like restoring problem sections of the Onion Creek Trail and Waller Creek and decorating cookies for residents at the Ronald McDonald House. Our Gardner Betts Art Show and Silent Auction raised more than $40,000 for Project Bridge, which is the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department’s art and music program. We also put on another successful charity golf tournament, where we again raised $40,000 for the Hill Country Conservancy, an organization that’s been a great RECA partner and friend over the years. All told, RECA has contributed more than $530,000 to the Hill Country Conservancy over the last 15 years.
On the advocacy front, we were successful on a number of key issues. When the Zucker Report was released earlier this year, we quickly provided our feedback and detailed recommendations. In November, when the county proposed a new courthouse that would occupy the last undeveloped block downtown, RECA came out in opposition and had a significant influence in the outcome. We recognize the need for a new courthouse, but believe it should be built in a different location where it won’t deprive the city of hundreds of millions of dollars of property tax revenue. And just a few weeks ago, City Council finally passed new rules easing the restrictions to build accessory dwelling units – a desperately needed tool as our community goes through an affordability crisis with a constrained supply of housing.
But as always, there’s still a lot of work to be done. CodeNEXT is arguably the most important issue our industry faces in our lifetime – and 2016 is a key year as the land development code is rewritten during the CodeNEXT process. The execution of the MoPac South Project and the continued development of the CAMPO 2040 plan will have enormous implications on our region’s transportation infrastructure for decades to come. There are also issues at City Hall like the Parkland Dedication ordinance, lobbying ordinance and City Council elections in November. These are just the issues we already know about – there are a slew of issues that come up throughout the year and demand quick action.
I ask that you make one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016 to get more involved in RECA. Join a RECA committee, testify at a City Council meeting, write a blog or join us at a volunteer project – there are countless ways you can get involved and make a difference in your association, industry and community.