14 Austin Nonprofit Leaders Offer Advice to New City Council

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With more than 70 people competing for 10 spots on the new City Council — and one mayoral spot — it’s entirely possible that Austin will elect leaders with limited knowledge of its most pressing social issues. As Central Texas continues its unprecedented growth, new developments will arise at a rapid pace. Issues like poverty, an unprepared workforce, the neglect of cultural arts, the neglect of our senior population… will only become more complicated.

Nonprofit leaders, on the other hand, have a deep and nuanced understanding of these social issues. Because they confront them every day with limited resources, they’ve created innovative and collaborative ways to address them. They’ve also found ways to inspire the community — donors, volunteer and advocates — and engage them in their cause.

As our new city leaders take their chairs in January, we hope they’ll consider the following advice from 14 of the nonprofit sector’s most engaged leaders. You, too, readers, can benefit from their advice as you thoughtfully prepare to cast your ballot.

Click through at the bottom to read from all 14 leaders.


Animal Welfare – Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive

ellen jeffersonThe No Kill movement has achieved a 90% save rate of all impounded pets in the city of Austin since 2011 making Austin the largest No Kill city in the United States. This was the result of hard work by previous Council members who were committed, even when they were not popular with all animal groups in town, to seeing it through. They achieved change because they demanded it. No Kill is a journey, not a destination, and 90% is not a given. The animals need the new Council to guard No Kill very closely and not become complacent with success.

The most important upcoming decision that could erode our city’s success is a potential move of Austin Pets Alive! from downtown to a remote location. It is vital that the animals who are the hardest to adopt out remain front and center in Austin so that No Kill Austin can remain one of the things that makes Austin the greatest city on earth.


Arts & Culture – Brett Barnes, Vice President for Development for The Long Center

Brett-J-BarnesI wonder what I can do for entertainment this week/weekend? What is there for my kids to do?

Like a lot of people, you have probably asked yourself those very questions many times. Fortunately, you live in Austin and having a wide range of choices is never a problem – at least for now.

From an aspiring young singer at an off-beat club to grand opera, from international talent at a world-class festival to local stars in a home-grown theatre, from accomplished street entertainers to beautiful works of art in a gallery; and from kids acting in a show to kids watching their first live theatre experience, there is something for everyone in Austin – at least for now.

However, if Austin wants to retain this wealth of artistic riches, we must focus our attention on creating a city that’s affordable and offers a quality of life that is accessible for all: housing options that are convenient to city resources; transportation alternatives that encourage attendance and participation; regulations that encourage artistic expression; and venue options that give artists a choice. There are many more issues that need leadership attention but these are some of the bigger, more pressing ones.

Together, we can Keep Austin Creative!


Children’s & Victims’ Services – Kelly White, CEO of Austin Children’s Services & Julia Spann, MSW, Executive Director of SafePlace

Kelly White (CEO, Austin Children's Shelter)julia_spannOur advice would be to look carefully at the downstream costs of child abuse and domestic violence, to truly get a sense of the value of prevention programs. We pay in so many ways for violence in the home: medical costs; the costs of law enforcement, courts, and incarceration; the child protection system; and the increased costs and consequences of violence: higher rates of teen pregnancy, homelessness, mental illness, school attrition, suicide, even lasting health issues. When we prevent violence by intervening early with home visitations services, counseling and real support, we save money in the long run – plus, we make Austin a better and happier place to live.

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