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Commissioner Brigid Shea: Preparing for the worst in 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea will spend her 2017 much as she spent her previous two years in office: ensuring that the county and its residents are ready for the threats posed by climate change.

“I’ve worked on climate-related issues for 28 years now and I realized that the county is a unique unit of government that can be the umbrella entity to deal with these issues,” Shea told the Austin Monitor, recounting why she originally ran for her Precinct 2 seat in 2014. “For me, I really started to look at what it would take to really prepare a population for the effects of what we know will be increasingly violent and destructive weather.”

Shea offered that Austin is well-positioned to develop strategies that could become nationwide models. Pointing to the cooperation between the region’s public and private sectors, as well as the robust tech community, Shea said she maintains open lines of communication with stakeholders to encourage innovations in emergency communications and response.

“It’s that component where you empower the citizens in the advance of the disaster so that they can help themselves,” Shea said.

She explained that the progress she has made on that front is her proudest achievement of 2016. Her second, she said, was establishing with Mayor Steve Adler a book club aimed at increasing disaster preparation awareness among its members.

Said Shea, “I’m just trying to bring as many of those tools into the county to basically be better prepared when the next wildfire hits and when the next flood hits.”

The commissioner also listed affordability and transportation as among her top priorities in 2017. For the former, she suggested the creation of a “justice for renters” initiative that would provide renters any dividends from property tax reductions awarded to apartment building owners. She conceded that the county has no power to enact such a measure, but she said she would like to see City Council pursue the idea.

As far as transportation, Shea indicated that she will continue her efforts to reform leadership at both the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Shea is a member of CAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board and lamented that body’s decision to kill the Lone Star Rail District last October. That vote placed on ice any plans for regular passenger rail service connecting the Austin metropolitan area with San Antonio.

Shea also added that she is “really excited” to work with her new colleague on the dais, Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Travillion, noting his deep knowledge of his community.

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