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Cronk proud of city’s accomplishments in 2020

Friday, December 11, 2020 by Sean Saldaña

By many metrics, this year has been a difficult one for the city of Austin. The pandemic has played a role in the local unemployment spike, led to a number of permanent business closures and strained the city’s medical staff.

But despite the numerous headwinds, City Manager Spencer Cronk is proud of the city’s accomplishments and optimistic for the future. In his annual year in review, Cronk declared that he is “continually inspired by the unwavering resilience of this community and our city of Austin employees.”

Cronk’s letter focuses primarily on the city’s response to the coronavirus, its efforts at addressing homelessness and Council’s commitment to the process known as reimagining public safety. Cronk also highlighted “the full range of high-quality” city services and Project Connect, the multibillion-dollar transit initiative voters approved in November.

In recognizing the city’s pandemic response, Cronk singled out a number of programs he felt have been successful, including the Eating Apart Together Initiative, Austin’s economic recovery efforts and the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants assistance program.

The EAT Initiative, which was launched in April, was created to help fight food insecurity among the city’s homeless population during the pandemic. According to Cronk, the effort has helped serve over 500,000 meals to residents since it was launched in the spring.

In spotlighting the city’s economic recovery efforts, Cronk writes, “Thanks to the Austin City Council’s leadership, we identified, secured and earmarked $449.9 million towards local recovery efforts.”

To date, the city’s RENT program has assisted more than 3,100 households that have been financially impacted by the pandemic. In addition, Austin has managed to move more than 1,300 people out of homelessness and into housing this year.

Cronk went on to write that the city’s move to reimagine public safety finds Austin “at a pivotal moment in our history.” Citing the police killings of Mike Ramos and George Floyd, he recognized public officials for engaging with “the amplified calls to end disparities in how communities of color are treated when they interact with officers.”

Another point of praise: the quality of city services.

In Cronk’s opinion, the city has “continued to provide the full range of high-quality services our growing community has come to expect, picking up compost alongside trash and recycling, improving and expanding our green spaces.”

He also applauded the city’s ability to maintain the time-honored Zilker Tree lighting, which was broadcast online. The 54th annual tree lighting featured performances by the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble and the Barton Hills Choir. Cronk made an appearance during the ceremony and said he’s been “awe-struck by the strength and ability” of Austin’s community this year.

Finally, Cronk highlights the city’s recent approval of Project Connect, a transit initiative that will fund a light rail system, a downtown transit tunnel and more robust bus system throughout the city.

Cronk predicts that over the next several years, Project Connect will “profoundly change the way people get around Austin, giving our residents and visitors alternatives to avoid traffic congestion and improve their commutes.”

He also expresses gratitude to the first responders who have “stepped up repeatedly to answer the call and serve our community with unyielding dedication” throughout the year.

Cronk’s overall feelings are summarized in the closing paragraph when he states that “while 2020 may have tested us in many ways, as an organization and a community, we rose to the challenge.”

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