Austin's mayor admits history has not been fair to families in East Austin. That history ranges from neglected infrastructure, to city policies that banned families of color from living anywhere but east of what's now Interstate 35. As our Jeff Stensland explains, a new initiative aims to bring real change to families left in the fray for decades.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Art is in Jennifer Chenoweth's blood.
The visual artist is working on a project that maps people's experiences throughout Austin.
A project she says is just as special is called "Drawing Lines."
"What we wanted to talk about was how creativity is so much a part of what Austin is, and to use it to talk about social and political change in Austin," said Chenoweth.
"Drawing Lines" will create an art piece that represents each of the 10 City Council districts.
"Art is a fantastic way to bring people together. It's a way that we are neutral. We are a little like Switzerland in the deal," said Chenoweth.
Her piece is one of more than 200 projects in what Mayor Steve Adler calls the Spirit of East Austin Initiative.
"This is a conversation about actually doing something," said Adler. "We have a legacy and a history in this city that we need to counter and correct."
An area where Austin's oil used to be stored is believed to be linked to chronic illnesses in neighbors for years.
Now, the city's hitting the reset button.
By the end of next year, the area will be filled with the city's first ever community solar project. It allows families to buy into solar without having to come up with the expense of installing them and maintaining them over their life span.
"I am not at all surprised with the buy-in this initiative is having. There was pent-up buy-in waiting to be realized," said Adler.
Adler hoped for about 100 people at the first meeting.
More than 600 showed up, each with their own ideas of what will represent the Spirit of East Austin best.
Most of the projects should be finished within the next five years.
Adler asked each project to set a completion date, so progress can be better tracked.