Families and Children
A consistent voice for Austin’s families and children, Laura has been recognized as a Champion for Working Families by the Workers Defense Project. She has also received accolades from Communities in Schools for empowering at-risk students and from AVANCE-Austin for her advocacy on behalf of children and families. Her work as a Council Member included:
Strong Policy Priorities: Amended the Citywide Strategic Priorities to include the interests of families and children in all city planning initiatives.
Support for Social Services: Established funding sources for youth social services and mentoring programs including Family Resource Centers, a collaborative effort with AISD.
Innovative Youth Employment Programs: Worked with East Austin high schools to create a lifeguard certification program that counts as P.E. credit for students, guarantees them a summer job, and helps fill the city’s growing lifeguard shortage.
Help for At-Risk Youth: Led effort to identify and allocate city resources for at-risk youth.
Laura has been at the forefront on multiple measures to address Austin’s rising housing costs, protect renters’ rights and provide affordable options in every zip code.
Property Tax Relief: Led efforts to ease tax burdens for homeowners, seniors and those with disabilities, as allowed by state law. Fought to have TCAD more accurately assess commercial parcels to ensure private investors pay their fair share of property taxes.
Affordable Housing Sites: Required the City manager to identify city-owned properties suitable for affordable housing.
Affordability Tools and Funding Options: Supported a range of tools to promote affordable housing including community land banks, community land trusts, foreclosure prevention, fair affordable housing benefits with density bonuses, and careful assessments of proposals using affordable housing bonds.
Geographic Dispersion: Championed new guidelines to direct affordable housing to all parts of Austin to avoid clustering and ensure improved housing options citywide.
Prohibiting Discrimination: Worked to prohibit discrimination in rental housing based on source of income.
Every resident should have the opportunity to share in Austin’s prosperity, and Laura has worked hard to ensure a level playing field for all.
Living Wage Policy: Established a living wage policy for city workers, city contractors, part-time city employees and construction workers on projects that receive additional entitlements from the city.
Payday Loan Regulation: Regulated loans from payday outlets to mitigate the impact of compounding fees on Austin residents.
Limited Incentives to Corporations: Created a consistent evaluation process to determine whether the city of Austin should give tax breaks or other benefits to companies moving to town. Fought to prohibit companies that receive city incentives from challenging their tax appraisals.
Improved Analysis for Special Events: Required an analysis of direct and indirect costs of for-profit special events so that taxpayers do not have to subsidize them.
Fair Treatment at Austin Energy: Created an equitable rate system, developed criteria for payment assistance and mandated impartial hearings on customer disputes at Austin Energy. Worked to keep Austin Energy a public utility accountable to Austin residents, and required an independent consumer advocate to represent AE users.
No Subsidies for Developer Utility Hook-ups: Required developers to pay the true cost of utility (water and electric) hook-ups, ending the policy of taxpayer subsidies for these.
Parks and Open Space
Laura believes every Austin resident deserves access to good public parks and open spaces. Her work has been recognized by the Save Barton Springs Association, which honored her with its Kumbaya Award for successful efforts to resolve conflicts over the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan, and by Friends of Shipe Pool, which presented her with a Neighborhood Hero Award for her work to preserve Shipe and Govalle public pools for future generations. Her accomplishments include:
Parkland for Underserved Areas: Created a policy to identify city-owned land that could become parks for underserved areas.
Oertli Park: Facilitated the donation of Oertli Park in Northeast Austin.
Event Impacts: Analyzed impacts of large for-profit events at Auditorium Shores and Zilker Park to provide a balanced solution that supports public access to these parks.
Repair Efforts: Led the successful effort to fix major design and construction problems at East Austin’s popular Bartholomew Pool.
Aquatics Master Plan: Directed the city manager to draft an Aquatic Facilities Comprehensive Master Plan to ensure efficient planning for Austin’s public pools, with a goal to keep Austin’s neighborhood pools open and free.
Health and Social Services
With a strong commitment to public health, Laura supports the creation of a new community health commission whose work would include drafting a health impact analysis to assess the impacts of proposed city actions on residents’ health. She has been recognized by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Service Department and the Community Advancement Network for her ongoing support of these issues. Her previous work includes:
Increased Resources for Health and Human Services: Sponsored budget amendments to significantly increase resources for social service providers to ensure vital support for Austin’s most vulnerable residents.
Combating Childhood Obesity: Led a forum with community partners, city commissioners and staff to develop creative initiatives to address Austin’s childhood obesity epidemic.
Supporting Local Food: Worked to encourage sustainable urban agriculture to provide healthy, locally sourced food for our community.
Curtailed Smoking: Led the effort to prohibit smoking in city parks and to stop sales and delivery of electronic cigarettes to minors.
Eastside Health Center: Supported and explored funding options for Huston-Tillotson University’s efforts to create a wellness center for East Austin residents.
As a Council Member, Laura worked to defend and protect animal welfare through multiple successful measures. Austin Pets Alive named her its No-Kill Champion in 2013 and American Pets Alive recognized her the following year for her lasting contributions in making Austin a national leader in No-Kill policy.
No Kill: Achieved a decade-old goal of making Austin a “No Kill” city, increasing our animal shelter live outcomes from ~50% to over 90%.
Spay and neuter: Increased surgery services for cats and dogs to reduce the number of unwanted strays.
Pet stores: Prohibited retail sale of cats and dogs in stores.
Austin Animal Center: Increased badly needed space of animal shelter in response to no-kill policy.
Circus animals: Prohibited devices likely to cause pain or injury to performing animals.
A careful steward of our environment, Laura is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for all Austinites.
Sustainability Plans: Served as a leader on plans to keep Austin on the path to sustainability including the Climate Protection Plan, Renewable Energy Plan, and Zero Waste Plan. Set in motion the effort that led to the development of the Water Future plan for locally sourced resources for the next 100 years.
Austin Energy Governance: Led the effort to maintain City Council control of Austin Energy, ensuring its adherence to the community's values for energy.
Ground Water Protection: Held the line on variances to the Save Our Springs ordinance. Helped enact new regulations to protect groundwater when subterranean structures are built.
Residential Development in Environmentally Sensitive Areas: Worked to pass a new land use definition to allow clustering of single-family development to avoid critical environmental features and enhance tree protection.
Recycle Construction Materials: Required building materials and debris from demolitions to be recycled instead of dumped into landfills.
Laura embraces a multi-faceted approach to protect the safety and rights of all residents.
Hate Crimes Task Force: Spearheaded the effort to establish a new Hate Crimes Task Force to eliminate crimes driven by hate and prejudice.
Constructive Collaboration: Worked to improve collaboration between law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, community groups and other governmental bodies.
Drug Take-Back: Promoted Drug Take-Back days to collect unwanted and unneeded pharmaceuticals. Initiated effort to develop an eco-friendly, year-round pharmaceutical take-back program for Austin.
Texting While Driving Ban: Promoted safer roads by enhancing protections from distracted driving.
Safe Routes for Hazardous Materials: Developed criteria for hazardous material routes within the city to protect Austin residents.
A longtime supporter of Austin’s LGBT community, Laura champions policies to ensure equal treatment for all Austinites. She served as the Grand Marshall of the PRIDE Parade in 2010, the first City Council Member ever to be so honored.
Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce: Facilitated collaboration with the AGLCC and worked to increase city support for the organization.
Domestic Partner Benefits: Led the effort to review city contracting policies, economic development programs and personnel policies to ensure that same-sex partners receive equal benefits.
Betty Naylor Street: Renamed a section of 4th Street to Betty Naylor Street as an enduring tribute to this locally and nationally recognized civil rights advocate.
PRIDE Parade: Enlisted the city as annual co-sponsor of this important community event.
Laura recognizes that local businesses are the backbone of our community and has worked hard to ensure their continued success.
Programs and Resources: Worked to create a city incentive program for local businesses. Supported summits to address local business needs, including small businesses, day care providers and small hotels.
Productive Partnerships: Facilitated a partnership between Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and Austin Independent Business Alliance to enhance tourism while promoting local businesses.
Reduced Regulatory Impediments: Revised regulations to allow vending and signs on sidewalks for South Congress merchants. Minimized impacts of proposals for metal recyclers’ regulations.
Innovative Loans: Created a guaranteed loan program for local businesses, including a collateral pool for small businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses.
Support for Local Vendors: Encouraged the City of Austin to give preference to local vendors when appropriate for city contracts.
The mother of a musician, Laura promotes policies that support and nurture Austin’s artists, musicians, theaters, cultural centers and more. She has been recognized by the Austin Creative Alliance for her invaluable contributions to Austin’s creative community.
Cultural Master Plan: Formally endorsed the CreateAustin Plan, providing a roadmap to enhance Austin as a cultural and creative center.
Creative Industries Ambassadors Program: Led music delegation to Austin’s Sister City, Oita, Japan. Initiated a new program to enhance Austin artists’ experiences when touring and to promote Austin as a tourist destination.
Live Music: Led the collaborative effort to revise processes for music venue sound permits, marking the first time the music community and neighborhood activists found common ground to develop positive solutions.
Live Theater: Worked to facilitate reliable long-term funding sources for the Austin Playhouse and the Zilker Hillside Theatre.
The MACC: Arranged for an adjacent parcel of land to be incorporated into the Mexican American Cultural Center, removing the threat of inappropriate private development.
Creative Recognitions: Led the effort to create and dedicate Margaret Moser Plaza in recognition of her decades of service to Austin musicians and the Austin music scene. Sponsored honors for Austin-born, internationally known folklorist and musicologist Alan Lomax. Co-sponsored the resolution to rename a portion of 2nd Street as Willie Nelson Boulevard.
As a two-term City Council Member, Laura has proven expertise on city finance and budget issues, ensuring the wise, efficient use of public dollars while keeping the focus squarely on community needs. She holds a Master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, and was a member of the City Council Audit and Finance Committee.
Audit and Finance Experience: Reviewed and analyzed city audits, budgets, bond and city debt, financial policies, taxation, banking, and investment policies and related matters during her tenure on the Audit and Finance Committee.
Informed Scrutiny: Unafraid to probe the details. Consistently asks tough informed questions to protect Austin taxpayers.
Policies to Support Goals: Directed city manager to review the city’s banking policies and contracts and recommend changes to support community reinvestment goals.
Austin Energy: Worked to keep Austin Energy under public control, not turn it over to a private board unaccountable to Austin taxpayers.
Financial Stability for AWU: Led the effort to return Austin Water Utility to financial stability while continuing city goals of ensuring affordable water rates and increased water conservation.
Leveraged Resources: Leveraged additional resources to address critical housing needs after the 2012 housing bonds failed to pass, ensuring key projects and services did not wait until the next election. Identified city funding to invest in community health programs to support for example, pregnant women and new mothers, in order to qualify for an additional ~$8M in federal Medicaid funds.
Public Participation and Transparency
A strong proponent of open government, Laura has led multiple efforts to improve public access and increase transparency in all city dealings. She was named a People’s Champion by Texans for Accountable Government in recognition of her work to protect the privacy and liberty of Austin residents.
AISD, Travis County and City Collaboration: Revitalized the joint committee of City, County and AISD elected officials to proactively address critical issues, including student mobility, the impact of development on neighborhood schools, truancy, and coordination of youth court services.
Process improvements for Economic Incentives Cases: Enacted new requirements for a clear assessment of costs vs. benefits for economic incentive proposals. Revised the timeline for these decisions to ensure adequate public access and input.
Budget Process: Worked to secure Board and Commission review of proposed departmental budgets to allow for public discussion and ensure that Council considers Board and Commission recommendations.
State Land: Required the city manager to notify the City Council when state-owned land is offered for sale to the city.
City Land: Developed a review process for the potential sale of city-owned land.
Land Use: Created a transparent vetting process for proposed changes to parkland and provide appeals to land use commissions and city staff.
Online City Contracts, Capital Improvement Projects and Bond Information: Worked to make public information readily available online including the city’s “checkbook,” contract catalogues up-to-date information on all city contracts, public works projects and proposed bonds.
Board and Commission Online Backup: Ensured all back-up materials for Planning Commission and Zoning & Platting Commission are posted online for public review.
Transparent Office Calendar & Sponsored Items: Posted her own weekly Council office calendar online, as well as descriptions of all sponsored ordinances and resolutions in an easy-to-read, searchable format.