Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole outlines council's 2013 priorities


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

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Posted on December 26, 2012 at 7:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 26 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- With the new year just five days away, the Austin City Council is gearing up for 2013.

Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole talked with KVUE News about next year's top priorities. She admits that 2013 will have some challenges; many of them having to do with the failure of Bond Proposition 15 which was voted on back in November.

Prop 15 would have allowed the city to use $78.3 million for affordable housing projects and programs that are already in place. Several homeless shelters, the Salvation Army Women and Children's Center and veteran housing programs were able to get a substantial amount of money back in 2006 when Austin voters approved a similar bond.

With the help of federal and state funding, the City of Austin was able to apply for grants that turned $49 million into $177 million for housing programs over the last six years. Those programs are now out of money.

"We often rely on affordable housing dollars as leveraging to get money from the federal government and the state government. And we're in a situation now where we're going to have to really examine how we're going to find that funding," Cole said. 

One of Cole's initiatives in the coming year is to create more economic equality and stability within the city. She said Austin is often described as a "tale of two cities": a prosperous Austin and an Austin with people who are challenged to make end's meet.

The way to create more equality, she said, is to ensure employment for high school dropouts.

"That they are able to be hired by companies that are coming here. That we make that as part of the agreement because we recognize that we are having haves and have-nots and we must take a proactive stance on closing that gap."

Cole also said that the council is focused on being more transparent. The council also wants to see more accountability from city offices when it comes to budgets.