Health & Environment / Culture & Lifelong Learning
Health and Environment Outcome: Enjoying a sustainable environment and a healthy life, physically and mentally
The departments that fall under the Strategic Direction Health and Environment Outcome focus on ensuring that every community member is presented opportunities to live a full, healthy life, recognizing that a healthy environment is essential. The strategies related to this outcome address disparities within our community, by building on successful programs so that all can access healthy food, recreational opportunities, and quality health care when needed. By building stronger community connections and protecting people and the environment from the long-term effects of a changing climate and growing population, we can become a healthier, more resilient community.
Culture and Lifelong Learning Outcome: Being enriched by Austin's unique civic, cultural, ethnic, and learning opportunities
Culture and traditions make up the fabric of who we are and how we interact with each other, while lifelong learning enhances our understanding of the world around us, provides us with opportunities, and improves our quality of life. Austin is a dynamic community rooted in rich cultural heritage, diverse creative expression, and inclusive civic exchange. The strategies related to this outcome focus on preserving a comprehensive and accurate history of Austin, supporting our creative ecosystem, and enhancing lifelong learning opportunities, so that we can maintain Austin as a vibrant place to live, work, learn, and thrive.
The Top Ten Indicator Council priority for Culture and Lifelong Learning include:
Vibrancy and sustainability of creative industry ecosystem
Accessibility to quality health care services, both physical and mental health care
Accessibility to quality parks, trails, and recreational opportunities
Though the City of Austin continued to work through pandemic-related challenges, departments that fall under the Health & Environment and Culture & Lifelong Learning outcomes ensured our community stayed healthy, had opportunities to celebrate its culture, and continued learning.
In 2021, while continuing to the lead the COVID-19 response and coordinating homelessness initiatives, Austin Public Health also provided opportunities for everyone to improve their quality of life, health, and well-being. For example, APH launched the Home Delivery Program in collaboration with the Central Texas Food Bank and Amazon. Participants enrolled in the program received a monthly box of shelf-stable groceries, delivered in a contactless method directly to their homes. All groceries and delivery are free of charge. To date, 740 households are enrolled. Additionally, APH received certification from Family Connects International for the department’s Family Connects nurse/home visiting program for moms with newborns. The program served and supported 531 families and provided 558 new referrals to support those families.
Creating diverse programs and rich cultural heritage, the Austin Parks and Recreations Department completed the Carver Museum Facility Expansion Plan to establish Carver as the heart of Black art and culture in Austin. PARD also completed the Central Williamson Creek Greenway Vision Plan which promotes ecological restoration, green infrastructure, low-impact trail connectivity, and accessible gathering spaces.
To provide avenues for learning and reduce the digital divide, the Austin Public Library loaned hotspots and laptops to residents in Housing Authority apartments to provide access to educational, employment, and social service needs. To provide just one example, this use and connection of technology helped Dorothy, who lives in HACA’s Pathways at North Loop apartment building, perform basic duties such as submitting a maintenance request for her room. Employees were also able to introduce her to YouTube where she could find all her favorite songs. This service alone helped make life more enjoyable for Dorothy.
Maintaining its No Kill status ending the year with a 97.6% live exit rate while serving as a safety net for lost and homeless animals, the Austin Animal Center improved performance by adding Adopets software which reduced adoption wait times by 23 minutes and increased its adoption percentage to the highest in the shelter’s history.
Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) remained focused on sustainability by launching the Circular Austin Showcase connecting circular economy businesses and entrepreneurs with potential investors in the region. The event awarded $3,000 to a pitch event winner. Long-term ARR intends to help local circular businesses expand through regular business retention visits, Circular Meet-Ups, and more unique events. In addition, the Office of Sustainability created and finalized the City’s Climate Equity Plan through a community-driven process that includes 17 new goals, 74 strategies, and moves the community-wide net-zero goal from 2050 to 2040.
The Office of Sustainability finalized the City’s Climate Equity Plan through a community-driven process that included nearly 200 community members with an intentional focus on engaging racially and economically diverse residents about the challenges, barriers, and opportunities facing historically excluded groups. The plan includes 17 new goals, 74 strategies, and moves up our community-wide net-zero goal from 2050 to 2040.
Without the dedication and commitment from the departments that fall under Health & Environment and Culture & Lifelong Learning our City wouldn’t be as vibrant a place to live, work, play and thrive. The following highlights are additional efforts made by the departments over the past year.
Browse each department's accomplishments:
- Maintaining its No Kill status ending the year with a 97.6% live exit rate while serving as a safety net for lost and homeless animals, the Austin Animal Center improved performance by adding new software which reduced adoption wait times by 23 minutes and increased its adoption percentage to the highest in the shelter’s history.
- Added multiple platforms that have made a difference to the customer experience and streamlined processes for staff. By adding the Adopets software, reduced wait times on heavy adoption days from up to three hours down to 20 minutes, increasing our adoption percentage to the highest in the shelter’s history.
- With our local rescue partners pulling fewer animals from AAC, started forming partnerships and transport programs with northern rescues/shelters that need pets to adopt.
- Launched the Breathe with Pride coalition with over 60 community-based organizations and leaders to reduce LGBTQ2IA+ tobacco disparities.
- Supported safe re-openings by reviewing over 200 Health and Safety plans for Special Events, mask compliance sweeps, and reviewing return to work safety plans for all City Departments.
- Launched the Home Delivery Program in collaboration with the Central Texas Food Bank and Amazon. Participants enrolled in the program receive a monthly box of shelf-stable groceries, delivered in a contactless method directly to their homes. All groceries and delivery are free of charge. To date, 740 households are enrolled.
- Conducted seven competitive solicitations totaling more than $18 million, including COVID-19 outreach, HIV Services, services to support youth, community programs to address substance misuse, an operator, and services for a new domestic violence shelter and housing opportunities for individuals with AIDS.
- Received certification from Family Connects International for APH’s Family Connects nurse/home visiting program for moms with newborns. The program served and supported 531 families and provided 558 new referrals to support those families.
- Responded to the needs of people with limited English proficiency, developed innovative new ways to serve and inform, including a series of Facebook Live broadcasts called MY API LIVE for the Asian Pacific Islander community. The broadcast is available in four languages and reaches over 100 viewers per episode.
- Loaned hotspots and laptops to residents in Housing Authority apartments to provide access to educational, employment, and social service needs.
- Expanded access to free library cards for tens of thousands of students who live in Travis County but outside Austin.
- Sustained community connections through the pandemic with virtual and outdoor programs for all ages, including drive-in storytimes, a drive-thru Harvest Fair, online concerts featuring local musicians, and virtual book clubs.
- Celebrated literacy and learning through the APL Kids Block Party by distributing 2,000 bags with hands-on learning and a free book to kids in underserved communities.
- Expanded safe access to physical library materials through curbside services and re-opening 14 library branches with COVID-19 safety measures in place.
- Received the Urban Libraries Council Innovation Award as a top 10 innovator for APL+, our virtual programming platform.
- Completion of Curbside Compost Collection Program. The final expansion, in January 2021, provided service to all remaining ARR customers after a four-year phased in approach that began in 2017.
- Multifamily Compost Pilot. Recruited multifamily properties to participate in 6 months of composting service to measure opportunities, challenges and cost impacts of composting with multifamily tenants.
- Circular Economy Businesses Created & Expanded through Innovative Programming. Launched the establishment and expansion of local circular businesses through regular business retention visits, Circular Meet-Ups and unique events. The inaugural Circular Austin Showcase connected circular economy businesses and entrepreneurs with potential investors in the region and awarded $3,000 to a pitch event winner. The 6th annual ReVerse Pitch Competition awarded $12,000 to social entrepreneurs to develop business ideas that repurposed local waste streams and added a new accelerator program for competition winners.
- Recollect Scheduling Tool Enhancements. In response to both the pandemic and winter storm Uri, staff updated the scheduling tool to include options to schedule appointments for the Recycle and Reuse Drop Off, as well as communicate about services delays or changes.
- Launched US Plastic Pact’s Roadmap to 2025. The City of Austin, along with nearly 100 government entities, companies, NGO’s, research institutions and other stakeholders launched an aggressive national strategy outlining targets to realize a circular economy for plastics in the United States by 2025.
- 2021 Gold Rank Award from the International Economic Development Council for the Circular Economy Program.
- ARR selected to serve on the Advisory Council of the US Plastics Pact after joining as an inaugural activator.
- Excellence in Wastewater Pretreatment for 7 years (landfill) and 12 years (Mabel Davis)
- Created and finalized the City’s Climate Equity Plan through a community-driven process that includes 17 new goals, 74 strategies, and moves up our community-wide net-zero goal from 2050 to 2040.
- Led citywide emergency food access during COVID-19 and Winter Storm Uri, including coordination of 75 partner organizations and distribution of 170,000 meals to community members impacted by the storm.
- Launched a new Food Justice Mini Grant program, which provided grant funds to 20 local organizations leading transformational change on food justice issues in our community.
- Created a partnership with Austin ISD and Travis County to deliver Resilience Hubs to increase community resilience, including pilot hubs and a hub network using $3M of council-approved funding.
- Participated in the Capital Area Council of Governments’ proposed addendum to the regional air quality plan by committing to fine particulate matter emissions reduction measures, community awareness, and education.
- Revitalized Waterloo Park and Kingsbury Commons at Pease Park, and opened the new Alliance Children's Garden – creating inspirational spaces that are beautiful, accessible, sustainable and contribute to the community's overall well-being.
- Completed the Carver Museum Facility Expansion Plan to establish Carver as the heart of Black art and culture in Austin and the Central Williamson Creek Greenway Vision Plan to promote ecological restoration, green infrastructure, low-impact trail connectivity, and accessible gathering spaces.
- Launched a new payment system at Barton Springs that includes self-service kiosks as well as the ability to pre-purchase tickets online or with the “ATXSwims”App.
- Expanded adult therapeutic recreation programs into East Austin and implemented 112 virtual programs for youth and teens that engaged with 865 participants.
- Renovated or newly installed a total of 11 Austin playgrounds.
- National Planning Excellence Award from the American Planning Association for the Our Parks, Our Future Long-Range Plan
- The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Award of Distinction for the 2020 Zilker Tree Lighting Special
- 2021 AIA Design Award: The Framework for Design Excellence for the defining principles of good design in the 21st century
- Urban Land Institute Austin Best Public Place for the Montopolis Recreation and Community Center
- Urban Land Institute Austin Best Project Design for Alliance Children’s Garden
- American Institute of Architects Austin Montopolis Recreation and Community Center Commendation for Affordable Sustainability for the Montopolis Recreation and Community Center
- City-County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA) Silver Circle Award for the Our Parks, Our Future Long-Range Plan
- Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers Award: Award of Excellence for the Parks and Recreation Department for the 2019 Annual Report
- Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers Award: Award of Honor: Public Service Announcement for Bark Rangers: Poop Offender Leave No Trace Awareness Campaign
- Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers Award: Award of Honor: Electronic Report for the Our Parks, Our Future Long-Range Plan
- Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award for the Walter E Long Metro Park Vision Plan
- Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for Austin Parks and Recreation Dept: Our Parks, Our Future Long Range Plan
- Texas Recreation and Parks Society Lone Star Legacy Park Award for Wooldridge Square
- Preservation Texas Honor Award for Shipe Park Shelter House Rehabilitation