Austin’s mayoral elections are heating up and the Daze sat down with candidate Brewster McCracken to get to know more about his plans for Austin. Get out and vote Saturday, May 9th.
AUSTIN DAZE: Brewster McCracken is…
BREWSTER MCCRACKEN:…a father of a 5-year-old boy who loves music, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, and playing Chutes and Ladders with his dad…
…a novelist, guitarist, surfer, technophile and avid reader…
…an admirer of Pike Powers, Michelle Greer, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Avellan, Barack Obama, Sara Hickman and his great grandmother Maude McFadyen…
…a husband who feels incredibly blessed by his wife’s love…
AD: For the people that don’t know, you’ve been a big supporter of the film and mixed media community. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and role in helping those sectors?
BM: When Austin Studios’ development was sidetracked due to the federal government re-directing funds after Hurricane Katrina, I brought together Austin film leaders to craft a studio upgrade proposal. I persuaded my colleagues to include the upgrades in the 2006 bond election, and then I succeeded in accelerating the bond funding.
Robert Walker wrote this great testimonial [link: http://www.brewstermccracken.com/2009/02/04/robert-walker/] about my work with the film and digital media community.
Austin’s creative community is important to our city’s economy and national brand. Even more than that, our creativity is our community’s soul. If creative opportunities dry up, we’ll lose our creative community. We lose our creative community and we risk losing… well, you get it.
AD: You are also a big supporter of musicians and are concerned about their leaving the city. One of the things that has been happening recently are the increased noise ordinances and increased decibel restrictions. What are your feelings on this?
BM: There’s a 70-decibel restriction for restaurants that dates back to the 1970’s. It’s lower than the 80-decibel standard for live music venues. Clearly the 70-decibel standard is out of date and needs to be changed to 80 decibels.
Here’s why this matters. The reason why Austin has such a strong music community is because we have an incredible number of working musicians. For working musicians to thrive, they need to have work, and that means we need venues where Austin musicians can be paid to perform. The decibel restriction threatens to reduce the number of venues that offer live music, and thereby reduce the amount of available opportunities for working musicians to earn a living and be heard.
AD: You want to “make Austin a national leader in the creative economy sectors of film, digital media and music.” How?
BM: Just this week, an economic study was released [link: http://www.brewstermccracken.com/2009/05/01/study-emphasizes-importance-of-creative-sector-to-texas-economy/] showing that Texas’ creative sector is growing faster and paying higher wages than jobs in other arenas and that leading in the creative economy will be important to our state’s future.
I have worked with music, film, video game, digital media and creative arts leaders on strategies to protect jobs and create new opportunities for our creative community. In one of my Crow’s Nest blog posts, “The Creative Economy,” [link: http://www.brewstermccracken.com/2009/02/04/the-creative-economy/] I describe why the creative economy matters to Austin and how we can expand opportunities. And in my most recent Crow’s Nest post, “How to grow Austin’s economy during this economic downturn,” [link:http://www.brewstermccracken.com/2009/05/06/how-to-grow-austin’s-economy-during-this-economic-downturn/ ]I identify the specific steps specific steps that I will pursue to protect jobs and create new clean energy, biotech and creative economy jobs.
AD: In addition to film and digital media you are very passionate about clean energy, biotech, and healthcare. Can you tell us a little bit about their significance to you and Austin as a community? And their role in our economic future?
BM: For a generation, the semiconductor industry has been the foundation of our economy. And now, these jobs are moving overseas.
How Austin responds to this challenge is the central issue in this mayoral election.
The focus of my campaign’s economic strategy – and the core challenging facing Austin’s economy – is protecting jobs and pursuing opportunities in the emerging job sectors of the 21st Century Economy: clean energy, biotech and creative media.
Just this week, the New York Times reported [link: http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/can-clean-energy-revive-manufacturing/] that Oregon is successfully repurposing semiconductor fabs for solar manufacturing, and that this approach is creating new opportunities for people who have worked in the semiconductor industry. This story demonstrates the value of moving now into these new economic sectors.
Attempting simply to ride out the current storm will not address the fundamental challenge to our economic future. In fact, a hunker down approach would cost us valuable time while other regions work to establish leadership in the emerging job sectors of the 21st Century Economy.
I believe Austin leaders – including the mayor – need to begin work NOW on new opportunities in clean energy (particularly solar, energy storage and smart grid software systems), biotech (including nanomedicine, microfluidics and medical devices) and creative media (film, digital media, wireless, music and video games).
How we respond to this global economic challenge will determine our region’s economic future.
AD: Is the city prepared to become a national leader in all of these?
BM: Yes, but only if we choose to. This will not happen for us by accident or through luck.
AD: How can the Austin Model be applied to our current economic situation?
BM: Austin faces real economic challenges from the erosion of our economy’s foundation in the semiconductor industry. And as I point out in my video post on The Austin Model [link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3fUkvuvFHg&feature=channel_page], the risk of inaction is that Austin could face decline and loss of opportunity. That video is now the most watched YouTube video in Austin election history.
Decline isn’t inevitable. We can control our future. I have written and spoken a lot about The Austin Model [link: http://www.brewstermccracken.com/about/austinmodel/] because this is the proven approach for how a city can become a leader in emerging economic sectors.
In my post, “The Seven Steps to Securing Austin’s Economic Future,” [link: http://www.brewstermccracken.com/about/seven-steps-to-securing-austin-economic-future/] I have laid out the steps that Austin can use to lead in clean energy, biotech and the creative economy – just as we did in the 1980’s when Dr. George Kozmetsky, Pike Powers, Dr. Ben Streetman and other visionary leaders reinvented Austin’s economy in a 5-year period into a global leader in semiconductors and information technology.
We can do it again. After all, we’ve done it before. And we invented the model.
AD: Let’s talk about fear. People are feeling pretty anxious these days. What can you tell Austinites about their future? What can we expect? What’s realistic? Where does Austin stand in comparison to the rest of the country?
BM: Our community has the talent, ambition, creativity and values to lead in tomorrow’s economy – if we choose to get to work. The global economy is undergoing a significant transformation, and the scary thing is how fast this is happening. But that is also the good news. If we act now to lead in tomorrow’s economy, a better future will come faster than many expect.
AD: Day to day hot topic we hear a lot about: “Traffic is getting worse and worse in this city.” Thoughts on that and plans for public transportation?
BM: Austin’s vision should be to create a world class transportation system. That means great highways, local roads, rail systems, bicycle facilities and bus networks. The challenge is funding these – particularly with the global financial crisis that erupted last fall. But road and rail systems require a lot of engineering work in advance, so now is a good time to do the engineering and planning so that we can pursue federal funding for these improvements.
AD: Biggest lesson you learned at City Council.
BM: I learned to listen more and talk less.
AD: Why Mayor?
BM: It’s a job where you can really make a difference in the community where you live. And the work is very meaningful.