Council tackles Trump's 'travel ban' and paves way for autonomous cars

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan's resolution condemning the Trump Administration's travel ban ended up on the consent agenda during Thursday morning's City Council meeting and passed with only one dissenting vote and no discussion.

The resolution read in part: "The City of Austin strongly opposes this executive order, and any subsequent executive orders or actions taken by the President of the United States that target immigrants, travelers, or refugees based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation"

"City Council members alone have somewhat of a bully pulpit but ultimately statements of intent and statements of belief are far more powerful when they're approved by the body.  We are saying as a city: ‘these are our values.  This is what you're doing to our community,’" Flannigan said.

Flannigan says the resolution isn't directed at Trump and it's not about partisan politics.  It's about acknowledging the policies coming out of Washington are hurting the community.

Andy Hogue with the Travis County GOP says council has other things to worry about.

"Mr. Flannigan and the other members of the City Council were not elected to be a referendum body for the President of the United States.  They're not there to keep a check and balance on the White House, they're there to handle Austin issues.  As for now we have affordability problems, gentrification problems, we have urban congestion problems, we have I-35 snarl problems," Hogue said.

"You deal with potholes, you deal with jobs, you deal with traffic.  And when there's Federal policy that negatively impacts the lives of Austin residents, it is our duty to step up and speak," Flannigan said.

Another interesting item passed by Council this morning is taking a look at the not-so-distant future of transportation in the City of Austin, paving the way for things like driverless cars.

"Well driverless vehicles, and we're talking about looking at electric driverless vehicles.  And also making sure that we focus on how driverless vehicles can be used in a shared way," said Council Member Ann Kitchen.

Kitchen, chair of the Mobility Committee took the lead on passing a resolution that directs the City Manager to develop a new mobility plan that makes Austin a global leader in new transportation ideas.  And she says it's a tangible plan the city can implement.

Mayor Adler says Austin should be to automated vehicles what Detroit was to the last century of automakers.

"On August of the year 2015, Austin became the Kitty Hawk of driverless cars as Google had the very first in-traffic operation of a truly autonomous vehicle," Adler said.

"It's important because this is the future for us.  Our transportation problems are huge.  And we're never going to solve them just doing the same old thing we've done in the past," Kitchen said.

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