How To Testify At A CodeNEXT Hearing

CodeNEXT Maps
CodeNEXT Maps

The time to get involved in Austin’s controversial, news-making, important, big deal city policy (otherwise known as CodeNEXT) is now.

(As a reminder… CodeNEXT is the city’s effort to rewrite its land development code, which is basically a rule book for the city, explaining what can be built where. CodeNEXT will determine how Austin looks 10, 15, and even 50 years from now. And it will affect everything from affordability, to transportation, to the environment.)

After years of rewrites, brainstorming, and presentations, the first major public hearing on CodeNEXT is on Saturday, April 28th at 10am to 4:30pm (testimony will begin at 10:30am) at the Dove Springs Recreation Center… So, we thought now would be a good time to teach you how to testify at a public hearing.

First… why should you testify?
Especially when it comes to issues as controversial as CodeNEXT, public hearings are extremely important. Many city leaders are still making up their minds about CodeNEXT, so what you say at these hearings really does matter.

If you decide to attend a hearing, you’ll be testifying either in front of City Council or the Joint Land Use Commissions, both of which will have a say in deciding what ultimately happens with CodeNEXT. At this point in the process, these people have heard a lot from from a small group of the same people. Which means that if you’ve never testified before, now is your chance! Our city leaders are eager to hear from more people.

A few logistical things…

  • Speaker sign ups will begin 30 minutes before each meeting begins. You will be called up to speak in the order in which you signed in.
  • Each speaker will be given 3 minutes and you can’t donate your time to anyone else.

So what should you say? A few quick tips:

  • It’s okay if you’re not an expert – Our city leaders have already heard from architects, developers, professors, etc. What they want now is to hear from the general public, so don’t be shy if you don’t have a PhD in land use. Try and distill your testimony to your biggest fears, hopes, and desires for our new land use code. (For example – maybe you really want to live in an Austin that is more walkable and bikeable or maybe your chief concern is affordability and gentrification. Whatever it is, explain it during your testimony.)
  • Speak from the heart – Tell your own personal story. Explain to our city leaders how CodeNEXT will affect you and why you’re so passionate about it. This is what will make your testimony stand out. You are an expert on your own neighborhood, life, and personal story.
  • Practice in advance – The time restraints will be strictly enforced, so practice in advance to be sure that you can fit everything you want to say into three minutes.
  • Focus on one thing – CodeNEXT is so big and complex, you could probably talk about it for hours… but since you don’t have that kind of time, try and focus on the one or two points that matter most to you.

Need some resources to prep for your testimony? Check out these websites to refresh your memory on the biggest CodeNEXT debates and to help you decide on which side you fall.

  • CodeNEXT Hub – a collaborative effort amongst our city’s biggest new outlets, this website contains pretty much every article ever written about CodeNEXT
  • The City’s CodeNEXT Website – contains links to the actual CodeNEXT draft, as well as summaries and maps
  • ATX Together: Decoding CodeNEXT – video of a town hall on CodeNEXT, hosted by KLRU
  • Shades of Green – podcast from our radio partner, Shades of Green, on the environmental impacts of CodeNEXT

Can’t make it to the hearing on April 28th? Don’t worry, there are still other opportunities to make your voice be heard.

The other hearing dates are:

  • Tuesday, May 1st at 4pm at the Palmer Events Center (in front of the Joint Land Use Commissions)
  • Tuesday, May 29th at 10am at City Hall (in front of City Council)
  • Saturday, June 2nd at 10am at City Hall (in front of City Council)

CodeNEXT Postcard

So the bottom line is…

These hearings are important, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a CodeNEXT expert. No matter what it is that you care about (flooding, the environment, climate change, transportation, gentrification, affordability), CodeNEXT will affect it. If you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to do your research, get involved, and make your voice be heard.

 

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