In the hot seat, Austin's very own Mayor Steve Adler was the latest guest on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, where new Austinite Joe Rogan grilled him on problems facing his new home.
Adler listed a wide array of problems he has faced in his tenure as mayor: historic storms, COVID-19, pushback to Austin's speedy growth and a hyper-politicized homelessness crisis.
With no holds barred, the pair laid out some of the most difficult moments of Adler's time as mayor but dedicated most of their time40 minutes out of the hour-and-a-half-long episodeto discussing Austin's homeless situation.
A homeless camp has surrounded Austin city hall since Prop B was passed, reinstating the camping ban. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
Recalling walking past "a village" of homeless people on 8th Street, Rogan said Austin's homeless crisis was "the biggest issue by far" over the last year.
"You've got places like San Francisco that have such tolerant policies toward homeless people that people gravitate to San Francisco to be homeless, which is really kinda crazy but true," Rogan said. "There's a fine line between helping and encouraging people to continue the lifestyle.
While Adler admitted he has wondered the same, he countered that California Gov. Gavin Newsroom lied to his constituents that Austin officials gave homeless people tickets to California. Plus, Adler said there's a 90-95% chance that someone who is given a home and wraparound services will reintegrate into society.
Rogan said he believes the freedom of being able to camp in the city appeals to a certain group of people, asking if there was a line where services encourage chronic homelessness. Adler said he taps information from experts but when he first took office in 2015, he said the camping ban caused a lot of anger, much like today.
"A guy came up to me after (a meeting) was over and he said, 'you're mayor, fix this, and if you don't I have a gun and I will fix this myself,'" Adler said. "That was the fervor and the feel."
Adler, whose final term ends in 2023, said his number one goal is to abate the issue to the best of his ability. He hopes to expand a nationwide program used in Austin to the general homeless population; the program reaches out to apartment complexes to house homeless veterans, offering to cover damage expenses with a private risk fund if the arrangement goes sour.
"If you can get (people) off the street, into a home with a job training program or even just stabilize them, get them what they need, real good chance they can get back into life," Adler said. "The longer you leave them on the street, the harder it is going to be for them to pull back."
Austin is the fastest growing large metropolitan area in the country. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
Despite the city's ongoing struggle with homelessness, Rogan showered Austin with compliments.
"It's too good here, it's such a good city," Rogan said. "It's a utopian size city with great values, and really friendly people, and amazing restaurants, and a great art scene and music scene and now a great comedy scene."
Adler said with all the things going on right for Austin"we have ... an economy that's on fire, we're the fastest-growing large metropolitan area"one of the things going wrong is the increasing cost of living when everyone wants to move here.
Adler said for new transplantslike Roganthe prices may not seem like a big issue.
"Housing prices are off the charts," Adler said. "For somebody who is just coming from California or New York, it looks like deals."
Adler said when he ran for reelection, one of the biggest favors he was asked was to stop the city from growing.
"There's only one way to really stop the city from growing: bring in crime," Adler said. "A desirable place is going to grow."
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