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The debate over Austin's future

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – Austin. It's much more than just the capitol of Texas and the home of U-T. It ranked right up there in Best Places To Live and Best Places To Do Business. But is Austin, Texas losing its mystique? I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

Funny story about Austin: in the mid 1990's, people all over the country were talking about Austin. That's where my husband and I originally wanted to move. No regrets, Dallas, we love it here. But back then, everyone was moving to Austin and staying in Austin. Anytime and every time we told someone we were moving to Dallas, the standard reply was, "I hear Austin's a great town." Heck, even the friendly custodian for my Chicago townhouse couldn't resist the jab, "I hear Austin's a great town." It was quite amazing.

The city where big business and hippiedom survived hand and hand. Where you can and are expected to stop and smell the roses on your way to your six-figure job. It was more than just a good PR job by the city, it was the truth. Parks and city landscaping and homes on a hill. It was Utopia for some. And still is...

But this friendly tapestry of people is now beginning split at the seams. Some believe it grew too big, too fast. According to the Austin Business Journal, you have citizens cheering the economic downturn in Central Texas while there are those that desperately want to put Austin back on the business map. Austin's May unemployment rate compared to Dallas' isn't quite so bad. But the City of Austin anticipates a budget shortfall of $72 million. Now compare that with Dallas' projected deficit of a little over $80 million and you can see the trouble Austin is in. Dallas is twice the size of Austin, yet the cities' deficits do not reflect that.

Austin's dilemma: can you pick and choose a time for growth and a time to back off? Economists say no. Conservationists and Austin's old guard say you must. This is a dilemma. For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.