Austin at Large: SXSW, in four dimensions: journalist, presenter, participant, local: an after-action report on the return of confab – News
I’m actually on a well-deserved vacation while you’re reading this, but since our last visit to this space here, there was this thing called South by Southwest that happened, and there I was, wearing multiple hats with my badge. Here is a recap!
On the train with Pete
As a reporter working for the newspaper whose nameplate graced every session and every stop, I was on Pete’s beat: U.S. Secretary of Transportation, former Mayor of South Bend, co-winner of the 2020 Snakebit Caucus of the Iowa and close personal friend of ours. mayor. I blogged about Buttigieg in our conference coverage, but from that perspective, the most important thing he did in town was ride the 10-minute train from MLK to Saltillo, with a carefully crafted crew. organized by Capital Metro and city leaders and, most importantly, justice and equity advocates who are pushing for a greater role in the Project Connect process. That’s what Buttigieg wanted to hear, I’m told, and he did, perhaps more than the organizers of this experiment wanted or hoped. (Special props to Workers Defense Project envoy David Chincanchan for leading this conversation.)
Their message was clear: Project Connect’s commitments to justice and equity in mobility are still evolving, even with the nation’s largest $300 million investment to prevent the displacement of those who have the most need useful and affordable public transport. We’re at the beginning, not the end, of that process, and there will always, always be pressure to do more with the $7.2 billion spent on this pup. Given that more than half of that money is in Buttigieg’s hands, the defenders may have done City and Cap Metro a favor by speaking up.
On stage with EV Nation
The SXSW haul track, of which the Buttigieg Town Hall at the Convention Center was the midpoint, came after most attendees had put their brains into movie and music mode, and the panel I hosted on Friday, March 18 was at the very end of a five-day job. So my three panelists and I (two entrepreneurs, a U.S. Department of Transportation expert) were expecting double-digit viewership, but we were pleasantly surprised at how many people wanted to hear about the rapidly changing world. charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and what we need to do now to make sure people have enough confidence in chargeability to overcome ‘range anxiety’ and buy a plug-in car.
Until we stop driving internal combustion vehicles, we will never achieve “energy independence”. Sorry, Ted Cruz!
It used to be a niche topic, but all of a sudden we’re in for another energy shock and gas is $4 a gallon and people are looking at the Tesla and Bolt pilots with envy. (Until we stop driving internal combustion vehicles, we’ll never achieve “energy independence.” Sorry, Ted Cruz!) But have you ever stopped thinking about the gas station ecosystem? as infrastructure? This reflects many choices made over the past 100 years that have led to it becoming a unique retail sub-sector that electric vehicle charging need not be at all. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which everyone still calls “the bipartisan infrastructure deal”, includes around $7 billion (ironically the same price for the all-electric Connect project) for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, both along highways and in the community. mobility hubs that could look like anything. Many choices have to be made now, and over the next five years, to ensure people have juice for their juicebox cars.
Getcha-Get Ur Badge On
Since my professional duties were all closer to the end of SXSW than the beginning, I was able to spend the first few days as a normal conference attendee, participating in media and civic engagement panels that were round both inspiring and frightening. One featured the Michigan and Arizona Secretaries of State (Jocelyn Benson and Katie Hobbs, respectively), who are household names if you were to cover the oddity weeks after Election Day 2020. Their message was pretty clear: the wave of “elections the integrity gambit” is designed to prevent valid votes from being counted. County Pct. 4 and how to determine if new Texas rules, which are about as “arbitrary and finicky” as you can get, changed the outcome of this very close race. Stay tuned.)
It wasn’t as scary as the one-on-one with Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times cyber warfare expert and now adviser to the US Department of Homeland Security. His 2021 book, That’s how they tell me the end of the world, dives into Russia’s previous cyberattacks in Ukraine over the past few years, before tanks appeared (including cutting the power grid), as a test case for what Vladimir Putin or another bad actor might do to our American lives right now, as our nation is incredibly vulnerable to cyber warfare attacks because we do everything online. We could do the same with Putin, whom interviewer Jonathan Reiber (who covered the Pentagon Cyber Office under Obama) described as “mutually assured digital destruction.” Ouch! Use strong passwords, people.
Yeah, I live right there
I can walk from my house to the convention center, and just being on foot and in town confirmed that yes, it was SXSW’s scale that made it most accessible to locals. If it was as big as it got pre-COVID, I would have joined the masses who ignore and avoid all of this as much as possible. At this size, it was fun again to partake in the weird activations, listen to random acts and watch movies I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, and also see how downtown has changed during the pandemic (tower workers stayed home but construction continued apace).
Homeless people who would normally be quite visible on Trinity and Red River have instead found a safe space in an alley between the two. The weather cooperated until the very last minute. There was, once again, a shooting on Sixth Street, which is not good news but should give some more juice to the measures taken to make Dirty Sixth safer, which public and private entities now realize that it will take some of those firing bars to be replaced to diversify the tape monoculture. By the time I return from vacation, there may also be news about this.