87th LegislatureLocal NewsState HouseLawmaker Proposes Renaming Austin Overpass ‘Steve Adler Public Restroom Highway’

Austin's camping and laying policy has divided the city's elected officials and much of its constituency since its inception in July 2019.
March 1, 2021
A new bill filed in the Texas House would designate the stretch of I-35 in downtown Austin from 4th Street to 11th Street “Steve Adler Public Restroom Highway” — after the city’s incumbent mayor.

Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), the author of the bill, told The Texan, “Liberal legacies deserve to be recognized. Since the legislature has made it clear it intends to rename some highways and bridges this session, I think it’s imperative that we start with a highway that truly recognizes the contributions of Mayor Adler.”

“Texans who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and with renaming the highway we will ensure that citizens of the Texas capital never forget the legacy of failed liberal policies.”

Since its recission in July of 2019, Austin’s camping and laying policy has exacerbated its developing homeless problem. Tents and makeshift forts cropped up across the city, dotting its boulevards and crowding its underpasses.

Months after the new policy’s establishment, Austin’s unsheltered homeless population grew by 45 percent while its sheltered population decreased by 11 percent.

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And shortly after its inception, the city faced a 14 percent violent crime increase involving homeless individuals whether as victims, suspects, or both.

The policy came to a head last summer when a literal trash flood washed through a neighborhood, flooding back yards with garbage, needles, and feces.

By and large, the city council and its mayor have maintained stubborn support for the policy that allows anyone to camp or lay on any public property — notably excepting Austin City Hall.

A petition effort last year attempted to place the original policy’s reinstatement up for a city-wide vote. It failed, but not without controversy. But this year, the groups behind the first effort tried again and succeeded.

Shortly before the second petition effort succeeded, and after it already appeared it’d be successful, Mayor Steve Adler backtracked a bit on the camping policy, saying it “is not working.”

The mayor further said he doesn’t want to see the pre-July 2019 policy reinstated, but the full-throated defense of the last year and a half has tempered.

Slaton’s bill is a clear message aimed directly at Adler and the city council that the policy they’ve dumped on Austin’s lap is neither effective at reducing homelessness nor are its effects acceptable, though whether the proposal will find itself deliberated on the House floor remains to be determined.

Greenspaces underneath I-35 overpasses are prime locations for homeless camps. They’re public grounds, walking distance from downtown, and premium real estate for panhandling.

In May, Austin voters have the option to cement the policy or flush it.

Adler’s office has been contacted for comment.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.