by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Austin … is cool with being second-rate.
It always has been. Austin spent about 30 years (including the time I lived there) desperately pretending to be Berkeley, until it realized it was bigger and more important than Berkeley, at which point it immediately began pretending to be Brooklyn. Las Vegas revels in its cheesy derivativeness, its miniature New York City skyline and its pyramid and its ersatz Roman palaces. It’s all good, cheery fun. Austin, on the other hand, suffers from sad just-as-good-ism: Just as good as Silicon Valley, just as good as Brooklyn, just as good as . . . wherever.
But Luxor isn’t a real Egyptian pyramid, and Austin isn’t just as good as the places it wishes to compare favorably with.
You can get an Uber in Iowa City, Reno, or Fargo, and in Medellín, Lisbon, Bangalore, Taipei, Perth, or Tel Aviv.
But not in Austin.
Given a choice between annoying its long-established transit cartels and confirming itself as second-rate, Austin voted for second-rate.
In December, Austin’s city council passed a set of regulations that make it difficult for companies such as Uber and Lyft, another app-based ride-sharing outfit, to operate in the Texas capital. A referendum would have overturned those regulations, but Austin’s voters rejected it. Austinites are conservative in the old-fashioned sense of that word, the way politically progressive people in San Francisco and Tribeca tend to be deeply conservative, desiring to preserve their favorite coffee shops in amber. Even Austin’s unofficial city motto — “Keep Austin Weird” — is fundamentally conservative, in that sense.