AUSTIN (KXAN) – Sunday marks the 100th day Austin Mayor Kirk Watson has been in office.
“Some days I think, ‘Wow, this is the fastest 100 days I’ve ever experienced,'” Watson said.
KXAN sat down with him in a one-on-one interview to dive into a variety of issues from affordability to public safety.
Watson described the nearly four months he’s been in office as “fast and furious.”
In that time, he said he’s taken steps towards getting more affordable housing.
Watson said one of the ways is by bringing a consulting company to look deeper at the city’s permitting process.
“One of the big problems we have with getting more affordable housing is how long it takes to get a site plan,” Watson said. “What I’ve asked them to do is a performance review of the overall site planning process, which is the part that ends up eating up so much time.”
From housing to addressing homelessness, the mayor said he’s also spent time working on a program to help with the lack of emergency shelters in the city.
Watson said they are enforcing the camping ban but are doing it in a way where they have plenty of shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness.
“The city is going to look at how we take care of the people that were being displaced as a result of the Salvation Army’s decisions,” Watson said.
When it comes to public safety, Watson said he came into the position with a massive staffing shortage at the Austin Police Department leading to longer response times.
That’s why he said the city partnered with the Texas Department of Public Safety to help fill the gaps.
“DPS is helping us with traffic and with regard to violent crime,” Watson said.
He said there’s already been lowered response times and a decrease in violent crime since the DPS patrols started.
Still, some community members told KXAN they worry about the presence of troopers in certain neighborhoods.
Watson assured there’s oversight from APD Chief Joseph Chacon.
“He’s in touch with the director for this region with DPS to make sure that there’s a clear communication about what is expected from DPS as they supplement as they support APD,” Watson said.
As the mayor looks ahead, he said there are several upcoming initiatives related to childcare costs and homelessness that he expects to announce in the coming weeks and months.
“It just energizes me for the next 100 days,” Watson said.
Watson said there’s no timeline yet for when the partnership between APD and DPS will end, but they’ll keep monitoring data from their stops.