Research, Data, and Analysis Focused on Central Texas
Produced by the Capital Area Council of Governments
Author: Christiane Alepuz
The illegal disposal of waste along highways, at dead-end streets, in parks, and along ditches, creeks, and rivers, is a dangerous and growing problem in the Central Texas region. Illegally dumped trash often includes furniture, appliances, lead acid batteries, household garbage, building materials, used tires, and chemicals such as paint, oil, and antifreeze. These materials can be dangerous to public health and safety. Hazardous chemicals can pollute surface water and groundwater and dumped items can create a breeding ground for insects and rodents. Illegal dumping is considered a public nuisance; other public nuisances include abandoned and neglected properties, junked vehicles, and the improper disposal of waste on private property.
The Capital Area Regional Environmental Task Force (RETF) is a 10-county network of law enforcement, code enforcement, and health department officers working to prevent illegal dumping and other environmental crimes. The task force was initiated in May of 1996 through initiatives to combat environmental crimes on a regional level. CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Program supports the RETF and illegal dumping efforts through funding from the TCEQ. CAPCOG provides centralized coordination for the Task Force which provides support with technical expertise, outreach and education, and training in environmental law.
Author: Rachel Steele
In September the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released updated rainfall frequency values for Texas. The announcement redefines rainfall totals for the 100-year and 1,000-year events and confirmed what practitioners have known; storms are producing greater rainfall amounts. The findings, published as NOAA Atlas 14, Volume 11, target Texas and have an enormous potential impact for the built environment in terms of defining flood prone areas, updating specifications to existing infrastructure and reducing flood risks in development. The last update on rainfall frequencies from NOAA happened in the early 1960’s. While other agencies and districts collect rainfall data, NOAA’s release is significant because it’s a standard in data collection.
On June 14, 2018, the federal government officially released the list of Qualified Opportunity Zone designations across the country. There are 628 of these zones that have been designated in Texas, with 40 zones here in the CAPCOG region.
Author: Carol Fraser
While the fertile soils of the Central Texas region have long been an attraction for human settlement and agriculture, during the past few decades, rapid population growth and urbanization have been putting development pressure on available prime farmland. This process has meant significant changes in rural and suburban communities, as land use changes have reshaped the character of these communities.
Recognizing this trend, and seeking to revitalize the local agricultural economy, several groups in the region have been working towards preserving and rehabilitating local farmland. One idea that local organizations and governments are currently discussing is the potential for agricultural production on publicly owned land, and good locations for local food distribution centers and incubators.
The question is, how much publicly owned land is there in the region right now, and is it any good for farming or locating a food hub? CAPCOG decided to investigate at a regional scale.
Author: Matt Holderread
Every year, the Texas Department of Public Safety publishes the Crime in Texas Report, which provides summary information on seven types of crimes tracked and reported by law enforcement agencies that participate in Uniform Crime Reporting. These crimes include: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. The uniformity of this reporting makes it easy to compare crime across the different law enforcement jurisdictions in Texas. In October 2017, the 2016 report was released. It contains information on the number of crimes reported, crimes cleared, and arrests made under each of the 7 index crimes.
Comparing crime data across all jurisdictions in the CAPCOG region can be useful to get a picture of crime trends and issues in the region’s different communities. Because the information provided in the Crime in Texas Report is presented in a format that makes analyzing the Capital Area difficult, we’ve compiled this information into a series of data visualizations below which includes some observations on total and violent crime in the CAPCOG region. Additional information and data on specific types of crime has been made available on CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Resource Page.
In January of 2016, employment in the Austin metro had grown by 4.5% year over year. By December of 2016, year over year employment growth had slowed to 3.3%. As of October 2017, year over year employment growth slowed further to 2.2%. Throughout much of 2016 and 2017, job creation in the Austin metro area remained positive, but it was steadily declining. Moreover, it was falling well short of the high rates of growth seen in previous years.
At CAPCOG, we observed this trend and decided we should dig into the data a bit more. Are we looking at the beginnings of a recession in the local economy? Are other metro areas in Texas showing similar signs of slowing down? And wouldn’t you know it – while in the midst of developing this post, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released employment figures for November 2017, and for the first time in a while, they show a strong positive uptick – up to 2.8% employment growth year over year, compared to 2.2% in October. Now, one month’s worth of data doesn’t indicate a trend, but as we look at nearly two-year’s worth of data showing slowing job growth in the Austin metro area, it’s at least encouraging to see that sharply positive movement at the end of the line.
This is the second post in a series discussing the work the Capital Area Economic Development District (CAEDD) has undertaken to examine workforce development training in the Capital Area. To read the first post, click here.
One of the Boards that CAPCOG facilitates is the Capital Area Economic Development District (CAEDD), which convenes a group of elected officials, economic development practitioners, workforce development experts, and higher education leaders to coordinate responses to issues of economic competitiveness.
Recently, the CAEDD has been working to compile a snapshot of workforce development training providers in the Capital Area region. Because the region has two different workforce boards, multiple community college systems, and a vast array of apprenticeship programs, no single picture of available training resources is easily accessible. As it turns out, compiling that picture was a challenge for CAPCOG staff as well. However, we did successfully create a database that includes the following:
Recently, CAPCOG contributed to a conversation among regional stakeholders about how best to serve opportunity youth - generally defined as people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. A short summary of some of the analysis looking at youth in the region and existing employment information is provided below.
Over the past 10 years, population in the Capital Area has grown by roughly 50,000 people per year. Noting how newcomers are changing Central Texas is an evergreen discussion topic, but one thing that newcomers and long-time residents have in common is that both buy food locally. And rapid population growth has been good for the Capital Area food industry.
Between 2011 and 2016, total earnings in food retail (primarily grocery stores and restaurants) in the Capital Area grew by nearly 51 percent. Earnings per worker grew by almost 15 percent. Estimated total sales for the food retail sector in the Capital Area in 2015 was just shy of $7.6 billion.[i] Put succinctly, there’s quite a lot of money being spent on food in the Capital Area.
But for all of the attention that goes to locally-sourced produce at grocery stores, farmers markets, and farm-to-table restaurants, it’s worth asking, “Just how much of what we eat actually comes from local sources?” And for those approaching this question from an economic development angle, “How many of those dollars being spent on food are staying in the local economy, as opposed to going to food producers elsewhere?”
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Data Points is a blog dedicated to policy and planning issues in the Capital Area of Central Texas. It is produced by staff at the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).