Steve Adler (politician)
|58th Mayor of Austin|
|Assumed office |
January 6, 2015
|Preceded by||Lee Leffingwell|
Stephen Ira Adler
March 23, 1956
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||Princeton University (BA)|
University of Texas at Austin (JD)
Adler has been a practicing attorney in Austin in the areas of eminent domain and civil rights law for 35 years. For eight years he worked as the chief of staff and later general counsel to Democratic State Senator Eliot Shapleigh in the Texas Legislature. He has also worked with or board chaired Austin-based nonprofits and civic organizations, including the Texas Tribune, Anti-Defamation League, and Ballet Austin.
Early life and education
Steve Adler was born to a Jewish family and first lived in Washington, DC and grew up in Kensington, Maryland. His father was a World War II veteran with the U.S. Navy who later became a film editor with CBS News. His mother was a homemaker.
In 1978, he graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He then attended the University of Texas at Austin School of Law and received his juris doctor in 1982. After graduating from the University of Texas, Adler remained in Austin to practice law.
In the mid 1980s, Steve Adler co-founded the Barron, Graham & Adler LLP law firm, later Barron & Adler, LLP. He represented primarily landowners who were dealing with eminent domain and condemnation cases where the government or a private company seek to acquire their property. In addition to this practice, Adler spent most of the 1980s, his early legal career, doing civil rights employment discrimination cases. This work included representing women as well as Hispanic, African American and other minority workers in federal court, before the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission and on matters filed with the Austin Human Rights Commission. He represented clients seeking equal treatment and opportunity in the workplace, redress from sexual harassment and denial of equal pay for equal work.
Adler has argued before state appellate courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the Texas Supreme Court and was named a Texas Super Lawyer from 2007–2013 and one of the Best Lawyers in America in 2007–2014.
Early political career
In 1996, Steve Adler assisted El Paso Democrat Eliot Shapleigh in his run for Texas State Senate. He then served as Senator Shapleigh's chief of staff and later general counsel from 1997–2005.
During Adler's time working in the Texas Senate, he primarily focused on fairness in school funding formulas, teachers' salary issues, state budget policy, environmental protection, and equity and access issues.
Mayor of Austin (2015-present)
Steve Adler began his campaign in January 2014 for Austin Mayor and ran on a platform of reforming governance at the Austin City Council. His primary issues included governance, traffic congestion, education, affordability, environment and water, and neighborhoods. Adler entered into a run-off with City Council Member Mike Martinez in November after both candidates failed to get a majority of votes. Adler won the run-off in December 16, 2014 with 67% percent of the total vote.
Adler is the first mayor to serve as part of the "10–1" City Council system that was approved via referendum by voters during the 2012 election and implemented after the 2014 election. Previously, the Austin City Council was composed of six at-large Council members and a mayor. The new system is composed of a mayor and ten Council members representing geographic districts, prompted by Austin's dramatic population growth as well as a recognition that the former system often resulted in an underrepresentation of Austin's minority communities, particularly its rapidly growing Latino population. For years, the city's political establishment had abided by an unwritten "gentleman's agreement" that reserved one Council seat for a Latino and one for an African American.
In March 2015, Adler denounced an anonymous group's attempt to inflame discussion of gentrification in historically black neighborhoods of East Austin by placing stickers on the doors of East Side businesses that proclaimed them off-limits to non-whites. "This is an appalling and offensive display of ignorance in our city," said Adler. "Our city is a place where respect for all people is a part of our spirit and soul. We will keep it that way."
In May 2017, when the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin announced that it would hold a women-only screening of the movie Wonder Woman, one man wrote Mayor Adler an angry email about allowing the event to take place, in which he urged the boycott of Austin and called women "the second rate gender". Adler's response, in which he warned the writer that his email account had been "hacked by ... an unusually hostile individual", and listed women's accomplishments, drew national attention.
In 2016, Adler and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development declared that significant progress had been made to house homeless veterans. Despite progress in the area of veterans, work remains to be done to further reduce homelessness and associated drug use. During the summer of 2016, several people were hospitalized during an outbreak of K2 overdoses around the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.
In June 2019, following a federal court ruling on homeless people sleeping in public, Adler and the City City Council lifted a 25-year-old ban on camping, sitting, or lying down in public unless doing so causes an obstruction. The resolution also included the approval of a new housing-focused shelter in South Austin. On October 2, 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to Adler threatening to deploy state resources to combat the camping ban repeal. Adler responded by denying that the rule changes increased crime, but invited Abbott to join groups related to combatting homelessness. On October 26, 2019, Adler and Governor Abbott clashed over Twitter after Abbott posted a video of a man vandalizing a car in Downtown Austin, in an effort to criticize the City Council's camping ordinance. Adler responded by pointing out that the video was filmed in 2018 before the ordinance took effect and that the man in question was not homeless, saying "This isn’t the first time you’ve fallen victim to social media trolls trying to mislead and scare Austinites." Under Adler's tenure, in 2020 the homeless population in Austin reached a 10-year high as counted by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.
On March 6, 2020, Adler declared a local state of emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adler, along with other city officials, also responded to the outbreak by cancelling Austin's annual SXSW events for the first time since they started in 1987 due to the ongoing health concerns.
In November 2020, Adler flew to Cabo San Lucas on a private plane with 8 or more family members and friends, all from multiple different households, and attended the wedding of his daughter in an inside venue with 20+ individuals. Controversy ensued as Adler has encouraged people to stay home amid rising caseloads in Austin. Adler has stated that while he regrets making the trip, he “violated no orders or guidelines.”
Work with Community Organizations
Adler has been involved in a number of community organizations in the Greater Austin region. Adler has served on the Ballet Austin board since the late 1990s. From 2009–2012, Adler served as the board chair of the Anti-Defamation League Austin Region where he contributed to the creation of the Austin Hate Crimes Task Force and expanding the "No Place for Hate" anti-bullying program to schools throughout Central Texas. In 2010, he joined the board of Girls Empowerment Network (formerly GENAustin)
Adler was on the founding board of directors for the Texas Tribune in 2009. He was later appointed board chair, a role he resigned from in January 2014 in order to launch his run for Austin mayor.
On May 25, 2021, Adler appeared as a guest on episode 1657 of The Joe Rogan Experience.
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