by Rich Oppel
Question No. 1 on the annual Zandan poll gets right to the heart of the issue.
Q: Thinking about Austin today, do you think things are headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track?
Wrong track: 47%
Right direction: 39%
Don't know: 14%
That's a radical change from 2017, when the numbers were flipped: Back then, only 35% of Austin-area respondents said Austin was on the wrong track. A majority, 52%, said Austin was on the right track. And 13% said they didn't know.
These numbers have got to give Mayor Steve Adler and members of the Austin City Council pause. And where do they come from?
Peter Zandan, global vice chairman of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, and a long-time Austin resident since 1977, conducted the poll. He has sponsored the survey, which he pays for personally, over the years. His last poll was in 2017.
The poll of 801 Austin-area residents was in the field between February 17 and March 5. The respondents were drawn from the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes surrounding counties.
That 12% increase in residents finding the city on the wrong track was striking to Zandan, who earned master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas-Austin.
"This has been a city of optimism and support, and the shift is palpable," he said in an interview. "This reflects a shift in the public and cultural Austin. On some level we thrive, but that success is not for everyone. And you can see the divide by age, length of residence and time here."
To see what Zandan is talking about, just take one response—Austin is on the "wrong track"--and see how that varies among respondents:
All respondents, 47%
Age 18-34, 28%
Age 35+, 55%
City of Austin resident, 43%
0-5 years in Austin, 35%
6-20 years in Austin, 42%
21+ years in Austin, 57%
Respondents are gloomy about Austin's future. Fully 50% said they thought that in five years living in Austin for most people will be worse. Here, younger people, city residents and newcomers to Austin were more optimistic about the future than older people and residents outside the city but in the MSA.
Is there any happy news in the data? Sure.
Q. Compared to other U.S. cities, do you think Austin is a better or worse place to raise a family? All counted, 42% said better. Across all categories, 39% to 51% agreed. The response was most favorable among new arrivals, with 51% of those here 0-5 years saying yes.
Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
As Austin FC took the stage for their first-ever match, they appeared more experienced than their track record. The club held LAFC to a scoreless first half, keeping about equal possession of the ball.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks.
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!
Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.
5 p.m: Kickoff!
It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!
4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home
Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.
4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium
Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!
~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds
With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.
~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA
(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)
Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.
Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.
11:45 a.m: We landed!
View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.
We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.
8:20 a.m: LA bound
Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.
A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.
As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.