Editor's Note: Joah Spearman is the founder and CEO of Localeur, a local travel startup that shares local recommendations in more than 185 cities around the world. He recently published "An Open Letter to a New Austinite," a guide on what a newcomer needs to know about Austin. The following is his personal response to the negative op-ed published by Californian Brett Alder in Business Insider reviewing his stay in Austin. Views are his alone and do not reflect the views of Austonia.
Yes, I've read it. I rolled my eyes repeatedly as person after person brought a certain Business Insider article to my attention last week. Heavy sigh.
For context, I spent much of my day on Jan. 20 feeling myself shed pounds of anxiety, fear and uncertainty from the last four years under Donald Trump. Four years in which access to healthcare, Black lives, the environment, the media, progressive policies, science and truth appeared to be under attack at all times–so forgive me for enjoying the moment. A moment that soon passed as I began seeing a Business Insider article about a California man regretting his move to Austin on my Twitter feed.
I'd never heard of Brett Alder. I looked him up on Medium and LinkedIn to try to see if I'd come across him, but nope. Couldn't tell him from Adam. For all intents and purposes, I realized Business Insider likely re-published this random man's blog from 2016 now, on the same day as inauguration in 2021, because he fit the profile of who most people assume is making or considering the popular move from California to Austin: a white man in the tech industry who wants lower taxes and can afford to buy a house.
Considering Austin seems to be the biggest winner of the pandemic from a tech industry and growth standpoint, I can imagine the editor of Business Insider thinking of all the clicks they'd get by pissing off the residents of the fastest-growing city in America and giving San Franciscans a rare thing to cheer about amid some of the country's most strict COVID-19 restrictions and constant headlines about companies and residents fleeing their city.
So, there it was, an article in a major business outlet, skewering my beloved city. And just a week or so after my own "Open Letter to New Austinites" had run in Inc. Magazine albeit with a much different tone. I took a moment before considering if Alder's piece merited a response.
Alder had lamented the weather, the people, the lack of green spaces, and the public schools among other issues he found after moving from San Diego to Austin, despite doubling his house size for the same price and forgoing California's notorious income taxes. For the day or two after inauguration, it felt like every other message I received—a DM on Instagram or Twitter, a text or an email—was someone sending the article. A response was inevitable.
But, after this past weekend, I've realized I really don't need to offer up a rebuttal to the points Alder made about his experience in Austin. It may pain you to hear this, but you shouldn't either. What one random man from California who works in tech thinks about Austin should not get this much attention, and the fact that it did speaks more to our unfortunate assumptions about whose voices are worth listening to and worthy of elevation via a national media outlet (an entire presidential cycle later) than how we should feel about our chosen city.
We should be far more interested in the viewpoints of a longtime Austinite priced out of the East Side and now living in Pflugerville, the result of gentrification and neglectful zoning. We should consider the opinions of Austinites whom moved to San Antonio or Houston to experience a city with more Black or Hispanic inclusion; something Austin must improve. We should wholeheartedly learn from women in Austin's tech scene who've felt excluded, people of color who've launched startups only to be underfunded, young people at A.I.S.D. public schools who lack the resources of their peers at Eanes I.S.D. We should listen to working musicians and service industry professionals trying to make a living and stay close to Downtown in a city where rent prices continue to rise, housing supply remains low, and the income divide in our city grows by the day.
Simply put, Austin has real issues, and these issues require we listen to the right voices. Simultaneously, Austin has real benefits for a newcomer, especially one from California where more space, lower income taxes, a "buy local" mentality and relative affordability are just a few of the pros. I can imagine the editor of Business Insider spent little time speaking to many former Californians still living in Austin because that would have hurt the effectiveness of their (successful) clickbait initiative.
But listening (and, worse, responding point-by-point) to a random guy in tech from California who bought a 4,000-square foot home, got lost at Enchanted Rock, didn't seem to appreciate great food and live music, struggled to make friends, and generally failed to make the most of a city that has so much to offer? Miss me with that.
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Whether you became a home chef when the pandemic began or have always enjoyed crafting delicious meals, it’s undeniable that no home is complete without a cozy kitchen.
Take a peek at these five gems on the market now.
In the South Austin Parten community, this castle-like four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom stunner puts you just minutes from Austin, Dripping Springs and other nearby communities. Stark white and black contrasting features give the interiors a clean look, while a large curving staircase serves as a centerpiece for the ground floor. The chef’s kitchen is spacious, facing the living room and multiple windows, and immediately draws the eye. Upstairs you’ll find a spa-style bathroom, game room with a wet bar and Hill Country Views.This listing is held by Adam Zell and Lexie Zell.
This hyper-modern, 3,300-square-foot Scandinavian-styled home is a paradise for natural light in Hyde Park. With four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms spread across one story, the home rests on concrete columns to protect from extreme climate conditions. Inside, you’ll find crisp, clean trim in the open-plan kitchen with built-in luxury appliances and a walk-in pantry. Lofty 12-foot ceilings and gigantic windows set the tone, with a wet bar and second living room for entertaining. When you retire to the master bedroom, enjoy a warm bath in the soaking tub or enjoy the multi-output shower.
This listing is held by Austin Stowell.
In the heart of Westlake, this stacked three-story new build is a sprawling 4,483 square feet with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. The home is centrally located and full of natural light, especially on the open concept first floor, which includes the kitchen, casual dining space and living area. The third floor has a bedroom and loft, perfect for the at-home worker.
This listing is held by Jen Templeton and Cheryl Albanese.
This 3,539 square foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom Tarrytown townhouse is newly remodeled but still holds on to its vintage charm. Bright white cabinets, a green accented island and quartzite countertops in the kitchen give the space a cheery feeling. Entering on the second floor, you’ll have to walk downstairs to get to the bedrooms, which include ensuite baths and walk-in showers. The third level bonus room is the perfect place for an at-home office.This listing is held by Cindy Fowler.
Just outside Austin in the sleepy town of Wimberley, the Backbone Ridge Ranch is one of the city’s most “iconic and pristine” properties. On nearly 50 acres of land, the house takes you into nature without getting too far from nearby cities. With 4,369 square feet, six bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows effortlessly light the entire space. You’ll feel like a celebrity chef while cooking in the kitchen, even more so entertaining from the outdoor kitchen and living space. The 33,000-gallon quarried limestone pool is perfect for those hot Hill Country summers!This listing is held by Nicole Kessler.
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Sample some spirits
When: 11:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Where: Desert Door, 211 Darden Hill Rd. Driftwood
What: Attend Desert Door Distillery’s first Explorer Series of 2022. Guests will be able to sample Caliber on its own or in a delicious cocktail.
Eat some chili
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sagebrush, 5500 S. Congress Ave.
What: Enjoy great chili and great music at the 14th Annual Chili Cold Blood Chili Cook-Off. All proceeds will be donated to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians in memory of Nick Curran.
Enjoy some local art
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Neill-Cochran House Museum, 2310 San Gabriel St.
What: The Neil-Cochran House Museum will host a multi-media art exhibition by Austin artist Nell Gottlieb, titled “Land as Persona: An Artist’s Journey.” Gottlieb works in multiple media to reexamine her coming of age, white and female in the Jim Crow South.
Catch some improv comedy
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: GameOn! ATX, 1515 Dungan Ln.
What: ColdTowne ThrowDowne is an improv comedy tournament between troupes that will take place in front of a live studio audience and streamed live to the world on Twitch.
Catch a Johnny Cash-style show
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Georgetown Palace Theatre, 810 S. Austin Ave.
What: Experience music history with a unique musical about love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and the healing power of home and family set to the tune of the legendary Johnny Cash.