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A Great 2022, on to '23

And then there were three.

After a two-year, covid-induced hiatus from ATXL Live (formerly the Center4ATX Games), three winners again stood on stage to be recognized for their policy expertise, creativity and charisma. ATXL live guests voted!

Yasmine Smith, an attorney, community engagement specialist in Mayor Steve Adler’s Office and an Austin Area Urban League director of justice and advocacy, took first place while Daniel Silva finished second and Brian Nunnery, third. Austin City Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison presented the awards to the top three finalists.

The topic that the three winners, including finalists Heather Emerson and Michale Nehaus, tackled was, appropriately, the high cost of housing and what to do about it. While the finalists varied on the best immediate remedies, the common refrain from all was that Austin needs to do a better job of producing more housing supply to meet demand. That, in the end, is the bottom line.

“Learning about Austin in a lecture format was really helpful for someone like me,” said Yasmine, an Austin native. “I enjoyed getting to add to the rich dialogue and learning more about myself and my beautiful home.”

“I had a lot of fun at ATXL Live,” said third-place winner Brian Nunnery, Director of Content Marketing at OnlineMedEd and a District 9 resident. “It was a fantastic way to sharpen my speech writing and public speaking skills in a friendly but competitive setting – and get helpful feedback from folks who actually work in advocacy and public service.”

ATXL Live, held at 800 Congress, represented the final event of the 2022 ATXelerator Class. It took place a week after the cohort of 26 Austinites from various districts participated in The Pitch. This friendly competition entails each class member giving a four-minute speech presentation, in front of judges, on why they would be the best candidate in a fictional race for city council. From the Pitch, five finalists emerge.

The 2022 class was the third in a row that had to deal with the in-person challenges of participating in a leadership training program during a global pandemic. Like the two classes before it, the class took on the challenge and successfully adapted to the changes.

Opening Weekend

The opening weekend, scheduled in October for January 6-7, coincided with the Omicron spike so it was rescheduled for early February and the rescheduled again to March 6-7.

Topics included:

  • History of Austin (Austin American Statesman columnist Michael Barnes).

  • Media panel on current events (Audrey McGlinchy, KUT Radio; Mike Clark-Madison, Austin Chronicle; Christian Flores, KEYE-TV; Jack Craver, Austin Politics Newsletter; moderator Mary Alice Kaspar, Columbus Communicaitons).

  • Mayors Panel (Mayor Ron Mullen and Mayor Lee Leffingwell)

  • West Campus Mixed-use Scooter Tour (led by Dan Keshet, ATXelerator Class of ‘19)

  • Capital Metro Red Line Tour to Domain (led by Lonny Stern, Class of ‘18)

  • Future of Austin (City of Austin Demographer Dr. Lila Valencia)

  • City Government Overview (City of Austin Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo)

  • 10 Rules of Governing (Former Austin Mayor and State Senator Kirk Watson).

To prepare for the opening weekend, which was generously held at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the class always attends Esther’s Follies on the Friday night. This year, for the first time ever, not one but two classmates were brought up on stage to be thoroughly embarrassed.

The weekly sessions, which, again due to the pandemic, started in January on Zoom and concluded on April 30. They included:

  • Finance 101

  • Land Use

  • Transportation

  • Utilities

  • Diversity & Social Equity

  • Public Safety

  • Homelessness

  • Economic Development

  • Nonprofits & P3s

  • How to Run a Campaign

The class also received professional media training from two of the best in the business, Russ Rhea and Ron Oliveira, two former Austin journalists.

Class Projects

Subdividing into six teams, the 26-person class studied, analyzed and came up with policy recommendations on three important issues facing the city: affordability, homelessness and mobility. The analyses and recommendations were quite creative, including a 711 number for homelessness services and what a city should do to CREATE a housing crisis. Pictures tell a thousand words.


The ATXelerator recruits applicants from all 10 districts 365 days a year. You may apply to the program at Tuition is $295 per year. If you apply by October 1, you will be considered for early admission and, if admitted, the tuition is $220. The final deadline for applications is December 5 and the opening weekend for the 2023 class is January 13-15, 2023. Learn more about the ATXelerator at the first of five "house parties" being held in districts across the city on July 14:

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