It turns out that there is one thing that binds both the left and the right: outraged by Austin Mayor Steve Adler. On December 3, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE released a bombshell report showing that Adler was hosting an outdoor wedding for 20 people at an Austin hotel in November before chartering a private jet to Cabo San Lucas.
According to KVUE’s report, Adler’s daughter Sarah’s outdoor wedding took place on November 7th when Austin was under level 3 restrictions. Adler said guests were given quick COVID-19 tests and masks, but admits the masks were not worn the entire time. Most of the guests were from Austin, although some had come from abroad, including Seattle.
The morning after the wedding, the mayor, according to the statesman, got on a private plane with eight other people and set off on a week-long Mexican vacation. On November 9, Adler filmed a Facebook video urging Austin residents to stay home as active COVID-19 cases hit their highest numbers since the summer. By November 19, just a few days after his return from Cabo, Adler and Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, put Austin back into stricter Level 4 restrictions for the first time since August.
Quoted in the statesman’s article, Adler insisted that he had done nothing wrong, saying, “Not only have we not done anything wrong, we have not done anything that breaks or violates city rules or regulations or expected behavior has from others that we expect from ourselves. “Yesterday, in the hours immediately following the report, Adler was interviewed by KUT and doubled down to give their reporter the same statement. Technically, let’s not forget that Adler is a lawyer and thus has an education in the art of He is right about technology: he has not broken the orders of his or the Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Later, on the afternoon of December 2, he made another statement saying he “regretted” traveling, a sentiment he repeated during a 12-minute video on Facebook posted that evening. Only after 8 minutes and 29 seconds in the video did he say, “I’m sorry.”
Adler’s apology was insufficient to contain a swift response – and condemnation. In the UK, stories surfaced on The Guardian, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News and politicians on both sides of the aisle to voice their own criticisms of Twitter Adler. International coverage reflects both the intense spotlight that is now on Austin at all times, as well as the chaos and confusion caused by executives in response to this virus.
But to Austinites, to the people who voted this mayor not just once but twice, that feels like deep betrayal – and rightly so. Adler started his video last night with a 7-minute explanation on Austin’s color-coded COVID-19 chart, as if we had misunderstood the situation. He was allowed to travel on his own orders, you see, and it’s not his fault if we didn’t understand. He got chartered a private jet after Austin’s creative class lost nearly 30,000 jobs as restaurants popped by on takeout and delivery, while the hospitality industry dealt with empty hotel rooms and sparse convention halls. Let them eat cake, all of you.
To understand the extent of the betrayal, we need to examine the nuance of a virus that has been deeply politicized. Travis County is very liberal – 71.4 percent of the population voted for Joe Biden in the last election – and our collective response to the virus has been dutiful. We stayed masked, we stayed home, we sat outside, we stopped hugging loved ones, we canceled travel plans, we taught our children, worked from home, and kept a close eye on our neighbors in danger. Mistakes have been made, of course, but we have adapted our lives in response to a pandemic that was traumatic at best and fatal at worst.
And that adjustment was largely due to our guides asking us, beginning in March when Adler, Escott, and then Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt canceled SXSW. For 10 months the same leaders have been holding press conferences asking us to stay home. The same guides punished a group of UT Austin students who chartered a private plane to Cabo San Lucas last spring.
Perhaps most disappointing is that the “we are all together” mentality has been shattered. It’s the realization that Adler may be the mayor of the liberal bastion of Texas, but he’s also a rich white man who will do what he wants to do.
Adler joined a growing list of politicians yesterday who disregarded their own rules during the pandemic. The reasons are different, but the feeling is the same: We are all so tired of it, including those responsible. We’d like to sit in a fancy restaurant with a large group of friends like California Governor Gavin Newsom. We want to fly to see family during Thanksgiving, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. We want to see our loved ones get married, go on vacation and live our precious lives.
As we celebrate the holidays and approach the one year anniversary of the fight against COVID-19, we will remain dutiful. We will wear our mask, look out for our neighbor, and live life as best we can in these extraordinary and difficult circumstances. And if we’re lucky, there might be a beach vacation waiting in the end.