Austin’s City Hall, in some ways, is no different than any other government entity. They’re all “transparency challenged.” It’s also been that way for a very long time, maybe forever.
The need for strict public oversight could not be more important, as large-scale developers are lobbying overtime to keep area officials on board with their plan to double the area’s population in just 16 years! The costs are offloaded on ordinary Austinites. There is no real plan for conservation and protection of our most valuable (and limited) resource – water!
The 2003 council decision to fund the Domain luxury shopping mall with ONLY 7 DAYS public scrutiny, was a low point but not the lowest. This year, the council, signed on to a $2.3 billion, 20 year, NO BID, contract to purchase much higher than market electricity from a Bio Mass Electrical Generating Plant to be built in Nacogdoches.
Local activists who’ve been pushing for energy independence and renewables for decades in this City, showed up at City Hall last August. The City gave this mega-deal the bums rush and signed a contract with a three week public notice! The excuse provided by Roger Duncan of Austin Energy for the hurry was that the equipment prices were fixed until the end of the month so we had to sign up right away. With deflation and depression in our midst, the folly of that decision will become only more glaring. (You can read the Chronicle articles we’ve linked to in our “BioMess” section). The most important questions were twofold. Why didn’t the city put this up for a bid? And why didn’t they put it up for a public vote?
We don’t know about you, but we’ve had it up to here with rushed deals so rushed that “public oversight” is now a running joke in Austin city politics. You can pass laws for better transparency. But what’s most needed is Austin area citizens getting better organized to dictate more accountability through upcoming elections.
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We’re getting ready for May 2011 y’all!