Making growth pay for itself!

Category Archives: Austin Chamber

Barrientos at Hearing on City Manager Performance

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On Austin City Management: Right Hand Not Knowing What Left Hand is Doing,
says Barrientos at Citizen Hearing on City Manager Performance

Last Thursday night, as the City Council met at City Hall, some of Austin’s leading civic activists in neighborhood, housing, affordability, environment and fiscal accountability efforts held their own citizen’s hearing decrying city management’s failure to effectively address major problems. One of those testifying led the Austin Charter Revision Committee and the 10-1 movement, former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos. Barrientos, pointing to the City’s wasteful Circuit of Americas subsidies for Formula 1 racing and the mismanagement of the costly Waller Creek development said,

“Who is the boss? The people are supposed to be the boss…I’m amazed at the maze of bureaucracy…and the culture of [city] government.

Brian Rodgers, a whistle-blowing commercial real estate developer and founder of, called the city manager “Gentrifier-in-Chief,” explaining how the city manager “promoted a growth at any cost” agenda causing rapid housing inflation and a virtual collapse in affordability for existing residents. He noted that Austinites are paying $54 million a year for an unused biomass plant – a no-bid, no analysis, last minute rush deal on the council. On the Seaholm Power Plant conversion, Rodgers said,

“Ott’s economic development team pushed a software company, subsidized with city tax dollars, to come and take one of Austin’s crown jewels. It was heart breaking.” Rodgers reviewed $4 billion of bad decisions under Marc Ott. Video here.

Brandon Reed of the Black Improvement Association denounced the lack of economic development and employment opportunities in East Austin. He condemned the Ott’s African-American Quality of Life Initiative, which so far, has,

 “Utterly failed to address the city’s mass exodus of African-Americans and needs of those still here.” Further, Reed stated, “as a felon who has turned my life around, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing for felons to find a better way.” Video here, third speaker.

Fred Lewis, an attorney and organizer of Manage Austin Better, discussed the Zucker Report. Lewis said,

“The City paid for this report last year. Zucker is highly paid and highly respected. He said the city’s planning and zoning department was the worst managed in the country, with the worst performance metrics, worst stakeholder dissatisfaction, and worst employee morale. Yet the city manager placed the rewriting of the city’s new Land Development Code under this department’s staff; the result, Code Next process is months overdue, grossly over budget, and still has produced no draft code after 3 years.” Video here, second speaker.

Other speakers and topics discussed:

Jane Hayman on the failure to reform Austin’s historic landmark program, resulting in continued giveaways to million dollar mansion owners. Video here – second speaker.

Jeff Jack, architect, former Council aide (a founder of the Austin Neighborhoods Council — for identification purposes only) on failure to address affordability, environment and the push for growth by not providing the Council with the information they need to make good decisions. Video here, first speaker.

Ed English, Audit Austin, on the need for an independent audit of Austin’s budget.

Bill Bunch, Save Our Springs Alliance (for identification purposes only), on failure to provide metrics and studies related to major capital projects such as Water Treatment Plant Number 4, transportation planning and more..

Karen Kreps, on Barton Springs (second speaker).

Larry Akers, on the redevelopment of Auditoruim Shores (third speaker).

Mike Hebert, Manage Austin Better, on the plan to rezone Austin with little concern for protection of neighborhoods.

Debbie Russell on the bloated Austin Police budget while continued failure to curb racial profiling. See here.

Mike Levy, who was unable to attend, but shared these written comments on Austin EMS and Fire.

Couldn’t make it last night?

For y’all who couldn’t make it last night — more on Monday — it was rich! 

Here’s one big reason for Ott to go — just sent to the Council and Mayor.

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Here’s Brian Rodgers’ message this morning to the Mayor and Council — one big reason Ott should go.

Click here to send your message to replace Ott — Council deliberates on Tuesday!  

Mayor and Council,

Marc Ott and his staff team of privateers colluded with Gary Farmer and the Austin Chamber of Commerce to put Athena into Seaholm at taxpayer’s expense and heartbreak. It’s unforgivable. “Marc, please explain in detail why you gave away a crown jewel of Austin?”

Brian Rodgers

The original plan for Seaholm was public space just like just like Boston’s Faneuil Hall — a public market place for local business treasured by Boston residents and a major tourist attraction. Instead, Ott and the previous Council slapped a corporate logo on Seaholm and fattened the giveaway with public money.
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PS Yes, we need a political revolution, but don’t expect it to be televised. Share and stay tuned.


Growth machine says you don’t care about lobby reform

Since the 2008 fight to stop the Domain shopping mall subsidies, we’ve seen enough dog and pony shows at City Hall to choke a horse.

We hear tell that the growth machine, some of Austin’s biggest advocates of unbridled growth, subsidized by your tax dollars, are claiming that you don’t give a hoot about lobby reform.

The Ethics Review Commission is hosting a public comment session this Wednesday at 6:30 pm at City Hall on some basic lobby reforms needed at City Hall. (Free parking.)

It wouldn’t surprise us to see the Chamber, RECA and other assorted special interest hogs at the public trough, packing this hearing. At the least, their arguments about this will be entertaining.

Folks, the new law is based on what the state requires for state lobbyists. Nuff said?

Can you show up at this, please? If you want to testify, please do or sign a card that you support these basic reforms.

Click here to see City Councilwoman, Leslie Pool’s, resolution for lobby reform.

Click here to see the FAQs about these reforms (written by reform attorney friend, Fred Lewis).

If you can’t make it, please call or email your council member and Mayor Adler here. Tell them you care about lobby reform and you support the Pool resolution.

Please share this message (see the buttons below?)
and contribute to our efforts!

PS BTW, we think lobby reform is just one of many reasons Austinites finally passed a new district voting system now called “10-1”. Prove us right, please.

CAMPO’s $32 Billion Congestion Nightmare — Threat or Menace?

By Roger Baker

Just when we might have imagined that CAMPO’s history of generating developer-centered transportation planning couldn’t possibly produce a result worse than their previous plan, they have managed to pulled it off.

CAMPO has just gotten the results of its latest planning, and it predicts nightmarish peak hour congestion throughout Travis, Williamson, and Hays Counties in 2040, even if we spend $32 billion on roads and transit by then. And now this vision is likely to become Austin’s legally binding growth blueprint. How did this happen?

To review the current planning situation, CAMPO is the regional, federally sanctioned, transportation planning body for Austin and the surrounding six county metropolitan area. Every five years, CAMPO is required to come up with a new long range plan to get federal and state (mostly gas tax) money for regional road and transit projects. The new 2040 Long Range CAMPO Plan now being debated, modified, and must be approved in time to take effect in May 2015, replacing the CAMPO 2035 Long Range plan that is currently in effect.

CAMPO of course outranks the City of Austin in its bureaucratic pecking order, since it is a federally sanctioned planning body that controls the local spending of federal gas tax money. Given Congressional gridlock, and the fact that federal supervision of both the FHWA and the FTA are weak and chronically starved for money. There isn’t much federal planning supervision except that the local MPOs, the federally assigned planning bodies, have to follow the very explicit rules and deadlines in the federal code which govern the allocation of the shrinking federal money. Meanwhile TxDOT, controlled by Rick Perry’s road-centric appointees, is in a strong position to control CAMPO and other MPOs because of their control of the local allocation of Texas fuel tax revenues for roads.

Continue Reading Proudly Endorses Jason Meeker, District 10! just decided to endorse Jason Meeker in the District 10 Austin City Council race!

We figured out that if District 10 voters do not target their votes, we’ll wind up with the same kind of failed leadership of the past representing District 10. Here’s our scorecard — see what we mean with Dealey or Thomas? Come see us tonight, October 20th, at Big Daddy’s (9070 Research) at 6 pm to volunteer and celebrate the start of early voting under 10-1. And please share this!

Will Austin Voters Open Up a Can of Whoopass?

Pete Winstead, bulldozing at Commissioners Court last Tuesday, for the Austin Chamber on the Schwab taxpayer dollar handout.
Pete Winstead, bulldozing at Commissioners Court last Tuesday, for the Austin Chamber on the Schwab taxpayer dollar handout.

Former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire sent us this note today, When deciding whether to grant tax incentives, the right answer comes from asking the right questions. Our elected officials should be asking these questions: How will this tax gift to Schwab make Austin more affordable for people who must pay taxes? Will those taxpayers be safer, healthier, or better off if you vote for the Schwab tax gift?”

To his credit, last Tuesday Commissioner Ron Davis asked Schwab, “Why haven’t you gone to the City of Austin since this project is in the city?” Of course, he got no answer. But we already know the answer, don’t we? Four of the seven City Council members are running in this election. Schwab wanted a no risk deal. In all likelihood, they’ve got their votes before new commissioners take office next year.

The public hasn’t even seen the contract yet, people! The real estate lobby, represented by Pete Winstead last Tuesday, and their minions in public office, are telling Austin residents in so many words to go to hell. Why? Because they can and because they cannot control their greed. But they do this at a risk.

The plunder of Austin is what gave rise to the 10-1 movement. We should know, since we started it.

But whether this turns into a true full-on voter revolt in November when we elect the new Austin City Council, is totally up to YOU – Austin voters.

We have asked all the candidates running for Council and Mayor to tell us
how they would vote on the Schwab deal if it came to Council.

We will share the candidate responses next Tuesday with you and media at Commissioners Court.

If you can make it down to the Commissioners Court, please do.
That’s Tuesday at 9 am, join us there.
700 Lavaca, 1st Floor

Bring a can of whoopass with you, please. That’s a figure of speech so don’t get too excited, unless you have one of these:  ========>>>

If you feel like emailing the Commissioners, have at it: (please leave a comment below too — we love the entertainment!)