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 ChangeAustin.org, 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.