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Cost of Growth in Central Texas

The Case of the Missing Schwab Claw Back

Though the vote on Tuesday by the Travis County Commissioners Court was no surprise (4 to 1 for the Schwab deal), what did take us by surprScreen Shot 2014-08-06 at 8.41.54 PMise was the sleight of hand by the Court majority on the Schwab “claw back” clause. Austin media missed it too!

A claw back clause is supposed to protect the taxpayers by requiring companies who take public dollars and promise x, y and z, actually meet those promises. If they don’t, they have to give the money back.

Thanks to the due diligence of local developer, Ed Wendler, Jr., a longtime proponent of tax incentive reform, we got to see these magicians at the County in full action and they’re on tape!

Here’s how it went down.

At the beginning of the meeting, County Judge Sam Biscoe, who saw Wendler coming, asked the County Attorney, “Is the claw back clause there?” The County Attorney, dutifully answered in the affirmative. No questions asked.

In his testimony, Wendler raises the issue of the claw back stating that it’s there but it’s gutted because it’s only good for years 6 through 10. What about the first five years of the contract? It ain’t there, folks!

Then Commissioner Gerald Daugherty steps in and asks Schwab (not the County Attorney mind you), what their opinion is! What do you think they’re going to tell you, Gerald? Schwab’s response, “it’s ridiculous”.

Former Mayor Bruce Todd, who was appointed by Biscoe to temporarily fill the vacancy in Precinct 2 when Sarah Eckhardt decided to run for County Judge, completed the trick stating that the County needed to keep its word. Hmmm…where have we heard that one before?

Wendler’s most important testimony: giving these incentives in the midst of unparalleled growth is inflationary.

You warned them, Ed.

Now our only question is whether YOU, Austin voters, are ready to claw back our city!

Here’s what some of the candidates for City Council said when we asked them what they would do if the Schwab incentive came to the Austin City Council.

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!)