Making growth pay for itself!

Category Archives: News

Ott to Go Update – Action Please!

The good news is that – because of YOUR efforts — the Council spent many hours at last Tuesday’s work session

Austin City Manager, Marc Ott, receives a present from Formula 1
Austin City Manager, Marc Ott, receives a present from Formula 1

evaluating the performance of City Manager Marc Ott. Their discussions will continue in this Tuesday’s work session.

Unfortunately, their entire discussion was behind closed doors in executive session. So far, Councilman Zimmerman (District 6) is the only member who has promised to make his review public.

Why is the review of the city’s top executive being held behind closed doors? Our best guess is the “growth at any cost” culture at City Hall remains unbroken. Witness, The Grove – in Rosedale (Council Districts 7 and 10):

1.  This is how Marc Ott lost $18 million and a beautiful park — he sat on this City of Austin Offer Letter.

2.  The Grove appears to be another Pilot Knob in the making. The terms are even worse for Austin’s current residents. Watch for a 100% waiver of all development fees if only
5% of the housing is “reasonably priced”, according to city affordable housing guidelines for a land trust.

3. Rosedale resident and architect, Chris Allen, wrote about The Grove’s abuse of the public process:

“By perverting the public process, cutting back-room deals and withholding public documents, Milestone/Topfer and its allies, along with person(s) at the top of our City Government have declared an all-out WAR on our neighborhoods, folks.” Read Allen’s full statement here.
With negotiations like this, who needs a City Manager? Why not rid us of all pretense and just let developers directly run the city?
Do this, please!
  1. Reach your Council member and the Mayor before Tuesday and tell them to replace Marc Ott and to put their review into writing or to just release it.
  2. If you haven’t yet, please review our last email with videos, then fill out your own performance review at Manage Austin Better here.
We’ll say it again. 10-1 is in real danger. Geographic representation only opened the door for Austinites to take back our city. Don’t let the door be slammed shut because we didn’t go the distance. If we have to reboot 10-1, we will.

Barrientos at Hearing on City Manager Performance

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.55.01 AM

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.

 Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.25.29 AM
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.
Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.00.15 AM
PS Yes, we need a political revolution, but don’t expect it to be televised. Share and stay tuned.


Why we want Ott to go. Show up Thursday!

We rarely ask you to show up, do we? This one’s a must do.

This Thursday, March 24, 6:30-8:30 pm  Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 6.13.52 AM
Austin Energy Community Room
721 Barton Springs Road

Plenty of seats are left, so just come!

We, the people of Austin, deserve a public hearing on the hiring or firing of the chief executive officer of Austin BEFORE the City Council makes their decision on March 29th. We have been denied a hearing, so we’re holding our own. Show up if you care about:

* Austin’s affordability crisis.
* Open government.
* Lobbyists running your city and running over your neighborhoods.

It is no coincidence that City Manager Marc Ott’s performance review comes simultaneous to a jaw-dropping defiance of open government.

Last week, City Legal counseled the City Council to fight Brian Rodgers’ lawsuit under the Texas Open Meetings Act related to their Pilot Knob decision. Rodgers is asking the Council to void and re-post their decision to transfer $50M in water impact fees away from our struggling water utility to the Pilot Knob “affordable housing” scheme.

Even the City Manager has admitted that the agenda wording gave no clue to the Council about what they were voting on.

You do understand what this means, right? Every seemingly innocuous agenda item can be a Trojan Horse.

Show up Austin – and bring your neighbors!  

Share this message across our wonderful, but nonetheless troubled city from here or on this Facebook event page.

We’re counting on you, Austin!

PS Why are we staying 10-1 is in danger? Geographic representation will be rendered hollow without open government. 

Citizens Hearing on City Mismanagement

Please attend a Citizen’s Hearing on City Mismanagement and why the 10-1 Council needs new management.

Is Austin going in circles or just thinking about how to get out of this mess?
Is Austin going in circles or just thinking about how to get out of this mess?

Why we’re holding this event is because the City Council turned down our request for a public hearing.

Thursday, March 24, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Austin Energy Community Room
721 Barton Springs Road
Reply to reserve a seat now or !

This event comes just before the performance review by the City Council of its chief executive officer, City Manager Marc Ott on March 29th.

This hearing is an attempt to advance the 10-1 movement by urging that the 10-1 Council get its own new management. (Learn more about the issues here at Manage Austin Better. Be sure to read excerpts from the Zucker Report here too.)

Marc Ott has been City Manager since 2008. He is up for review and a raise, while he has presided over mistaken projects that are costing Austin residents far too much for THIS (10-1) City Council to ignore. In his first year, the City gave stunningly short notice to a $2.3 billion deal for biomass (aka the “wood chip burner” in Nacogdoches), resulting in a $54 million dollar per year payout by Austin Energy ratepayers for 20 years — with no electricity in return. The City of Austin cannot get out of this 20-year contract! How has this and other decisions under Mr. Ott affects YOU and your neighbors, is the subject of this hearing.

The results of which will be given to your city council member and Mayor before they deliberate, likely in private, on Tuesday, March 29th.

Listen up citizens! Austin is in crisis with no foreseeable way out without a new course.

We must insist that the 10-1 Council seriously address the affordability crisis and the gross mismanagement of our city…because they are intimately related.

Reserve a seat by replying to this message  
or feel free to call us!

Share this message across our wonderful, but nonetheless troubled city from here or on this event page on Facebook.

Come ready to have your say and to fill our your own evaluation of the City Manager’s performance.

PS Under Marc Ott’s leadership, we see the promise of 10-1 slipping away. If you’re OK with that, don’t show up at this hearing.

Insist on an Open Review of the City Manager

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 11.13.11 AMTomorrow and Thursday, the Austin City Council will begin discussions about the process for the performance review of City Manager Marc Ott. We must insist on an open review.

Will the City Council decide to do Ott’s performance review in Executive Session, out of the public view?

Or, will they allow YOU, as a city resident and affected party, to see and hear their deliberations on the performance of the City’s top executive?

As you know, we have been urging new management for the 10-1 Council. That will be Council’s decision.

But, will Austin – we, the people – have the open government we deserve on this important decision?

We still believe in this Council as much as we do 10-1. But withholding this process from the public, especially now, is unacceptable.

This a great test for the 10-1 Council.

It’s also a great test of YOU, dear Austin.

Contact your Council member and the Mayor. Urge them to OPEN UP THE OTT REVIEW. (For more details on the review read the 7 points below our signatures.)

Don’t know who your council member is, go here.

Mayor Steve Adler:, 512-978-2100

District 1 Councilmember Ora Houston:, 512-978-2101
District 2 Councilmember Delia Garza:  512-978-2102
District 3 Councilmember: Pio Renteria:, 512-978-2103
District 4: Councilmember Greg Casar:, 512-978-2104
District 5: Councilmember Ann Kitchen: 512-978-2105
District 6: Councilmember Don Zimmerman: 512-978-2106
District 7: Councilmember Leslie Pool:, 512-978-2107
District 8: Councilmember Ellen Troxclair:, 512-978-2108
District 9: Councilmember Kathie Tovo: 512-978-2109
District 10: Councilmember Sheri Gallo: 512-978-2110

Don’t be sheeple, that is herded, Austin.

Austin Deserves an Open Review of the City Manager

1. Hold the Council discussion with the City Manager on his evaluation in public. There is no legal reason Council cannot do that. At a minimum, if there are some truly confidential issues that need to be discussed, the Council can retire to executive session just for that, and return to the public session.

2. Require the City Manager to complete a written performance evaluation and have Council put it’s individual and collective evaluation of his performance in writing.  Make it available to the public for comment.

3. The citizens of Austin deserve a chance to review the manager of the city, a city in an affordability crisis. A time certain is guaranteed by a public hearing.

4.  Performance metrics should be tied to the outcomes laid out in Imagine Austin.

5. A major responsibility of the City Manager is to inform the council on major projects. Have the City Manager explain his performance on projects that have affected Austin’s affordability like Biomass ($2.3B), Water Treatment Plant #4 ($1B), Waller Creek, Seaholm, and just recently, Pilot Knob $100M and a host of high tech company recruitment incentives whose high paid employees have driven up housing costs dramatically.

6. The city is a $3B per-year corporation. Most corporations in America, this size or larger, routinely evaluate their chief executive officer with a 360-review. The same can be said for many public institutions including our own UT-Austin and Huston-Tillotson University. The City Manager should be reviewed by those who work under him – anonymously. Allows them to comment on his performance, just like HT and UT students do of their faculty.

7. What does the City Manager do to enhance the city’s relationship with other government entities and other civic organizations?

8. Is the City Manager providing information to the council requested of him in a timely manner for making decisions?