Category Archives: Action Alerts

Where To Help For Central Texas Flood Relief

By Bill Oakey – May 24, 2015

The storms that swept through Blanco, Wimberley, San Marcos, Kyle and other communities near Austin brought historic flood levels in some areas. Homes have been damaged or destroyed and people, pets and livestock have been injured or displaced.

If you would like to donate or find out where to volunteer, please contact the Austin Disaster Relief Network using this link. Or, you can call them at 512-428-6322. Their address is 1122 East 51st Street, Austin, TX 78723. The entrance to their office is facing 51st Street.

Highlights From The MoPac Rally And A Summons To The City Council Meeting This Thursday

By Bill Oakey – May 3, 2015

If you missed the big “Keep MoPac Local” Rally on Saturday, please take a moment to enjoy some photos from the event. Then mark your calendars for this coming Thursday, May 7th. Plan to come and join the gathering of citizens at the Council Chambers at 301 West 2nd Street. You are urged to come at 4:00 PM and support Item 26, which is a resolution opposing the construction of new toll lanes over MoPac through Zilker Park and across Lady Bird Lake. Speakers can sign up at the kiosks in the City Council Chambers from now through Thursday.

You can see the resolution here. The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo, and co-sponsored by Council Members Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, Gregorio Casar and Delia Garza. 

Why Should We Oppose Four Toll Lanes Over Lady Bird Lake?

This project is not a transportation plan. It is a TRANSFORMATION PLAN!

If you are a wealthy homeowner in a new subdivision built over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, then you might love this new tollway and the bridge. It will only cost you upwards of $12 to $14 per trip to use the lanes. That adds up to a whopping $504 to $588 per month for 21 workdays! And many of us are opposed to the added noise and pollution in Zilker Park near and along the Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge. We don’t like the idea of dumping thousands of cars onto Cesar Chavez at Austin High School as a route into downtown. The ultimate goal of this project is to connect SH-45 SW, I-35 and MoPac, transforming local streets in Central Austin near downtown into a totally gridlocked traffic nightmare.

Two Other Important Meetings You Should Plan to Attend

1. Attend -This Tuesday, May 5 at 10:AM – Travis County Commissioners Court, 700 Lavaca. Toll Road Authority presentation.

2. Attend and Oppose – Next Monday, May 11 at 6:00 PM – Joe C, Thompson Conference Center, 2313 Red River, Room 3.102. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) will vote to adopt the 2040 Transportation Plan. Come and speak against the Southern MoPac lanes over Lady Bird Lake. (Oppose inclusion of the 4 toll lanes on South MoPac, SH-45 SW, & Connection to I-35).

Websites to Visit for Project Background and Details

1. Keep MoPac Local

2. SOS (Save Our Springs) Alliance

Photo Highlights of the Rally On Saturday

Tremendous thanks to the many volunteers who worked to put the rally together and to keep us informed about the financial and environmental encroachment of toll roads over Lady Bird Lake. One person really stands out. Brigid Shea, the founder of SOS back in the 90’s, and now one of our Travis County Commissioners, did a fabulous job helping to organize the rally and serving as MC. Click to enlarge the photos.

Brigid Shea & Bill Bunch

Brigid Shea & Bill Bunch


Bill Oliver

Bill Oliver


City Council Member Leslie Pool


Hope Springs Eternal

Hope Springs Eternal


A Very Good Question

A Very Good Question


Tranquility At Risk

Tranquility At Risk

Rally Tomorrow To Stop $12 to $14 Toll Lanes Over Lady Bird Lake!

By Bill Oakey – May 1, 2015

One of the biggest rallies to hit Austin in a long time will take place at 10:30 tomorrow morning, and you need to be there! Even if you had other plans, this will be a moment in history not to be missed.

Mayor Steve Adler, Commissioner Brigid Shea, other leaders and  several of Austin’s most prominent grass roots organizations are hosting this event to stop a massive double-decker toll bridge over Lady Bird Lake. If it were built, not only would the tranquility of Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake be lost forever, but drivers who use these toll lanes would be hit with tolls up to $12 to $14 per trip.

Picture yourself strolling along the hike and bike trails like you’ve done for years. Now you are about to enjoy the peaceful breeze and the views as you step onto the Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge. Suddenly you are transported to five years in the future. All you can hear is a deafening roar. The bridge vibrates and shudders as you try to walk. The person standing next to you can’t hear a word that you say…Then you’re back in 2015. You hear an old song with a new meaning, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Don’t let it happen. Come to the rally tomorrow!

RALLY to STOP the Double Decker Toll Roads over Lady Bird Lake

Saturday, May 2 @ 10:30am

Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge – Under Mopac (near Austin High School on Stephen F. Austin Blvd)

The toll road authority plans to build FOUR TOLL LANES on MOPAC from Cesar Chavez to Slaughter Lane, including a double-decker toll road bridge over Lady Bird Lake & Zilker Park with a flyover next to Austin High School.  The plan will not increase public lanes, only add expensive toll lanes (possibly costing as much as $12-14 a trip) & expand MoPac to 12 lanes! (I-35 has 8)  The toll authority has added this plan to our regional transportation plan (called CAMPO 2040 Plan) – we’re urging them to scale this plan back. The CAMPO Plan also includes connecting I-35 to MoPac via SH45 SW, creating a western bypass and adding thousands of extra cars & trucks DAILY to MoPac. 

If you love Austin and want to protect our Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Park, Barton Springs, Hike/Bike trails, Austin High School, Lamar Beach, Neighborhoods & Downtown – Please be at the RALLY this Saturday.

This four lane toll road / double-decker bridge plan was authorized by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Staff & Board of Directors.

Please visit the Rally Facebook page and Keep Mopac Local for more information.

CTRMA’s drawing of expanded MoPac, plus double-decker over Lady Bird Lake & Zilker Park (12 Lanes of traffic)  Will block out sky above Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge!

RALLY HOST COMMITTEE (partial list)

Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner
Steve Adler, Austin Mayor
Kathie Tovo. Austin Mayor Pro Tem
Delia Garza, Austin Council Member
Leslie Pool, Austin Council Member
Amber Elenz, Austin ISD Board Trustee
Paul Saldana, Austin ISD Board Trustee
Laura Morrison, Former Austin Council Member
Jim Harrington, Founder/Director Texas Civil Rights Project
Nelson Linder, President NAACP
Dr. Sterling Lands, II, Senior Pastor Greater Calvary Church
Heyden Black Walker, Reconnect Austin
Clark Richards, Attorney & son of Ann Richards
Susan & Jerry Jeff Walker, Environmental Leaders & Musician
Robin Rather, Environmental Leader

Keep Mopac Local Coalition:

Save Barton Creek Association
Save Our Springs Alliance
Austin Sierra Club
Clean Water Action
Environment Texas
Friendship Alliance of Northern Hays County
Fix 290 Coalitions
Tex PIRG

—————————————————————–

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Composed by Paul Simon

When you’re weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, Silver Girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Who To Contact To Support Property Tax Relief At The Legislature

By Bill Oakey – April 30, 2015

The State Legislature has convened a joint House / Senate Budget Conference Committee. This committee will iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.

We need to support the Senate version, which provides $2.4 billion in property tax relief. The House version contains no property tax relief, and would only give a tiny reduction in the sales tax. Here is a link that describes the Senate’s proposal for property tax reductions.

I urge everyone to email or call the House members of the Conference Committee listed below. Ask them to support the Senate’s recommended property tax reductions in their budget negotiations. Let them know that Austinites are struggling to keep up with sky high taxes and double digit appraisal increases. Please email, Tweet, and Facebook this blog posting to all of your friends and other contacts and ask them to do the same.

Texas House Members of the Budget Conference Committee:

Click each name to send an email. Phone numbers are listed on each page.

Appropriations Committee Chair John Otto

Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Sylvester Turner

Rep. Trent Ashby

Rep. Sarah Davis

Rep. Larry Gonzales

If you belong to a neighborhood organization or have access to any organization newsletter, please see that this appeal is posted. Try to get it circulated on as many blogs and forums as possible.

Property Tax Appraisals Require Quick Action By Local Leaders

By Bill Oakey – April 30, 2015

As the sun came up this morning, neighborhoods across the City were jolted awake by the continuing shockwaves of this year’s property tax appraisals. They are up by as much as 29% in some areas of town. For many taxpayers, this is on top of crippling double digit increases in last year’s appraisals.

This situation demands a call to action!

As a first step, I will be contacting City and County officials and asking them to make a public statement of support for the Texas Senate’s property tax reduction plan for the State budget. Unfortunately, the Texas House has offered a much weaker plan that reduces the sales tax by a very small percentage.

We need property tax relief now!

Look for another blog posting today, with links for you to contact the members of the House-Senate Conference Committee on the State budget. It is time for all taxpayers to unite in this effort. We will not get another chance for State legislative relief for two more years.

Here’s hoping that our City and County officials will make a strong public statement on our behalf as soon as possible. I will keep you posted.

The MoPac Lexus Lanes: A More Fair And Compassionate Alternative

By Bill Oakey – Revised Version, April 30, 2015

Longtime Austinites know only too well what a traffic nightmare MoPac has become. Even the name “MoPac” conveys gloomy and forboding thoughts. How many times have heard somebody say, “I sure dread getting onto MoPac today,” or “Can you think of any other way to get there besides MoPac?’

For years we have heard politicians and transportation officials talk about possible improvements to MoPac. Last year, we finally heard about a plan. But for nearly all of us, it was not a proposed plan up for discussion. Instead, it was a “Here’s how it’s going to be” plans. (I was tempted to say, “It’s our way or the highway.”)

The CTRMA, which is the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, has decided that it’s in all our best interests to “fix” MoPac by adding new toll lanes. It’s bad enough that our local leaders did not fight hard to keep MoPac free. After all, if the sections of MoPac and I-35 that run through Austin are not the highest priority for State funding, then tell me which other roads are.

Later this year, North MoPac will usher in new “express lanes” for the privileged few who can afford them. The tolls will be jockeyed up and down by a convoluted system designed to “manage” the traffic flow on the new lanes. The more traffic, the higher the tolls. This particular scheme has been adopted in other cities. But CTRMA’s version is a terrible idea for many reasons.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This plan was dumped in our laps with little widespread public discussion. We haven’t been told how much the seesawing scale of tolls will cost those bold enough to try this brand of “traffic relief.” But we can be sure of one thing – the price will not be cheap. Especially in an increasingly unaffordable Austin.

Here is the picture that comes to mind with the new Lexus Lanes. One reason that MoPac has become so crowded is that thousands of folks have been priced out of their Central City homes into more affordable suburban neighborhoods. These are the good, hard working citizens who paid their taxes in Austin for 20 or 30 years, if not longer. What is their reward for helping to make Austin the desirable place that it is today? Banishment to the suburbs with high commuting and car maintenance costs. Not to mention the excruciating traffic woes.

The people who face the biggest financial burdens and deserve traffic relief the most are being told that their place on the “improved” MoPac will be at the back of the line. As they sluggishly crawl through gridlocked traffic day after the day, they will be treated to a most unwelcome sight. A zippidy-fast  parade of well-to-do drivers will be streaking by in their Lexuses, Teslas and fancy sports cars. These folks will not even notice that there are thousands of “regular people” inching past their hometown neighborhoods, en route to suburban exile. Instead of worrying about traffic, the Lexus set will be savoring their luxury shopping and dining experiences at the Domain or something similar.

So, What’s the Word On the Toll Cost and Other Big Questions?

Just chew on these words, taken directly from the MoPac Express website:

1. How high can the toll rate go?

There is no limit on the toll rate. Most of the time, the rate is expected to be $4.00 or less, but it could be much higher at times when traffic is especially heavy and demand to use the Express Lanes is high.”

(Note that at $4.00 per one-way trip, the monthly cost for 21 workdays would be $168.00. But it will only be that low when traffic is not “especially heavy.”)

2. Will carpools pay a toll to use the express lanes?

“Yes. Drivers who carpool will pay the same toll as regular users. However, because carpoolers are sharing a ride, they will have the option to split the cost, making trips more affordable.”

(In a review of several other cities with express lanes, every single one I found offered free access for carpoolers and even motorcycles).

3. Will disabled veterans, Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients be exempt from paying the tolls?

“The Mobility Authority Board and staff are grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of our military veterans. However, in order to ensure the Express Lanes remain free flowing, toll free travel will only be provided to buses and van pools operated by public transit agencies like Capital Metro and to vehicles specifically exempt from toll payment under state law.”

(OMG! Many other Texas toll roads offer free access to these classes of veterans. See this link).

4. The first item under the “Tolling” section of the FAQ’s on the MoPac Express website contains the most important sentence you will ever see. To ensure that it is never lost to history, I have preserved it as a screen shot:

“The goal of the higher toll rates is not to increase revenue but to manage traffic and maintain free flow speeds on the Express Lane.”

(Remember that quote. It can help us win the battle to reform the MoPac “improvements!”)

What Can We Do To Take Back MoPac and Preserve Austin Values?

I have submitted the following proposal to the Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners:

  1. Set up a lottery system for regular commuters to register online to be eligible to drive on the express lanes. The winners would pay an affordable fixed-rate toll. Their TxTag numbers would go into the computer system. Drawings could be held every 3 to 4 months.
  2. Determine how many driver slots should be allocated for each drawing. I believe that the majority of the available capacity should go to the commuters. This would need to be measured against the number of registered vanpools, buses and emergency vehicles.
  3. The appropriate number of leftover vehicle capacity could be subject to the variable tolls. There are people who may want to pay for a faster trip for any number of reasons, and some may not use MoPac at all on a regular basis.
  4. Set up a meeting with the CTRMA. Ask them to adopt this proposal on behalf of the people of Austin. The proposal is “out of the box,” for sure. But we will never reach affordability results without innovative solutions.
  5. Ask the CTRMA to deliver a set of potential scenarios for the slope of the curve on the variable tolls. What will the criteria be for determining the variable price points? Why not make the curve as affordable as possible until the traffic gets very close to the capacity limit?
  6. Provide full transparency to the public after the final decision is made on how the express lanes will operate. This is critical to ensure a successful public buy-in for the project.
  7. If there is already a contract in place that sllows the CTRMA to manage the lanes without any oversight or input from the City / County, then meet with them anyway, and urge them to compromise for the good of the community. A positive spirit of cooperation should be at the heart of Austin’s New Way Forward.

If you agree with this suggestion, please use these single email links to contact all members of the Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court.

Help Me Celebrate The 26th Anniversary!

By Bill Oakey – June 25, 2014

As some of you may know, I have been fighting various City Hall battles since the early 1980’s. If I could only pick one to have adopted as a reform in the 21st century, it would be one that I first attempted to bring forward in 1988.  So, if we could get it adopted this year it would call for a 28th anniversary celebration.  I might even take some cake down to City Hall if I thought it would pass.

In my early activist days, I was constantly frustrated by going to City Council meetings and having to wait up to six hours or longer to speak at public hearings and on other discussion items. I saw parents with small children, citizens with wheelchairs and crutches, and seniors with canes and walkers waiting sometimes until past midnight to speak passionately about issues that affected their daily lives.

In 1988 I drafted a “City Council Agenda Reform Proposal” to deal with this topic.  I found a Council Member to sponsor the proposal and place it on the agenda.  So I went down to City Hall and took a seat at the meeting.  I waited.  And then I waited some more.  After a few hours went by, I kept on waiting.  Finally, I stood at the speakers’ podium and delivered the proposal. Needless to say, nothing happened to change the process.  But the next morning, I opened the Austin American-Statesman and saw my picture, along with a headline that read, “Agenda Critic Kept Waiting.”

Now it is 2014 and I am still waiting!

Believe it or not, the issue has arisen again and this time there is actual talk about getting something done with this reform.  With your help, perhaps we can turn that talk into action.  A delightfully friendly new City Hall reporter for the American-Statesman, Lilly Rockwell, has placed the issue front and center with this article from today’s paper.  Here is a telling excerpt:

“The property tax proposals were only one of three hot-button topics the council was set to consider on the 6 p.m. portion of the agenda but didn’t get to until after 1 a.m. The more than 300 people who flooded City Hall earlier that evening to testify on garage apartments and a popular animal shelter had trickled out of City Council Chambers as the clock ticked on.”

According to the article, several flustered Council Members expressed words similar to my sentiments over the last 28 years:  This is a situation up with which we can no longer put!  (With all due apologies to my wonderful high school English teacher).

Once again I have asked for a City Council sponsor to place a reform proposal on the agenda. Hopefully, this time for action!  Here is a draft for them to consider, as they work towards a long-overdue solution:

City Council Agenda Reform Proposal – 26th Anniversary Edition

  1. Public hearings should not be posted for 4:00 PM, as is commonly done under the current system.  If the item is expected to draw a large number of speakers, it should be posted after normal business hours and after the City Council’s dinner break. 6:30 PM would be ideal, to allow citizens time to get through the traffic to City Hall.
  2. Discussion items with large numbers of citizens signed up to speak should also be posted on or after 6:30 PM.  These items should be posted with a labeled “Time Certain.”
  3. Public hearings of citywide interest, such as budget hearings, utility rate hearings etc. may require a separate City Council Meting to accommodate the large number of speakers.  When these hearings are added to a full agenda, with zoning cases and other lengthy discussion items, it can often be 11:00 PM, midnight, or even past 1:00 AM before all of the speakers for the public hearings can have their say.
  4. The City Council should make their best effort to arrange the time sequence of agenda items, so that they can be taken up in an orderly and efficient manner.  Whenever the time certain arrives for a public hearing or discussion item, that item should proceed on time.  Unfinished items should be postponed to later in the meeting, or until the next City Council Meeting.
  5. Consider holding zoning hearings on a separate day, if the agenda contains one or more items with large numbers of speakers anticipated.
  6. The City Council should make a realistic assessment of whether an agenda is so crowded with items that citizens would be inconvenienced unreasonably if they came down to speak.  In those cases, the Council should move some of the items to a different day, or to a subsequent meeting.  Citizens should not be expected to stay up past midnight to address the City Council.
  7. Whenever possible, public hearings and discussion items with large numbers of speakers should be scheduled ahead of other lengthy items.  Give the citizens an opportunity to come to City Hall and speak, and then go home to their families at a respectable hour.
  8. While the mayor chairs the meetings and calls the agenda items, the City Council should establish a procedure that allows the entire Council to consider the order in which the items are called, as well as which items will be assigned a “time certain.”  This determination of time sequencing could be taken up at the Tuesday work sessions.  But the Council should still allow the flexibility for any Council member to make a motion during a meeting to shift the times for the items, based on the need to accommodate the convenience of public speakers.

What Can You Do to Help?

Email, tweet, and Facebook this blog posting to your friends.  Then contact all seven City Council Members here, and ask for action on this reform.

Speak Against The Urban Rail Plan On Thursday

By Bill Oakey – June 24, 2014

Citizens who have called for a chance to speak on the urban rail plan will get their wish this Thursday.  The City Council has set the time for 4:00 PM, with no limit on the number of speakers.  The good news is that this will not be a post-midnight meeting.  The Council has decided to hear three major topics that will draw speakers, with the urban rail plan being one of those.  After that they will most likely adjourn and finish the rest of the crowded agenda on Friday.  This scheduling update was provided by Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office.

You Can Sign Up Now To Speak Against Item #64

You can sign up at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street, anytime between now and whenever the item is called after 4:00 on Thursday.  Here are just a few of the reasons to oppose the current urban rail plan:

1. Many of us would like to support mass transit, but this is not the best plan for Austin.  The route from Highland Mall to East Riverside is not a densely populated area, and would do more to help land speculators and developers hoping to attract newcomers than current residents. The population patterns behind the 2000 urban rail route along Guadalupe and Lamar still make sense.  That ballot initiative passed within the City of Austin, and only failed at the polls because of opposition from outlying towns.

2. The $1 billion price tag would land you a property tax increase of $160 per year within five years on a $200,000 home.  That would come on top of a multitude of other tax increases between now and then.

3. The City Council is likely to bundle a 60 / 40 split for rail and roads into a single bond proposition for the November ballot.  The $1 billion cost would cover both.  Voters should not be forced to accept a questionable and highly unpopular rail plan in order to vote for road improvements. The hastily throw-together batch of mostly I-35 improvements was contrived only for the purpose of “sweetening” the rail vote, and citizens should reject that tactic outright.

4. Those who say “We have to start somewhere” should be informed that if the bonds pass in November, Project Connect plans to install permanent concrete dedicated bus lanes along the competing Lamar / Guadalupe route, closing it off forever to urban rail.

5. Project Connect has come up with a new humdinger of a deal to reduce the cost of the rail plan.  If you like paying your water and electric bills now, you will love this great idea!  They have decided to “share” the cost of relocation of utility lines along the rail route with the Austin Water Utility and Austin Energy.

A better sharing plan would be to email this blog posting to your friends and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

New Fee Waiver Would Cost Water Utility $1.4 Million! – What Is The City Council Thinking??

By Bill Oakey – June 10, 2014

Just as we begin to catch our breath from one wasteful move by the City Council, here comes another one!  Item #63 on this Thursday’s agenda would give away $2.5 million of your money and mine in fee waivers to the new Seton Teaching Hospital.   This is appalling when you consider that we just got stock with an unprecedented property tax increase from Central Health that was supposed to cover the new U.T. medical school and this teaching hospital.

But here’s the most outrageous part of the deal on this new fee waiver.  $1.4 million of it would take revenue away from the Water Utility.  (To see the breakdown of the entire $2.5 million in fee waivers, go to the City Council agenda, click on Item #63, and then click on the fiscal note).

This financial hit to the Water Utility comes just after the new Fitch Bond Rating Service report that reduced the rating outlook for some of our Water Utility bonds from stable to negative. And it comes right on top of the news that we could face a 30% base rate increase in water rates under the new budget…PLUS a new drought fee!

A special Joint Committee on Water Utility Finance has been pouring over the books for several weeks, trying to find cost savings to help reduce the upcoming rate increase.  And now we are faced with this bone-headed fee waiver.  I can just hear somebody from the City saying, “Oh, but the $1.4 million in fees from Seton was not anticipated in the budget, so the waiver will have a neutral impact.”  I don’t know if it was in the budget or not, but we have heard statements along those lines before.  It’s only money after all, so what does it matter?

The bottom line from this City Council is becoming very clear.  They don’t understand the frustration of the taxpayers.  We know for certain that Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole are in favor of this latest fee waiver because they are both co-sponsors of the item on Thursday.  In fact, Leffingwell told the Statesman that the City has a “moral obligation” to do the fee waiver.

But where is the “moral obligation” to the taxpayers and ratepayers???

This week it’s a total of $2.5 million in fee giveaways, plus $30 to $40 million in wasteful spending by Austin Energy to build a new building, when they could buy a bigger space for less than half the price.  How much more in bad funding decisions will we see next week?  And the week after that?

Our only chance is to let our voices be heard, loud and clear!

Send an email to all the City Council members using this link.

Can We Stop Austin Energy From Wasting Over $40 Million?

By Bill Oakey – June 5, 2014

Update: Response From Austin Energy Is Now Included

If you owned a business that needed more space, what choice would you make on this deal. Would you build a brand new building for $67 million, or would you buy a bigger building with plenty of parking right next door for less than half the price?

Well, guess what…Austin Energy not only wants to spend $67 million for the new building, but on June 12th they will ask the City Council for an additional $9 million to develop the PLANS for it!   The bureaucracy is alive and well, but this time we can’t let them get away with it.

Brian Rodgers, who is well-known for exposing the commercial tax appraisal inequities several years ago, sent out an alert this morning on the Austin Energy building boondoggle.  A broker friend of his advised him that the huge 48 acre campus formerly owned by AMD is available for sale for $25 million.  The address is 5900 East Ben White.  It is located just a few feet away from the spot where Austin Energy wants to build their boondoggle.  The price tag for AE’s dream building comes in at $375 per square foot, which is higher than the going rate for many downtown buildings.  There is also another building nearby that should be evaluated for cost.

Right now, we need to do two things:

1. Contact all seven City Council members, using this link, to ask them to cancel the $9 million planning contract for the new building.  This is Item #13 on the Council Agenda for June 12th. Ask them to evaluate purchasing the former AMD campus at 5900 East Ben White, as well as Building 312 at 6800 Burleson Road.

2. Work with the new candidates running in November to establish a reform.  All proposed City building projects should be evaluated on a matrix against specific alternatives, using strict cost-conscious guidelines.

Austin Energy Responds – What Part of “Affordability” Do They Not Understand?

Late this morning, the Austin American-Statesman posted an online story on the criticism of Austin Energy’s expensive new building plans.  The response from Austin Energy will probably not surprise you.  Vince McGlone, a facilities manager, made this comment regarding the former AMD facility that is bigger and half the cost:

“I’m very familiar with that building, I used to work there,” McGlone said. “It does not suit our needs, it is 1986 vintage equipment. What we’re trying to do with our new suite is create a building that does not draw upon natural resources as much.”

Sandra Strauss-Jones, an Austin Energy project manager, offered this description of the new building that they want.  “The new East Austin building would highlight the green-building practices the utility preaches. It will have solar panels in the parking lot, rainwater harvesting and pedestrian walking and biking trails.”

My Comments:  It would be great if they could provide some type of solar panels for whatever building they get.  There are lots of green building options out there.  They need to go back to the drawing board and find a way to do it cost effectively with an existing, cheaper building.  As for the bicycle and pedestrian hiking trails, I’m sorry.  But we just want you to keep our lights on, guys!  Do your hiking on your own time at your own expense.  Or else, uh, take a hike!  What part of “affordability” do you not understand?

A Look Back At Austin Energy’s Current Headquarters

For a bit of nostalgic history, here is how Austin Energy wound up in their current headquarters on Barton Springs Road.  In the late 1980’s that building was called the Sumiken Building.  A hack “consultant” who had worked in the mayor’s campaign lobbied for the contract to construct that building.  Even though this guy had no real estate license, and often wore no shoes, he received a fat commission for speaking on behalf of the project at City Hall.  Citizens were so outraged by this and other insider deals, that they elected several new council members who were far worse than what we had.  It wasn’t until a few years later that Brigid Shea, Daryl Slusher, and Jackie Goodman were elected on a neighborhood and environmental platform.