Tag Archives: Austin master plan

One More Time – Can We Get A Master List With Total Costs For All City Plans?

By Bill Oakey May 19, 2016

I have asked this question before, both on this blog and in the offices down at City Hall. There was the first time and then the next time. The last time I tried it out on a City Council aide, I got a polite response. In fact, they’ve all been polite.  But we are still no closer to an actual, tangible report that you could hold in your hand or click on from a website. What we need, in my opinion, is a complete list of all active City plans, showing how much each one of them will cost, and what the total cost would be if we funded every one of them. And, there’s one other thing. We need a public process to engage with the City Council, so they can set priorities and establish an affordable timeline to implement and pay for the most essential plans.

So, there! I’ve said it again. And on Thursday during Citizens Communications at the City Council meeting, I will deliver the suggestion and the request one more time. Rather than repeat myself on this blog, I will offer the previous links to this subject at the end. But first, I must confess that I failed to employ one of my core research principles. So, let’s get that out of the way right now.

My Favorite Question for Other Cities – How Do You Do It?

Today a little light went off in my head, and I realized that I needed to do a simple Google search for “list of city plans.” Lo and behold, there are other cities out there that publish lists of their plans. Granted, these are not necessarily in a format that summarizes, prioritizes and tallies up the total cost. But, heck, a master list is a gigantic step in the right direction. This might help convince Austin officials that it isn’t such a crazy idea after all. Below are links to some of the lists from other cities found in the Google search:

  1. Portsmouth, New Hampshire – “Plans and Reports,” from “Plan Portsmouth” website
  2. Homer, Alaska – “Strategic Doing List of City Plans” (Memorandum 15-042)
  3. Ann Arbor, Michigan – “List of City Plans,” from “Sustainability Framework, 2013,” Appendix A, Page 14
  4. Asheville, North Carolina – “City Plans”
  5. Urbana, Illinois – “Urbana Plan Commission, Regular Meeting Minutes,” November 6, 2014, Item 5, Page 2, 5th paragraph, “There is a list of City plans that are available on the City’s website…”

I should point out that a few of Austin’s plans are listed on the “Planning and Zoning Development webpage.”

How Long Should It Take the City to Compile the List?

One friend told me that it’s “pretty scary” to think that no one person at City Hall knows how many plans there are, much less how much all of them totaled up might cost. So, what deadline should I suggest, if I can find a Council sponsor for a resolution? The bottom line would be a pretty scary number, so perhaps October 31st, Halloween, would be appropriate. The City Manager would no doubt decide which Halloween of which year in the future to comply with the resolution, regardless of what due date is certified by the City Clerk in the approved document. But it’s still worth one more try. Maybe the request won’t just fade away, like all the other times.

One Final Comment That Does Bear Repeating

You can read my previous blog postings on this subject by clicking here, here and here. To conclude, let’s all think about this question. What would happen if the CEO of Apple, Google, Amazon or any other big company was called upon by their board of directors to provide a complete list of that company’s active plans, their total cost, and a time frame for funding those plans? Suppose that CEO stared back at the board and said, “I don’t have any such list, and I don’t know how many departments have active plans in place.” The chairperson would most likely reply, “We hope you have enjoyed your tenure here as CEO. The door is over that way…”

door out

Musical Accompaniment for This Blog Posting:
Planning Songs
  1. “Making Plans” – Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, 1980
  2. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” – Paul Simon, 1975
Timing Songs
  1. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – Celine Dion, 2004
  2. “The Next Time” – Cliff Richard & the Shadows, 1962
  3. “The Last Time” – The Rolling Stones, 1965
  4. “This Time” – Troy Shondell, 1961
  5. “Time After Time” – Frank Sinatra, 1947
  6. “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper, 1983
  7. “There! I’ve Said It Again” – Bobby Vinton, 1963
  8. “Try Me One More Time” – Wanda Jackson, 1966
  9. “Like All The Other Times” – Marty Robbins, 1961
  10. “Do It Again” – The Beach Boys, 1968
Questions & Answers
  1. “How Do You Do It?” – Gerry & the Pacemakers, 1963. (Turned down by the Beatles for their first record)
  2. “Lo And Behold” – James Taylor, 1970
Scary Songs
  1. “Haunted House” – Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, 1964
  2. “The Purple People Eater” – Sheb Wooley, 1958
  3. “The Mummy” – Bob McFadden & Dor, 1959
  4. “Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett, 1962

Grocery Stores Go Missing From Austin Neighborhoods – What Gives?

By Bill Oakey – April 10, 2016

As the days, weeks and years tick by in “Progressive Austin,” there is one simple basic need that seems to elude the public officials, paid consultants and public engagement document and pamphlet designers. It’s something called a grocery store. Probably most of you reading this can get to a grocery store without too much time or trouble. Even I can do it, despite not being able to drive. And the walk got easier after City Public Works finally fixed a huge pothole on Possum Trot after five attempts last year. 

But it is no secret that some of Austin’s economically challenged neighborhoods have few grocery stores or none at all. Some of these communities are located in Northeast Austin, Southeast Austin and far South Austin. The Colony Park neighborhood is one example. In nearby Walter E. Long Park, the height of the weeds is surpassed only by the number of years of master planning and official lip service. Those efforts have failed to produce anything beyond a failed November 2000 bond election for a golf course and hotel. Then came the 2014 proposal to put in two privately owned luxury golf courses without a public vote, in apparent violation of the City Charter.

One thing that the Colony Park Neighborhood and probably most other neighborhood associations would agree on is the need for access to grocery stores. We have heard all the arguments about high construction costs and whether the disposable income in some deprived areas could support grocery stores. And after all, it is largely a decision that has to be made by the private owners of such stores. But here’s a suggestion. How about looking into how other cities, counties and various researchers have approached this problem? What potential solutions are out there, and could some of them be successfully applied here?

This Picture Is Worth at Least a Thousand Words, If Not More

Perhaps this picture and the link beneath it will point somebody down at City Hall or at Travis County in the proper direction. It’s a screenshot of one page of Google search results. Feast your eyes on what the search revealed. It should certainly give us some food for thought (pun fully intended). Click here to see the picture.

To do the Google search illustrated above, click here.

For Those In Colony Park Who Want to Spin the Public Engagement Wheel…

There is a brand new set of City-sponsored public process documents here.

Mayhem

Heartwarming movie about a 1960’s housewife and her affordability problems. The grocery store scene is one of the many highlights:

“The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” – Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, 2005

Musical accompaniment for this blog posting:

  1. Grocery store love song, “Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Fogelberg, 1980
  2. Silly grocery store song, “Supermarket Song,” – Jewel, 2011
  3. Even sillier grocery store song, “The Grocery Store Song,” – created in Moorhead State University (Minnesota) dorm room, 2008
  4. Mind-numbing, newfangled headbanger rock, “The Grocery Store Song,” – Boy Kicks Girl (???), 2008 (remastered version)

The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back – Are You Ready For This?

By Bill Oakey – March 21, 2016

In a February blog posting, I discussed the need for the City to compile a list of all their expensive project plans, publish them for public input and discussion, and then set some realistic and affordable priorities on them. What I did not happen to mention is that obviously Travis County needs to do the same thing. In fact, the City and the County need to work together and then bring the community into this discussion.

Just try to imagine Amy’s Ice Cream, Whole Foods, Dell Computer or any other business of any size trying to operate without knowing the cost of all of their plans. Publicly held companies’ shareholders would never stand for it. If anyone reading this blog can find a single City or County office holder or staff member who can identify all of their master plans and project plans and tell us the total cost, I would be very surprised.

Are You Ready for This?

There is a Britney Spears slot machine in Las Vegas where she struts across the screen offering a bonus prize and asks, “Are you ready for this?” Well, ready or not, here comes something that is not nearly as much fun. In fact, I’d say this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

$620 million for a new Travis County Expo Center!

$620 million for a new Travis County Expo Center!

Yes, you read that right – a price tag that is over twice as high as the failed bond proposition for a new civil and family courthouse! You can see the high cost estimate that totals up to $620 million in this PDF from Page 33 of the County’s draft report. There may be some lower estimates out there in Consultant-ville, but why not factor in the highest estimate and assume that the routine cost overruns will hit that amount in the long run?

Are You Ready for Some More?

Oh, and just when you thought that the plan for two commercial golf courses at Walter E. Long Park had been put to rest, guess what. They’…rrre…back!! The same developer who brought up the original proposal has launched an expanded version that includes a host of other grand ideas. And the Austin Parks Department is about to start…here we go again…a brand new master plan for the park. So, the awesomely expensive new Expo Center would only be one piece of a much bigger package. The neighborhoods near the park have waited for over 30 years for some well-deserved improvements. But a grand scheme for luxury development would only bring on more California-style gentrification. (Quick note on the golf courses – Keep in mind that the Austin City Charter clearly states that no City parkland can be leased or “otherwise alienated” without voter approval).

Last year I addressed the big picture planning cost issue in another blog posting that conjured up images of the multiplying brooms in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Today I am still haunted by those images of a hapless office apprentice carrying two buckets full of planning reports. As the music gradually rises to a crescendo, the brooms take over his duties and they begin to multiply. A dozen buckets full of plans morphs into hundreds. Our only hope is to wake up the City Council and the Commissioners Court before it’s too late.

Brooms

Click here for a stereo video of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”