More good questions for the candidates

The Austin Neighborhoods Council asked 33 questions and has posted the responses. Each question is preceded by a bit of background. Topics covered include the nuts and bolts of the neighborhood-planning process, zoning and code enforcement, budget priorities, preservation of Town Lake open space, encroachment of commerce on residential neighborhoods, compatibility issues, and property-tax issues. Anyone who owns property, or intends to, in Austin will find the candidates’ responses relevant.

6 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on April 21st, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

    “good questions” my ass – this is an exercise in determining which council member will pander the most to irresponsible neighborhoods who think they can claim to be against sprawl and simultaneously against infill in every meaningful way.

    Unfortunately, they pretty much all tied for last – a really disgraceful display – if you bother to read the answers, you’ll see that with pitifully few exceptions, every answer provided what the neighborhoods asked for in their leading question. Government by neighborhood association, if that’s what we really want, can be had for a lot cheaper than a City Council. We could just send ballots around to the NAs; majority wins!

  2. Rantor (unregistered) on April 21st, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

    Well; I’d say that they’re good questions in that they’re extensive and in that any questions and responses offer illumination, whether or not the questions or answers are to anyone’s personal liking. That’s why I made the posting about the LWV and about ANC. I’m looking for more information. I vote, and I always want to know who seems to be the least of all the possible evils out there. I personally am not finding any illumination from the local daily or from the Chron. I want books in the library, no taxpayer subsidies for outfits that would come here anyhow, law enforcement on patrol, swimming pools that stay open in the hot weather, firing of people who write press releases and answer on behalf of people who should speak for themselves, and a return to a lot of other services beside those mentioned that taxpayer dollars used to pay for back before Austin became so “rich.” I don’t want public servants using taxpayer-funded equipment and time to do other than perform what they’re paid to do — serve Austin’s taxpayers. Remember when the streets were swept weekly? When the trash was collected twice a week so that it didn’t stink everywhere in the summertime? I’d take that stupid expensive police helicopter out of the sky, the one that keeps people from sleeping at night. I want truth-tellers. I want prompt responses to citizen questions, without hiding behind PIR / Open Records Requests and attendant delays, omissions, and fudging. Anyhow, if you find other candidate Q&A stuff, I hope you’ll add it to these comments. And as to sprawl, the close-in neighborhoods are already quite densely populated. They supported streetcars way back when. You don’t see anybody pressing to build in the backyards of Niles Road, for instance, do you? I don’t want to see everything within 3 to 4 miles of the Capitol destroyed: that would be everything that constitutes the true Austin. I don’t like to see parking lots downtown where houses used to be. I don’t like to see streets and alleys vacated. I would like to see City government stop furnishing free or almost-free parking to City employees, parking that taxpayers fund. I hate it that downtown is full of garages. I hate it that there are requirements for too much parking. This is just part of a rant that could go on forever. But, again, if you find additional candidate information, please add it to these comments.

  3. wae (unregistered) on April 21st, 2005 @ 11:17 pm

    I can’t argue with most of M1EK’s comments to the extent that the neighborhood associations do often suffer from the hypocrisy of being anti-sprawl while also being virulantly NIMBY-fied. The problem is that the NA’s have been trained to act this way through pain and suffering imposed by developers / planners who have little to no regard for neighborhoods that they exploit.

    Developers are especially keen to freely impose the cost of increased traffic, increased property taxes, increased displacement, increased impervious cover, and decreased neighborhood character on residents while running away with profits that seldom, if ever, go back into the neighborhood. Why should a developer have the right to impose such costs and the NA’s not be allowed to protect the otherwise-ignored interests of the people who actually live there? Until the interests of residents are balanced against those of the developers at a broader planning level, we should expect nothing less than intransigence from the NA’s.

    And of course, it’s important to note that the NA’s are hardly a unified force, barely being able to agree with each other about anything but the most general (and hence, least NIMBY-afflicted) issues.

    I’m not about to qualify your comments about the candidates, though. The responses they provide are virtually content-free. My favorite recurring theme is “we need to protect the environment and promote Austin’s economic development.” Ah, the consequence-free utopia of the election season …

  4. M1EK (unregistered) on April 22nd, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    With regard to the NAs just being a developer-balance, the problem is that they fight both good and bad infill equally strong; leading a rational observer to conclude that they just don’t want ANYTHING.

    For instance, they fought the Villas on Guadalupe (good infill, in most people’s opinion, since it brings students closer to UT so they can walk to school) just as bitterly as they fought superduplexes (bad infill, in most people’s opinion, since they add density in a soulless car-dependent way which destroys character).

    My old neighborhood (OWANA) is now fighting efforts to redevelop the 6th/Lamar block (north part of old Whole Foods site). That’s just wack – there’s zero justification for complaining about traffic being generated by adding sensible density on Lamar, where traffic is never going to get better anyways. At some point you have to say – it’s downtown, it’s going to be bad to drive through; we’re not going to use that as an excuse to drive development out to the suburbs anymore.

  5. Rantor (unregistered) on April 22nd, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

    As to the Villas on G (I personally like them), have you noticed how much of the structure is given over to vehicle-storage space? A block from campus? That’s sure not good urban planning but the City’s stupid off-street rules probably mandated it. As to 6th and Lamar, the sooner everything’s built right out to the inner edge of the sidewalks the better; then it’ll cost too much in tax revenue for the City to widen any of that. City parking standards have a lot fo answer for: there by the old sign company in front of the OfficeMax with the gym upstairs, there’s a huge wasted parking lot. Everything around there can be jammed full and that lot will never have every parking space taken.

  6. M1EK (unregistered) on April 22nd, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

    In fact, that’s the same logic Mike Clark-Madison used in his opposition to the Villas, but there’s no way the developer would have built the project with much less car storage space. Students don’t need to drive to school, but right now they still want to have a place to keep their car – better to at least have this density there with car-storage than what was there before. I agree with you and MCM that a dense building with less garage space would be even better, but that’s simply not going to happen now (in my opinion that won’t happen until we get rail down Guadalupe, which thanks to commuter rail, is never going to happen).

    The neighborhood, to put this back towards my original complaint, actually claimed to the City Council that the apartments shouldn’t be approved because the traffic around them would dramatically increase as kids drove to and from UT.

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