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Austin’s Prop1 and Prop 2 Studies from Liveable City

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:13 pm

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Liveable City, a non-partisan non-profit tries to shed some light on the contentious Props 1&2 (well, as contentious a ballot initative can be among the 5% paying attention) which are up for a vote in Austin’s May elections.

On Prop 1, I find myself, in many cases for the first time, in non-agreement with some folks i like and respect. I love the idea of Prop 1, i hate that there are what seem to be secretive arrangements and developer giveaways ‘presented’ to the citizenry as essentially done deals, but i dont love that Prop1 has so many undefined terms, and isnt amendable. I cant help but think it is filled with opportunities for good people and broadly supported projects to be hamstrung by bad litigation brought by people who think city hall is their enemy and by hook or by crook will find ways to roadblock them.

read the actual Charter Amendents and answer me this, batmans and batwomans:

“all other instances where it is reasonably anticipated that there is significant public interest in the matter.” am i significant, is crazy cat lady significant? is that enough? does it have to be two, three, 30 people to meet the “significant public interest” metric?

Talking about what must be logged, the proposed amendment reads:
“Meetings” includes all informal and formal meetings including
but not limited to telephone conferences, videoconferences, happy
hours, and luncheons.”
As debated on BOR is ‘informal’ a measure of scheduled-ness or decor? That is, someone bumps into a top aide at a happyhour, they talk for 7 minutes, should this be reported? YES, but why say ‘real-time’ rather than ‘within 12 hours’ or? is someone going to jail over this lack of ‘real-time’ reporting? NO, of course not. so why are those words in there?? and many more instances abound.

Mostly i trust that the good people wont abuse it, but do i trust other well-known and sometimes well-meaning, sometimes just-being-obstructionist groups? no i dont.

So, will i support Prop1? i really dont know yet. Will you?

Full Text of their release:

Liveable City, an Austin based non-profit, today
released two studies examining the hotly contested Open Government
(Proposition 1) and Clean Water (Proposition 2) Charter Amendments in
the upcoming May 13 City of Austin Election. The ballot studies are
intended to help Austin voters sort out the critical issues,
including arguments by supporters and opponents, and possible impacts
of passage of the proposals.

Two separate teams of Board members worked on the ballot studies over
the last two months. The studies uncovered the fact that 122
developments had been grandfathered over the aquifer since 1999, and
that a more focused open government online plan could cost less than
1/10 of the City’s current estimate.

In releasing the studies, Mark Yznaga, Liveable City Board Chair
said, “In these polarized debates, it’s hard to find information
independent of the campaigns. We hope Austinites use these studies to
help make up there own minds about possible changes to our charter -
Austin’s Constitution.” Liveable City hopes to expand on these first
ballot studies and make them an ongoing service to the community. The
studies are available for download at

Liveable City is nonpartisan, nonprofit research, communications,
capacity building and advocacy organization working to advance public
policies that balance Austin’s growth with our community’s well
being. Liveable City’s mission is to support solutions that address
Austin’s long-term social, environmental, and economic needs by
focusing on the interconnections among issues while educating,
informing and empowering citizen advocacy to improve quality of life.

One Response to “Austin’s Prop1 and Prop 2 Studies from Liveable City”

  1. site admin Says:

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    The Austin Chronicle weighs in on Prop 1:

    Austin City Charter Amendments

    Proposition 1: NO
    The so-called “Open Government Amendment.”

    Most of us are strongly, several adamantly, opposed to the so-called “open government” Prop. 1 on several grounds, most broadly because it was conceived, written, promoted, and balloted entirely in direct contradiction to the “open government” principles it supposedly celebrates, by a handful of activists bitter over a half-dozen lost battles (some still raging) they want to reverse by fiat. The process was not public or democratic (we routinely oppose state constitutional amendments on similar grounds), there was no opportunity to perfect the propositions once any signatures were collected (via generic slogans), and for such a complex proposal, it is literally impossible for voters to have any real certainty what the question actually is. There are also a host of more specific objections: 1) The cost is unknown, but could be many millions; 2) the actual requirements for online posting of public information are unclear and contradictory; 3) honest citizens expecting privacy in at least some communications with city officials (e.g. whistleblowers or city employees) would hesitate if they know they will be instantly publicized; 4) ending all private communications concerning economic incentives is in fact a mandate to end the incentives, and should be honestly presented as such; 5) rewriting the police officers’ contract and conditions of work by fiat, without any discussion with those directly affected, amounts to union-busting; 6) the shotgun attempt to install direct-democracy-by-computer is both naïve and casually disdainful of representative government. Not least, we shouldn’t have to provide exhaustive arguments about an extremely complex proposition that voters will have to intuit instantly, without access to detailed explanation. What is good in Prop. 1 has mostly to do with making planning information more immediately accessible, and the city was already moving in that direction before the petitions were drafted. We strongly urge our readers to vote NO on Prop. 1.

    Proposition 1 Dissent

    A couple of us believe that the dire predictions issued by opponents of Prop. 1, especially on the potential cost, are mostly official hysteria, and that in fact the amendment will likely do what it says it will: open government to more public scrutiny and accountability. To the extent the measure overreaches in practical terms, the City Council is empowered to implement it only to the extent practical, and therefore to amortize any major costs over time – by which time savings should also occur. Similarly, the “real time” requirements apply directly only to those elements for which it makes sense – e.g., official calendars, which are public information now, but might get more attention if citizens could see them more easily. And although the charges of “secret deals” can be exaggerated, it remains true that too much public business – especially planning and development deals that often involve major public policy issues – is largely arranged behind the scenes by officials, developers, and “experts” who may believe they know best – but must in fact be subject to the open air of public accountability. Finally, we frankly don’t trust the deep-pocketed opponents, who with a few exceptions are all the usual developer and investor suspects, lined up against environmental and civil liberties activists, who are usually on the side of the good guys.

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