Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Keep Austin's Word - NOT!

Dear Mayor Will Wynn-

Please stop sending "Keep Austin's Word" propaganda to my home. I find it extremely offensive that your group would go so far as to cause confusion with the popular "Keep Austin Weird" campaign, I disagree with your group's position on Proposition 2, and at this point I am not prepared to change my position.

As an Austin taxpayer and someone who lives in a neighborhood around The Domain (and Arbor Walk), I am appalled that the very people who were supposed to be representing me - one of the people of this city - would be so foolish to have attempted such blatently poor deals with regard to this project. It is obvious from the outcome of these developments that at no time were the people living in the surrounding communities considered. Traffic on Duval Rd. has increased substantially since the increased development in and around The Domain (the former IBM property) has taken place. It is difficult to get into and out of my subdivision as a result. The traffic into and out of these shopping areas (The Domain and Arbor Walk) is poorly planned, resulting in hazardous conditions for both those who want to patronize the retail stores in these shopping centers and the people (such as myself) who work in this area. The city council has been downright negligent in allowing this development without the proper planning in advance, and one has to wonder what "incentives" the council has received in return for allowing this to continue unchecked.

In addition to the traffic and neighborhood impact, many of the stores that were located in The Arboretum and nearby retail space have, for whatever reason, abandoned this space to relocate to these new spaces. Therefore, The Domain has created no new jobs nor has it attracted the kind of retail business that makes Austin unique. We will now be left with many vacant or near-vacant stores in The Arboretum area, to likely suffer a similar fate to what is being seen with Northcross Mall.

I am not entirely sure what deals our City Council has made with the people who have developed The Domain and Arbor Walk on our behalf, but as far as I am concerned it is not in-line with the kind of development that the people in Austin want to see. If you want to provide funding to the developers of The Domain, then you are welcome to privately fund this development. As far as funding it with incentives that directly impact the taxpayers of this City, I wholeheartedly oppose this. It is not me who has to explain to the developers of The Domain why the City would back-out of "its agreements," it is you who needs to explain to all of us why the City government failed its constituents in allowing this kind of development and incentive program to occur to begin with. That was neither honest nor fair to Austin and the people who live and work here.

I understand the positive financial impact such development has for both the City and the areas being developed. I agree that upscale shopping in northwest Austin will maintain or increase property values. There is also tax revenue and other benefits that occur coincident with development such as this. However, for the people who are living here for the long-haul, these benefits do not outweigh the costs. Businesses used to favor Austin because of its low cost-of-living, unique character, and proximity to outstanding college graduates. The perceived necessity for financial incentives to attract business here is a result of steadily losing those features and a failure to address the larger problems we are facing.

I respectfully disagree with the comments made by you and your political action committee, and will support Proposition 2 by voting in favor of it. Fix the old retail property - don't give incentives (at taxpayer expense) to develop new ones.

To my non-Austin readers: My apologies for this lengthy posting that seemingly is not at all applicable to your situation. In reality, every city in the USA is having this kind of problem in one form or another. It is time to put a stop to this kind of taxpayer-funded "growth" and start looking at ways of truly improving our communities.

1 comment:

Linda Curtis said...

Arizona voters passed a statewide initiative banning retail subsidies. This is what we're trying to do in Austin. Think about it. Why fund retail? Retail is highly competitive. Funding one sector of retail allows the government to pick winners and losers in the retail market. In Austin, our City Council is trying to fund a luxury shopping mall, full of national chains, owned by known corporate predator, Simon Malls. This hurts our vibrant local retail market, which is why 500 homegrown businesses and a who's who of local political organizations (across the spectrum) support Prop 2.

Thanks for writing about it. More on this can be found at http://StopDomainSubsidies.com

Linda Curtis, Stop Domain Subsidies