Archives for January 2009

Roundup – Austin politico's websites

Sheryl Cole - Place 6 incumbant

Sheryl Cole - Place 6 incumbent

Chris Riley - Place 1 candidate

Chris Riley - Place 1 candidate

These days its pretty much unacceptable to not have a website if you are running a campaign. You should be able to do a Google search for “candidate’s name + city council” and your campaign page should be #1 or #2 on the search results page.  Some of you candidates have work to do!

Mayor:

Brewster McCracken – http://www.brewstermccracken.com
Lee Leffingwell – http://www.austinleadership.com
Carol Strayhorn – http://www.caroleforaustin.com

City Council:

Chris Riley (place 1) – http://www.chrisforaustin.com
Mike Martinez (place 2) – http://www.martinezforaustin.com

Perla Cavazos (place 1) – http://www.voteperla.com
Rick Cofer (place 1) – http://www.rickcofer.com
Bill Spelman (place 5) – http://www.billspelman.org
Sheryl Cole (place 6) – http://keepsherylcole.com

Candidate’s in green are those which I am currently supporting.  I think the best coverage of city hall comes from the BurntOrangeReport.com and Wells Dunbar’s (Austin Chronicle) City Hall Hustle.  If you find bias, it should be easy to filter.

Okay, everyone with local political aspirations, you should right now purchase FirstnameForAustin.com!

Blight

Blight

Downtown Austin - Parking Garage Nirvana

Downtown Austin - Parking Garage Nirvana

Blight: Something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.

In Downtown Austin nothing kills hopes, dreams, ambitions, old ladies and little children like under-developed land.  According to DANA board member Roger Cauvin, in economic terms, blight can be considered an “externality,” which “are the indirect costs imposed on society by an economic activity. Pollution is an example of an externality.  If economic agents (e.g. developers) aren’t made to pay for the externalities, we are effectively subsidizing harmful behavior.”

In Downtown Austin, blight manifests itself in the primary forms of:
1) parking lots (or razed lots)
2) parking garages
3) chain link fence
4) perpetual disrepair

The Northeast quadrant of Downtown Austin takes the cake for parking garages.  The area is desolate and completely void of human interaction. Unimproved parking lots are scattered throughout Downtown.  It could easily be argued that Downtown Austin blight reaches it’s zenith on 6th Street.  (slideshow)  Broken doors, windows, tattered chain link fence, destroyed ATMs, it’s all there.

As I see it, the problem of blight is rooted with the owner of the property that is creating or hosting the blight.  The economic behavior of hoarding undeveloped property in the CBD is contrary to the density goals of Downtown Austin stake holders.  It is also contrary to the city’s and county’s goals of collecting ad valorem taxes.  Perhaps more importantly, razing your lot and wrapping it in chain link fence is contrary to the sense of community.

Over the past couple of months you’ve seen related topics discussed at Austin Contrarian.  According to Chris Bradford, “We badly need a mechanism for discouraging property owners from warehousing vacant lots downtown.  The solution is not to shut out all redevelopment to eliminate the risk of this kind of behavior.  What we need is a vacant-lot surcharge or something like it.  A surcharge calibrated to compensate the other downtown property owners, businesses and visitors for the very real cost of blighting a block.  This might encourage property owners/developers to leave existing buildings in place or  to fill in currently vacant lots, even if the structures are inexpensive and small.”

Well said.

-Jude

Tattered chain link fence along Waller Creek

Tattered chain link fence along Waller Creek

Chris Riley for Austin City Council Place 1

Chris Riley - Downtown Austin resident and candidate for Austin City Council

Chris Riley - Downtown Austin resident and candidate for Austin City Council

Friday night at Threadgill’s World Headquarters, Downtown Austin resident Chris Riley launched his campaign for Austin City Council Place 1.  Riley spoke about his platform of repairing the economy and environment together, improving transportation, and preserving Austin’s character:

“We need to create green jobs. We need to reduce our dependence on cars, and promote alternate forms of transportation. And we need to make sure that Austin lives up to the things we expect it to be: a place that provides secure homes to people across the economic spectrum; a place with a great arts and music scene; and place with a rich history that prides itself on tending to the needs of our whole ecosystem and all of its inhabitants.”

ChrisForAustin.com

East Ave: The Racial Divide

East Ave: The Racial Divide

East Avenue, now I-35

East Avenue, now I-35

Most of you know that I-35 used to be East Ave and that Austin wasn’t born with these two decks of transportation dystopia.   I’ve always assumed that the historical racial divide between East Austin and West Austin was artificially created by the beast we know as I-35. Perhaps not.  According to this Community Impact article…

“Deed restrictions kept African-Americans and Mexican-Americans east of the Avenue until actual segregation laws were passed in the 1920s.”

I’ve been working on acquiring a piece of land in West Austin. Just last week I was reading through the deed records and was shocked when I read something similar. It’s interesting to see that in our history, being on the wrong side of the tracks was actually written into law.