Don’t let Prop 2 be a knee jerk

So Prop 2 is coming up. It’s widly supported and I expect it will pass. I mean how could it not? It’s phrased in such a way that voters will always vote for it. Prop 12 – New Parks for Austin, Prop 13 – Keep Pedophiles Away from Children, Prop 2 – Stop Subsidies to Luxury Retailers. Who would vote against any of those? They’re all written to appeal to the knee jerk. And I’m speaking as someone who’s generally a knee jerk. I’m constantly fighting my impulsive knee.

But sometimes we need to talk about whether our parks department has the budget to maintain a new park, and whether our plans to keep pedophiles away from children might also keep non-pedophiles from volunteering with chlidren, and whether stopping subsidies to a certain luxury retailer might actually encourage more of the Big Box developments we know and loathe.

We seem to have a lot of the same people who were against the WalMart at Northcross against the Domain subsidies as well. What are you guys looking for? What sort of shopping would make you happy? The city spent a lot of time and got a lot of input and decided that the majority of Austinites wanted the city to look like Hyde Park. Homes, mixed with apartments all withing walking distance of public transit and stores.

So IBM starts selling off parts of the domain and the city comes up with a plan to start creating a new urban neighborhood. They give these goals to the investors building the project. They provide incentives to hopefully bring in tonier clients (and thus bringing in better tax revenue). Remember we as Austinites have a real incentive to get high dollar businesses in town. Every time we drive to Sunset Valley or Beecaves to shop those tiny cities get to drive down their property taxes. And Austinites get the privilege of paying for the roads that lead there.

The city also provided incentives to build affordable housing (again something the electorate has been overwhelmingly in support of), and $1 million dollars to help get local businesses into the development.

Sometimes we have to make decisions. Do we use some of our tax dollars to ensure we don’t get more big box stores and have affordable housing? Or do we just hope and pray that developers will magically stop building the kind of shopping we hate (but go to anyway) and build the type we like?

And let’s not forget that Prop 2 was sponsored by a real estate investor (Brian Rodgers). There don’t seem to be a lot of people asking him what he’s getting out of the bargain. As a real estate investor is he planning on creating mixed-use developments like The Domain without the assistance of the city? Or is he just planning on building more suburban strip malls and big box retailers?