Page Two

Page Two
Wednesday morning, while reading a stack of papers, I came across two interesting quotes. One was on the repeal of SB 1704: "Since Austin is by far the most anti-prosperity city in Texas, the repeal was essentially a surprise gift with a card marked `To: Austin and its cadre of radical environmentalists.'"

This appeared in the new issue of The Austin Review, a new UT student right-wing publication in the Dartmouth Review mode (though I entertain the notion that, given its predictability, this one is a parody published by leftists). The article was entitled "New City Council Ordinance Divides Austin" by Marc Levin, Editor-in-Chief. Fun stuff; I especially like the anti-prosperity bit, the argument being that unrestricted growth promotes the economy and that sensible environmental restrictions are anti-free enterprise.

Here's the other quote I read in the quiet of this morning, "Surprisingly, the city's antigrowth political climate helps investors sleep easily. Because developers face steep regulatory hurdles when they want to break ground, it's easier to monitor the growth of the market. `The regulatory hurdles' also serve as a shield from future overdevelopment, says Mr. Taysom."

That quote is from an article entitled, "Spec Building in Austin: No Cause for Concern?" by Patrick Barta, in reference to the number of speculative office buildings built (those constructed without a significant tenant commitment). Mr. [Dale] Taysom is head of transactions for Prudential Real Estate Investors, a unit of Prudential Insurance Company of America. The article is from The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, October 8, 1997.

Environmentalists in Austin, on the radio and in the daily paper, are mostly cast as loonies -- tree-hugging fools who want to go back to the dark ages, crazed socialists determined to use environmental legislation to corrupt the city's commerce.

This paper thinks the environmentalists are heroes, fighting to protect the sense of Austin as a community rather than a simple statement of geography. Isn't it time we all realize that protecting the environment and preserving the integrity of Austin are crucial to its future? Can't we stop the lazy demagogy of portraying the environmental movement as evil, yuppie, stupid, anti-freedom, and anti-commerce?

There is, for the most part, little distinction between the environmental community and Austin's progressive community. This community's activities -- widespread, overlapping and by no means easily defined -- are consistent with its past. This notion of rich white environmentalists protecting snails rather than championing Eastside rights is a lie. The same dedicated people and groups have dealt with any number of issues. The amount of money and political muscle developers have thrown into that conflict has extended and exaggerated it.

If the environmental wars had not been fought, imagine how much more development there would be in and around Austin. How much more traffic would exist, and how much more pressure would be on city infrastructure and on services. Is anyone really lunatic enough to think abandoning the city to irresponsible development serves the city, its services, or Eastside or other minority communities well? At best, development makes minority neighborhoods the target of gentrification.

This paper has long argued that rather than damaging Austin's economy, protecting the environment charged it. Ironically, the greatest tools of growth have been Austin's commitment to the environment and its extraordinary local culture. By limiting growth we have attracted growth. If this area were smothered by urban sprawl, how attractive would it be?

Strict environmental regulation is great for Austin's economy. A commitment to the future and to a plan as to how to get there, rather than scattershot overdevelopment, is the best economic recipe for this city's future

There are serious problems facing this city, most of them directly related to growth. It is time to stop fooling around with straw men and dishonest debates and concentrate on working together to protect and promote Austin. Fortunately -- and for the first time I can remember -- I think this city council has the very same idea.

This column used to chart the comings and goings of Chronicle staff regularly but that has long since gotten out of hand as our staff continues its own rapid growth. Laxman Gani, our director of on-line services (the brilliance behind designing our acclaimed website) has left us for Texas Monthly. He's been gone two weeks or so but I haven't brought it up because I'm in denial. Despite the limited resources available here, Gani compensated with intelligence, creative drive, and his own hours. We wish him well. Karen Rheudasil takes over our online services; we wish her luck.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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