Page Two

Page Two
Vote! It is your right; it is your responsibility. The election is this Saturday, May 1, 1999. This paper strongly endorses Daryl Slusher, Beverly Griffith, and Jackie Goodman. There is concern that if the turnout reaches a historic low, as it seems likely to do, that a very small group could sway this election. Don't take this one for granted.

Our strong endorsement of this council does not mean we don't have serious concerns about their performance. I want to point out to you Mike Clark-Madison's piece in this issue, which is essentially a look at some of the most serious concerns that will be facing the post-election council, no matter who wins. The issue isn't this development or that park; it is coming up with a long-range vision and working to achieve it. The issues are neither simple nor easy. I worry that the complicated, long-range planning issues will constantly be put aside for short-range development crises. Two years after this council was elected with both a mandate from the voters and a commitment from the candidates to refine the city's insanely byzantine development process, we see no significant changes. Yet this needs to be done. In five months, the city managed to throw together its planning for CSC. Admittedly, it is sexier than the difficult, mundane, and tedious issues involved in reforming the development process, but the long-term health of the city demands this reform. If this move-ahead council, intoxicated by its victories, wins many battles but doesn't implement the larger picture needs, the battle for this city will be lost.

It is easy to celebrate the peace between the development and environment communities, but peace itself is not a long-range solution.

It is that vision thing. We trust this council. We think all their different steps will coalesce into a coherent stride toward a long range planning goal. But we're terrified we may be wrong.

"Neighborhood Juries Still Out on Smart Growth," Mike's piece, begins:

"Back on April 17, when the city invited neighborhood leaders to an all-day workshop on 'Creating a Livable Community,' they knew that all was not well with the heralded Smart Growth Initiative. By the end of the afternoon, they learned just how unwell.

"Neighborhoods worry about densification -- how many of the new Austinites will go where. They worry about gentrification -- how many of the old Austinites will have to go elsewhere. They worry about the actual strength of the city's much-touted neighborhood plans, and whether they will mean squat to future City Councils. They worry about affordable housing and about mixed-use projects. They worry that all stakeholders are not being represented in the New Austin Order. They worry that the city will never suitably enforce the current codes and standards designed to protect neighborhoods, and that Smart Growth will be used to justify all manner of destructive development.

"In other words, they worry about everything. They approve of Smart Growth as a holistic, rather than piecemeal, approach to growth, development, and land use. But the major theme, sounded over and over at the confab, was -- as expressed by one attendee -- that the city 'should be focused on Smart Growth and neighborhood preservation.' These are not, the public feels, the same thing.

"The role of the city here -- from Mayor Kirk Watson, to Mayor Pro Tem and official neighborhood advocate Jackie Goodman, to Assistant City Manager and Smart Growth executor Toby Futrell, on down the ranks -- is not an enviable one. Some neighborhoods think the city is going too far, too fast, others think the city hasn't gone far enough on the things that really matter. But really, these are different translations of the same primal fear: Smart Growth is something being done to, rather than by, Austin's neighborhoods, who -- for all the talk of a Green Council -- are the real powers behind the dais.

"The label of 'Smart Growth' is now applied to any land-use strategy that hasn't been seen -- though many of them have been talked about -- in Austin before. This makes the big Smart bag of tricks a container for goals and interests that have in the past overlapped, but which are better kept separate. Most notable is the inherent difference between the dominant environmental and neighborhood agendas."

If you really want to think about the future and the future issues facing the city, please read this piece.

Regardless, vote on Saturday!

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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