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The Statesman's editorial positions on the LCRA water deal continue to be astonishing.

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The Statesman's editorial positions on the LCRA water deal continue to be astonishing. Unfortunately, they are shaping the dialogue not just for the city but for the state. Coming from a publication that has paid lip service to water quality but argued against any meaningful regulation or planning in that direction, this reverence for water is astonishing. A deal this good should be taken without examination, they argue, and the fact that questions are raised shows just how politically retarded Austinites are. They go further to suggest that not only do these actions encourage Austin-bashing by the Legislature, but that given the political immaturity of Austin's political community they deserve to be punished. As shocked as I am by hearing right-wing radio talk-show hosts suggest that recent discoveries in Waco "justify" Oklahoma City, I'm horrified to read the Statesman not only justifying but encouraging Austin-bashing.

What perplexes me is that the charge is being led in the name of the business community. Considering the issue politically, I can't imagine a scenario under which it would be unwise for the city to buy the water. As a businessman, however, I find my hackles being raised by a deal that emerges fully formed from the back room with a strict arbitrary deadline attached. Spending time thinking about a contract is crucial; far more business mistakes have been made by rushing forward than by holding back.

Whether or not this deal happens, the reasoning behind it is that the Hill Country is going to undergo massive development over the next few decades. Some argue that without infrastructure and roads, growth will be limited. I'm afraid that despite the best intentions and environmental regulations, given the law of the land and the area's different jurisdictions, the Hill Country is going to grow. The question is, at what rate? Many of the people I know, concerned about the growth, have only themselves moved out there in the last decade or so. The problem isn't developers; they are facilitators. The real problem is that people want to move to this area.

In the face of this growth, to do everything possible to maintain the environmental and cultural integrity of Austin is a noble undertaking. The environmental agenda has been portrayed as foolish in the pages of the Statesman for the last two decades. In the next half-century, these concerns are going to be the issues the state faces -- water, growth, and the changing face of Texas. Central to this are the effects of growth on social services, education, infrastructure, city services, and traffic. Read that sentence again. It is all connected. One of the preposterous assertions of the aggressively pro-growth community is that the environmental community cares more about salamanders than people. This is nonsense. All these issues go together. The thing is that the environmental issues are scientific, not ideological. This is not to argue that their proponents are saints (some are tired, sad idiots), but some of their assertions are inevitable. Water is going to be a problem in the next century. The effects of overdevelopment on traffic, on city services, on the community, and on the land is going to be an issue. Air quality is going to be an issue.

I don't think the Statesman editors are evil people. I'm personally perplexed as to why they have reshaped the argument into a prototype that's done so badly by them in the past. The argument isn't growth vs. no growth. It's not evil anti-everything environmentalists against a noble development community interested only in economic justice. This simplifying does a disservice to us all. The issue is the extraordinary growth this area faces and how we accommodate it on our terms rather than letting it overwhelm us.

The redesign continues. We are still in the fine-tuning stage. We have changed the name of the column "Automat" to "Second Helpings." The Web redesign has earned raves. Please check it out. Next issue, September 24, will be our annual "Best of Austin" issue. Expect it to be thick. end story

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