City Sweeps Its Problems to East Austin

RECEIVED Sat., May 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Until I moved to East Austin about a year ago, I never realized the vast difference of city life, city image, and city representation between East and West. West-of-35 Austin is the chamber of commerce’s ideal city used in all their promotional advertisements, while east-of-35 Austin is the rug under which the city sweeps all of its problems.
    A few months ago, the council unanimously approved renting city property in East Austin for a homeless “RV park.” There was very little notice given to neighbors, and the current council railroaded through the matter. The “park” initially proposed to have up to 150 people living in RVs and cabins with all tenants undergoing a thorough background check. After it was approved, an Austin news station reported that the park would house more than 200 people living in RVs and tents, and violent criminals or sexual offenders would be welcome because “they need a second chance like everyone else.”
    Now there is a proposal before the council to approve a 110-unit “low income/homeless” complex adjacent to established neighborhoods and schools near Manor Road and Rogge Lane. This nonprofit also promises background checks and to closely monitor the residents. The residents would be overcoming addictions and trying to get a fresh start. However, this site is right across the street from a bar and down the street from a drug-infested area.
    This proposal has received enormous opposition from its neighbors. Many halfway houses, group homes, shelters, and low-income housing are already located in this area, and the residents feel the area has reached saturation. Judging by the lack of city representation at neighborhood meetings, their objections seem to fall on the deaf ears of city leaders. Many residents have lived in the area their entire lives and paid their taxes to a city that shows little interest in their opinions or concern for their quality of life.
    At the same time these citizens of East Austin are ignored; the council is relenting to a handful of residents who chose to move in to Downtown condos and are now complaining about the noise. The council wasted no time in forming a “task force” and seems willing to threaten the live music industry to placate these Downtown whiners.
    It seems the city likes to wave its flag touting how great they are and how much they support the homeless and lower income of the city … as long as they stay on “their side” of I-35.
Tom Van Schaik
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