The Problem Is the 'Chronicle'; Vote Yes on Prop. 2

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 21, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Michael King’s misleading attack [“Point Austin,” News, Oct. 17] on the Stop Domain Subsidies charter amendment is consistent with the Chronicle’s steady transition from City Hall watchdog to City Hall lapdog, from championing citizen demands for accountability to attacking those demands.
    King writes 1,000 words but never mentions that the Domain developer’s sales pitch for $50 million to $60 million in tax rebates was filled with material misrepresentations, which, in a private transaction, would be recognized as “deceptive trade practices” sufficient to nullify the deal.
    Not one word that the “honesty” campaign against Proposition 2 is full of lies. We’re told to keep our word when the developers failed to keep theirs. They lied about the pay scale of their retail jobs, about their expected sales and tax revenues, and about the public open space that would be provided (among others).
    King doesn’t mention that the original deal between the city and the Domain violated the Texas Constitution’s prohibition against tying the hands of future elected officials in allocating tax revenues. Or that a subsequent lawsuit settlement between the city, the Domain, and Prop. 2 leader Brian Rodgers specifically states that the city may withhold payments at any time and that, if it does, the Domain owner “shall not then be entitled to … recover any damages from the City.” Instead, King falsely argues that Prop. 2 would “backfire” and would not stop the Domain subsidies.
    Don’t be misled: Prop. 2 would stop the Domain giveaways. That’s why Domain owner Simon Malls (the self-professed largest real estate company in the U.S.) is spending heavily to mislead voters and keep 60 million of our tax dollars flowing into their pockets.
    Think of all the honest local needs that could be met with $60 million. Think how much more honesty there would be at City Hall if developers knew that their lies had real consequences.
Bill Bunch
Save Our Springs Alliance
   [Michael King responds: If attorney Bill Bunch (or anybody else) had a legal case for deceptive trade practices against the developers or owners of the Domain, he would be making it in a venue other than a letter to the editor of The Austin Chronicle. The developers have thus far fulfilled their contract with the city; if the city chooses not to do so, neither Bunch nor I can know the consequences, but it's certainly a roll of the legal dice. Voters should note that "the Domain" is referenced absolutely nowhere in the charter amendment that would be enacted by Proposition 2, and its restrictions would apply across the board to projects that have nothing to do with the Domain: the Mueller neighborhood, affordable housing or mixed-use incentives (if tainted in any way by "retail" of any kind), or any of the kinds of innovative projects the city has developed in recent years to improve neighborhoods and transit choices and to combat sprawl. Vandalizing the charter (and future land use) in the guise of punishing the Domain does not strike me as a bargain for the citizens or the city.]
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