Working Class Betrayed by Council Vote

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 18, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “Council Set to Tackle 'Stealth Dorms' Next Week,” [News, Feb. 7]: I wish I didn't have to write this. If the Chronicle had taken this issue more seriously, maybe I wouldn't have to write this letter. I am a renter in Central Austin and I was scared, begging for sunshine to be placed on this issue. The Chronicle was largely silent. Why?
    This vote occurred directly because of political considerations this November. Almost never has the Austin City Council agreed in principle to a vote which will essentially cap density for the urban core (which is currently well below Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Fort Worth). It was a betrayal of the shrinking middle-class, the working poor, people of color, and artists the city says it values in rhetoric, but apparently not in principle. This Council's legacy will be a clear policy betrayal of a fledgling Austin Comprehensive Plan just passed in 2012. It will knock the knees out over the upcoming Code Next plan.
    Last night (Feb. 13) was "Bloody Thursday" for the middle-class in Austin. It will live on in infamy because Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley are both running for Central Austin/Downtown Place 9 and Mike Martinez and Laura Morrison are likely running for mayor, and both need the Central Austin "inner core" vote.
    Now, only one thing is certain: Central Austin will likely literally become the San Francisco of Texas, with the McMansion ordinance boundaries becoming its walls. East Austin will become as ivory as Hyde Park. In the Chronicle's silence, it has joined the NIMBYs in saying that renters have no place in Austin, and that we are not equal to homeowners.
    As a result, "Keep Austin Weird" is dead. The Austin City Council killed it. The Austin Neighborhoods Council killed it. The Chronicle now chronicles the "struggles" of an ascendent wealth-class burdened by the shrinking middle and working poor who can't keep up.
    I was fiercely against it, but now I see, 10-1 can't come soon enough and the Chronicle needs a mirror.
Thomas Ates
   [Editor's note: The referenced vote on occupancy limits in single-family residential housing passed Feb. 13 on first reading. It is expected to return to City Council for further consideration on March 20.]
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