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If you have not read Gov. Abbott's "call" of the special session – released [Mon., July 10] – you should … I do not think I have ever seen such a declaration of war on the idea that "the government closest to the people is the best government." It includes item after item that represent a direct attack on the ability of local voters and their elected representatives to control their own local affairs. Republicans used to talk a lot about the importance of "local control," but Abbott clearly does not share that belief … except, perhaps, when what the local citizenry wants is limited to what he approves. It will be interesting to see how many of the GOP majority in the House and Senate follow his lead … I suspect that we will see a number of amendments to exempt rural and smaller-sized cities and governments since it is primarily the larger "blue" cities and counties that appear to bother Abbott the most. And to think this may all be the result of the fact that the city of Austin would not let him cut down a pecan tree [see "Greg Abbott, Tree Killer
," News, June 16].
We at Environment Texas appreciated your June 30 story on the city’s upcoming plans for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). However, we didn’t appreciate the dismissive headline – “A ‘Boutique’ Solution
” – nor the highlighted quote, which calls GSI “a solution to a problem we don’t have.” Your story goes on to suggest that the city should be coming up with better solutions for “bigger storms.”
It’s ironic that your reporter chose this focus, since the point of his previous story on flood control was that the city isn’t doing enough for smaller storms (“When It Rains It Pours
,” April 21). Indeed, the subhead on that story states: “Forget the 100-year storms. City flooding happens all the time, often right in your backyard.” It’s precisely this kind of smaller, localized, and more frequent flooding that GSI features such as rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, and rain cisterns are most effective at preventing.
And while the two members of the city’s Flood Mitigation Task Force quoted in your story are skeptical about GSI’s effectiveness, the majority of the FMTF’s 22 members clearly felt differently, since their final report states: “[W]hen implemented on a widespread basis throughout a neighborhood, [GSI features] can provide essential benefits. … [G]reen infrastructure projects on private land offer a way for community-minded residents to reduce their flood footprint for their own benefit and that of their downstream neighbors.”
Further, your story all but ignored the most important reason to use GSI: its ability to improve water quality. The state’s environmental agency has found that 10 local creeks are unsafe for swimming and fishing due to runoff pollution, which is also why the city’s own testing consistently shows that Lady Bird Lake has low water quality. Because rain gardens, green roofs, and rain cisterns can capture the first few inches of stormwater – which is the dirtiest runoff – they can sharply cut this pollution.
Fortunately, the city recognizes the many benefits of GSI, because city departments and panels have been studying it extensively for a decade. We applaud the City Council’s decision to increase the use of GSI in Austin. We hope that your future coverage acknowledges the importance of this step.