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Billionaire Dreams

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 10, 2022

Dear Editor,
    I am a bit confused by the first two parts of Mike Clark-Madison's reporting on the development plans for area around the former Austin-American Statesman building south of Downtown. [“It's a Season, Not Just a Day,” News, Jan. 7] What's with his vague impugning of the leading opponents of the plan, Bill Bunch, Fred Lewis and Bill Aleshire? It's not an outright slamming of them but definitely implies they have personal motives for doing so. The author also throws a little shade on the Austin Bulldog, a rival(?) political paper, calling them the opponent's "friendly media outlet" and criticizing them for writing an opinionated piece on the subject (like the Chron never does either of those things). 
    As the article itself states, the developer (Endeavor Real Estate Group) has brought Austin such projects as the Domain (subsidized over $50 million in similar tax financing- not mentioned in MCM's article), and their lawyer, Richard Suttle, has been the lead rep for many dubious developments for decades. 
    A quote from MCM's piece regarding the affordability of the estimated $277 million in infrastructure the TIF would finance: "Who has that money?" Well, the Bulldog piece tells us that the owners of the Statesman building, the Cox family does, worth some $35 Billion.
    I'm not an expert on these matters, but neither is Mr. Clark-Madison. So who should the public trust? Billionaire developers and their attorneys who have gamed the system for years, constantly asking for hundreds of millions in tax subsidies, saying that without it, their projects won't be built (lie); city council members who say they must do this to maximize tax revenue from such "blighted or underutilized" areas as this, or someone who has fought for decades for the preservation of Austin's environment?
    I do not know Lewis, Aleshire, or Ken Martin, the publisher of the Bulldog, (though I've met all of them once or twice) but I do know Mr. Bunch, and he fits that last category.  If the citizens of Austin have to choose between these four people or the developers and cronies they oppose for their information on this subject, I think it's obvious which group is more likely giving us the truth. It's time for the city of Austin to stop subsidizing billionaire's dreams.
Guy LeBlanc
   News Editor Michael Clark-Madison responds: "Austin at Large" is a column where I get to communicate my personal views and analysis on issues facing the city, with reporting to help readers make sense of where we stand. Our News team has covered and will continue to cover this story as Council deliberates its actions on the South Central Waterfront.
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