Clash of the Titans
Bells sounded off around town this week when The New York Times reported that New York's combined public debt load per capita -- a major issue right now in the Big Apple -- was exceeded by only two other major U.S. cities: Washington, D.C. and Austin. That comprises debt carried by the county and school district as well as the city (since NY and DC combine all those functions in one government), and includes revenue bonds from Austin's self-supporting utilities, but this is still not a distinction Austin craves.
While local leaders have pointed to Austin's higher-than-New-York bond ratings over the years, the voices of fiscal responsibility have rung out loud and proud. Perhaps the loudest is Texas Monthly publisher and frequent city critic Mike Levy, who told his extensive e-mail list that the Save Our Springs Alliance was partly to blame. "I understand that SOS is now planning on running candidates in the next Council election who will be committed to getting voter approval for $80,000,000 in additional indebtedness to buy even more preserve land," he wrote.
Levy's commentary drew a response -- within seconds, according to Levy -- from SOS Executive Director Bill Bunch, who wrote: "Our silence, or only passive support, for the things you care about most is far from your repeated false and misleading statements tying SOS to council-backed boondoggles ... and your repeated strong opinions that funds invested in saving Barton Springs are somehow a waste of money and time." (Levy has done more than talk trash about SOS; he's spent thousands of his own money in past campaigns against green initiatives.)
While Levy attacks the council for responding to "radical fringe groups," Bunch continued, "you are the best example of a radical fringe group of one, and look at your success -- the police have gotten tons of money, fancy playtoys, and non-oversight oversight. You have enormous power to help us save the Springs. And if they don't get saved before the next boom, they are history, (and) I will do everything in my powers to make sure history knows who was responsible, including you."
Bunch asked Levy to broadcast his reply to the whole Levy list, which he did, with a terse comment: "I don't like threats. I don't respond well to threats. Over and out."