Neighborhoods vs. Neighborhoods?

The Austin Neighborhoods Council wants some ground rules with the Downtown Austin NA


When is a neighborhood not a neighborhood? Apparently, when the executive committee of the Austin Neighborhoods Council decides that its neighborhood association members hold opinions contrary to those of the ANC Executive Committee. That's the conclusion to be drawn from the recent ANC rejection of the Downtown Austin NA. DANA leadership – the current president is former City Council Member Chris Riley – was informed recently that DANA could not join the ANC unless 1) DANA signed a "memorandum of understanding" subscribing to all the positions expressed in the current ANC platform; and 2) DANA agreed to end its membership in the Friends of Austin Neighborhoods (another umbrella NA organization). DANA declined ANC's conditions, and on Aug. 18 was informed by ANC President Mary Ingle – citing a "conflict of interest" – that DANA would not be accepted to ANC membership.

Riley described the organizational differences as "policy disagreements, not conflicts of interest." He told the Chronicle, "DANA is still open to being an ANC member, and open to civil dialogue with other neighborhood associations. I would like to think other ANC members would be open to that."

Since the ANC has traditionally been considered an umbrella federation open to all Austin NAs, at least some associations have balked at the exclusion of DANA, and a consequent proposal by the Ex-Comm to change ANC bylaws to formally allow such exclusions. (The current standards of ANC membership require only that the NA democratically represent a defined geographic neighborhood; some neighborhoods have more than one NA.) The near-northeast Windsor Park NA voted unanimously in August to reject the change in bylaws, although subsequent shifting proposals by the ANC have moved the WPNA to discuss the matter again at its upcoming September meeting. WPNA President Meghan Dougherty said, "As was expressed by many in our August 12 WPNA meeting, this bylaw change runs counter to our underlying philosophy that neighborhood groups (including an umbrella organization like the ANC) should be open to all who live in the city." Other NAs are reportedly considering similar responses.

Asked about the DANA exclusion, and if those standards would now be applied to all Austin NAs, ANC President Ingle responded, "ANC is an advocacy group for Austin's neighborhoods … that believes in neighborhood integrity across the city." Ingle described FAN, by contrast, as "a front for developers and other profit-motivated interests … with a Real Estate Council-driven agenda." Beyond this, Ingle did not address the rejection of DANA, nor whether other NAs would henceforth be subject to the same platform-and-membership litmus tests.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Neighborhood Council, Mary Ingle, Friends of Austin Neighborhoods, Chris Riley, Austin Neighborhoods Council, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, Windsor Park NA, Meghan Dougherty

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