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Nuckols, White both to resign
A week after Attorney General Ken Paxton sued eight of Austin's 13 Planning commissioners, two have announced they will resign. But both Tom Nuckols and Trinity White say their decisions have nothing to do with the suit.
Nuckols, Ann Kitchen's appointee since 2015, said he informed Kitchen of his plans in late June. He cited "burnout" following his representation of PC on the 2018 Bond Election Advisory Task Force, and the body's intense work on CodeNEXT. In denying the lawsuit's impact on his decision, he aired his frustration with the A.G. and Fred Lewis, the local lawyer and anti-CodeNEXT champion who instigated Paxton's suit. "It's sad that people like Lewis enabled Paxton's Austin bashing," Nuckols wrote. "It shows that some people care less about Austin's long-term well-being than they do about glorifying themselves by throwing bombs into good-faith public policy-making exercises like CodeNEXT." Nuckols works for the County Attorney's Office, providing legal support for county departments regulating land development and handling county land sales. His last meeting with the PC would have been Tuesday, but he couldn't attend.
White, too, said her decision to step down was not fueled by Paxton's purge, but by the desire to spend more time with her family and focus on other projects. The architect was appointed to PC by Ora Houston in 2015 and has been a voice of reason since. She said she's intended to resign for a while, but wanted to see CodeNEXT "through the finish line." She said, "I'm not running from this and I don't think I've done anything wrong," and believes the commission's collective professional knowledge was "imperative" to making their way through the rewrite. She'll attend her last meeting on July 24.
Paxton's suit represents the latest effort to undermine the city's rewrite of its land use code. The A.G. got involved after Lewis' Community Not Commodity requested an investigation into the Commission's makeup last fall. The City Charter states that only a third of the 13-seat commission can be "directly or indirectly" tied to real estate or development. For some years now, that number has been closer to half.
Lewis first brought the commission's makeup to Council's attention in 2015, two years before PC dove into CodeNEXT, though the rewrite has been ongoing since 2012. CNC has accused Council of not taking action on the issue, but in May, members instructed the city manager to craft a clearer process to ensure future appointees comply with the charter. That process has been finalized and was used when Mayor Steve Adler appointed Yvette Flores on June 28, to replace Stephen Oliver. The City Manager's Office was also directed to develop "recommended" ballot language for charter amendments that would formalize a removal process for commissioners, which currently is in question. The city is in the process of developing those recommendations; if approved, the amendments would be on November's ballot.