To encourage business development (and to protest the fees and bailouts) City of Austin should move deposits, if the are any, out of the Big 4 institutions (BofA, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo) and deposit them in local banks and credit unions. This is a measure already adopted by several states and large cities like Los Angeles and Massachussets. The reasoning is local banks and credit unions have higher rates of lending to the local economy and help stimulate the local economy. Small business accounts for 65% of new jobs created.
By avoiding the big banks City of Austin's money is not supporting Wall Street investing and the salaries and bonuses of the national banks. These banks hold over 40% of deposits nationally. By diversifying money out of the Big 4 we are making our financial system safer and helping to ensure that no institution is ever 'too big to fail' and requires taxpayers to step in and bail it out.
Austin can be part of the Move Your Money Project. http://www.moveyourmoneyproject.org/
The Raval neighborhood in Barcelona has experienced a substantial urban renewal from the city reaching out to the art community by having a vast number of huge walls open to anyone who wants to paint art on them. When graffiti artists are allowed to express their art in public places without fear of the law, they can take the time to make breathtaking art (it becomes not graffiti, but murals). Look at 5th in between chicoln and comal. Because the wall is open to artists, it has become a tourist attraction, with people posing for wedding photos in front of it. There are places everywhere with underpasses, retention walls, bridge columns etc. that can be completely transformed from dens of crime to tourist attractions, filled with color and art that is updated weekly, if the city would only let people make art. This would require no money except for a sign that says "No gang related or vulgar works, please make art here - City of Austin" It would make for a more livable and artistic city because residents could interact with and take ownership over their public spaces in a positive way.
Runoff into our lakes and streams has been a big concern for the city. Fortunately, there's an easy way to take care of it.
Reduce storm-water runoff – water filters into the ground rather than creating an unnatural runoff. Conserve and protect nature – allows filtration, which recharges the groundwater supply.
Treat and reduce storm-water pollutants – Naturally occurring microorganisms digest pollutants in the water. Reduce the heat island effect – using light colored or reflective pavement materials.
Eliminate or reduce the amount of land for detention – allows more open space and landscape in developments.
While the image we project of Austin to the world is of a funky, unique place, that Austin is only a couple of square miles in the center of the city. A great deal of the surrounding greater Austin area is a sprawl of minimalls filled with national chain stores that are inexorably eating away at all local businesses. Anyone who lives in far north Austin knows what I'm talking about. The spectacle of The Domain is a perfect example of a xerox copy of a development that could be in Florida, or Dallas, or California. What Austin needs is a Local Retail Set Aside program that mandates all major retail developments incorporate a minimum percentage of floor space to locally owned and operated retailers/merchants/restaurants. So the Domain would have a BookPeople instead of a Borders, an AustinJava instead of Starbucks, etc. This mandate could be mitigated by a reduction in property tax rates for that portion of the development set aside. Local businesses mean that we are locally vested in its success. Residents rally in support of local merchants and know that the owners of Amys Ice Cream and Vulcan Video or Guero's are our friends, neighbors and support the community. Let us not sacrifice all the local businesses in favor of more Bed Bath and Beyonds. Lets make policy that creates the city we all say we want to live in for EVERYBODY, not just Hyde Park residents.
Paycheck advance businesses are predatory and prey on those with already limited resources. They have created blighted patches in redeveloping areas of Austin, especially in the urban core. Such businesses hamper economic growth in these neighborhoods because other businesses/projects don't want to be located next to them as they are associated with a negative social stigma. This is extremely evident on S. Congress south of Live Oak, Oltorf and East Riverside. The city should ban/restrict these types of businesses to improve the quality of life for its residents while stimulating responsible development.