I urge the city of Austin to condemn the president's executive order to put a hold on immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries. Our economy depends on innovation, much of which is generated by foreign-born engineers and business people. I have worked in various high tech companies, with a high proportion of people from the targeted countries. I can say without a doubt that product developement would go much slower without their contributions.
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Second-hand smoke is a terrible health risk. Patrons like myself often prefer to sit in outdoor areas but are either forced to deal with smoke or stay inside highly refrigerated establishments. If we have pets with us, indoors is not an option. Even if one buys the premise / economic argument that banning smoking hurts business for bars and cafes, is this how Austin wants to deal with the enormous health risks presented by smoking, and encourage in its citizenry, many of them quite young, the development of lifelong poor habits. In cities such as Boston, Portland, and Ottawa Canada, smoking bans have been extremely effective at raising quality of life. If necessary to compromise, banning smoking at least before nightlife hours, e.g. before 7pm, would go a long way toward protecting patrons like myself and, especially, children. Here are a few articles worth reading : https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0327.htm; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24529192 ; http://www.who.int/fctc/publications/Smoke_free_policies_FINAL_09052014.pdf ; http://austin.eater.com/2016/7/21/12251040/smoke-ban-patios-austin-bars-restaurants ; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260217578_Systematic_review_and_meta-analysis_of_the_economic_impact_of_smoking_bans_in_restaurants_and_bars ;
AFFORDABLE HOUSING ISSUES: Many of us own well taken care of small apartment complexes that are currently affordable housing. However we are having to raise our rental prices due to the rising taxes, which then will move these apartments out of the affordable housing range. We need to consider tax breaks for habitable apartments that are low income, and stop funding the slum lords of the city. We also need help these small affordable housing providers with grants to help them improve properties with things like separate water meters in order to keep the rent in the affordable housing range. If not, these units will start disappearing (a lot already have). In addition the city of Austin has an agreement with outside trash vendors. Small apartment owners have to use expensive vendors for trash for the city of Austin, which again pushes cost to the renter and again is another cause for low income housing going away. Let's do away with those agreements and allow low income housing providers to use the Austin less expensive trash service. All of these things will help the good providers continue to be able to provide low income housing.
Affordability is not about taxes or appraisals -- it's about population influx. When so many newcomers flood the real estate market, prices skyrocket. Appraisals are the symptom, not the disease. Yet the City continues to invest in population growth -- development incentives, tax packages to lure employers, Convention Center expansion to attract new residents to our showcases. The Economic Development Department should quantify the market impact of newcomers moving to town on real estate prices, because housing is the disproportionate factor in the affordability crunch. Continuing to entice newcomers when people move here faster than the market can absorb is the worst the City can do for affordability. Everything else is band-aids.
Then, because this is the State of Texas, we get double whammied by Robin Hood school taxation, being forced to pay penalty school taxes because we are forced to pay too much for housing!
Marketing for new residents may be OK when the cost is not too great and when population growth is sluggish or negative. But in a boomtown, it is insane. The excuse about "attracting the kind of jobs we want" just makes it worse, because attracting high paying jobs implies attracting also the service sector jobs to support the high earners. In Austin, boosterism has run amok, and the affordability crisis is the result.
We just got another notice in the mail that there are plans to create another warehouse at Burleson RD and 183. I was really hoping that land would be multi use for residents. I live in Colorado Crossing on Burleson and Mckinney Falls. They just built the new Addison subdivision right next to where the warehouse will be. What is the city doing to get citizen accessible shops, stores, parks, etc in this area. Pretty soon there wont be any land left for that. The bad thing I think is that these warehouses aren't even full. Why let companies keep building them if they are not even occupied completely?
I volunteered for SXSW Interactive in 2015 for the first time. Quite an experience. Idea: ask Google to micro-map the interior of the Austin Convention Center and surrounding areas, for easy look-up and by people speaking various languages including Mandarin, smiles. During my shifts, finding ATMs, the shuttle stop(s), charging stations, restrooms and the like were key questions, as were the location of various auditorium spaces. But often, the volunteers forget where one can find these things. It is tough with so many people attending. Especially visitors from other countries have a tough time. Also, volunteer-staffed information stations at the Austin Convention Center must have more laptops and volunteers must be encouraged to use their own cell phones to retrieve information online. I suggested SXSW actually make information stations "underwritable," along these lines: Yahoo Information Station, Google Place, Apple Support (that kind of thing), and each information station could feature their respective technologies. There also must be more EU-compatible charging stations at the Austin Convention Center. Please. And, consider Expo Logic for registration - an idea (smooth, high tech).
Growth, gentrification, traffic, loss of affordability - all these things have been hot topics the past couple of years here. It seems that what is lacking is a concept of what constitutes an "Ideal" Austin. A city large enough to provide services and culture, but still distinctly small enough to feel like the city we say we are. Growth for the sake of growth, which has been going on for a couple of decades now, seems to have only one direction, and absent any consensus on when it should stop, this city could become Tokyo. I don't propose any specific policy here, although there are many to put forth, but as a STARTING POINT, let us come to an agreement of what constitutes the population of this town that we see as "Ideal." Not so small that it has no tax base or diversity, not so large that it destroys the very character we claim to have and want. I would say that we have probably hit that number already. Consider that Paris has had a stable population of between 2 and 2.5 million for nearly the past century. Consider that in 1990 Austin was roughly the same population as Atlanta, Georgia, and that now we are TWICE as populated as Atlanta. This rate of growth is not only unsustainable, it is undesirable and uncontrollable. In the past two decades Austin went from being the 25th most populous city in the US to 11th, passing San Francisco and other large metro areas. If growth continues at this pace unmitigated, we could find ourselves number 4 in a couple of decades. Compare that to cities we are often likened to, Portand or Seattle or the like. They have maintained their relative positions over the past quarter century. Both were larger than Austin in 1990 and now are significantly smaller, yet nobody is saying "Oh, poor Portland, what a catastrophe that they aren't growing." Quite the opposite. Quality of life in Portland is by several measures the highest in the country. GROWTH IS NOT ESSENTIAL. Lets establish that fact. Lets establish how big is big enough. And lets put policies in place that point us in that direction. This is a first step, but without an official policy and goal, we will never make any progress.
http://m.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/06/23/oakland-replaces-car-parking-with-street-parklets Seattle and San Francisco already doing this practice
There are a lot of home owners in East Austin residents are being pushed out of the neighborhood due to Gentrification and high prices. I hear a lot of them say that they would like to live in East Austin but cannot afford it. My idea is that the city should make a Fannie May kind of lending service that will help the low income East Austin home owners rebuild by adding rentable space, like a small studio or where zoning allows, a small store in the front. This will help them pay mortgage and property tax and may be get some income. The city will only warranty the loans. Also, the final value of the property will be above the loan amount so everyone wins.
As a native Austinite, I'm proud our city attracts business/culture, etc. I know the economy is boosted and that's good, however....enough is enough!
Traffic is out of control and affordable housing is practically extinct. The infrastructure can't keep up and crime is bad, as well. All is not fair or equal in Austin and there's no turning back now....or is there?
By putting a CAP ON POPULATION GROWTH, the city could take a breather and attempt to catch up with the problems we are currently experiencing. I don't see that become "cosmopolitan and international" is the priority.
The ugly truth is that if a person is not a millenial, high tech, extremly athletic or "monied"....well then lust get out of the way and out of sight. Folks with less income are practicaly being "herded out to pasture." Taken a look at Northeast Austin lately? Being priced out or gentrified out of a beloved neighborhood is not good, cool, right, fair or kosher!
There is enough money in Austin; there are enough people in Austin. PUT A CAP ON GROWTH NOW! At the very least, attach some sort of fee to moving here. Most of the people coming in can well afford it.
Stop the land grabbing, eminent domaining and plain old greed...did we not learn anything from our not so distant history?
Not just whining here City Council. Think about it.