Austin It must have been some years since I was in Austin. It hit me when I got off the plane and realized I was no longer in the shed and cow field operation that characterized the old Austin airport but instead was in a huge, modern facility with several levels, and I had no idea where to catch a cab. The next shock was heading to my first meeting and seeing one development after another in what used to be simply country. Meeting with our old comrade and attorney, Doug Young, later in the afternoon he reminded me that the population of Austin was now over 700,000, so this smallish college and government town is now something of a city after all.
Meeting with Doug and two of the local fireplugs who are trying to stop the City Council tax giveaways to developers, I heard even more about how Austin has changed, and not for the best. What used to be one of the most progressive cities in the south and certainly in Texas was now running City Hall as a storefront for business. Linda Curtis with “Independent Texans” and Brian Rodgers, a smaller, responsible builder, detailed for me the history of some of the recent fights and scams. It was amazing to me how often our frequent nemesis, Simon Malls, was at the center of the storm.
Right now they were involved in a petition drive to try and stop a huge Simon scam. Simon has developed almost all of the big malls in the Austin area. One of them would gross them $100,000,000 over 20-years in tax money diversions. The subject of the current petition drive would contest a recent giveaway that would give Simon $65,000,000 over 20-years in sales and other tax diversions for a 700,000 monstrosity that they are calling a “life style” mall with stores underneath and 60-70 condos on top. Don’t even ask me about what people are looking for a lifestyle that has them living on top of a mall?
The petition effort needs 20,000 good signatures. They already have 16,000 and need another 13-14,000 over the next month to stop domain subsidies, as they are called, to retail operations. The hardest part of their effort may be the petitioning. How could anyone really vote to give that much money away for nothing? Especially to Simon Malls which hardly makes a name for itself as a good corporate citizen as ACORN knows too well from campaigns in Minneapolis, Denver, and Indianapolis.
Austin is in a huge growth mode obviously, but that doesn’t mean we have to give it away to Simon.
Sign us up!