Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Electioneering over OGO on the steps of City Hall

Instead of working on City business, Councilmembers Leffingwell, Kim, McCracken, and Dunkerley took time out to electioneer against Propositions 1 (OGO) and 2 (SOS) on the very steps of City Hall today. This was basically a repeat performance of the last City Council meeting, where the members repeated their unfounded allegations about the Open Government Online amendment amidst a scattering of support.

Leffingwell, apparently ignoring his own CIO's report on the amendment, stated that the City had already committed to allowing public access to the new AMANDA program and that these costs were not reflected in the cost estimate. He is wrong on both counts. AMANDA is the City's new system for development permitting that would require all communications and documents about developments to become electronic. In point of fact the AMANDA system did not, before this amendment came along, include public access. The City specifically is trying to charge a quarter of a million dollars to provide the public with this access. You and I would not recieve access but for the OGO amendment just being proposed.

All of the council members repeated the erroneous claim that the amendment requires all citizen email with the City to instantaneously go online. This is plain wrong as well. As has been covered here here and here, this argument is just wrong. It is THE reason why the City's cost estimate is so inflated. Leffingwell and his fellow council members “neglected” to mention when talking about the amendment the high costs of tax giveaways. Costs that outweigh this amendment even when you accept the City's inflated figure.

Leffingwell, McCracken and company also would have you believe in an inverted and backwards view of how the law works: Any 6th grader can tell you that state government trumps city government, and that the federal government trumps the whole thing. It is ridiculous to claim, as they do, that somehow this amendment requires the City to ignore state and federal law that shields your privacy. Your right to privacy is specifically protected in the amendment and it does nothing to abrogate your rights to keep private information private or to magically overturn state and federal law. See here for more about how they are wrong about the privacy implications and their interpretation.

OpenGovAustin will be responding to the rest of the hogwash when it hits the press. Stay tuned.


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw in the ABJ that some pretty well known envinronmental leaders stood with the Council members.

"Longtime environmental leaders such as George Cofer, Jeb Boyt, Mary Ann Neely and Jim Marston all stood in support of Leffingwell. Former City Council Member Daryl Slusher, who couldn't attend Wednesday's event, has also criticized the proposals.

Of course, SOS dismisses the opposition.

"There are some so-called environmentalists who primarily work for developers, and it's understandable they'd be opposed to reforms that would hurt their clients," says Colin Clark, an SOS spokesman. "We're optimistic the voters will embrace the important reforms from both the SOS and open government online charter amendments."

My question. I don't know anything of the others, but doesn't George Cofer work for the Save Barton Creek Group here in Austin? I would say that is pretty far from working for a developer. Oh yeah, google says he is also head of the Hill Country Conservancy. Seems like he has pretty good credentials to me.

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the proponents seem to have fallen back on an "attack the messenger" strategy instead of simply debating the merits. That's unfortunate, because these are good people, and good people can sometimes disagree.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

I am not an environmental activist, so I don't really know about any of these people. I also don't work for SOS. One of our other bloggers will respond here. I suggest in the future that you check out the CleanWaterAustin Blog.

I totally agree that sometimes good people can disagree. The first anonymous makes an argument that some "leaders" don't support the OGO, ergo the amendment is wrong.

I give the voters of Austin more credit.

I want everyone to take the time to read and understand the amendment. That is why I, and others from the OGO team, have set up this blog and also produced such docs as the Section by Section Analysis.

None of the people that stood behind Leffingwell came forward when given the chance to speak out. They neglected to say exactly why they oppose the OGO. I wonder if they have seriously sat down and gone through the amendment or if they have just listened to Leffingwell's version of it.

I, and other members of the OGO team, are open to vigorous debate about the amendment. Silence is not a reason.

As to the second anonymous poster, there is no messenger to attack because the people standing in the background neglected to give a message, thus, they cannot be messengers. Good people can and do disagree, but they must give a reason.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Colin Clark said...

Every citizen should become informed and develop his or her own opinion. We welcome the debate. Since both amendments address a paralysis of local government caused by the undue influence of special interests at city hall, it is appropriate to point out connections between these special interests and those identified as "environmental leaders."

For example, Mike Blizzard is paid by Stratus/Freeport Properties to lobby city council members. George Cofer is a well-informed man with a track record of working hard to protect Austin's environment, and he is employed as the Executive Director of the Hill Country Conservancy. HCC recently received a $400,000 pledge from the Real Estate Council of Austin. HCC has also received substantial funding from Stratus Properties.

Well-meaning people can become influenced by those that fund them. Daryl Slusher currently works for Austin Energy, known for its secrecy. Jackie Goodman went to great lengths as a City Council Member to hide public information, specifically hand-written notes she was passing to lobbyist Bruce Todd as the council was considering approving Todd's client's development deal (a Lowe's big box over the Barton Springs recharge zone). The Texas Attorney General forced the city to turn over the Goodman-Todd notes.

We welcome serious discussion about the merits of these amendments. If anyone has better ideas about how to save Barton Springs and shine light on city government, please speak up with specific suggestions.


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