Make Austinites the Priority at City Hall
Elect Laura Pressley
"There is a better way to run City Hall and I'm tired of our Council Members not listening to us. I'm here to stop subsidies and fee waivers to developers and corporations, keep utility rates low by cutting waste at Austin Energy and the Water Utility, provide real traffic solutions, and spend our tax dollars locally to keep jobs in Austin" - Laura Pressley, Candidate Austin City Council, Place 2.
The Austin area is home to nearly 900,000 residents and the priorities of our neighbors in all parts of our city need to be heard, respected and responded to by our Austin City Council. Austin's operating budget is over $2.7 Billion. Do you ever wonder where all that money goes? It is obvious that our trust in City Hall has suffered due to the massive amount of spending increases, tax increases due to bond and debt creation, lack of transparency and because they are not generally responsive to our citizens' needs.
Apparently, our personal, environmental and economic well being are the last priorities for City Council. They seem to forget their main responsibility is to represent us. Our campaign strongly believes Austin's current priorities are misguided and citizens should be number one on the Council Members' minds and actions.
Austin has numerous health, environmental and economic challenges that are incredibly technical in nature. There currently exists a critical need for a Council Member with a high level of technical expertise and actual experience who can ask hard technical questions and discern between conflicting data and information that is often presented to Council. My educational training in chemistry and professional experiences in the semiconductor/computer/software/networking industries will close the technology gap that exists today on the Council.
Examples where the Council Members are leaving us behind
Keep Tax Dollars in Austin -- Companies outside of Austin are awarded millions of dollars worth of contracts from the City when there are business options inside of Austin. Our campaign will drive the Austin City Council - Buy Local policy for contracts where Austin taxpayer dollars are utilized. This is a direct way our Council can support Austin's small businesses to build and keep jobs in Austin. The most recent example is a $3M contract slated for a Georgia company to perform janitorial services for Austin Energy (Item 26). Based on Pressley's testimony against awarding the contract, at the Austin City Council Meeting on March 1, 2012, approval for the janitorial services item was postponed and city staff was instructed to evaluate a cost effective internal solution. Millions of our tax dollars leave Austin on a weekly basis and the Council needs to lead the efforts to support local businesses and workforce as much as possible. The good news is on March 1, our efforts were rewarded and the City Council implemented a new credit that can be applied to the selection process when local companies bid for city contracts. This was put into place after months of us highlighting these issues.
Prevent Rolling Energy Blackouts and Stop Increasing our Utility Rates -- In February of 2011, we experienced energy blackouts across Austin and are being told to expect more in 2012. Families and businesses suffer because the Austin City Council has not planned for supplemental and renewable energy sources. Austin gets 30% of it's power from the Fayette Power Plant in La Grange which has been known to damage acres of agricultural orchards due to sulfur and mercury emissions. We need an energy plan that ensures supply, ends our exploitation of sulfur and mercury polluting plants, invests in renewable sources, and also provides no increases in utility expenses for citizens. Our utility rates continue to increase and this is absolutely unacceptable. The Council needs to provide the leadership and demand the city utility departments cut operating expenditures instead of raising rates.
Reducing Property Taxes -- Many large cities, such as Atlanta, offer their own homestead exemptions. Multiple candidates for Austin City Council have been asked to support a City of Austin Homestead Exemption and none have previously committed. We are committing to it and propose a City of Austin Homestead Exemption of at least $35,000 to help reduce the tax burden on home owners and low income families in Austin. This will encourage home ownership, support neighborhoods, and counteract the increased tax burden generated by the high degree of gentrification that is going on in so many of our neighborhoods in East Austin. The program will reduce revenue to the City by about $30M and we propose to pay for the program by cutting waste and costs in the City's operating budget. We all know there is plenty of waste in our local government and we will employ a program of City of Austin employee recommended cost cutting measures to determine where the most waste is and reduce it.
Drinking Water Safety -- Should Austin's infants and children be drinking our tap water when it tastes moldy and more like the bottom of Lake Austin than healthy, pure water? According to the Environmental Working Group, Austin's tap water exceeds the EPA's health limits for chlorinated compounds, lead, and coliform bacteria. Also, many may not be aware that City Council distributes a one size fits all medication, fluoride, through our water supply. Because of the distribution method for fluoride, children and adults get the same amount in a glass of water. And, because there is no dose adjustment or control for size, weight, height, or sensitivity, fluoride causes multiple side effects such as dental fluorosis, hypothyroidism, osteosclerosis and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has issued a powerful Resolution against fluoridation. In addition, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of the fluoride chemical, hydrofluorosilicic acid, that is added to Austin's water supply, recently included a health warning for children (page 2 in the Other Comments Section). Across the US, fluoridation was big news in 2011 and misinformation was usurped. In 2012, KEYE reported on Austin's fluoridation program and 49% of Austinites say fluoridation is a waste of our tax dollars.
Austin Traffic Issues -- It is well known that traffic is at a crisis level in Austin during rush hour and in 2011 has been ranked the third worst in the U.S. Austinites waste an inordinate amount of time away from their jobs, personal life and children as a consequence of the Council's lack of leadership, and lack of real solutions to our traffic issues. Austinites are being asked to support tolls on Mopac at the cost of $200 - $250M with completion targeted around 2016. This is a huge expense and doesn't correct our traffic issues on a timely basis.
A better solution is to work with TXDOT and the Austin City Council to incentivize reduced costs for toll tags for commercial trucks to be diverted from I-35 to SH130 from Buda to Georgetown. SH130 is incredibly underutilized and can relieve congestion on I-35 by diverting at least 1,000 trucks during rush hour and that would seriously reduce congestion on I-35. This would also be a domino effect and reduce traffic on Mopac. For 1,000 trucks, for one year, it could cost $1.7M - $4M, depending upon the incentivized amounts. This solution would significantly improve our traffic issues within 3 months. This is a much better option. The City Council recently approved over $5M for extending rail service on weekend nights from Leander to Downtown. Austinites would much rather spend that money reducing I-35 and Mopac traffic vs wasting it on a project that does not address real traffic issues.
Health Concerns over ABIA Body Scanners and Enhanced Pat Downs -- The Austin City Council Members have ignored the advice of the Austin Airport Advisory Commision who unanimously passed a resolution advising the City Council to oppose airport body scanners and invasive body searches. As of November 2011, citizens can't travel out of Austin Bergstrom International Airport without either a) getting irradiated by the TSA Microwave Full Body Scanners which operate at 10 times the frequency of our microwave ovens (see page 11), or b) getting groped by the TSA with their enhanced pat downs. Not only are the microwave body scanners potentially ineffective, sexual assault survivors and children can feel especially violated with the enhanced pat down procedures and many Austinites do not want their children inappropriately touched or irradiatied by TSA. Who is going to stand up for us on this?
City Council has ignored us for too long...It's time for a change