DAA ignores Garcia's threat: NIMBY politics in Austin. Texas FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 01:32:43 -0700 (PDT)


FWD http://www.amcity.com:80/austin/stories/040698/story1.html
April 6, 1998 Austin Business Journal

  DAA IGNORES GARCIA'S THREAT

  Downtown group supports only part of homeless plan despite
  Council member's move to postpone contract vote

  Matt Hudgins - Austin Business Journal Staff

Downtown sources say Austin City Council Member Gus Garcia has threatened
to dissolve the Downtown Austin Alliance if the Alliance opposes the city's
plan to build a homeless facility downtown.

Garcia, however, says he was merely gathering information during a private
meeting at the DAA offices March 20, when he questioned DAA leaders about
their stance on the homeless proposal.

"My discussion with them was not meant to be a threat. I need to know where
they're going to be [on the homeless proposal]," Garcia says. "People can
interpret things any way they want to."

In early March, Mayor Kirk Watson unveiled plans for a continuum of
services for the  homeless, which would, among other things:

Create family shelters away from the Central Business District;

Expand social services for the homeless downtown; and

Add 250 beds for single homeless men next to the Salvation Army building on
East Eighth Street in the Central Business District.

The proposal immediately drew fire from downtown proponents who don't want
the shelter so near to the downtown core.

On March 12, Garcia pulled a resolution from the City Council's consent
agenda that would have extended for five years the DAA contract to manage
the city's downtown Property Improvement District.

March 20, Garcia met with DAA Executive Director Charles Betts and board
member Will Wynn to discuss the organization's official stance on the
shelter before the City Council voted on the DAA's contract renewal.

March 26 the DAA voted to support components of the city plan, but reserve
judgment on the downtown shelter until the other components are in place
and can be evaluated.

Garcia says he wanted to delay the contract renewal vote until the DAA had
decided whether or not to support Watson's homeless initiatives, but adds,
"not that one is contingent on the other."

"It's related because a great amount of the work the DAA does pertains to
safety and improving conditions downtown," Garcia says, "and my feeling is,
the mayor's proposal goes to that issue in the most progressive way we've
done in a long time."

He adds, "If they are going to be extremely belligerent about the mayor's
proposal, then we need to have some discussions. The problem of the
homeless is not going to go away, and we need to address it intelligently
and cooperatively."

Betts describes the meeting with Garcia as "a very friendly visit." He will
comment further.

"It was a private meeting and I don't see anything to be gained by going
public with that," Betts says.

Wynn could not be reached for comment.

The DAA's March 26 resolution offers support for components of the city's
plan that would improve public order and add shelter space for women and
children. It stops short of support or opposition to the proposed 250-bed
shelter for single men downtown.

The chief concern voiced at the March 26 meeting was security and the
potentia lowering of property values expected to accompany the proposed
shelter for single men next to the Salvation Army.

DAA Board Member Allen Kaplan called for specific language opposing the
shelter downtown, but the majority decided simply to withhold approval for
now and assess the need for a shelter if and when the city has implemented
the aspects of the mayor's plan that would improve public order.

Wynn was the first to caution against endorsing any project that would
further lower property values.

DAA Chairwoman Bobbie Barker communicated the DAA's position in a March 31
letter to Watson.

Garcia, who says he has not learned the outcome of the DAA's March 26
meeting, says the City Council will ultimately approve the DAA
reauthorization, but says he wants to know what is on the DAA's agenda so
the agency and the council can work together to address the homeless
problem.

"We have a few issues to resolve," he says. "There's nothing that serious."

Watson could not be reached for comment.

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