City Council, District 8
I support all of the Bond Propositions – Propositions A thru G. Spending limited tax dollars is not easy but the bond propositions were developed in a transparent process and have a significant community benefit. Having served on the AISD Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee for the 2017 AISD Bond, I learned five main takeaways: (i) like anyone’s house or car, aging infrastructure and resources require repair and replacement. The bond is how we address our capital needs over the next five to six years. (ii) we don’t spend all the funding at once. Bonds are a line of credit and we don’t sell the bonds to the private market until projects are ready. (iii) most all public entities have more capital needs then funding. (iv) when a bond fails, the need does not go away, it only becomes more expensive. (v) when we don’t invest in infrastructure, we get further behind and can never truly catch up to the opportunity lost. This bond is not exactly what I would design, but it is good bond that does not ignore investment into Southwest Austin, which is important to me. I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I support the Charter Amendments – Propositions H and I I oppose Propositions J and K Proposition J – I don’t believe that land development code should require voter approval. I believe that our city has spent countless dollars and time drafting Neighborhood Plans, Master Plans, Committees and Commissions, changed our city’s representation to be representative (10-1) and elect our officials. We should expect our elected officials to meet with their constituents, participate in the process, be transparent, and be accountable to their district. We should expect drafts to be made public and solicit public feedback, but I do not expect the average working citizen to become a regional planner or land development expert. That is the expectation if the next land development code must come to the voters. Proposition K – I understand the desire of proposition K. There are organizational issues that our city faces – permitting, capital construction, Austin Animal Center, legal, and HR department are just five areas that I want to address and work closely with the Chamber of Commerce to fix. If the goal is to fix our issues then the route to go is to (i) focus on issues that need fixing, (ii) fill executive positions and (iii) fill critical vacant staff positions. As stakeholders we know what departments are having issues and need attention. The longer we wait, the more issues we will have to address. An enterprise wide study will put off those needed improvements and will only provide high level recommendations. In my professional career, I have performed public sector program/departmental assessments for cities such as New York and Boston. I am confident that we can’t afford the money that it will take to perform a broad citywide efficiency study on all departments and divisions. Having worked with firms such as Accenture, I also don’t think the Texas market has the number of consultants available to perform an enterprise wide assessment unless broken out over four or five years. Instead of a broad sweep, I’d rather the city focus efforts on the city departments and programs we know have issues. Our money is better spent with subject matter experts who will perform a more detailed workflow organizational assessment such as the one performed by Zucker Systems, who is a subject matter expert in development services. Let’s start by performing the additional workflow assessments recommended in the 2015 Zucker Report and procure additional workflow organizational assessments by subject matter experts (not generalists) for the top five departments everyone can agree on. Concurrently, we should consider the possibility of every department going through a Sunset Review every five to seven years. This would not preclude other audits to be called when needed but will allow the city manager and the city council to have some additional insight on organizational improvements that are needed and that does not break the bank. The City Auditor’s Office should be responsible managing these audits. The city council took too much time in selecting a city manager and as a result we have what seems like an unhealthy amount of management level positions that are either unfilled or has someone serving in an acting or interim role. This is an important issue, significant organizational change always comes from the right managers who are empowered to act and not by those who are worried about making a misstep because their positions are under review. We need to fill these positions that include: Fire Chief, Parks and Recreation Director, Office of Real Estate Services, Treasury Director, Director of Austin Resource Recovery, Director of Economic Development, Watershed Director, and dozens of deputy director, manager and supervisor positions. If we can’t hire effectively then all the assessments don’t matter. It will be hard for me to argue the need for additional personnel for any department when I see many vacant positions. For example,as of September 7th, the Building Plan Review division of Development Services has seven open examiner positions and one executive supervisor position, building inspections has four inspector positions open along with three of the five supervisor positions vacant (Building Inspection, Residential Inspection, and Mechanical Inspection). In total, Development Services has 59 vacant positions open. The budget approved on September 12th included more positions.