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Downtown Austin Alliance responds to Levy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by Austin Monitor

When former Texas Monthly Publisher Mike Levy announced Sunday that he would not be running for Mayor this year, he used the attention to take a parting shot. He said city leaders shouldn’t follow “the demands of single issue groups and downtown developers, many of whom have no interest in the concept of ‘the greater good of the entire community.’”


In his written statement, Levy said that he had talked to numerous citizens and heard “great anger that so much attention and money, such as the high-ticket downtown trolley car system, are given to the downtown area at the expense of their neighborhoods.” Levy is a well-known advocate for more resources for public safety departments. It’s also not the first time that he’s railed against the downtown trolley.


If there is such anger, says Tom Stacy, chairman of the Downtown Austin Alliance, it is “entirely misdirected.”


Stacy put out a statement late Monday, responding to Levy, pointing out that downtown development “has resulted in a tax base approaching $4 billion. This huge asset contributes about 80 percent of its taxes to the benefit of the entire city,” including the City of Austin, Travis County, AISD, the hospital district and ACC.


An urban rail system, which has the support of at least two of the three major candidates for Mayor, Lee Leffingwell and Brewster McCracken, could “carry passengers from some of the northernmost reaches of Travis County and from northwest Austin to government offices, business offices, retail establishments, restaurants and the University of Texas campus,” Stacy said. “The urban rail system will connect the users of commuter rail to their ultimate destinations and also provide a circulator for easy, convenient movement around the central city (without having to travel in and park a car). Austin actually had such a system in the 1930s; if it were operating today, it would be serving us well.”


Stacy said the system would help thousands of daily commuters avoid the parking problems and aggravation associated with the daily car commute. He also the rail system “would promote compact development (as apposed to auto-dependent sprawl) and present development opportunities in the city’s Desired Development Zone. The Downtown Austin Alliance always has advocated for responsible and sustainable development, and considers improved access and mobility to be critical to the continuing growth and vitality of the center city.”

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