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Reporter’s Notebook: Payback

Monday, August 27, 2018 by Austin Monitor

Adler strikes back… Mayor Steve Adler returned fire at Travis County Thursday over commissioners’ threat to challenge Austin’s authority to allow McKalla Place to be tax exempt after Precourt Sports Ventures takes over the 24-acre parcel to build a soccer stadium. Following a unanimous vote by the Commissioners Court on Tuesday to preserve the option to challenge the land’s tax-exempt status, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty commented, “They own the land and probably had the legal right to make that call – but to do it without consideration to your other taxing jurisdictions, I think was pretty inconsiderate.” During the Austin Housing Finance Corporation meeting on Thursday, Council approved a loan agreement with DMA Development Company LLC for up to $1.5 million for new construction of a multifamily apartment complex for people living below the poverty line. Travis County owns the property. While stressing that he supported the loan and that he thought it was a good project, Adler asked this question of Rosie Truelove, acting in her capacity as treasurer of AHFC: “So we have property, it’s county property, it’s not going to be on the tax rolls. We’re not selling this to a for-profit corporation, are they?” Truelove said DMA is a for-profit affordable housing developer, but a spokesperson for the county said it was leasing the property, not selling it – a situation similar to what the city is doing with McKalla Place. Adler said the property could have been sold to a for-profit developer and generated taxes, but the county is leasing the property for zero dollars because of “what they deem to be a public benefit and use, affordable housing, which I concur and agree with.” However, he said he was never asked whether he approved of the deal, which will result in no tax dollars for the city. He asked his colleagues if any of them had ever been consulted, and no one spoke up. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who lives in Williamson County, said he was never consulted either. Council Member Pio Renteria wanted to make sure that Adler’s remarks were part of the record after Council had to vote on the agenda twice because of some confusion over whether there had been a motion. Council Member Ellen Troxclair announced that she was voting no on that particular item.

A sober celebration … City and county leaders assembled on Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting in front of the new Austin-Travis County Sobering Center downtown on Sabine Street. However, the ribbon would not yield to the giant scissors wielded by Travis County Judge and Sobering Center Board President Nancy Hohengarten. Mayor Steve Adler stepped in and stabbed the stubborn fabric with his pen. A source at the scene reports that while the mayor succeeded in poking a hole in the ribbon, he “still couldn’t rip it open.” Time will tell whether the sobering center will ever recover from the humiliating setback.

Fast Start… Today is the last day for Austin startups to apply for the latest Austin Fast Start competition organized by the city’s Small Business Program and the Austin Young Chamber. The competition is for companies operating as a sustainable or green business by protecting the environment, enhancing the community and maintaining a healthy workplace. The winning entry will receive $2,000 cash plus $5,000 in prizes including three months’ free rent at Capital Factory, business coaching, membership to the Austin Young Chamber, LLC formation services and more. Entrants will be scored by judges and the top four businesses will be invited to the pitch day competition on Sept. 25 at Austin Central Library.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jo Clifton, Jack Craver and Chad Swiatecki.

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