Liveable City Board Resolution In Support of “Stop Domain Subsidies” Charter Amendment

Whereas, The Board of Liveable City believes that a strong economy is essential to a livable city; and

Whereas, Liveable City recently released a study of Austin’s economic incentive policies entitled Building A More Sustainable Economy: Economic Development Strategy and Public Incentives in Austin; and

Whereas, Liveable City has also released a Ballot Study of the “Stop Domain Subsidies” Charter Amendment (Proposition 2), which reviewed the use of economic incentives for the Domain and found that the Domain Agreement was a significant departure from Austin’s previous economic development strategy; and

Whereas, Liveable City’s Ballot Study further showed that the city failed in its duty to its citizens by approving the Domain Development Agreement in a rushed, one-week process that did not allow for due diligence to protect taxpayers' interests and failed to ensure that the written contract accurately represented all promises made by the developers; and

Whereas, If adopted, Proposition 2 may require some restructuring of the Mueller redevelopment agreement with the participation of all parties; however, its passage would by no means spell the end of that agreement or that project; and

Whereas, It is unlikely that passage of Proposition 2 would have any appreciable effect on industrial subsidies or on Austin’s overall business climate and is unlikely to affect Austin’s ability to maintain a good bond rating; and

Whereas, A Settlement Agreement is in place, which addresses legal rights regarding the Domain Development Agreement and allows cancellation of the Domain contract without penalty if the city does not appropriate the necessary funds; and

Whereas, The issues surrounding Proposition 2 underscore the need for Austin to develop a transparent, well-defined economic incentive policy, including a process to ensure that future public investments are prudent, provide tangible public benefits commensurate with the funds involved, and do not unfairly favor one business over another, all key elements recommended by Liveable City in its 2008 report on economic incentives; and

Whereas, The City Council’s resolution prohibiting retail subsidies does not have the force of law and can be overturned on short notice by a simple majority vote of the council; a charter amendment provides the strongest foundation for such a sound basic economic development policy, with details and process achieved through a well-crafted ordinance; and

Whereas, The city should keep its word to Austin citizens by ensuring that public investments are well-considered and offer tangible public benefits for the greatest number of residents, not just financial benefits for a few; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Board of Liveable City supports the passage of Proposition 2, the “Stop Domain Subsidies” Charter Amendment; and, be it further

Resolved, That the Board of Liveable City calls on the Austin City Council to take action, whether or not Proposition 2 passes, to develop a transparent, well-defined economic incentive policy and process to ensure that future public investments are prudent, do not unfairly favor one business over another, and provide tangible benefits for the greatest number of citizens commensurate with the funds involved.