Who really runs Austin?
Austin city politics is complicated by the fact that poverty levels among unskilled workers are increasing and the city is not sure how to handle that. The poor want to work but the city is gentrifying and forcing them out via living costs. Austin is largely guided by the various active elements of the business lobby, without much real opportunity for grassroots democracy, probably until we have a larger council and single member districts.
Austin’s growth policy is largely geared toward recruiting new industry based on highly paid skilled professionals as the following material makes clear.
There is a big budget ($14 million over five years) shadow government lobbying effort by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce called “Opportunity Austin”. In some cases there may be a trickle down benefit from these chamber-led polices to the broad population of existing residents, but the lobbying outfit is basically designed to recruit new high tech industry. Why? To pump up growth to sell new homes to help the suburban sprawl homebuilders, which is where the biggest profits outside the industries recruited are made in this region.
What [you can find here (PDF format, 3.5 mB) is the latest 2006 “Opportunity Austin” report.
They clearly and explicitly lay out their goals for Austin region growth policy. And then their goals tend to turn into city policy.
It’s a bit hard to follow without the graphics and text formatting, complicated by their theme this year, — which is to compare Austin to a big bee colony of hard workers dedicated toward increasing the production of honey (profits) for the hive bosses! I’m serious, as you’ll see from the strange references to bees and honey production scattered throughout the text below.
(See the list of names way at the bottom of [the Chamber of Commerce report] for those who are arguably the real leaders of Austin: the 2006 Greater Austin Economic Development Corporation Board, starting with its chair, Gary Farmer).