Correction: This should have been attributed to Roger Baker. Our apologies
A few months ago, Ourrail.org formed to support the citizen-proposed rail plan for North Lamar/Guadalupe. Now a new organization has formed to "support rail" - Austin Gets Around.
They claim to be a grass-roots group like Ourrail.org but Roger Baker has done some investigating. Here's his report:
"A good way to investigate outfits like "Austin Gets Around" is to follow the
money. Look at this logo contest. In all my days of hanging out around
grassroots politics, I never heard of an organization that had anything
approaching $375 up front, just to come up with a logo. Looks to me like top
down funding and organization. Exactly where does the money come from?
Background: Austin's local growth machine is comprised at its core of
land development interests that repeatedly come into conflict with various
citizen interests and inclinations. Consequently, as an established political
pattern, the development interests often set up carefully selected if unelected
groups of well known team players to decide policy. Since Austin often operates
through advice of boards and commissions, the mayor can appoint his own team of proven loyalty to recommend the desired policies. For example Project Connect, backed up by public money, has been sanctioned and empowered by the politically declared authority of the city to arrive at conclusions, subsequently available to be rubber-stamped and implemented as needed.
Parallel to this public effort, there tend to be well-greased "grassroots"
lobbying groups organized by private interests, who stand to benefit from
development. Accordingly, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce privately
organized a transit-friendly policy support group ,"Take on Traffic", in 2003 as
an important part of their regional growth strategy. Since both the core city
and the commuter highways leading to the lower living cost suburbs were becoming terribly congested at rush hour, regional mobility and growth has been suffering. The main problem then and now has been a lack of dedicated transit funding, which lobbying pressure can help raise.
(Click Read More)
History of Take on Traffic
Mobility of people, goods and services in, out and within Central Texas was a key issue identified in the initial Market Street Report in 2003., the basis for Opportunity Austin. In response, the Chamber created Take on Traffic, a coalition of business organizations and concerned citizens working to promote a comprehensive regional transportation plan. Focusing on the need to include five major roadway projects in the CAMPO 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) as toll roads, Take on Traffic's advocacy campaign resulted in thousands of emails of support and hundreds of people attending and testifying at public meetings. A successful CAMPO vote included the projects in the plan and TIP in October of 2007.
Opportunity Austin, now in its third phase, is committed to addressing peak-hour congestion and connectivity. The Chamber and Take on Traffic continue to advocate for a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system and investment decisions that are based on data driven analysis. That advocacy has grown under the leadership of 2014 Chamber Chairman Jack McDonald who detailed the need for an all the above strategy in a February 2014 editorial special...
More recently we see "Movability Austin", which seems like the same kind of top down privately-initiated outfit, being organized to speak as a loud public policy voice, with a full selection of prominent local players put on board:
How many outfits like Mobility Austin could get Robert Spillar current director of Austin Transportation, Joe Cantalupo thenew CAMPO acting director and previously a CAMPO director. And current CAMPO Tech Adv Committee chair Todd Hemingson, and some rich guys to serve on a group as part of a grassroots effort? This one has the look and feel of standard-issue top-down organization to sanction policies decided elsewhere.
Anyhow, in Austin politics there are now standard strategies for maintaining top-down control of public policy and the subsequent winning of public opinion, often in preparation for bond elections. The big money around this town is made from land appreciation and development. Nowhere is this pattern better expressed than through the powerful local regional planning group, CAMPO, as I explained in Part 2 of my three part Austin drought series:
Texas Association for Public Transportation"
We want to thank Dave for sending us this important and eye-opening report.
The graphic below is from Austin Gets Around - you be the judge if this looks like a grassroots organization: