Monday, December 18, 2017

#atxcouncil: Special treatment for Greg Abbott (higher electric bills for the rest of us)

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

We testified against a couple of items at last Thursday's council meeting:
  • Item 90: "Approve an ordinance waiving fees in an amount not to exceed $6,800,000 and requirements related to the vacation of right-of-way, associated with the development of Phase One of the 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan."

    We first discussed the "Capitol Complex" office plan back in June.  This is a project that illustrates the phoniness of so much of the highly theatrical conflict between the City of Austin and the State of Texas.  And, when push came to shove, the city gave the state everything it asked for.

    At issue is the absurdly lavish renovations for state office buildings immediately north of the Capitol.  The state of Texas is sought (and received) a $6.8 million fee waiver.  Because it's better to give special treatment to politically favored entities than to create low/simple, fees for everyone.

    But where this issue really chaps our hide is all of the highly sensationalized 'conflict' that we so frequently see between the city and the state.  It's not a secret that this website believes the unchecked growth of government at the local level is the biggest macroeconomic threat Texas faces, and that the state is well within it's rights to to rein it in.

    It's difficult to know whose cronies are getting paid on this project, although if history is any guide then Greg Abbott and Kirk Watson are the two likeliest suspects.

    Ora Houston voted against.  Leslie Pool abstained.  Each of the other nine voted "aye."

  • Item 3: "Authorize negotiation and execution of a 15-year power purchase agreement with a subsidiary of INTERSECT POWER for the full output of electricity from a utility-scale solar generation facility with capacity of 150 to 180 megawatts, in an estimated amount of $10,000,000 to $12,000,000 per year, and a total estimated amount of $150,000,000 to $180,000,000."

    Mayor Adler can claim can claim this mandate will save consumers money all he wants, but this municipal government doesn't have the credibility to make "we have to spend money to make money" type assertions [Note: A cynic might accuse them of gaslighting].  We didn't believe them when they made similar claims about the new development services office building.  We don't believe them now.

    Our biggest issue is that this mandate will drive up electric bills.  Austin energy isn't going to absorb this cost.  They'll pass it along to ratepayers.

    But the other fascinating aspect of this contract is the "climate change" hypocrisy.  Whatever one feels about the underlying veracity of global warming, it doesn't change the fact that the same streamlining of residential construction in the urban core that would lower housing costs and shorten commutes would also reduce carbon emissions.  And this solar energy mandate is nothing more than a wildly expensive political workaround (with other people's money) to make up for the fact that council lacks the political will to fix the housing issue through CodeNext.

    Finally, it's absurd to make a ten year commitment.  If this were a 2 to 3 year contract, we'd probably overlook it.  But to commit ourselves for a decade bears an eerie resemblance to the biomass plant debacle.

    Ellen Troxclair voted against; the other 10 voted "Aye."

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