Another petition hits City Hall

This is very interesting. I first encountered this petition less than two weeks ago, as I was entering the Twin Oaks library on South 5th.

A politically diverse group of activists is behind an effort to force the city of Austin to submit to a comprehensive audit of its operations.

The explanation seemed vague at the time; the idea of a city government audit is never inherently illogical, but audits can often be gimmicky and useless as well.

Regardless, the variety of political forces backing the effort is interesting:

Many of those backing the move were also behind the petition to force a citizen vote on CodeNEXT that is currently being litigated in court. For instance: Fred Lewis, the attorney who has long been involved in efforts to reform city campaign finance and ethics rules; Bill Bunch, the head of the Save Our Springs Alliance; and Nelson Linder, the head of the Austin NAACP.

However, the coalition backing the audit is far from a carbon copy of the anti-CodeNEXT brigade.

It also boasts support from conservative-leaning groups and figures, such as the Travis County Taxpayers Union and City Council’s lone Republican, Council Member Ellen Troxclair. Michael Searle, who until recently was an aide for Troxclair, is heading a political action committee in support of the effort: Citizens for an Accountable Austin.

I suppose the quality of the audit determines whether the effort is worthwhile, as is always the case when it comes government consulting. The outside perspective can be valuable, but it can also be oblivious, delusional etc.

If we’re lucky they’ll deliver some low-hanging fruit that we can all agree needs to be cut or changed, but in many cases their expert opinions on the worthwhileness of some program won’t get us any closer to agreeing on how we should be spending money.

Searle, however, is optimistic:

“Based on review of the literature and where these efficiency studies have been done across the country, we expect the return-on-investment to be high,” said Searle in an email. “Even with 4% annual savings, which is the low end of what could be identified, we are talking about $160 (million).”

But….wait….apparently this ISN’T going to be adopted by Council … at least not before August.

This article has been updated. A spokesperson for Council Member Ellen Troxclair said that the proposed audit ordinance is not on the agenda for the next City Council meeting because one of the initial co-sponsors of the proposal withdrew support.

It looks like Leslie Pool has withdrawn her co-sponsorship.

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