Here’s a bumper sticker for ya: democracy is not always the answer.
That’s the case that those in favor of major land use reform are going to have to make to Austin voters this fall.
Of course, those aren’t the words they’re going to use. They’ll probably say something along the lines of, “The same small clique of wealthy folks who used to run Austin are trying to gum up our attempts to build a more equitable and sustainable city. Vote NO on the proposition so that we can move forward in addressing Austin’s challenges.”
Either way, it’s a tough sell. Every voter implicitly understands that there is a certain amount of decision-making that should be left to elected officials and/or bureaucrats, but when you’re asked whether or not you should have a say in something, well, it’s hard to say no.
I’m pretty certain that most Austin voters don’t have strong feelings about CodeNEXT, let a lone a referendum setting up a process for how the city should deal with CodeNEXT. But there are two small groups of people who do. And right now one of those groups has a much simpler message to convey to the masses: vote for democracy and accountability.
To make the somewhat convoluted opposing argument is going to take a major PR effort. Ideally it would have the face of grassroots progressive/housing/environmental activists backed by some serious money. Those groups don’t have a lot of money, which is where the real estate industry might come in.
But it’s not clear that there is enough enthusiasm/attention span among activists to prioritize this campaign, especially amidst an election year when many of those people will have other things on their mind, like regaining control of Congress or getting a $250 million housing bond approved.
Similarly, groups might be inclined refrain from spending money if they think there’s a good chance that the initiative will be struck down even if it is approved, and I think there’s a distinct possibility that that’s exactly what will happen.