Two mysterious donors give $25k to Linda Curtis’ group

IndyAustin, if you’ll recall, is the independent expenditure group that was formed to force a vote on CodeNEXT. It was set up by Linda Curtis, the perennial signature-gatherer based in Bastrop. Most of the money, however, did not come from earnest CodeNEXT opponents, but a few billboard companies, who were angling to use the code fight to settle long-time grievances about sign regulations.

Now, CodeNEXT is no more but Proposition J, which was aimed at killing it, is still on the ballot and, if approved, it could have a major impact on the city’s ability to revise its land development code in the future.

In the most recent campaign finance report, IndyAustin reports that it has broadened its mission. In addition to supporting Prop J, it is opposing Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Pio Renteria and District 9 candidate Danielle Skidmore (who is challenging Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo for the seat). Finally, it discloses that it will be supporting an “ordinance w/r/t City land & sports facilities/entertainment stadiums.”

IndyAustin reported raising just a whisker under $30,000 over the last three months. Almost all of it came from three major donors. The smallest one –– $3,000 –– came from local real estate investor Brian Rodgers, a regular donor to causes aligned with Fred Lewis and neighborhood preservationists.

Then there was $5,000 from Joel Hechler, who describes himself as a “former investor” who lives in Tenafly, NJ. What I gather from Google is that this is Cory Joel Hechler. A rather sparse LinkedIn under that name identifies him as an “executive director” at JP Morgan. An online database of securities brokers lists him as having worked at Bear Sterns from 1987-2006 and JP Morgan from 2006-13. There’s no obvious reason that I can identify for why he’d be involved in Austin politics.

Finally, IndyAustin got $20,000 from Irving Kessler, who lists his address in Paradise Valley, Arizona and describes himself as a “former investment manager.” It looks like his first name is misspelled on the campaign report, and that this is actually a check from Irvin or Irv Kessler, a hedge fund manager who serves as the principal or chairman of Provident Real Estate Advisors, which is based in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Star Tribune described Kessler as a “publicity-shy hedge-fund manager” in 2011 when it discovered that he was providing much of the capital behind a proposed casino.

So what is Kessler’s link to Austin politics? It very likely has to do with his link to the Circuit of the Americas race track. In 2012, the Statesman identified him as one of the investors:

A racing enthusiast, Kessler popped up prominently on the Internet after a 2009 incident in which his $3 million McLaren F1 road car caught fire while he was driving it in California.

Kessler did not return a call from the American-Statesman on Wednesday, and Circuit of the Americas officials did not disclose whether the Minnesota hedge fund manager was the Kessler listed in the SEC filing for the track.

COTA, of course, is unhappy with the Columbus Crew coming to Austin. It is host to a lesser soccer team that it doesn’t want overshadowed by an MLS team. It is therefore friendly to the efforts of activists to get the stadium deal proposed for the Crew overturned by voters.

10 thoughts on “Two mysterious donors give $25k to Linda Curtis’ group

  1. Hey Jack, is that a cup in front of your face, are you trying to look cool, or are have you joined the DARK negotiations going on at City Hall for a few hundred mill in property tax exemptions for a stadium on public land — without a public vote? Oh, never mind. If anyone reads this dreck, check us out at IndyAustin.org. Linda Curtis PS I dare you to publish this, punk.

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    1. Why would anyone read your dreg. You are literally posting on an article talking about how you are being paid by one entity to attempt to shut down another entity. The entity paying for this (COTA) isn’t just getting property tax exemptions, they are getting actual tax payer cash from the tax payers of Texas. It could amount to almost $50 million a year in the future when all is said and done. This isn’t in exemptions, this is in actual liquid cash. If you are going to deflect at least make sure the party you are trying to deflect from isn’t covered in metaphorical glue.

      Punk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Now, CodeNEXT is no more but Proposition J, which was aimed at killing it, is still on the ballot and, if approved, it could have a major impact on the city’s ability to revise its land development code in the future.”

    Let’s make something clear:

    1. Prop J is about democracy and accountability. “Trust Us” is not how government should work. You could actually be FOR CodeNEXT and still support the notion that its enactment should be subjected to a public vote.
    2. The argument that Prop J would “interfere” with the city’s ability to revise its land development code was heard in Judge Naranjo’s court. She correctly understood that the plain language of the petition applies only to COMPREHENSIVE rewrites of the land development, as in, for example, CodeNEXT. The city can still enact incremental changes.
    3. People will be stepping into a voting booth in a few weeks. There is actual ballot language they will be seeing. How about reporting what the ballot language actually says? That would be true public education, instead of propaganda.

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    1. Since we’re making stuff clear:

      “1. Prop J is about democracy and accountability. ‘Trust Us’ is not how government should work. You could actually be FOR CodeNEXT and still support the notion that its enactment should be subjected to a public vote.”

      Prop J is about granting a small number of agitated voters — namely, the older, affluent Central and West Austin homeowners who comprise Community Not Commodity’s “base” — the ability to veto decisions made by Austin’s duly elected city council and mayor. As you know full well, voter turnout outside of presidential election years is slim, thus giving well-funded groups like yours a decided advantage — despite your sentiments being demonstrably opposed by Austinites on whole. One term for this type of action is “tyranny of the minority.”

      Also, “Trust Us” is EXACTLY how government should work! That’s the entire *point* of representative democracy! The reason we don’t have direct democracy — which is what you’re proposing with Prop J — is because it would grind the gears of government to a halt if we needed to have a public vote on matters best left to our elected representatives. That’s precisely why NO DEMOCRACY ON EARTH operates in such a fashion: ALL of them elect representatives in one form or another to handle extremely complicated policy matters … like, say, a jargon-laden rewrite of a city’s land-development code.

      If you don’t like how your elected officials are acting, the solution is to vote them out — NOT to give a tiny subset of the population de facto veto power over their decision-making.

      “The argument that Prop J would ‘interfere’ with the city’s ability to revise its land development code was heard in Judge Naranjo’s court. She correctly understood that the plain language of the petition applies only to COMPREHENSIVE rewrites of the land development, as in, for example, CodeNEXT. The city can still enact incremental changes.”

      Yes, but it would nonetheless interfere with the city’s ability to comprehensively revise its LDC — which, as we . both know, is the whole point of Prop J. The inconvenient truth CNC’s propaganda campaign omits is that maintaining the status quo indefinitely will only further fatten the pockets of the developers who are *currently* getting rich tearing down most of Central and East Austin and replacing it with luxury housing — as the Statesman reported on earlier today:

      https://www.statesman.com/news/20181012/in-austin-home-demolitions-soar-along-with-economic-fortunes

      “People will be stepping into a voting booth in a few weeks. There is actual ballot language they will be seeing. How about reporting what the ballot language actually says? That would be true public education, instead of propaganda.”

      One can find the actual ballot language by simply Googling “Austin Proposition J.” The propaganda, however, can be found on the myriad signs and billboards throughout the city falsely implying that the city’s next LDC revision process will somehow be as botched as CodeNext was — something both impossible to know and also unlikely to occur, given the painful lessons learned by all over the past year — and also inferring that voting for Prop J will “let the people vote”! (without mentioning not-so-minor details like a three-year waiting period and maintaining the aforementioned status quo in the interim)

      Just out of curiosity, do you even *know* how many homes in East Austin have been bulldozed and replaced with McMansions while you’ve been busy standing on your soapbox and bloviating BS about how *CodeNext*, not your own group, would somehow “destroy affordability”? (this despite the creation of “missing middle housing” LITERALLY BEING THE CORE POINT of the urbanist philosophy you’ve done your darnedest to demonize)

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  3. The apparently clueless choice of ‘DARK negotiations’, as a term to describe perhaps clandestine?… well can only say sometimes ones true colors come out. And biases. And what’s the deal with punk = derogatory? Ramones are a fave 🙂

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