Last summer, the usual suspects (the people who always sue the city) got the state’s indicted attorney general to take action against the city Planning Commission. From last July:
This week offered the amusing spectacle of longtime local liberal activists praising Ken Paxton for joining them in their crusade against the city Planning Commission while he’s out on bail for securities fraud.
At the time, the attorney general accused eight members of the 13-member board of having ties to the real estate industry. The charter says only 1/3 of the membership are allowed to be industry insiders.
There were a few members who, at the very least, are not what most people would think of as real estate industry insider:
Greg Anderson, director of community relations for Habitat for Humanity.
Tom Nuckols, an attorney who oversees land use for the Travis County Attorney’s Office.
Patricia Seeger, a retired real estate agent.
Nuckols recently left, as did former Chair Steve Oliver, an architect. So that leaves six members who allegedly do not qualify as “laypersons.” To be in compliance with the charter, no more than four members can be real estate professionals.
I’m not entirely clear on what the status of that legal action is. I reached out to Bill Aleshire or Fred Lewis, the two attorneys who originally brought the suit, and they said they’re not clear either. My guess is that it’s not a top priority for the AG’s office, perhaps because RECA called up and said that this particular instance of Austin-bashing actually extremely counter-productive to the cause of private property and enterprise.
So…what’s Council going to do? Here are the commissioners targeted by the AG’s suit, the Council member who appointed them and their general ideology.
Greg Anderson (Flannigan, uber-urbanist)
James Schissler (Troxclair, pro-development)
Patricia Seeger (Alter, preservationist)
Karen McGraw (Tovo, ultra-conservative preservationist)
James Shieh (Adler, moderate)
Fayez Kazi (Garza, urbanist)
As you can see, those with real estate ties are hardly in one ideological camp. If the goal is to get the number down to four, the easiest path politically may be to a) get the AG to accept that Seeger is retired from real estate and is clearly not connected to the industry and b) for Paige Ellis, who has now replaced Troxclair on the dais, to appoint a replacement for Schissler. That would be the least awkward option –– new Council member, new commissioner. No hard feelings.
If two commissioners truly have to go and nobody volunteers to leave, things are going to be very awkward. Nobody wants to sacrifice their appointee –– even if they’re not particular attached to them –– while other Council members keep theirs. Flannigan isn’t going to sacrifice Anderson if Tovo gets to keep McGraw etc.
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