Local Advocacy: A Year in Review

Posted on 12/12/2018 by Austin Chamber of Commerce

In 2018 the Austin Chamber of Commerce local advocacy committee achieved many successes in its efforts to keep Austin a friendly place to start or run a business.

  • The Chamber understands that in this competitive market, employers are in a position to provide competitive employment packages to attract and retain talent. When Council undertook a rushed approach to passing a Mandatory Paid Sick Leave (PSL) resolution we had many concerns, most notably a lack of allowance for local economic impact data. We asked Council to slow the process down and allow time to perform this crucial economic analysis prior to implementation. Unfortunately, Council moved forward without making any amendments. During the appeal process in the state’s judicial system an injunction was made pausing the implementation process. In November the 3rd Court of Appeals upheld that injunction and determined that a mandated PSL is akin to a wage and thus violates the state provision that municipalities cannot determine a wage the Chamber submitted an Amicus brief to the 3rd Court of Appeals in support of that position.
  • In order for Austin to remain competitive in the talent and job generation markets, we need to ensure cost of living remains appealing to those who want create jobs or move to Austin. The Chamber advocated at council for an annual budget with a tax rate that would be effectively the same as 2017 tax rates using the new growth dividend to cover increases in the budget. In the end, council passed a lower-than-typical tax rate increase albeit not the effective rate but lower than the maximum allowable (4.9% increase vs typical 8%).
  • We vocally and financially supported and advocated local bonds that were on the ballot in November. We supported Propositions A and G which both passed along with all other bonds. We did not oppose the other bonds but rather informed the community of the tax impact should the entire package pass. We also supported the "No on Prop J" campaign, which would have slowed our land use policies and ultimately would have made Austin more unaffordable for so many. Prop J failed as a result.
  • The Chamber was an early supporter of Major League Soccer in Austin and we are off to the races now with a new stadium and team in approximately 2021. Gooooal!
  • We participated in the Evolve coalition for land use reform with advocacy and financial support. Although CodeNEXT did not pass at the Council level for a variety of reasons, the ball still moved forward with a defeat of Proposition J and a new city manager at the helm. We will continue our collaboration with our Evolve partners, council members and City of Austin staff in 2019 for a better, more predictable land use code that supports urban density and transportation.
  • The Chamber partnered with City staff on a rewrite of the current economic incentive polices. The policy was expanded to add a job-based component that will be a help to local and small businesses while continuing to have tools to attract new employers and expansion of existing job creators in the area. The item passed with a unanimous vote.
  • The Chamber has developed a solid working relationship with the new city manager. He has indicated to the Board his desire to better manage the City regarding fiscal oversight, program review and a full efficiency audit.
  • We partnered with all the minority Chambers and One Voice Central Texas (a coalition of 100+ civic organizations) to host three candidate forums and a voter’s resource guide—KeepAustinVoting.com—that housed all candidate questionnaires and local election information. In addition, the Chamber partnered with the Real Estate Council of Austin to host an additional mayoral forum.

Under the leadership of our Local Advocacy Chair Mason Ayer, we have a much more action and advocacy focused council in 2019 with meetings held at City Hall, off site at Chamber businesses, and at governmental agencies and other community venues. In 2019 we will take on many issues important to affordability including land use revision, regional mobility issues, the city budget, workforce development, utility rates, convention center expansion, and more.

Contact Tina Cannon for information on getting involved.

Related Categories: Public Policy