The hottest item at today’s Austin City Council meeting got dispensed with quickly: the controversial proposal from council member Bill Spelman that would have allowed up to four lobbyists to serve on an 11-member board working to rewrite Austin’s land development code.
“I’m not a great politician but I know that to govern a great city you have to listen to everybody,” Spelman said this morning as he withdrew the item from the agenda. “And I think we are not going to be listening to everybody in as good of a way as we should in this transaction. Nevertheless I will succumb to the inevitable and withdraw this item.”
The proposal to allow lobbyists on the board overseeing a rewrite of city rules that defining everything from land use to zoning and building was vigorously debated this week. At council’s Tuesday work session, Spelman argued that as the most regular users of Austin’s development code, lobbyist input on the board could be valuable.
But some of Spelman’s colleagues called the proposal a conflict of interest: “If you’re designing a prison, you don’t allow the inmates to design it,” council member Mike Martinez argued in response.
This morning, Spelman lamented what he called “Washington rhetoric” over the proposal: “We’re not talking about people who’ve been convicted on violent crimes, we’re not talking about foxes who guard henhouses and presumably eat hens. There are no victims here. We all live in those houses that get built by those developers, assisted by those development lobbyists.”
You can listen to Spelman’s seven-minute defense and subsequent withdrawal of his item in the player above.