'Zimmerman hat' appears after council approves 21 new 'mobility bond' staffers

City Council passed a group of items related to the mobility bond during Thursday's council meeting: interlocal agreements with TXDot for Loop 360, 620, 2222 and Parmer Lane.  Spending on sidewalks, urban trails and safe routes to school...

"We already know at this point that with $70 million of the $700 million of the bond election it looks like we're pulling down in excess of $230 million of state money so we're leveraging that money," said Mayor Adler.

Remember City Council Member Don Zimmerman?  Who could forget, right?

Well he lost the District 6 race to Jimmy Flannigan in November.  At one point during Thursday's meeting, the Mayor briefly forgot that happened.  When Jimmy wanted to speak, he called on Don.

"Mr. Zimmerman?  Um...Mr. Flannigan?" the Mayor said to laughter on the dais and in the crowd.

Flannigan (obviously having awaited a moment like this for months) pulled out a hat underneath his desk resembling the one often worn by Don Zimmerman.

"I was prepared," Flannigan joked.  "I'm going to take that off.  I was prepared for months."

Speaking of Don Zimmerman, he's still wearing his signature hat.  And he's the Director of the Travis County Taxpayers Union. 

One of the mobility bond items passed by council on Thursday -- authorizing 21 employees in 5 departments

"It hurts, it hurts!  We don't need them!  They're going to cause us more harm than good, we should not be hiring bureaucrats.  We should be using the money to fix congestion," Zimmerman told Fox 7 Thursday.

Mayor Adler says that's engineers, technical leads, project managers, public information and more.

"In order to be able to do this so quickly as we recall staff wasn't really geared up to move that many projects that fast.  It's going to require bringing in 21 people focused on that work.  And the good news we got today is that we were able to do 14 of those with already existing funding so that the bond is only going to have to pay for 7," Adler said.

Zimmerman and others in the Taxpayers Union say hiring staff wasn't made clear to the public before the vote.

"It was not in the sales pitch.  It was said behind closed doors, they talked about adding bureaucrats and I protested that strongly.  I said 'you know that's exactly what you city bureaucrats do, you're not interested in solving congestion you're interested in building a bureaucratic empire,'" Zimmerman said.

Mayor Adler says they knew they would have to retool and bring in extra staff to get the job done.

"That's either bringing in more third party consultants and project managers to do the work or it's going to require us to staff up.  We knew that when we did the bond election.  We talked about it both prior to the bond election and during the bond election so that comes as no surprise," Adler said.

"They should contract, they should take the $720 million and contract the money out and not add any city government bureaucrats," Zimmerman said.

The Mayor says the City's website will start having updates on how the bond money is being spent and there will be public hearings on the project so the community can see that list of projects, comment on it and even change it up if they want to.
Adler says as promised, it will quick, about 8 years...and transparent.

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