Wall Street Journal opinion piece attacks 'wealthy progressive elite' Austin politics

"Austin votes to keep the books closed" a new opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal.  

The author is Austin writer John Daniel Davidson.

"I thought it was notable that in the same election that voters approved almost a billion dollars in debt spending, they rejected a simple ballot initiative to conduct a third party audit of city finances so we really have a clear idea what the city is spending money on," Davidson said.

He's talking about "Prop K."  If voters had said "yes," an outside auditor would have conducted an efficiency study of the city.  Detractors said the citizen-initiated effort had questionable funding sources or "dark money."

"The dark money thing was smart because it was a shiny object, it was a scare tactic and it worked.  It convinced voters to reject Prop K," he said.

Referring to the $925 million in bonds that passed for things like affordable housing, fixing pools and flood mitigation, Davidson's Wall Street Journal write-up stated "Austin has been reduced to using debt to fund parks, public safety and sidewalk repair -- instead of paying for them out of its $4.1 billion annual budget."

"I've gotten emails from constituents in kind of a classic, 'The liberals are the worst' and then you get to the second paragraph and say 'but I did vote for all the bonds,'" said District 6 City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan.

Flannigan, who supported at least the majority of the bond package is not a fan of the Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

"We spend the vast majority of this city's budget, like all cities do, on public safety.  Nearly half the budget is the police department.  You get fire and EMS now you're almost up to 70%.  That's where the money goes, as well it should," Flannigan said.

Davidson's article also criticized Austin for spending too much of its budget on "dubious social programs and utopian schemes" like the City's "Artist in Residence" program that imbeds an artist in different city departments to get their unique perspective and look at problem's through a different lens.

"And then you do that and then people will turn around and say 'well why are you doing that, why are you trying to do anything new you should stick to the basics!'  And you go 'Well alright we'll stick to the basics' and then you put all the money into the basics and they go 'Why aren't you doing anything new you shouldn't always do things the same way,'" Flannigan said.

"What are the priorities at city hall?  Are they the working people of Austin?  The underprivileged, the underserved?  Or are they wealthy progressive elites that want all of those sort of utopian programs?" Davidson said.  

"The fact of the matter is these opinion piece writers, they are invested in trying to undermine the City of Austin and its government because we are a symbol of success for the nation," Flannigan said.

The article also attacks paid sick leave, the city's ridesharing fight that resulted in Uber and Lyft leaving town for a while...and some embarrassing moments for Austin, like when city staff hung condoms from a tree to promote a safe sex campaign.