COMMENTARY, MOSTLY ABOUT PFLUGERVILLE

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November 11, 2009: News Article

"Pflugerville narrows city manager search to three. by Suzannah Gonzales, Austin American-Statesman, November 11, 2009.
November 5, 2009: TOMA

Some background information pertaining to TOMA issues is accessible here .
October 23, 2009: Transparency?

If Pflugerville's image is important, then perhaps the City Council should be more careful about what it seems to be advocating.

See "Back-room politics," which is one of the letters published by the Austin American-Statesman on October 23, 2009.

Here is one background source:

"Advocates fear ruling will void open meetings laws." by Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman, May, 17, 2009.

Also see the article that can be accessed by the link in the blog dated October 15, 2009.
October 17, 2009: Even More of a Mess

In today's online edition of the Austin American-Statesman, there is an article by Suzannah Gonzales entitled "City freezes spending as project outstrips budget: Council budgeted $2.6 million; latest estimate is $18 million"

The same article can be found in the print edition on page B1 under a different title.

Pflugerville is really having problems.

Be sure to read the comments that follow the online versions of the two articles by Suzannah Gonzales dated October 15 and October 17.
October 15, 2009: Pflugerville's Image

The city government may be about to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to improve Pflugerville's image. With the appearance of this article by Suzannah Gonzales in today's Austin American-Statesman, perhaps many, many more hundreds of thousands of dollars will be needed in order for the image improvement project to really make any headway.
October 4, 2009: City Branding

The government of the City of Pflugerville has recently become interested in city branding and public relations.

The people who make up Pflugerville, however, are not Cheerios. They are not Fords or Buicks. And they are not a herd of cattle.

Here is a suggestion for a phrase to be used in public relations endeavors:

"Pflugerville, the city that refuses to be branded!"
September 21, 2009: AGW

While Obama appears to be intent upon seeing to it that cap-and-trade legislation will be enacted, more and more scepticism is being expressed about the validity of the claims that AGW proponents are making.

Here is a current example of this scepticism:

"Why I am an Anthropogenic Global Warming Sceptic" by Michael Hammer, jennifermorohasy.com/blog, September 21, 2009.

Also see:

"New York Syndrome?" by Steve Milloy, Green Hell Blog, September 21, 2009.
September 20, 2009: Acorn

Much of the blame for the current financial situation has been directed toward the Community Reinvestment Act and Acorn.

Here is an article giving some of the details about how Acorn has made use of the Community Reinvestment Act.

"Acorn's a Creature of the CRA." by Steven Malanga, Real Clear Markets, September 16, 2009.
September 19, 2009: Apollo

The Apollo Alliance was in the news recently. Senator Harry Reid has been reported to have credited Apollo with helping to write the stimulus bill.

Reference: "NY's Tax-Funded Ex-Terrorist" by Phil Kerpen, New York Post, September 9, 2009.

Green Jobs

Some are hopeful that green industries and green jobs will be brought to Pflugerville. In the New York Post article, it was noted that there is evidence that more than two jobs are destroyed for each green job created.
Blog (archives):
September 18, 2009: Zelaya

Why is Obama still giving support to Zelaya?

Here is a link to a recent interview of a resident of Honduras:

http://www.foxnews.com/search-results/m/26462695/is-obama-taking-the-wrong-side.htm

Source:

From Fox News
Title: Is Obama Taking the Wrong Side?
Published: Thursday, September 17, 2009
Description: The removal of Honduran President Zelaya explained
September 21, 2009:

"Hillary's Honduras Obsession: The U.S. is trying to force the country to violate its own constitution." by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2009.

"Ousted leader returns to Honduras, defies arrest." by Freddy Cuevas, Yahoo! News, September 21, 2009.

October 10, 2009:

"What I Heard in Honduras" by Jim DeMint, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2009.
September 13, 2009: Rail Transit

Some say it is inevitable that rail transit service will eventually come to Pflugerville.

Rail transit is an important component of the smart growth agenda and gains much support from smart growth advocates.

A big question remains. If rail transit comes to Pflugerville, will it be cost effective? The experience that the Austin metropolitan area is having with Cap Metro is not encouraging.

Reference: "Demand more from Capital Metro." by Jim Skaggs, Austin American-Statesman, September 12, 2009, page A13.

Added September 20:

"Why commuters are still waiting on Cap Metro's train" by Ben Wear, Austin American-Statesman, September 20, 2009.
September 11, 2009: Planning

Inasmuch as this is the year that a comprehensive plan is being updated for Pflugerville, these MP3 spoofs of modern city planning methods coming from Ed Braddy by way of the Antiplanner Blog are timely.
1. The Charrettes
2. The Class Action Lawsuit
3. The Revolutionary New Compactorizer

August 21, 2009: Honduras

For whatever reason, Obama has apparently been determined to fully support Zelaya.

Commentary from Alejandro Peña, (Video posted on Honduras Abandoned by Hunter Smith on July 16, 2009.)
August 15, 2009: Whole Foods

On page D2 of the Business section of today's Austin American Statesman, there was an article about the criticism of Obama's health care proposals by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.

Here is a link to the online version:

" Whole Foods drawn into health care debate: CEO Mackey stirs up online fury, support with article criticizing federal proposals." by Brian Gaar, Austin American-Statesman, August 15, 2009.

Mackey's criticism was made in this article: "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare: Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit" by John Mackey, The Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009.

Added August 18, 2009: "Whole Foolishness: The left boycotts a progressive retailer." The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2009.

Political cartoon by Steve Breen

More: "Controversy continues over Mackey health care comments: Thousands say they'll boycott Austin-based Whole Foods." by Brian Gaar, Austin American-Statesman, August 19, 2009.

"Maybe America should take an organic approach to health care reform." by Kathleen Parker, Austin American-Statesman, August 20, 2009.

"Boycotting the Boycotters" by Andrew Breitbart, Real Clear Politics, August 24, 2009.
August 13, 2009: Obamaland

Obama has inspired some very interesting political writing. Here is a description of what it might be like to be living in Obamaland in the not too distant future.

"On Becoming Europe" by Victor Davis Hanson, Pajamas Media, August 12, 2009.
August 10, 2009: Pflugerville 2030, Continued

The Pflugerville 2030 process appears to be heading toward directing prospective Pflugerville residents into living in higher density housing developments, particularly dense urban centers.

This seems very strange inasmuch as many current residents who spoke out in some of the public hearings held last year indicated that they came to Pflugerville to avoid living in a high-density urban environment.

In a video posted today, Randal O'Toole defends the choice that many are still making to live in a low-density suburban environment.
August 7, 2009: Pflugerville 2030

The third of three public meetings for the Pflugerville 2030 comprehensive plan update process was held last night. All three meetings were held on weekdays (Thursdays) beginning at 6:00 PM, a time very inconvenient for people who work and expect to have time for supper. It is not surprising that attendance was low -- for the third meeting, only about 150 out of a Pflugerville population of nearly 50,000.

The meetings were highly structured with essentially no time for those attending to take part in free discussions about the issues that were raised.

When one attempts to define the character of Pflugerville, one might think of suburban-style neighborhoods such as Katymead, Saxony, and Willow Creek.

In contrast, the third public meeting moved toward recommending further development structured around dense centers. The choices for further development finally offered to the group were limited to four kinds of dense centers.

Arguments were made in favor of the transit-oriented development kind of center in terms largely of growth efficiency, that is, low infrastructure costs. The final public meeting seemed strongly guided toward smart growth, which has the reputation of being extremely hostile toward the suburban lifestyle
August 4, 2009: Double Talk

The Weekly Standard has made available a series of three videos about Obama's views about health care. It was claimed that the first of these had more than 400,000 log-ons. The videos and commentary were posted by Mary Katherine Ham.

More about deliberate deception, added August 10, 2009: "Government Health Care in Stealth Mode" by Michael Barone, Real Clear Politics, August 10, 2009.
July 18, 2009: Pacana

One of the hearings (Item 4B) at the July 14, 2009, City Council regular meeting was about the proposed Pacana development. In an answer to a question posed by one of the members of the City Council, reference was made to The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida. Reference to this book was also made in the first meeting of the Pacana workshop about one year ago. One of the arguments made was that the Pacana development would offer the kind of environment that would appeal to the "creative class."

The Rise of the Creative Class is available at the Pflugerville Community Library.

Also see "About The Rise of the Creative Class" and "Apartments" in this "Commentary, Mostly about Pflugerville" website.

City of Pflugerville videos of Item 4B, Part 1 and Item 4B, Part 2 are available here and here.

It would appear that the success of the Pacana development may depend to a very large degree upon the validity of Richard Florida's theories, but these theories are very controversial.

Please see "Uncool Cities" by Joel Kotkin for arguments opposing Florida's theories.

On July 14, 2009, the City Council did not dispute the validity of Richard Florida's ideas as a basis for guiding development in Pflugerville, but it did discuss allotting hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for hiring a public relations company to improve he image of Pflugerville. Here is the video.

Will Pflugerville spend this money to promote itself as a "cool city" that follows Richard Florida's recommendations?
July 17, 2009: Green Energy

Bruce Beattie
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Jul 10, 2009
"All Austinites May Soon Shoulder Extra Green Energy Costs: To meet ambitious energy goals, city must find a way to pay for them." by Marty Toomy, Austin American-Statesman, July 17, 2009.

This may solve the problem of Austin's rapid growth. With unreasonable electric rates, few will want to come to Austin to set up businesses, and employment opportunities are unlikely to increase.

June 30, 2009: Homeownership

"Did Homeowners Cause the Great Recession? Welcome to the new feudal age." by Joel Kotkin, Forbes, June 30, 2009, is actually an article written largely in defense of homeownership (of single-family homes) and of suburbia.

Some in Pflugerville and in the federal government think that people should preferably be living in smaller units in denser housing developments featuring small apartments and possibly rowhouses.

Kotkin includes these quotations from David Chu, the Energy Secretary, in his article: "You know, body heat keeps a lot of the apartment warm. You can't do this in a big apartment with a few people."
June 29, 2009: Crime

"Crime and the City Solution: Do you know who's killing Austin's golden goose?" by Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle, p 48, June 26, 2009, is an article about the crime problem in the Sixth Street area. A possible solution offered in the article is …………….

"Mixed use."

This sounds like a smart-growth solution, which may or may not work.

Sometimes we hear that Pflugerville really needs an entertainment district.

Actually, however, many have moved to Pflugerville to get away from high-crime areas.

Perhaps, it would be best if those in Pflugerville wanting to enjoy the vibrant Sixth Street environment would simply drive there occasionally and leave the high-crime problem in Austin rather than importing it into Pflugerville.
June 28, 2009: CNU Guidelines

There is an article in The Austin Chronicle about the Congress for the New Urbanism and its June 10-14, 2009, meeting in Denver. See "Compact, Climate-Friendly, Competitive: To restart the economy while saving the planet, the Congress for the New Urbanism advocates traditional neighborhoods for all" by Katherine Gregor, The Austin Chronicle, page 16, June 26, 2009.

Relevant to Pflugerville is that the CNU local chapter policy chairman has been serving on three Pflugerville government committees.

So is it possible that all future development in Pflugerville will be built in accordance with CNU guidelines?
June 26, 2009: SB 2169

According to a PCDC web page, "our city leaders are dedicated to facilitating smart growth."

Not all of our leaders at the state level show such dedication. See "Gov. Perry Vetoes SB 2169."

Also see "Sanity Prevails in Texas" by Randal O'Toole, The Antiplanner, June 26, 2009.
June 24, 2009: MMGW Validity?

The support for subsidized, walkable, high-density development (a.k.a. smart growth) depends to a large extent upon the validity of the man-made global warming explanation for climate change. If the MMGW scare were to become to be seen as a hoax, then the support for smart growth would be likely to decline.

Belief in MMGW already appears to becoming less prevalent in Australia. See "Could Australia Blow Apart the Great Global Warming Scare?" by Robert Tracinski and Tom Minchin, Real Clear Politics, June 24, 2009.

Reference added June 26, 2009:

"The Climate Change Climate Change" by Kimberly A. Strassel, The Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009.
June 22, 2009: Pflugerville

Two articles about Pflugerville have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman this month. These are

1, "The Truth about Pflugerville" by Jeff Coleman, Austin-American-Statesman, June 10, 2009.

2. "Not Your Father's Pflugerville: Farming community turned bedroom community works to become a city in its own right while keeping its small town feel" by Suzannah Gonzales, Austin American-Stateman, June 22, 2009.

Each of the online articles is followed by a number of comments from readers.
June 19, 2009: Planning, Land Use, and Smart Growth

The current Key to the City includes a list of five library books with content relevant to urban planning, land use, and smart growth issues. The appearance of such a list is timely inasmuch as a new comprehensive plan is now in the process of being crafted.

A more nearly complete list of the relevant books that can be found at the Pflugerville Community Library is available at this web page. Three of the books included in this longer list will receive a quick mention now.

This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America by Anthony Flint has information about major players on both sides of the smart growth debate.

In The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future, Randal O'Toole presents many arguments against smart growth in a very readable fashion.

Some think that it is important to provide housing in an environment that would appeal to the so-called "creative class". The first book written by Richard Florida about the creative class is The Rise of the Creative Class and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Again, this book as well as This Land and The Best-Laid Plans is available at the Pflugerville Library.
June 17, 2009: An Observation

The population of Pflugerville is approaching 50,000.

According to The Pflugerville Pflag, about 170 people attended a public meeting on June 11 to help plan the future of Pflugerville while about 150 (reported on page A1, or 250? see page A4) attended an event on June 13 that has the effect of glamorizing casino gambling.

Interesting!
June 16, 2009: A Questionable Survey Question

The questions asked and the responses given in the survey conducted by Pflugerville2030 on June 11, 2009, at Pfluger Hall are available online here.

One of the questions was about the possible establishment of rail transit service in the Pflugerville area. The question and the response distribution obtained were as follows:

Which of these two options do you prefer for transit service?

 1. MoKan Option, 28%
 2. SH 45 Option, 33%
 3. Neither, 20%
 4. Both, 20%

A map showing the locations of the two options was made available along with the question.

The problem with the question is that a respondent might have an opinion on which option is the preferable option even if he or she does not favor the establishment of rail service at all.

In a Wikipedia article, one of the precautions offered for questionnaire construction is

"If a survey question actually contains more than one issue, the researcher will not know which one the respondent is answering. Care should be taken to ask one question at a time."

The responses given to a question about commuting in the survey suggest that interest in establishing rail transit for Pflugerville may be rather limited and not at the 71% level that the responses to the rail transit question might indicate.

The rail transit issue is very controversial not only in Central Texas but also across the nation. Opponents of rail say that it is very expensive to establish and operate and that relatively few people use it in most places where it is available.
June 14, 2009: Congestion

In the Plan Documents posted by Design Workshop for Pflugerville 2030, there is a white paper on transportation.

In the Challenges list on page 7 (pdf page 8) of the white paper, one can find this provocative entry:

"1. Overcoming the concept that congestion is always bad rather than a potential sign of success"

What a ridiculous challenge!

The smart growth argument supporting this challenge may possibly have been that urban congestion will force people to use public transit rather than their automobiles for traveling.

This brings to mind "Chapter 30. Planning for Congestion" in the book The Best-Laid Plans (2007) by Randal O'Toole. Here one can find quotations from Portland's Metro such as "Transportation solutions aimed solely at relieving congestion are inappropriate" and that relieving congestion "would eliminate transit ridership."

O'Toole also cites statistics related to congestion from The 2005 Urban Mobility Report originating from the Texas Transportation Institute.These statistics certainly do not indicate that congestion is a good thing.

The more recent 2007 Report is available online with data that shows, for example, that the motor fuel wasted because of congestion is increasing year by year. Fuel wasted in 2003, 2004, and 2005 totaled 2.5, 2.7, and 2.9 billion gallons, respectively.

The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future by Randal O'Toole is available at the Pflugerville Community Library. (Cat. no. 338.97 OTOO 2007)
June 4, 2009: Subsidies

The June 8, 2009, Planning and Zoning Commission - Pacana Bus Tour is listed in the calendar on the current City of Pflugerville home page. The agenda for this tour (and work session) is available online here . Scheduled are visits to the Domain, the Triangle, and the Mueller Airport Redevelopment Project. During the tour, the public/private partnership will be described for each development.

Has the public/private partnership for the Mueller Airport Redevelopment Project worked out well? In an opinion article entitled "Was the Mueller Project a Mistake?" by Ed Wendler, Jr., Austin American-Statesman, March 11, 2009, it was concluded in the final paragraph that "Mueller is a very pretty financial disaster."

Although the financial support from the public sector for the Domain was continued after last November due to the outcome of the fall election, the existence of this support was very controversial.

Should the public/private partnerships developed for the Domain, the Triangle, and the Mueller Project serve as possible models for subsidizing future mixed-use developments in Pflugerville?

Note added June 10, 2009:

The link to "Was the Mueller Project a Mistake?" has become inactive within the last couple of days, but here is brief summary of a part of the article:

At one time the City of Austin owned all of the land for the Mueller Project. It was estimated that Austin could have made tens of millions of dollars from the sale of the property. Instead, it seems that all of the proceeds from the sale of the land will be needed to cover costs and Austin will gain nothing. Also Austin will not gain sales taxes or property taxes for years. These were given away also to pay development costs.
May 30, 2009: Georgetown

In an article entitled "Georgetown: Officials split over affordable housing" by M. B. Taboada, Austin American-Statesman, May 30, 2009, comparisons are made between Georgetown and Pflugerville in a table that accompanies the text. References are also made to Pflugerville in the text and in the comments that follow the online article.
May 28, 2009: Pflugerville

Two article about Pflugerville have appeared in the Austin American-Statesman this month.

1. "City has opening for manager" in page B2, Austin American Statesman, May 28, 2009. The online version is entitled "Wanted: New Pflugerville City Manager" by Suzannah Gonzales, Austin American Statesman, May 27, 2009.

2. Also see "Complaint Filed in Pflugerville Council Race" by Suzannah Gonzales, Austin American-Statesman, May 6, 2009.

Both of the online articles are followed by comments.
May 27, 2009: More about LaHood

Suggested reading: "LaHood: 'Yes, I am Secretary of Behavior Modification'." by Randal O'Toole, The Antiplanner, May 27, 2009.

Comment: in addition to George Will, there are surely many who object to the policy of coercing people out of ther cars.

Also see "May 23, 2009: Behavior Modification."
May 26, 2009: Man-Made Global Warming?

Climate Solutions: A Citizen's Guide by Peter Barnes is one of the books listed under the heading , "Now at the Pflugerville Community Library" in the current issue of Key to the City.

There is a website for this book at capanddividend.

Also the principal climate solution offered in the book has been summarized in an article entitled "In Bill's Big Idea: Save the Climate, Share the Wealth" by Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, April, 8, 2009. This sounds a bit reminiscent of the conversation that Barack Obama had with Joe the Plumber.

On Sunday, an editorial entitled "Uncertain Climate: Throwing cold water on The Post's warming story" appeared in The Washington Times in response to another recent article in The Washington Post.

A pdf 16-page copy of a different kind of global-warming guide by Joanne Nova is available as The Skeptic's Handbook.

There is an interesting article about Al Gore and Roger Revelle by John Coleman at this website.

Also see March 18, 2009: Two Trillion Dollars..
May 24, 2009: Density

An article entitled (in the print edition) "Close to Home: Plum Creek's amenities wrap residents in a sense of community -- with benefits." by Shermakaye Bass appeared on page G1 of today's Austin American-Statesman.

After examining one of the photographs that accompany the article, one should not be surprised to find the assertion in the article text that "Plum Creek is definitely not for those who want their own 'space'…." .

This might bring up a question in connection with the preparation of a new comprehensive plan: Will those wanting to buy homes in Pflugerville in the future be interested in living in higher-density developments that may foster a sense of community or will they prefer homes with decent-size back yards?
May 23, 2009: Behavior Modification

In an article entitled "Ray LaHood, Transformed: Secretary of Behavior Modification" by George Will (Newsweek, May 25, 2009), it is put forward that the kind of "New Urbanism" promoted by the Portland city government is "metastasizing."

Is such metastasizing already happening in Pflugerville? It may be noticed that in a PCDC web page, it is written that "our city leaders are dedicated to facilitating smart growth…." It may also be noted that some Smart Code concepts were used in formulating the zoning regulations for the SH 10 and SH 45 corridors, that possible rail transit plans were presented in the February 10, 2009, City Council meeting, and that there seems to be an interest in seeing more and more and more multifamily housing construction here.

That an attempt at behavior modification for attaining some smart growth goals is associated with LaHood and the U.S. Department of Transportation has previously essentially been claimed in the article entitled "President Obama's New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel" by Ronald D. Utt (Heritage Foundation, April 14, 2009). This article was mentioned in the April 24, 2009, blog entry in this Commentary, Mostly about Pflugerville website. According to an article entitled "LaHood, About Everything We Do Around Here Is Government Intrusion" (May 21, 2009), LaHood's reply to a question about the emphasis on livable communities was: "It is a way to coerce people out of their cars."

Links to some responses to the George Will article about Ray LaHood

"George F. Will Nails It" by Randal O'Toole, The Antiplanner, May 21, 2009.

"LaHood Admits Transportation Policy Is Intended to Push People Out of Cars" by Samuel Staley, Reason Foundation, May 22, 2009.
May 13, 2009: A Modest Proposal

Now that we are well into the age of the Internet, one can ask whether it is appropriate or desirable that thousands of dollars be spent on local political campaigns that, for the winners, lead to unpaid, voluntary positions on the Pflugerville City Council.

Much campaigning can be done on the Internet at relatively low cost. Yet, only one candidate in this year's election did set up a website. If the local media would simply publicize all of the candidate website urls and really encourage their use, then perhaps large expenditures of money for signs, direct mailings, and big newspaper ads would become less effective and possibly unnecessary. At the same time, very large campaign contributions, which many voters look upon with suspicion, would hopefully no longer be needed Candidates might even mention low campaign expenditures as a virtue to be considered in their favor.

The Pflugerville Pflag published information about the candidates for the May election, most recently in the April 23rd, April 30th, and May 7th issues, but there was mention of a candidate website only in the April 30th issue.

PfCONA provides a service by sponsoring candidate forums, but in the printed information that it provided for the recent candidates, there was no candidate website url information.

The City of Pflugerville website listed the names of the candidates and bios of the incumbents could be found before the recent election, but again there was no mention of candidate websites.

It should be mentioned that the Community Impact Newspaper in the May issue did list the url for the one candidate website that was available.
April 24, 2009: Smart Growth, Not Necessarily Just a Local Option

A joint proposal from HUD and DOT related to housing and transportation has recently appeared in a press release. The proposal was discussed and criticized by Ronald D. Utt in an article entitled "President Obama's New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel."

Can the proposal be interpreted to be a clever way to essentially force a large number of people into adopting a smart growth lifestyle that they would not willingly choose for themselves?
April 7, 2009: The Ram, Cram, and Jam Brigade

There have been gatherings of Pflugerville residents periodically over the past year in the City Hall to protest plans for building apartment complexes near the homes where they live.

This reaction against dense development is not just a local phenomenon. A few years ago, for example, there was a proposal to build 800 apartment units in Putney, an Australian town of 1500 homes. In response to this, a protest march was conducted by a sizable number of the residents of Putney and some other towns in the area.

A video of this protest entitled "The End of Affordability Part 5" can be found at this website.

The equivalent of smart growth with its advocacy of dense development and public transit is known as consolidation in Australia. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the video feature an interview of the president of Save Our Suburbs, an anti-consolidation group. His name for those pushing consolidation is The Ram, Cram, and Jam Brigade.
March 31, 2009: Six and a Half Acres

In an article entitled "Help the environment, stay in the city." by Edward L. Glaeser, The Examiner, February 11, 2009, it was advised that you move to a high-rise apartment building if you "really want to be good to the environment."

In a biographical sketch of the author that appeared in the magazine section of The New York Times in 2006, it was reported that Glaeser had then recently moved to a house on a lot of six and a half acres in an affluent suburb.
March 29, 2009: The 20% Rule

A video of the March 24, 2009, regular meeting of the Pflugerville City Council was not broadcasted on Channel 10 on Friday , March 27 at 11:00 AM nor on Sunday, March 29 at 11.00 AM nor on Sunday, March 29 at 7:00 PM. A schedule of broadcasts (that do not actually exist!) is posted in the Key to the City.

One item on the agenda for the meeting was

5G: Hold a Public Hearing and consider approving an ordinance on first reading with the caption reading: AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF PFLUGERVILLE, TEXAS AMENDING AN ALTERNATIVE LAND USE REGULATION DISTRICT (ALUR) ON APPROXIMATELY 148.550 ACRES OF LAND LOCATED NORTH OF PFLUGERVILLE PARKWAY AND EAST OF SH 130 WITHIN PFLUGERVILLE, TX, TO BE KNOWN AS THE FALCON POINTE ALUR 2 SOUTH REZONING (REZ-08-0088), AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

The hearing for and the action taken on Item 5G can be viewed and heard here and continued here from the City of Pflugerville website.

A motion to approve Item 5G with amendments was passed with a vote of 3 to 2 vote of the City Council.

When controversial land-use changes are proposed for a parcel of land, it is important that nearby landowners be familiar with what is commonly known as the 20% Rule. According to this rule, zoning changes under certain circumstances cannot be enacted with just a simple majority vote. For details see "Subsection (d) of Section 211.006: Procedures Governing Adoption of Zoning Regulations and District Boundaries" under "Title 7. Regulation of Land Use, Structures, Businesses, and Related Activities" in the Texas Local Government Code.
March 19, 2009, the May 9, 2009, General Election

A list of candidates for the open City Council positions has been posted on the City of Pflugerville website.

Position 3:

Darelle White, Bio

Position 5:

Victor Gonzales, Bio

Erica Anne Grignon, http://www.erica4pflugerville.com/index.html
The PfCONA meeting at the Pflugerville Justice Center on Monday, April 13, 2009, at 7:00 PM will be a Candidate Forum. The address is 1611 East Pfennig Lane.
A video presentation is available at http://pfcona.blip.tv/#2058565.

PfCONA Candidate Forum: Agenda and Candidate Bios (From PfCONA)
Also see "Race for Pflugerville City Council Place Five" by Rob Hendrick, Community Impact, April 2009.
March 18, 2009, Two Trillion Dollars

Should Obama's climate plan be implemented?

See "Obama Climate Plan Could Cost $2 Trillion." by Tom LoBianco, The Washington Times, March 18, 2009.

Also see "Global Warming, Was It Ever Really a Crisis?" The 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, March 8-10, 2009, Sponsored by the Heartland Institute.
A News Release:

"Climate Alarm: What We Are Up Against, and What to Do" by Richard Lindzen.

(Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT.)
Added to this list, March 24, 2009: "A Cap and Trade Calamity?" by William Galston, The New Republic, March 23, 2009.

Added note, April 2, 2009: More about cap and trade.
March 12, 2009, Meeting Broadcast Cut Once Again

On Wednesday, March 11, 2009, the broadcast of the Tuesday Pflugerville City Council meeting was cut at 8:00 PM, just as it was on February 25.

What is different is that the announcement at the right, is not currently appearing on Channel 10.

One important part of what was cut out of the March 10, 2009, meeting was

Item 13A. Discuss and consider a resolution to select the consultant team to update the Comprehensive Plan.

Item 13A can be heard here. Design Workshop was selected.

Note added, March 13, 2009: The March 10, 2009, City Council meeting was broadcasted in its entirety on Channel 10 beginning at 11:00 AM today.

March 11, 2009, Chip Game

Here is an example of the use of the chip game, a component of the urban planning repertoire.
March 10, 2009, Wells Branch Parkway

Driving out of Pflugerville by way of Wells Branch Parkway between IH 35 and Mopac can be a very pleasant ride at times when the traffic is light. At one time, advantage was taken of the uneven, slightly hilly ground along the sides of the road to do an attractive job of landscaping. In the springtime, flowering trees in the median put on quite a show, but maybe not this year (not enough rain). With regard to land use, one might notice that the separation of uses once apparently planned for the development of the land seems to have worked out very well.

The apartments that have been built along the way are set well back from the sidewalk so that there is ample room for trees and shrubs. Single-family homes are situated north of Wells Branch Parkway and are well separated from the apartments, which are found mostly on the south side of the parkway.




Here is another view along the south side of Wells Branch Parkway.

March 4, 2009, Books

Here is a list of some very recent additions to the book collection at the Pflugerville Community Library:

Bruegmann, Robert. Sprawl: A Compact History. Cat. no. 307.76 BRUE 2005.

Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: Planning for the End of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. Cat. no. 307.76 DUAN 2000.

Flint, Anthony. This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America. Cat no. 307.76 FLIN 2006.

Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class. Cat. no. 305.5 FLOR 2002.

O'Toole, Randal. The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future. Cat. no. 338.97 OTOO 2007.

Also see
Relevant Books at Local Libraries
More about Some of the Relevant Books
About The Rise of the Creative Class
Concerning the American Dream Coalition
Concerning the Congress for the New Urbanism
An article by Robert Bruegmann

February 28, 2009, Mallard Fillmore

On the lighter side, one might recall that it has been many months since Mallard Fillmore was dropped from the offerings in the Austin American-Statesman. It is still possible, however, to view this political comic strip online here, for example, in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
February 27, 2009, Comprehensive Plan

As work is beginning toward the preparation of a new comprehensive plan for Pflugerville, this link to a June 8, 2008, discussion of zoning, comprehensive plans, and the 1997 Texas Comprehensive Planning Statute may be of interest.
February 25, 2009, Meeting Broadcast Cut Again

On Wednesday, February 25, 2009, the broadcast of the Tuesday Pflugerville City Council meeting was cut at 8:00 PM, just one hour after it started.

The announcement at the right, however, was still appearing on Channel 10 later in the evening.

Ridiculous!

Note added, Friday evening: Once more, on Friday, February 27, 2009, the 7:00 PM broadcast of the meeting was cut at 8:00 PM. The 11:00 AM broadcast was cut just before 1:00 PM, but it too was cut before the end of the meeting.

February 22, 2009, Design Standards for Multifamily Housing

Whether or not to locate a dense apartment complex next to a single-family residential community was an issue that came up several times in Pflugerville in 2008.

One of the residential subdivisions affected by the decisions finally made was Highland Park North. Comments by a resident of this subdivision in response to an article entitled "Land Development: Topic for Ongoing Debate" by Amy Stansbury in the Community Impact newspaper appeared in the online edition (immediately after the end of the Stansbury article).

The controversies about apartments may have led in part to the appointment of an advisory committee for the purpose of working toward formulating design standards for multifamily housing. The first meeting of this committee took place on October 13, 2008. The fourth meeting is scheduled for February 25, 2009, according to the Multi-Family Design Standards page in the City of Pflugerville website.

Note added, February 27, 2009: The fourth meeting was apparently rescheduled for 6:30 PM on March 3, but no notice of the rescheduling was posted on the Multi-Family Design Standards web page.

For further discussion, see

About the Multi-Family Residential Design Guidelines Advisory Committee

January 29, 2009, Multifamily Housing

Apartments
February 18, 2009, Pflugerville Already Has a Great Image!!

In an opinion article entitled "Dreams of Greater Density" (Austin American-Statesman, February 18, page A9), David Brooks has discussed some results of a Pew Research Center study about the degrees of satisfaction reported by city, suburban, and rural residents with where they live and with their lifestyles. Rural residents were the most satisfied at 71%, suburban residents were next at 68%, and city residents were the least satisfied at 52%.

It was implied in the article that planners who typically have dreams of greater density would be disappointed by the results of the study.

From the study, it was also found that those with families and the elderly do not generally prefer high-density city living over living in a less urbanized environment.

All of this suggests that the present image of Pflugerville as a family-friendly suburb would be agreeable to the majority of those who live here. It also suggests that those who are setting out to bring in more dense urbanization through adding more and more and more apartment buildings together with many, many townhouses, duplexes, fourplexes, etc., and who might be working toward the creation of a new image featuring very high density will actually make Pflugerville a less desirable place to live if they are successful.

(The Brooks article is available online under a different title from The New York Times website.)

About the image issue: Background link.

Illustration (upper right): Courtesy of Real Estate Clipart. Illustration (upper left): Selected from 320,000 Images published by Greenstreet Software.


February 14, 2009, Open Government

One might question whether the inclusion of "1. Discuss and Consider A. Formation of a Mayor's Committee" (as it is thus written) as a Second Supplemental item in the February 10, 2009, City Council meeting agenda is consistent with the principles of open government.

The requirement for the posting of an agenda in advance of a meeting is intended to provide information about what will be discussed and considered.

"Formation of a Mayor's Committee" does not really provide any kind of useful hint about what kind of committee would be discussed and certainly not any clue about what its purpose would be.

A video segment with the discussion that did occur on February 10 is directly available here from the City of Pflugerville web site. There was a broadcast of the video of the entire regular meeting on Friday at 11:00 AM on Channel 10, but there was no broadcast on Friday at 7:00 PM.
February 13, 2009, Creative Class

There is an article by Richard Florida in the March 2009 issue of The Atlantic as well as an interview. Links to some articles critical of Florida's ideas are posted here. An article entitled "Suburbia Forever -- Get Used to It" by Joe Kotkin is cited elsewhere in these web pages. Apparently Richard Florida has not become entirely used to it. This is evident upon reading the The Atlantic article, particularly the final paragraphs, in which the need for "packing in more people" seems to be given the greatest emphasis while it is acknowledged that "suburbs are not about to disappear."
February 6, 2009, Jatrophas

Until recently, jatrophas may have been best known in the particular form of a fictitious species used in the plot of a Sax Rohmer novel and as interesting garden plants such as those shown here in one of the pfcommentary.com Florida garden pages.

From an article entitled "The Next Big Biofuel" by Tim Padgett in the February 9, 2009, issue of Time, it is interesting to learn that a mixture of jet fuel and oil from jatropha seeds has been successfully flight tested in a Boeing 747.
February 5, 2009, Gambling

For some time, whenever there is a session of the Texas Legislature, the subject of gambling seems to pop up and the controversy continues.

A 20-page report contending that there are economic advantages for legalizing Video Lottery Terminals at Texas racetracks and Native American casinos has just appeared. It is entitled "The Economic and Tax Revenue Impact of Racino Gaming in Texas" and it was prepared for Texas for Economic Development.

An opinion article, "The Gambling Conundrum" by John Young dated January 29, 2009, in the Waco Tribune-Herald listed the downsides of legalizing casinos and some reasons for opposing the Texas Lottery. Not all forms of gambling were opposed in the article, however.

Here are links to some additional newspaper articles:

"Gambling expansion difficult to handicap this session," by Laylan Capelin, Austin American Statesman, January 26, 2009.

"State losing benefits of gaming, study says," by Brandi Grissom, El Paso Times, February 4, 2009.

Added February 24, 2009:

"Speaker Is a Natural Long Shot." by W. Gardner Shelby, Austin American-Statesman, February 22, 2009.

"Resort casino's proposal out of chute; its chances uncertain" by W. Gardner Selby, Austin American-Statesman, February 24, 2009.

Also: "A craps shoot to get gambling in Texas" by Jenny Hoff, Austin News KXAN TV, February 24, 2009.

Information about Texans Against Gambling:

Texans Against Gambling (TAG) is offering a opportunity to sign a petition opposing the expansion of gambling in Texas. The TAG home page is accessible here.
February 1, 2009, Comprehensive Plan

Item 8A on the agenda for the City Council meeting on January 27, 2009, was: Resolution: Approving the selection of the final consultant team to update the Comprehensive Plan. A video of this segment of the meeting is directly available here from the City of Pflugerville website.

A reference was made early in the introductory presentation to an article in a recent issue of Newsweek. The article was "The Suburban Challenge" by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, Newsweek, p 57, January 26, 2009. One portion of the text in the article was quoted: "The mental line between city and suburb no longer makes much sense."

The authors are not staff writers or reporters for Newsweek. Both are associated with the Brookings Institution.

In 1999, the same authors wrote another article about city and suburb: "Divided We Sprawl. A call for the reinvention of the American city and suburb that would exploit the infrastructure of the one and mitigate the 'frantic privacy' of the other" This appeared in the Atlantic Monthly.

The Newsweek article builds upon the earlier article. The list of downsides of suburbia is expanded. Regional approaches to perceived problems are advocated as well as common smart-growth solutions such as walkable communities and public transit.

Incidentally, perhaps it is time that the term "walkable" as it is used so frequently in smart-growth prescriptions for development be generally understood as suggestive of or synonymous with "high-density, mixed-use".

Arguments critical of suburban living are reminders of smart-growth criticisms of suburbia. The final paragraph of the earlier article, for example, suggests that "public life" (a sense of community?) is lost when one lives in a neighborhood of houses with big back yards. "Big" is not quantitatively defined, but in any case the occurrence of a loss of a sense of community in suburbia has been disputed by others.

Bruce Katz has written a number of articles that seem to support smart growth. Here are some examples.

"Smart Growth Saves Money." By Bruce Katz, The Detroit News, April 13, 2003.

"Smart Growth: The Future of the American Metropolis?" by Bruce Katz, CASE paper 58, July 2002.

"Affordable Housing, Reauthorization to Shape Future of Smart Growth" (excerpt of speech), by Bruce Katz, CTS Report, June 2002.

In the hearings about adjacency issues during this past year, many indicated that they did not want to live in a dense environment. It would be refreshing if references supporting suburban living rather than smart growth were cited occasionally in city government proceedings. One might mention Sprawl: A Compact History by Robert Bruegmann. In contrast to Katz and Bradley, this author emphasizes privacy as an advantage provided by suburban living. This book is not available in the Pflugerville Community Library, but it is available in the Round Rock Public Library.

Note added, March 11, 2009: The book by Robert Bruegmann is available at the Pflugerville Community Library now.

Back to the quotation about the mental line between city and suburb not making much sense: some suburbs can offer a way of life different from that in an adjacent large city. During the past couple of years, there have been areas in Northeast Austin that have been centers of crime. Hopefully these problems will be solved over a period of time. Meanwhile, one can hope that Pflugerville will keep its suburban character, be wary of smart growth, and remain distinct from Austin.
January 29, 2009, Multifamily Housing

A very contentious issue brought before the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council during the summer months of 2008 was the adjacency of proposed multifamily housing developments to existing subdivisions of single-family homes.

On September 9, 2008, the City Council began preparations for authorizing and appointing an advisory committee to draw up with recommendations for design standards for multifamily housing. This action was described in the minutes for September 9. This was item 12B.

Unfortunately, this particular portion of the Council meeting was never broadcasted on Channel 10. The 12B segment was available online until very recently, but It is not available online now.

The first two meetings of the advisory committee provided an opportunity for the public to participate. Those who attended the first meeting could participate in a SWOT analysis. In the second meeting, those attending could take part in a visual preference survey. Those not attending could download the survey and submit a score sheet.

It should be mentioned that there is controversy surrounding the use of visual preference surveys. This is discussed in "The Charrette (A Cynical Opinion).". Also, ambiguities can arise when an interpretation of the results is attempted. Examples of this came out at the third meeting on January 28, 2009.

A strategy for working toward multifamily design standards was set out in the September 9, 2009, Council meeting. It was expected in this strategy that structured meetings would be held to conduct the SWOT analysis, the visual preference survey, and a presentation of the results.

Also, in the Council discussion on September 9, the possibility of appointing three or four people from the population at large to the advisory committee was mentioned. Actually, only two were appointed. This means that if one of the two were to be absent from a committee meeting, then half of the representation from the population at large would be lost.

In the Council meeting on September 9, references were made to the advisory committee set up a number of years ago to consider standards for single-family housing. One Council member remembered a meeting at which the committee sat at a table and "a ton of people that sat all the way around the outside of the room in chairs that listened and kind of followed along." This was not what happened at the January 28, 2009, meeting of multifamily advisory committee to say the least. The low attendance is not surprising inasmuch as the committee meeting was omitted from the schedule of meetings on the home page of the City of Pflugerville website.

The downside of holding structured meetings is that freewheeling discussions of the issues that the public is concerned about may not occur. At the Council meeting on September 9, for example, one of the Council members observed essentially that the time that the American Dream of owning a single-family home can be widely fulfilled may not be continuing. This would imply that future housing development in Pflugerville should take the form of multifamily housing to a greater extent. Much greater emphasis on multifamily housing would of course be supported by smart-growth proponents as well as those who are critical of suburban living.

The attack upon the suburban lifestyle has been going on for years and is continuing now in the guise of arguments in favor of smart growth. A recent example of this attack is the article by Penalver cited in the Home Page along with links to rebuttal articles. Another page lists numerous articles that are for the most part critical of smart growth.
January 27, 2009

A reference to an article by Joel Kotkin should be added as a postscript to the last entry here, which dealt with the unbalanced reporting of climate-change research by the mainstream media.

This reference is

"Obama, Fight the Green Agenda" by Joel Kotkin, Forbes, January 27, 2009.
January 25, 2009

An article concerning global warming just appeared in the Telegraph:

"Despite the hot air, the Antarctic is not warming up: A deeply flawed new report will be cited ad nauseam by everyone from the BBC to Al Gore says Christopher Booker." by Christopher Booker, Telegraph, January 25, 2009.

It is a new report published in Nature that "will be cited ad nauseam." Actually the Nature report has already been cited in an Associated Press article that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on January 22, 2009:

"Study: Antarctic warming. Past research had found little sign of global warming on southernmost continent." Austin America-Statesman, January 22, 2009.

The Telegraph article does more to bring out the disagreements.

But, of course, Al Gore has said "the debate in the scientific community is over."

Here is one article where this quotation appeared:

"Don't Believe the Hype: Al Gore Is Wrong. There's no 'consensus' on global warming." by Richard S. Lindzen, The Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2006.
January 24, 2009

There are two articles in today's Austin American-Statesman on page A3 about the stimulus efforts. The first is "Obama plans fast infusion of money to jolt economy" by Jackie Colmes and David M. Herzenhorn. The second is "Transparency advocates tout Obama's tack" by Julia Malone. The articles are available online under different titles here and here.

The second article takes note of the role of activists in providing oversight for what is happening. In particular, the work of a group that has posted "readthestimulus.org" is mentioned.

There appears to be an error in the Statesman article in its reference to a chart (spreadsheet) posted by the group. This spreadsheet has the heading "TOTAL FUNDING FOUND IN THE HOUSE DEMOCRATS' BILL dated 1/15/09: $362,658,000,000." The figure cited in the article, however, is "about $363 million." It may be that it is difficult to become accustomed to the size of the stimulus figures.
January 18, 2009

An article entitled "Affordable Single-Family Housing Is Important for Austin" by Wes Peoples appeared on page F1 in the "NewHomes" section of the Austin-American statesman, January 17 and 18, 2009.

He wrote how homeownership benefits families by leading to greater involvement in children's schooling and in government. But one can see a downside in that he noted that the expenditure of city bond money made available through a resolution passed in November 1008 is what he expects will play a role in making more affordable single-family housing available.

Ed Wendler, Jr., however, in an opinion article entitled "Rethink the Meaning of Affordability,"Austin American Statesman, July 1, 2008, page A7, wrote that costly construction regulations , such as mandating wheelchair accessibility, which was once proposed, can make housing less affordable. Even so, he noted that single-family home construction is much less costly per unit than is construction of the subsidized condos being built downtown.

It was maintained that a greater number of affordable homes could be available if single-family developments rather than high-density nodes were constructed along SH 130. A photograph of some single-family homes near SH 130 accompanies the Statesman article.

Smart growth enters the picture here. If smart-growth principles are followed, high-density nodes will be favored over single-family housing developments.

The term "smart-growth" is not used in the Wendler article, but it is acknowledged in the first couple of sentences that the development of subdivisions of single-family homes is a "no-no" in Austin.

Also see:

"Was the Mueller project a mistake?" by Ed Wendler, Jr., Austin American-Statesman, March 11, 2009.

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