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Austin Real Estate Hogs Lose Big. Thanks to Aleshire, Bunch & Lewis

Photos of Aleshire, Bunch and Leiwis
L to R: Bill Aleshire, Bill Bunch & Fred Lewis, Attorneys for the public trust, not trough!

Every once in a while, the people score. This time, we thank the dynamic attorney trio -- Aleshire, Bunch and Lewis -- as citizens get some pleasure in seeing the real estate hogs lose. The trio represented Taxpayers Against Giveaways, former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, former Austin City Council member Ora Houston and Faye Holland.

The trio scored big in district court last week in a lawsuit they brought a year ago to enjoin the City’s plan to spend property tax dollars to subsidize an $8 billion private luxury real estate project. As they often say about tax-based strategies, it’s complicated!

State District Court Judge Jessica Mangrum cut through those “complications” to deny the pigs at the trough the $354 million of hard-earned public monies (i.e. taxpayer dollars!). She ruled with a clear understanding of the underlying law and rendered a comprehensive final order in the plaintiffs’ favor against the development. The Judge stopped the City of Austin from giving the property tax kickbacks to the largest commercial developers in Central Texas -- Endeavor Real Estate Group. Endeavor's lobbyist attorney, Richard Suttle, claimed the property is "blighted," and thus qualifies for receiving tax rebates from the City of Austin as a TIRZ -- Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.


The property is the old Austin American-Statesman property along Auditorium Shores and the "bat bridge" and is inarguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Austin, Texas! Judge Mangrum recognized the need under the TIRZ law for developers to establish that “but for” the public subsidies, the property would not be redeveloped and rejected the developer’s claim that developing it “faster and better” with public money satisfies that legal test.  

The fun may have just begun because, if the City of Austin appeals Judge Mangrum’s decision that granted “summary judgment” (granting the plaintiffs' request to stop the giveaway as a matter of law, there being no questions of fact to be resolved in a trial), the City risks a decision that could set a legal precedent throughout the state.

Thanks to The Austin Bulldog, we get the full story linked to their previous excellent coverage. Nice bulldoggy! Click on their logo below to be taken to the full article.

Additionally for us Open Government Advocates!

Bill Bunch Sues Watson Council for Open Meetings Violation

picture of Kirk Watson with hands out
Hands out to give handouts, Kirk Watson

One of the key leaders in the Central Texas Growth Machine, besides Richard Suttle and Endeavor Real Estate Group, is their friend, Austin Mayor Kirk Watson. In a separate action, Bill Bunch, Executive Director of Save Our Springs Alliance, received a favorable decision in his April 12 lawsuit against the Watson Council for an Open Meetings Violation. See Austin Monitor article here. You go, Bill!

LIV Note: Richard Suttle has been skulking around Austin City Hall like he owns the place for years. That's because he -- and the city -- have helped make Endeavor Real Estate Group the largest commercial real estate firm in Central Texas. Don't forget it was Endeavor that was able to score The Domain luxury shopping mall subsidies in 2007 before they flipped it to Simon Malls, one of the largest mall developers in the world. The story on The Domain is here.

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