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This is the second in a continuing series on how CodeNEXT might affect your business. Te see how your property is zoned, please see the first article: CodeNEXT will affect local businesses. Here's what you can do. Austin’s current code includes “safe harbor” provisions that allow structures and uses to be grandfathered even if the new code disallows them. This allows older buildings developed before setback and other requirements to be legal. These “safe harbor” provisions are not included in CodeNEXT.
 
Instead, CodeNEXT includes:
  • Language that explains how and why structures and uses will become nonconforming.
  • Minimums and sometimes maximums in setbacks, height, parking placement etc.
  • New commercial zones that do not match uses currently on the ground, such as many existing auto-related businesses not allowed in the proposed Main Street (MS) zones. 
 
Below is an example of prescriptive setbacks in Main Street 2B (MS2B) (mapped for parts of South Congress, Lamar and Burnet, among other places)
For instance, if your MS2B zoned property is less than 5’ or more than 10’ from the front property line, it will be nonconforming under CodeNEXT.  
 
In order to figure out if your property will be nonconforming:
1. Look up on the map what the proposed zoning will be under CodeNEXT
2. Examine the corresponding section of the code to find the requirements for setbacks, height, impervious cover, uses, etc.  
3. Look at another section of CodeNEXT, 23-4D-5050*, that applies to “narrow interior lots less than 65’ wide” to see if your property is exempt from the setback requirements (so therefore would be grandfathered in setbacks)
4. Measure your property to see if it meets the requirements of the new zoning  
 
The impact of being nonconforming 
  • CodeNEXT itself states that the intent is to “discourage the long-term continuation of nonconformities by limiting investments in them and restricting expansions and alterations”
  • Cannot do additions unless bring entire building into compliance
  • May be more difficult to get loans
We all know local business is, by nature, nonconforming and it's a good thing. But this nonconforming is not a good thing. Shaping how our city looks and functions is an important and crucial endeavor. Getting rid of local business properties because they don't conform to new ideas is an unfolding tragedy. Added to the alreay in full swing unaffordable Austin and we're making it harder and harder for local business to just survive. 
 
Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (http://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members). 
In March 2017, Austin’s City Council passed a resolution to initiate a stakeholder consultation process and develop recommendations for revising the City of Austin’s current Chapter 380 Performance-Based Contracts Policy (or the “incentives policy” as it is more commonly known.) The results of a year of community involvement are now realized in a New Economic Development Policy. I’ve met with city staff and attended a presentation of the new policy and I have to say, “Bravo.” 
 
AIBA has advocated for more than 15 years to turn at lease some of our economic development policies to benefit the small, local businesses that are here and not just to attract the next big business to Austin. This policy is the first real sign of that new direction. Our goal has never been to totally cease offering incentive packages for strategically selected companies but to have a balance that helps local business too.
 
Is it perfect? No. Is it all it will ever be? No. But to come from a policy that was 100% focused on recruiting big business to Austin to one that is focused on growing businesses that are here...well it’s impressive. To even find the words ‘local business’ in the policy is a major departure from the existing global business recruitment practices.
 
You still have time to respond and comment on this policy. You can review the policy here: http://www.austintexas.gov/investinaustin. Go to http://www.austintexas.gov/online-form/proposed-new-economic-development-policy to leave your comments. If you are so moved, email your City Council member. Find your council member’s email here: http://www.austintexas.gov/government.
 
What’s to like? 
 
The original 380 Policy was totally based on return for investment, hence the big numbers from big business. An incentivized business had to show substantial gain to the tax base above and beyond the incentive. The large incentives are still based on this. But now a new measurement based on enterprises that support local, creative identity and culture has been included in the policy. This is a major paradigm shift.
 
There are grants that local business could take advantage of for hiring and growing. We’re even talking about adding some relief on permitting and code compliance for small business.
 
There are loans for creative venues and healthy food programs; cultural and heritage business preservation programs and social enterprise programs.
 
The devil is in the details and they’re aren’t many details in the documentation. But this is the framework for a completely new approach. It holds the promise of our city actually supporting the local businesses that built this city and continue to make it thrive. It’s a seat at the table.
CodeNEXT has been much debated. AIBA has not taken a position on this but we do think there are a few things you should know about. City Council plans to vote on first reading on June 13th, with second and third readings in August.  Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (http://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members). CodeNEXT will affect local businesses although the changes to residential have overshadowed the impact Austin’s code rewrite will have on commercial properties.  
 
Top Six Changes in CodeNEXT

1. No “safe harbor” provision for structures and uses, meaning a number of commercial properties will become nonconforming. This meand your property won't be "Grandfathered" in under existing code.  (More on this in an upcoming blog)

2. No direct translation from current zoning to proposed zoning

3. CodeNEXT is more complex and less intuitive with 58 zoning categories as compared to our current 39. (See map link below)

5. More discretion given to city staff. This means city staff will be determining seciding factors instead of the code.

6. Parking requirements
     • Decreased (for the most part), eliminated and sometimes assigned maximums
ADA parking not mandatory if parking not required
     • Placement of parking is prescriptive. (More on this in an upcoming blog)

What does this mean for our local businesses?

1. Businesses could become nonconforming and expected to be redeveloped
 
2. Increased property taxes through increased entitlements (More on this in an upcoming blog)
 
3. More time-consuming
     • Understanding the CodeNEXT zoning applied to your business and your commercial district is complicated
     • Interpreting new categories and rules that are not straightforward
 
4. Unpredictability and confusion
 
To find out what is proposed for your business, look at this map for zoning then look at this uses chart for what will be allowed.  Also see this unrevised* table for building dimensions that includes a comparison with current zoning. This is complicated but understand that grandfathering will no longer protect your business. It also enables substantial new developement as existing businesses that no longer comply with the new code may not be able to repair or grow without coming into full compliance. In many cases this will be financially impossible. 
 
*Does not include changes made after draft 3 released.
We’ve had a few exciting changes on AIBA’s Board of Directors. Our longtime president, Steve Bercu, has retired. Steve was the lead founder of AIBA and has served as president of sixteen years. We honored Steve at the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards on April 26 with a special Lifetime Dillo Award. The award included a book, “The Legend of Steve” that told (tongue-in-cheek) the story of Steve. Steve is also retiring from his post as the CEO of BookPeople. We wish him a warm farewell and good tidings on his next adventure.
 
Our new president is Kevin Lewis, Whole Earth Provision Company, who has served as vice president for several years. Jeff Heckler, Texas Solutions Group, stepped forward to be our new vice president. Shirley Sturdivant, The Sleep Center of Austin, remains our secretary and completes our leadership team on the board. 
 
We are excited about new directions the board leadership will shepherd AIBA through. Although we are expecting no drastic changes, the new leadership is energized and ready to help grow AIBA.
 
Speaking of the board...we now have three board positions open. If you are an AIBA member and would be interested in applying for a board seat, please contact Rebecca at rebecca@ibuyaustin.com.

Our longtime president, Steve Bercu, has retired. Steve was the lead founder of AIBA and has served as president of sixteen years. We honored Steve at the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards on April 26 with a special Lifetime Dillo Award. The award included a book, “The Legend of Steve” that told (tongue-in-cheek) the story of Steve. 
 
All great movements have a beginning—that moment when a spark ignites and takes hold in peoples hearts and minds. At that moment, a leader emerges. If successful, in time the leader becomes a legend. Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Steve Jobs, all forged a new path onward through the forest, through the trees, through technology and through the fog. For the localist movement in Austin, Texas, that moment, that spark, that leader...was Steve Bercu. 
 
It all began in 2001 when Steve, then just a bookstore owner, returned from a conference where the value of local business was discussed. The spark was ignited. Steve gathered local business owners for happy hour (of course) at the now-departed Momo’s. Locally owned publications advertised the event and a great crowd gathered. 
 
Steve explained that it might be a good idea to organize and create a nonprofit that represented locally-owned, independent businesses, not the giant corporate chains. What a concept from the mind of Steve! The crowd cheered. “We could do a website and a brochure!” said Steve. And the crowd roared. “We could promote shopping locally!” he yelled. And the crowd went wild. Thus the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) was born—not just an organization but a movement. 
 
It took another year and finding his way through some very dense fog to form the nonprofit and recruit a Board of Directors. But Steve persisted. 
#HePersisted #OnwardThroughTheFog
 
Now the organization needed members. Remember, at this time Steve was a mere bookstore owner. How was he to get the masses of independent businesses to join in his crusade? How does this go from a few like-minded business owners to a movement? Call to Arms? Riots? Marches? No, these tactics were just too...too...big...too soon. Being a leader, (Yes, Steve was now a leader) Steve knew the answer. More importantly he had the wisdom and the technology to proceed. In a blaze of progressive thought, Steve declared “I’ll call them!” And so he did.
 
What happened next is what ultimately happens in every great crusade. The people come to the call of the voice of a leader. The Voice of Steve launched the Voice of Local. They came individually at first. Then by the tens, then by the hundreds. All finding their way onward through the fog answering the call of Steve.
 
Still, questions lingered. What is this AIBA? Is it a chamber of commerce? Technically yes, but no one wanted to be THE chamber or even chamber-like. Friendly? Supportive? Yes. Still something was lacking. But what? Steve came through the fog and in a blinding bolt of thought, he said “Weird. We should Keep Austin Weird.” Of course we know that a man called Red had first uttered those words. But now we had a mission—To Keep Austin Weird through independent business. The fog thinned. 
 
AIBA became known throughout the land as a badass organization. For years, Steve traveled throughout the land telling others about the local movement. Sharing his enlightenment, he persisted and the local movement grew. 
 
As word spread, Steve, the bookstore owner then leader, became a Legend. 
You asked and we listened! Based on stakeholder feedback we have introduced a 7 business day review for small commercial remodel permit applications.  The shorter review allows small commercial projects to receive a quicker review when they do not qualify for the Quick Turnaround program. Applicants can now submit for change of use, school remodels, portable classroom buildings, medical offices, minor revisions and food service establishments to be reviewed within 7 business days. These all formerly required a 15 business day review. The updated Quick Turn-Around (QT) and 7-Day Permit Process & Checklist info sheet incorporates a checklist for the applicant to self-qualify per project type to assess eligibility.

Originally Published by Independent We Stand

Amazon isn’t known for losing, but there’s at least one way that local brick-and-mortar businesses undeniably outperform the online mega-retailer. Just two weeks after Amazon’s quarterly earnings report showed huge growth, a new study by Civic Economics reveals what those earnings mean for communities and local economies across the country – and they don’t mean much. The 2018 Home Sweet Home: Locals vs. Amazon study reports that local hardware and home improvement retailers recirculate 676 percent more of their revenue in the local economy than Amazon.

For the study, Civic Economics compared three retail segments: independent retailers; national chain retailers, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot; and Amazon, as an indicator of online retailers. Specifically, the study measures how independent hardware and home improvement stores stack up against their larger competitors when it comes to recirculating money to local communities through labor, procurement, profits and charitable giving. READ MORE.

IndieAustin, our membership magazine, is published twice a year with 30,000 copies distributed throughout Austin. It's a great way to both promote your business and support the organization that supports you. The deadline for the Spring issue is fast approaching on May 31. For more information or to reserve your space, contact Donna Nelson, donna@ibuyaustin.com or 512-441-2123.

If you are already an AIBA member, your listing, including name, address, phone, website and description, is already included in IndieAustin as a benefit of membership. However you can purchase cost-effective ad space to showcase your business.

If you are not yet an AIBA member, what are you waiting for! Join us before May 25 to be included in the spring IndieAustin.

Last week I sent out a request for help to our members. We don’t often ask for help but we need it now. If you are an AIBA member, you received the email. The outpouring of support left tears in my eyes. We asked you to step up and help with placing your ad in IndieAustin because Donna Nelson, our longtime sales person, was in the middle of a family emergency. Not only did AIBA members step up for ad placement, you sent an abundance of well wishes, concern, help and more. This is what the AIBA Community is—a place where we help each other. Thank you.
We added a fifth year to our Armadillo Awards on April 26 and what a grand celebration it was. More than 1,000 nominees, 35 finalists, 7 awardees, 3 Hall of Fame inductees made for a great celebration. Add in World Famous Bob, our new MC; Rick “Daddy” McNulty spinning tunes and the Texas Roller Girls and it made a great program.
 
But what made it an amazing evening was you. The Armadillo Awards began as a way to acknowledge, honor and celebrate local business. Five years later it has truly become the indie biz party of the year. More than just a party, it’s a gathering of the tribe of local business. Nowhere else do we see so many new and iconic local business owners in one place. If you missed this year, put this on your calendar for next year. The AIBA Community is alive and well.
 
The evening isn’t all about the award recipients but of course it’s a big part of why we gather. See all finalists and Dillo recipients.
While AIBA was involved with advocacy on this issue, we have no role in the resulting lawsuit.
 
TPPF seeks temporary injunction preventing implementation of city paid sick leave ordinance
 
AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin challenging the sick leave ordinance set to go into effect Oct. 1. TPPF, through its litigation Center for the American Future, represents a coalition of Austin businesses and business associations, including the Texas Association of Business, the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Staffing Association.
 
“With its mandatory paid sick leave ordinance, the City of Austin once again violates Texas state law and infringes upon the rights of Austin businesses protected by the Texas Constitution,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “The City’s ordinance is preempted by the Texas Minimum Wage Act. Furthermore, the City lacks evidence to support any legitimate governmental interest that would support imposing this regulatory burden on all business owners.”
 
The undue strain put on businesses was a thought echoed by the lead plaintiff.
 
“The Texas Association of Business is proud to be lead plaintiff and to partner with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, NFIB and several staffing agency members in filing this lawsuit against the City of Austin,” said Jeff Moseley, CEO of Texas Association of Business. “Austin and Texas business leaders know how to run their businesses and can do so more productively without over-reaching regulations that stifle the economy and cost jobs.”
 
The nature of the ordinance could be especially burdensome for small businesses.
 
“Local measures purporting to regulate employment practices, like Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, create a patchwork of rules and regulations that are difficult for small businesses to navigate, especially for companies with mobile employees,” said Nation Federation of Independent Business state executive director Will Newton. “These ordinances create extra work and significantly drive up the cost of doing business in Texas.”
 
Stephen Dwyer, general counsel of the American Staffing Association, concurred, stating, “In enacting the Texas Minimum Wage Act, the Texas legislature specifically sought to relieve Texas employers of the burden of keeping track of and complying with myriad burdensome local laws.”
 
Other problems include the one-size-fits-all nature of the ordinance and the inability for businesses to offer flexible solutions for sick leave.
 
The mandate, if it goes into effect, will require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide eight days of paid sick leave and businesses with less than 15 employees to provide 6 days of sick leave.
 
For more information, please contact Alicia Pierce at apierce@texaspolicy.com or 512-472-2700.    
 
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility.
 
Primary website: www.TexasPolicy.com
              
Both small businesses and working people win when public policy works to disperse economic power.
 
A few weeks back, in a piece for Jacobin, an influential magazine on the left, Matt Bruenig argued that promoting small business is “mostly a bad idea,” because small businesses are bad for workers. They pay lower wages, he wrote, and offer fewer benefits.
 
He’s wrong, both in his specific argument about wages, and also about the deeper question of whether policies that decentralize economic power are good or bad for working people.
 
On the issue of wages, Bruenig presents a series of graphs to support his conclusions. The main one shows that firms with more than 1,000 employees pay about twice as much as those with a staff of under 10 people. That’s a big gap, and it makes Bruenig’s case against small businesses seem pretty compelling. READ MORE.
Originally published in INC. magazine
Here we go again. Every few years, some interests on the left or right become frustrated that most Americans care deeply about the small-business community--and that concern gets in the way of those interests' policy objectives. So they try to undercut the importance of our small-business economy.
 
The latest attempt came on Saturday, when an article ran in The Wall Street Journal to promote a new book, Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business, by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind. I'd like to respond to it.
 
In the article, the authors make many claims that we dispute, specifically the assertions that small businesses are less productive, less innovative, and create a smaller share of net new jobs. READ MORE.
The Austin Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization of local business owners, has a long history of advocacy in giving voice to independent business at the local level. We believe that, as an integral part of our community and the foundation of our local economy, independent businesses are not only an economic powerhouse but stewards of our culture.
 
As such, AIBA has formed a team to find a better path to local governance policies that affect our local businesses and our community. Our local governance processes should be inclusive of our whole community, not just segments of it. Recent experiences have left our community damaged, especially the local business community, and it leads AIBA to seek a better process in addressing issues. Our work will include carefully selected issues, but the goal is not to predetermine a position on the issue but to chart a course that is inclusive, deliberative and leads to a collaborative conclusion.
 
In this process, we will always follow where our members lead. We will involve AIBA members and the larger local business community in the discussion of ideal approach, clear assessment and critical thinking in creating a better process. We want to be leaders in proactively discussing community issues, rather than reacting to short sighted solutions. We want to improve the approach to local issues by thinking critically and encouraging a better process. Our work will then extend to the community at large in order to build consensus.
 
We believe that working together is, in itself, a better process. The Better Process Team has already begun community building and will be looking to include you soon. 
BY Olivia Lavecchia
Originally published in ILSR Hometown Advantage Bulletin
 
In many U.S. cities, finding and keeping an affordable location has become a major challenge for independent businesses. Two years ago, we took an in-depth look at the issue in our report, Affordable Space: How Rising Commercial Rents Are Threatening Independent Businesses, and What Cities Are Doing About It. We examined what’s causing the problem — from real estate financing that compels developers to exclude independent businesses, to the declining supply of small spaces — and also outlined six strategies that cities were beginning to use to address it.
 
 
Now, one of those strategies is catching on: Set-asides for local businesses in new development. It’s a strategy that requires developers to reserve, or “set aside,” space for small or local businesses in new construction, and it can help ensure that a built environment that’s suited to small businesses isn’t replaced with one designed for chains. In three cities — New York, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo. — there are new programs that offer examples for how set-asides can work. Here’s what they look like. READ MORE
Let the Armadillo Awards promote your business It's easy! And fun!
 
1. Donate your product or service to the Dillo Fundraiser Raffle 
We hold a fundraising raffle of themed collections full of great donations from our members. It's a great way to promote your business and so easy! The raffle winners are announced throughout the sho at the Awards. Since this is a promotion, only AIBA may donate. Contact Dixie Patrick to donate.
 
2. Sponsor the Armadillo Awards for as little as $250 
We have many levels of sponsorship available from $250 to $1,000. Sorry to disappoint but all the top sponsorships are sold. AIBA has a special sponsorship for members only that is only $250 and we promote your business all year long. What a deal! Anyone can be an Armadillo Awards sponsor. Contact Rebecca Melancon to sponsor.
 
3. Attend the 5th Annual Armadillo Awards Party
Thursday, April 26
Doors open at 5:30, show starts at 7
 
Come one, come all and bring your friends and family to the indie biz party of the year!
 
The Historic Scottish Rite Theater
207 W. 18th St.
 
Many of you have been wondering what’s happening with the Angel Funeral Home property. AIBA is working with Sayers Real Estate Advisors to populate a new development with local businesses that are compatible with the neighborhood and the South First IBIZ District. The new development will be retail on the ground floor with condos above and an underground parking garage. 
 
In an effort to help local business be involved in the early stages of opportunities, we are reaching out to local business first. If you or anyone you know might be interested in leasing some of this space, please contact Clinton Sayers, 512-484-0949 or clinton@sayersadvisors.com. The project is expected to be completed in early 2020. Let’s help them bring in the right tenants to this project!

Council Member Ann Kitchen has reached out to AIBA to see if any local business owners are interested in serving on two business committees. Both the MBE/WBE and Small Business Enterprise Procurement Program Advisory Committee and the Economic Prosperity Commission have openings. If you are interested on serving on either of these Council Committees, please contact Council Member Kitchen's office at 512-978-2105 or ann.kitchen@austintexas.org.

Public input regarding insect screen requirements is being collected through April 30. All input received will be submitted to the Austin City Council on or before June 30, 2018. Here are three easy ways that you can provide your feedback:

The Development Services Department (DSD) is seeking input on how to improve the demolition permitting process. This feedback will help draft a new process for consideration by the City Council. We encourage you to attend the upcoming meeting to discuss public safety, licensing requirements, and notification procedures.
 
If you are unable to attend the public meeting, please provide online feedback at SpeakUpAustin.org from now until Sunday, March 18, 2018.
 
A follow-up public meeting to view the draft proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Waller Creek Center (625 E 10th St. Austin, TX 78701).
 
For information about the current demolition permitting process, visit: austintexas.gov/page/demolition-relocation.
 
Wed. March 7, 2018
6:30 - 8:30 pm
Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
1156 Hargrave Street Austin, TX 78702
 
TRANSLATION REQUESTS
Jaime Castillo
512-974-1575
 
Light refreshments & children's activities will be provided.
Mayor, Council Members and City Manager,
Last Thursday was a very sad day for Austin. Not because there were winners and losers in the Paid Sick Leave vote but because Austin itself lost. With the exception of Council Members Houston and Troxclair, the Council clearly displayed a total disregard for the local business community. In every way possible, you made it abundantly clear that the needs of local business doesn’t matter to the leadership in Austin, Texas. And the business community heard it loud and clear. I’ve been fielding emails from outraged small local business owners for four days, some of whom I don’t know and have had no prior contact with.  
 
I’ve also spent the last four days helping the businesses who signed our appeal despite threats of retaliation from Worker’s Defense Project (WDP). Note the irony that an organization who prohibits a business from retaliation by ordinance (Section 4.19.5,) doesn’t hesitate to use retaliation against those who oppose them. Threats which they have now made reality, advocating boycotts of those businesses who dared to speak up for themselves. They may deny this, but the record is clear and evident. In response, in defense of our local businesses – the engine that sustains our community – we have taken the high road, launching an “I Stand With Local” campaign on social media and through media outlets. We are using this platform to clarify that most of the businesses who signed the appeal DO offer paid sick days. As we’ve always said, it’s not paid sick leave or the employees we’re against, it was this policy and the process that spawned it.
 
The Result
Even though you were informed that these businesses were being intimidated and bullied by WDP, you tacitly encouraged this abominable behavior by accommodating the plan that they set forth. When someone the size of Hoover Alexander is intimidated in a public meeting, we clearly have a problem. The behavior on display Thursday night was some of the worst I’ve ever seen in City Council meeting. Anyone speaking in opposition to this was openly heckled by construction workers packed into the room. You, as leaders, did nothing to quell this outrageously disrespectful behavior. No one was removed, and the behavior continued. By allowing this hostile environment you aided and abetted WDP in intimidating and discouraging any dissenting voice. This is beyond shameful.
 
In addition, I had more than the maximum number of speakers cede their time to me so that I  on their behalf, and the behalf of others to afraid to come forward in public (rightfully so, as it turns out). Yet this was denied me at the meeting and I was cut off at three minutes. Nevertheless the proponents were allowed to add time on the fly to any speaker who wasn’t finished. In the beginning it was announced that the proponents submitted a list of 20 speakers to be called first. It was pointed out that we failed to submit such a list. I have never seen this done so questioned council staff on this. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know this was even a possibility. I had not seen this in more than 10 years of occasional council meetings. These may seem like small details in the greater scheme of things but they show a clear indication of those in opposition being treated with a different set of rules and thus limiting participation. Business owners are left shocked and now angry at both the process and the result.
 
The Process
While AIBA did let our contact list know that this was in the works in November, we had 17 days from release of the draft ordinance until the Council vote. At the time of the vote, most businesses in Austin had no idea this was happening. AIBA has a small mailing list of only about 4,000 local businesses. I have fielded calls from other businesses for days. Until the news media picked this up on Friday, they had no idea this was happening. We tried to slow this absurdly fast process down. We tried to protect the small businesses from such a heavy handed ordinance by asking for an exception for businesses under 100 employees. We even tried to find a way to help the small local businesses by suggesting a risk pool that would help the small businesses pay for this. All of our suggestions were summarily dismissed. The message was, “be happy with 8 days, it started as 21 days.” Again, the needs and voice of local business are completely disregarded
 
By pitting workers against business (the theme of WDP), you have divided our community in very damaging ways. Local business is not the enemy yet the parameters of the process and tone you encouraged vilified small business owners. We’re not Walmart. We’re small business owners who are an integral part of the fabric of our community. Most local business owners don’t have ‘workers.’ They have a team, a crew, a family or at the very least, employees. Yet you’ve positioned them as the enemy by embracing, encouraging and enabling governance by mob rule. 
 
The Problem
We identified a problem in our community. We can debate how large or small the problem is but it’s clearly an issue when someone who works can’t take a paid sick day. In my discussions with business owners, most do offer paid sick days. They also offer a host of other benefits, many that their staff finds more appealing than additional paid sick days. If this is a problem, let’s clearly identify the problem by numbers, industries or any other data that would help guide us a solution that fits the actual problem, not an overreaching policy that harms more than it helps. Then we can work together to find a solution for the problem - together. This broad, umbrella, one-size-fits-all approach has done nothing but move the pain point from one segment of our community and place it squarely in another segment. We haven’t solved the problem. This is an affordability issue, not a worker’s rights issue. 
 
There is a very real cost to this policy which no one wants to talk about and that is how this will be paid for. Continuing with the workers=good, business=bad mentality, the divisive dialogue says that all business owners are wealthy and greedy. They could provide 8 paid sick days but they choose not to. For most, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. But no help or consideration has been given them. Being law-abiding citizens, they will find a way to comply with this. But that path to compliance will lead many to lay off staff, cut back hours, not advance with planned new hires, cut services, close or move out of Austin. 
 
I have one business owner who was on the verge of a $100,000 upgrade to his retail shop. He’s now halted that and is considering relocating outside of Austin. Most of the consequences of this ordinance will never be truly known. There is no survey that a planned remodel covers. Another started his business out of his house and can now hire two employees and open an office. With the unsigned lease on his desk, he has decided to open in Cedar Park instead. I know, small stores. The sacrifice of the few is worth the gain of the many. But it’s not just a few. Multiply these by thousands. How many ‘workers’ are going to lose jobs or opportunities because small business can no longer afford them. How many won’t get raises they didn’t even know they were going to get because their employer can’t pay for both? We may never know.
 
A Better Solution
Instead of ramming a policy down the throats of local business in record breaking time and fostering a hostile environment for our local businesses, imagine a different scenario. What if, as our city’s leaders, you identified a problem and asked who is affected by this? What if we bring big business, small local business, employees across multiple industries and other local leaders together and ask how we, as a community, can solve this problem? What role should government play? Small local business, you’re going to be hit hardest by this. How can government help you help your employees? Wouldn’t that be progressive!
 
Where We Go From Here
Frankly this has set the tone for the next WDP initiative. We all know this is only the beginning and there will be many more. Will mob rule seize the day again? Will you be the leaders who unite our community rather than divide it? I would like to say I hope so. And I do. But the events of the last week tell a different story. And I cannot say that I expect it. I hope you surprise me, and show the courage and wisdom to bring all voices to the table, and find a solution that helps more than it harms. One that protects workers and businesses, and that makes Austin a better place to live, work, and do business. Because that’s the Austin I want to live in. I hope you do too.
 
Most sincerely,
Rebecca Melançon
Executive Director
Austin Independent Business Alliance