Friday's court ruling on the Pilot Knob development is a prime example of why abstaining from a vote is allowed in government proceedings.
State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled that the Austin City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when the Council approved fee waivers of up to $80 million for the Pilot Knob development in Southeast Austin. Every Council member except Don Zimmerman, that is. Austin civic activist Brian Rodgers instigated the lawsuit.
The District 6 representative was the lone voice of dissent on the 10-member Council, abstaining from the vote, which is essentially a “No” vote citing misleading or missing information.
"There appeared to be over 50 pages of backup material provided to the Council for consideration at the time, but no fiscal notes to explain how the 10% metric of subsidized housing magically increased to 20%," Zimmerman said. "While politicians made self-congratulating remarks about their 20% deal from the dais, I asked staff or Council members to show us where the money was coming from, and they declined. I'm encouraged that a judge agrees with my assessment. This is why we have a justice system, and why elected officials are allowed to defer on such matters. It's also why Council should not cast votes that waste time and the money of our constituents having to sue the City in court. Austin constituents owe Mr. Rodgers a thank-you for his true public service."
Pilot Knob development plans call for 6,500 houses and 1,500 apartments to be built east of Highway 183 in southeast Austin.
Zimmerman voted “No” on a recent TASER police body camera contract, citing a remarkable lack of competence and integrity in the staff's technical assessment of the top two bidders and he pointed out prevarication to honest technical questions from the dais. Several District Judges have made numerous rulings against the City in that case as well; City staff has referred to these remarkable and very important judicial decisions against the City as merely a "pause in the process".