RELEASE: Mayor, Council demonstrate Candlewood purchase for women's shelter was bait-and-switch
AUSTIN (Aug. 11, 2021) -- Despite nearly eight months of public protests, forums, and engagement with leaders at all levels to prevent the purchase of the Candlewood Suites for use as a shelter, the Austin City Council voted 5-4 to acquire the property earlier this evening.
Williamson County has vowed to file a lawsuit in county court to stop the purchase.
Candlewood Suites, 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., in northwest Austin, is the wrong location for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). It is adjacent to two other hotels, near small businesses, and feet away from public school practice fields. Feeling the pressure from neighbors and business owners, Austin city leaders placed Item 13 on the agenda over the weekend -- allegedly changing the use of the shelter from PSH to a domestic violence shelter -- giving the public only a handful of days to mobilize a response. Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said he was never once told about this Council agenda item in defiance of a new agreement to consult with the county regarding the addition of homeless shelters.
The following statement may be attributed to Rupal Chaudhari of Stop Candlewood:
"The process is broken, the lines of communication are blocked, and the Mayor and a majority of the Council have proven themselves to be entirely dishonest. There's no easier way to put it: they're liars.
Today's resolution, Item 13, falsely stated the Council was voting on a women's shelter, but included some other language to also include 'other shelters.' The discussion on Item 13 centered almost entirely around the perceived need for permanent supportive housing -- not a women's shelter at all.
The discussion on the Council dais exposed the ignorance of the voting majority. Council member Gregorio Casar called the $9 million purchase of the 83-bed Candlewood Suites inexpensive. But the reality is that entire Community First micro-houses are $50,000 each and the Other Ones Foundation recently unveiled a plan for 200 micro-homes for $5.5 million. If Casar doesn't want to learn some basic accounting skills soon, Stop Candlewood is happy to take him to school.
Council members Vanessa Fuentes talked a blue streak about 'transparency,' yet refused to heed our objections to this hobbled-together resolution designed as a bait-and-switch scheme fueled by Mayor Steve Adler's radicalism.
Council member Natasha Harper-Madison hypocritically pointed to an agreement to consult the county before building a homeless shelter, and said that agreement would be followed 'next time.' What about this time, Council member?
Add this to the near-complete silence of the local media on this matter and we have the recipe for an absolute disaster on our hands. But this problem does not stop at Candlewood: the entire process of engaging the community -- from one-sided 'town halls' to last-minute amendments to major agenda items -- is in need of top-down reform. Austinites, from the passage of Proposition B to numerous recent attempts at recall petitions, have expressed their fury regarding the status quo. They will do so again at the ballot box this November when it comes to a resolution to restore public safety funding. The Council members who voted today to betray the public trust will face these same Austinites at their polling places the 'next time.'
Stop Candlewood thanks Council members Leslie Pool, Ann Kitchen, and Alison Alter for voting no on Item 13 today, and especially Council member Mackenzie Kelly for representing District 6 faithfully on this important issue.
To learn more about the ongoing effort to restore trust at City Hall visit www.MOVECandlewood.com.