Join DSD for a webinar to review new Project Dox enhancements

Project Dox, the ePlan software utilized by DSD will be upgraded on September 22, 2018! The new version 9.1 features several improvements to increase usability.
The upgrade will be completed in two phases:
• Phase I rolls out September 22 and allows the use of any browser to view drawings and PDF files. Other enhancements include a better screen layout, ability to search and sort all columns, and more intuitive button names. Additionally, Project Dox now integrates with Bluebeam for file review.
• Phase 2 will be launched later this year and will include a more streamlined workflow and simpler one-step task acceptance, file upload, and completion.
View screenshots of some of the enhancements.
For more information, contact Christopher Summers.
Applicant Overview webinar
Wednesday, September 19
12:00 noon – 1:00pm

The Damage Done

Dear Local Businesses,
I’ve spent more than 10 years advocating for you at city hall. Some of that effort included educating and wooing city officials. Some of that time was spent fighting for you even when the odds weren’t in our favor.
I’m not one to shy away from a good fight for a good cause. But the fights this year have not been good, they’ve been divisive by design. They’ve been created to make a point. While the victors relish their success at any cost, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment of the damage left behind. The damage of disregard and disrespect of local business. The damage of allowing the demonization of local business at city hall.
I have been deeply affected by this damage and find myself in a dark place. The community of local businesses that I care so much for is under attack. Our beloved local businesses have been labeled the enemy. This is a new reality that is difficult to face and even harder to comprehend. It’s led me to many sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching. Not only for me, but for all the amazing local business owners I know. This is painful. I know you to be kind, supportive community folks who strive to do good and turn a modest profit, not at the expense of your employees but in concert with your team. How has an orchestrated political agenda come to define us otherwise?
Should public policymaking include great debates? Of course. Should stakeholders fight hard for what they believe in? Certainly. But we don’t destroy one another in our quest to win—until now.
Many of you know that Jim Murphy recently sold Sweetish Hill Bakery. I wrote to him saying AIBA would miss him. His reply was shocking:
 “And I have to say that council meeting was a real turning point for me. I walked out of there and decided I was done owing a business in Austin. And it had nothing to do with the Sick Pay ordinance, but rather the way business owners were treated by the council and the Mayor.”
While Jim took immediate and drastic action, he is not alone in this sentiment. Who believes that destroying someone’s business so painstakingly built is acceptable damage?
Austin is filled with smart, creative and compassionate people. We are better than this. I’ve grappled with how to engage in challenging this new reality. I am unwilling to damage others in pursuit of, well, anything. I am unwilling to demonize employees or anyone else to make a point. I care too deeply about the importance of having thriving local business to let short-sighted political agendas divide us.
I am an unapologetic and optimistic idealist. I believe that the only effective way to solve community problems is to work together. I believe that most people are inherently good and do try to do the right thing. I believe in you, Austin. And that is the light that brings me out of this dark place.
AIBA has begun charting a path to bring us together to solve our issues with A Better Process Proposal. This was crafted with a team of two conservatives and two liberals working together to produce a draft that gives us a starting point for gathering the best ideas to address community problems in a way that achieves the best long-term results for everyone-—employees, businesses and the public.
Thank you awesome local business owners for being who you are. You are my light.
Warmest regards as always,
Rebecca Melançon, Executive Director, AIBA

Rate Savings From Austin Energy

In an effort to keep you informed, we wanted to notify you of proposed pass-through rate changes.
Each year during the City of Austin budget process, Austin Energy trues up fees and charges paid by customers that are “pass-throughs.” These are charges meant to collect what we actually pay as an expense and include power supply costs, customer support programs and transmission services, among other items.
There is good news this year for commercial customers. We recommend dropping that basket of charges for a net decrease of 0.2 percent system-wide. As always, the effect for each customer will depend on your rate class and how you use energy.
We propose no change to the base rate, which last changed in 2017 and provided a $37.5 million cost reduction for commercial customers.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote Sept. 11 on the budget and proposed pass-through rate changes.
Significant changes in the fees include a reduction in the Power Supply Adjustment of 2.4 percent and a reduction in the Regulatory Charge of 1.6 percent. These reductions are partially offset by an upward change in the Community Benefit Charge. As over or under collections occur, adjustments are subsequently made in pass through charges.
The Key Accounts Budgeting Tool has been updated with these proposed rate changes. You can see the impact on your bills and budget accordingly.
 If you have any questions or need access to the Budgeting Tool, please contact your Key Account Manager. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.
Kerri Davis
Kerri Davis | Manager, Commercial & Key Accounts | Austin Energy
721 Barton Springs Rd. | Austin, TX 78704 | 512-322-6574

Why Care about Independent, Locally Owned Businesses?

Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities and are among the best engines that cities and towns have for advancing economic opportunity and building resilient places. Small business ownership has been a pathway to the middle class for generations of Americans and continues to be a crucial tool for expanding prosperity and community self-determination. Here, we outline five important reasons for local officials to support independent businesses, based on a growing body of research. READ MORE.

Building our community instead of dividing it

There’s a movement afoot.
The recent rise in activism for workers’ rights was born partly of frustration over the economic inequality sweeping the nation.
Capitalism is a tremendous driver of innovation and growth. But left unchecked, it can harm the many for the gain of the few. Many of America’s biggest corporations are examples of this. We all know that Walmart and Amazon employ millions of people but also cause harm to workers and local businesses alike. These business goliaths don’t build communities—like local businesses do—they build only profit. Employees are often seen as a disposable workforce rather than a valued team.
Local businesses are a crucial part of our community. Entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to create small local businesses exemplify the hopes and dreams of everyone who wants to control their economic destiny. Their employees are part of their team, some consider them family. Local business owners care for their team in every way they can. We’re stewards of culture and commerce.
Austin politics today are divided—workers vs. business, or more directly, workers are good and business is bad. This is unnecessarily divisive and destructive. Our community faces challenges in dealing with employer-employee issues such as paid sick leave, livable wages, and predictive scheduling. We have a great opportunity to come together to address these issues and find solutions. We are a smart, creative city. We can find solutions to even the most difficult problems—if we work collectively and respectfully.
The recent destructive battles over paid sick leave left Austin at the mercy of lawsuits and the Texas Legislature—never a desirable outcome. AIBA refused to take part in any legal action against the ordinance. If the courts or the Legislature overrides local control, Austin loses. AIBA was never opposed to paid sick leave, per se. AIBA objected to portions of the ordinance and the rush to enact it without due process. We sought to contribute ideas that might work for everyone, such as establishing a risk pool for very small businesses. We asked that the ordinance be given time for review. Instead it was rammed through in 17 days from initial draft to passage. We asked that implementation be delayed until January instead of the October 1st because businesses hadn’t budgeted for it this year. We proposed an exemption for the smallest of local businesses. We proposed providing incentives rather than regulations punitive to local business. In a political climate that only provides for black and white—business is bad, workers are good—our reasonable concerns fell on deaf ears.
No one wants to go to work sick and no employer wants sick people at work. But the issue was framed, not as a compromise achieved by discussing the best ideas, but as “for the workers” or “against the workers.” In the process, local business was demonized as the enemy of the worker. Local businesses can’t survive without employees and with Austin’s low unemployment rate it’s increasingly difficult to even find enough people to allow businesses to flourish. And employees need the jobs that local business provides. It is a symbiotic relationship. The idea that employees are being systematically exploited by all businesses is not only wrong but counterproductive. To succeed, the employer-employee relationship must ensure mutual benefits.
It seems likely that if the courts don’t override this ordinance the Texas Legislature will. If that happens, nobody wins. We haven’t helped one person. We’ve divided our community for absolutely nothing. It’s time to look for a better way.
Cooperation will achieve the best results
A few months ago, AIBA formed a Better Process Committee with a few of our members who are interested in working on these issues. We began by researching other cities and other states to find better alternatives to achieve our shared community goals. What we found led us to create a proposal for a better process to address employer-employee issues.
First, we propose a local study of each issue to identify the full scope of the problems. This will lead to better, more targeted, solutions that won’t give lawmakers cause to deprive us of home rule.
The second step is to convene a Workplace Task Force of organizations representing all segments of business and employee organizations. This task force would be charged with reviewing a problem and finding solutions to recommend to the City Council.
The third step is to take the time to do an impact study of any proposed policies. The speed of enacting the paid sick leave ordinance created an ordinance fraught with unintended consequences.
Good government governs in the best interest of all the people, not just one group. Local policy should not provide benefits for one segment by punishing another. By working collectively, other communities have found ways to address their issues that worked for everyone. AIBA is proposing that Austin do the same.