AUSTIN — Amid a tumultuous two-year public safety disaster in Texas’ capital city, citizens continue to resist harmful decisions by their city officials—and are offering alternative solutions.
The most recent storyline is that the newly-organized citizen group “Stop Candlewood” is calling out the Democrat-run Austin City Council for their controversial plan to purchase a multimillion-dollar north Austin hotel—a Candlewood Suites—and convert it into low-barrier homeless housing for only 83 individuals.
“The [Williamson County] Appraisal District valuation for Candlewood Suites [is] $2.5M for 2021. Why does Austin want to pay almost 4X the appraised value – $9.55M – to purchase Candlewood?” the group wrote on social media Tuesday. “Even if the market value was 2X the appraised value ($5M), that would still mean Austin is paying another almost $5M more for some reason.”
“Stop Candlewood” was formed after the city council made the spending decision in February on short notice, without notifying area residents or officials and disregarding the county’s request to delay the purchase. The move sparked community outrage, lawsuit threats, and even a proposed state law.
“We are not against [the] homeless, but our problem is the location,” said citizen Rupal Chaudhari, who helped organize “Stop Candlewood” and whose family “invested their livelihoods” to own two hotels adjacent to the homeless project. She said separately that the city’s conduct in making the decision was an “absolute abuse of power.”
The Candlewood incident is just one of the most recent chapters in the broader storyline that traces back to 2019, when the city council legalized homeless camping in nearly all public spaces (except city hall, notably).
That decision began a disastrous saga of tent cities along sidewalks and neighborhoods, a drastic surge of the city’s homeless population, a wildfire of public backlash, and a more dangerous public environment (violent crime
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