Austin business Austin controversies

In the category of no good deed…

April 28, 2016

The city of Austin has once again decided to delight its employers.

When on March 11 Barack and Michelle Obama graced Austin with the blessing of their presence during the frenzy of SXSW — complete with a road-closing presidential cross-town move to a private fundraiser in the wealthy town of Westlake — Austin’s Mayor Adler asked employers to let employees “work from home” or leave early and otherwise support measures to reduce the city’s infamous traffic. March 11 being a Friday, we — employers being a group that includes your Editor — complied patriotically and enthusiastically, no doubt in part because “we” wanted to wander around downtown Austin drinking beer and taking in the lunacy anyway. The result was a massive reduction in traffic and a lot of happy log-rolling among city officials taking credit for the smooth rush hour, presidential convoy notwithstanding. The employers who actually paid for all this were by and large taken for granted.

Everybody having enjoyed not working, the aforementioned Adler has declared May 11 to be another such “Austin, Don’t Rush!” day.

“On May 11, we’re going to see if what we did for the President, is something we can do for ourselves,” said Mayor Adler.

Speaking as an employer, thank you very much. Please can I have another?

May 11 is a Wednesday, it is not during the middle of a massive festival, and — so far — we do not expect the President and Mrs. Obama to return to Austin. No matter. The mayor is saying, in effect, “we all enjoyed the day off so much, let’s do it again!”

Never mind that this puts employers who judge that the physical presence of their employees matters in the position of paying for not-work or defying the mayor and resisting the coolness of Austin, which is not cool.

We at Blueberry Town sympathize with Mayor Adler’s desire to do something quick and constructive to shrink Austin’s famously harsh rush hour traffic. We even agree that jaw-boning employers to help reduce traffic is a good use of time the mayor might otherwise use to take away our freedoms. But declaring random holidays from work in the middle of a normal week because it is “something we can do for ourselves” is expensive intervention and mostly reminds we employers that the new city government is not on our side.

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