Texas AG 'looking into' Austin's $1 lease with Planned Parenthood


    The Planned Parenthood clinic at 1823 E. 7th Street sits on City of Austin property. In exchange for using the land, Planned Parenthood will pay Austin $20 over the next 20 years. It's a deal the Texas AG's Office and Texas Values could be gearing up to fight. (CBS Austin)

    The Texas Attorney General's Office says they're "looking into" the lease between the City of Austin and Planned Parenthood.

    The Planned Parenthood clinic at 1823 E. 7th Street sits on City of Austin property. In exchange for using the land, Planned Parenthood will pay Austin $20 over the next 20 years. It's a deal the Texas AG's Office and Texas Values could be gearing up to fight.

    In a Friday interview with conservative group, Texas Values, the state's first assistant AG Jeffrey Mateer called the lease "very troubling" and said it was something the Texas Attorney General's Office was looking into.

    "The city council is allowing an unfair advantage in this case to a very controversial -- at best -- organization," says senior policy analyst at Texas Values, Nicole Hudgens. In November, Hudgens testified before council members asking them not to renew Planned Parenthood's lease at the $1 annual rate.

    Hudgens says Texas Values has ethical and economical concerns about leasing a $111,000 property for $1 per year.

    "You have individuals who have homes and have property, but they're having to pay a huge increase in property taxes. It's not fair to tax payers," Hudgens says.

    Jimmy Flannigan, Austin city council member representing district six, says providing negligible rent is how the city supports services they feel the community needs.

    "It's one of the tools that we have as a community to ensure that not only these services exist but they exist in the locations that we think they need to be sited," Flannigan explains.

    He says the services provided at Planned Parenthood on E. 7th Street are often hard to find in low income communities.

    "At the end of the day, the city has a responsibility -- as does the community, county, and health district -- to make sure that folks have access to cancer screenings for women's health issues. Those are the types of services that are provided at Planned Parenthood," Flannigan adds.

    Planned Parenthood isn't the only organization that gets a break leasing city-owned land. These six groups -- including humanitarian, environmental, economic and mental health organizations -- also lease land east of I-35 for $1 per year:

    • Red Cross/Junior Achievement; 2218 Pershing Drive
    • Tree Folks; 10803 Platt Lane
    • Austin Youth River Watch; 10611 Platt Lane
    • Austin Travis County Integral Care; 912 E. 11th Street
    • Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce; 912 E. 11th Street
    • Anderson Community Development Corp.; 1115 E. 12th Street

    "It's about not only, 'is the service important?' but where the service is," says Flannigan.

    There are also organizations that operate on city land for no cost at all. Zach Scott Theatre at South Lamar and Riverside Drive as well as Austin Pets Alive! off W. Cesar Chavez Street pay nothing for the city land they use.

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