A reader has pointed me to this registered neighborhood organization. (Go to the city registry and scroll down to Super Duper). The organization's "main contact" identifies himself as the "Great and Powerful Oz." The "organization's" declared boundary includes virtually all of Austin and much of its extra-territorial jurisdiction.
Anyone in Austin can form and register a "neighborhood organization" and define its boundaries as arbitrarily as he pleases. The Great and Powerful Oz figured this out and evidently is enjoying a little joke.
Except this joke is costing the rest of us. City code entitles "interested parties" to notice of public hearings before the city can act, and registered neighborhood organizations are "interested parties" when the property falls within their boundaries. This applies not only to Council hearings, but to boards and commission hearings, such as the Board of Adjustment and the Planning Commission.
Notice is expensive. City staff must print and mail a separate notice for each hearing. There can be dozens of hearings per week -- zoning changes, variances, site plan approvals, subdivision approvals, and a host of others. And the Super Duper Neighborhood Objectors and Appealers Organization is entitled to written, mailed notice of each and every one. (If you doubt SDNOAO is entitled to notice, go to the city's GIS, pull up the zoning map, check the circle next to "neighborhood association," and click "identify" on any point on the map.)
The Great and Powerful Oz might object that lots of other organizations get free notice of citywide hearings (e.g., ANC, the Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin, the Homeless Neighborhood Organization.) If they can ask for free notice, why not me?
Rather than attempt to distinguish between "legitimate" and "nonsense" organizations, the City should simply charge notice recipients a fee. I'm sure that applicants are entitled to free notice. Nearby property owners may have a good argument for free notice as well. But everyone else should monitor the city's posted notices like the rest of us, particularly since the typical organization cares about only a small fraction of the hearings. If they want premium service, they should pay for it.
Update: Karl-Thomas Musselman identifies the Great and Powerful Oz as 1993 Special Election City Council candidate Bill Gammon. (The registry lists Oz as William Gammon without further ID.)