I will be voting against the 'GO BIG mobility bond' proposal. Please allow me to explain why.
When I ran for office to become a member of the first 10-1 council, I did so to stop the top down manner in which decisions were made by the at-large councils. I am dismayed that the $720 million transportation bond that will be on the November ballot, is the product of ‘the way things have always been done.’ The process was not inclusive. The process was not transparent. This proposal was conceived by an ‘exclusive group of power brokers’ in Austin.
We do not actually know what the total cost of the bonds will be or what the cost will be to individual taxpayers. We have figures from staff that indicate double the amount that is on the ballot. We have no information about what it will cost taxpayers in District #1. In addition, this plan will increase congestion not lessen it because of plans to reduce vehicle travel lanes from 6 to 4 or from 4 to 2 on major streets and doing away with left turn lanes on major corridors.
There has been immense pressure on the Council to ‘do something really big’ in an incredibly short period of time on many fronts in Austin, including this bond package.
A typical bond process can take up to 18 months. This proposal was conceived in six months. The largest ‘general obligation’ (GO) bond package in the history of Austin, should have been developed with input and agreement from ‘regular individuals’ who live and work in the city. A proposal of this magnitude should be the product of a more inclusive, thoughtful and thorough process to limit the unintended consequences.
I am dismayed by the unwillingness to compromise on priorities in very different geographical areas, the amount of the bonds, or allowing the taxpayers of Austin to vote separately on which proposals they are willing to support. Standing up for my district is not “ward politics”, it is my duty and the very reason we voted for 10-1 - to allow each geographic area to be included in the decisions at city hall. The process for this bond package is in direct conflict with the vision of 10-1.
I want the public to understand the real numbers related to this bond are huge and will impact homeowners and renters for years to come. According to Assistant City Manager Robert Goode, just the makeover of the corridors, $482 million, will cost taxpayers $1.5 billion in spending. We are not only rushing this decision; we are also voting on incomplete information being fed to us - I’m not biting.
I respect Mayor Adler and his ability to be a creative thinker. His legal mind and skills serve the people of the City of Austin well, as does his demeanor. I appreciate his values regarding social justice and equity. However, the Mayor and ‘the coalition’ that met to develop the bond proposal must understand that I am a person of integrity – I will not be bought, bribed or bullied. The fact that congestion is a major problem in the City of Austin and the region, is no more or less of a problem than Austin’s road to being unaffordable for so many of the people who call our city home. I firmly believe it is sound fiscal policy to insure that our borrowing is for things that justify the impact on our property taxes.
As the duly elected representative of District #1, I had no input regarding the priorities, regional mobility, corridor mobility, local mobility (which includes modes of transportation) or the dollar amounts of this massive proposal. The buckets were decided for me. If given a choice, in addition to sidewalks and transit, I would have placed funds in a bucket to partner with CapMetro for rapid transit on 969. I believe all Austinites should have been given the option of voting on 3 or 4 proposals, not a proposal that forces voters to take an all or nothing approach.
The demographics of my district are wonderfully varied. I took an oath to represent individuals on fixed incomes, renters, wisdom keepers, homeowners, the wealthy and individuals who are barely hanging on. Taxpayers must know the fiscal impact prior to going to the polls. (Remember the ‘medical school tax’ election that raised property taxes?) If there is a miscalculation after the bond passes it will be too late to do anyone any good! Not revealing the real cost of this bond and the tax impact is a violation of the trust the people of District #1 put in me when I was elected! Please take time, between now and November 8th, to get all the information you can about this bond.
The League of Women Voters will release a voter’s guide on October 23rd for the November 8th elections. Information regarding the Pros and Cons of Prop. #1 will be included. Get a guide and decide for yourself whether the cost of the bond is justified by the projects planned and the limited impact on congestion. Most importantly, be sure to go down to the end of the ballot and find Proposition #1 – make your voice heard.
I hope you will join me in voting Against Proposition #1.