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Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Bond package fundamentally fails to address critical community needs
AUSTIN, Texas–Today, three citizen organizations joined forces to urge Austinites to Vote No on Proposition 1, the City of Austin bond package to be voted on during the November 2 election. The West Austin Downtown Alliance, Austinites for Downtown Mobility and Austinites for Action announced that they will work aggressively to educate Austin voters about Proposition 1, which they unanimously described as a failed attempt to address traffic congestion in Austin.
“To suggest this bond package will get Austin moving is the kind of empty, disingenuous political rhetoric that is fueling distrust in city leadership,” said Dominic Chavez, member of Austinites for Action. “Commuters stuck on MoPac or IH 35 during rush hour are not clamoring for more trails or landscaping subsidies for downtown development–they want congestion relief and want it now.”
“Every recent survey of Austin citizens identifies vehicular traffic congestion relief as the number one priority,” explains Susan Harris, spokesperson for Austinites for Downtown Mobility. “At a time the city is cutting services and raising taxes, we need to focus our limited resources on projects that will immediately reduce congestion–Prop.1 fails on all accounts and should be defeated.”
Scott Sayers, President of the West Austin Downtown Alliance, says that Austin voters have not been given a fair shake by allowing them to choose which projects they want to fund. “Unfortunately, our City Council has said, ‘take it or leave it’ and intentionally lumped all of the projects from roads to bike lanes to jogging and hiking trails into one bond proposal, so that the public doesn’t have the choice to vote yes on the most important ways to spend our dollars and to vote no on frivolous non-critical items,” explained Sayers.
The coalition points to the proposed Lady Bird Lake trail project, which will cost the city at least $14 million of the proposed $90 million Prop. 1 package, as the most outlandish example of city leaders missing the mark on addressing critical community needs. The coalition is urging a NO vote on Prop. 1 and asking that the city council instead develop a comprehensive congestion relief bond program that includes both short and long term projects targeting traffic on major highways and arterials in Austin. The coalition is also asking the city to end the practice of project bundling for bond elections-the strategy of combining dissimilar projects into a single bond proposition forcing an all or nothing vote by citizens.
The coalition believes this practice compromises the integrity of the bond process and is the cynical attempt by special interests to ensure unpopular projects are not scrutinized by voters.
“The message this bond package sends is simple and clear: the city council’s number one priority is to relieve congestion for joggers rather than commuters,” said Chavez. “By any objective measure, this package is completely out of touch with the community’s real needs and we encourage a NO vote on November 2.”
SEVEN REASONS to VOTE NO/PROPOSITION 1
#7: Prop. 1 intentionally hides controversial projects from voter scrutiny.
Prop.1 bundles everything from roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, hiking trails, and the completion of the Town Lake jogging trail, into a single bond package. Most of the projects won’t relieve congestion, but voters must accept all of them or none of them–“Take it or leave it!”
#6 Prop. 1 costs $1 million per word, but not a penny’s worth of transparency.
Voters will need decoder rings to translate the 99-word ballot language written by city lawyers. The ballot language for Prop. 1 does not explain how much or where taxpayer dollars will be spent. Prop. 1 not only flunks middle school grammar standards, but gets an “F” for transparency.
#5 Prop. 1 is a blank check with no accountability.
Because the bond language is intentionally vague, the city council can effectively spend the money on any project they want. Think it impossible? Earlier this year local leaders tried to eliminate a major highway project-SH 45 Southwest-approved by voters via a bond election more than a decade ago.
#4 Prop. 1 is the result of cooked books.
Common sense suggests that a “mobility” bond package would have been graded based on the amount of commuter capacity added. But no one has ever accused the city of common sense. It is then no wonder that the city used a skewed process to identify the Lady Bird Lake jogging trail as the 12th most important transportation project in Austin, or the redesign of 3rd street downtown as the 5th most important transportation project in Austin. Only the city council could make us believe that improving a trail for joggers and eliminating lanes of traffic and parking on downtown streets is an answer to Austin’s traffic problems.
#3 Prop. 1 is the result of the City Council’s frivolous budget priorities.
One-third of the funding in the $90 million bond package is paying for road reconstruction-the result of deferred and unfunded maintenance. For years, the City Council has shortchanged maintenance on infrastructure around the city, to include waterlines, roads, and facilities in favor of frivolous spending on non-critical priorities. Because of their negligence we are now asked to spend 30% of the bond package on maintenance of old roads and less than 3% on new roads.
#2 Prop. 1 was manipulated by special interests
All forms and types of special interests directly influenced what projects were included in this bond package. No interests were more prevalent than the downtown boosters and developers who successfully steered significant resources from this package to enhance investment interests and the lifestyles of a few thousand downtown residents. Even under the rosiest of scenarios, downtown Austin only has 9,500 residents. The short math shows that this package will result in $3,500/downtown resident and only $71/resident for the rest of us.
And the #1 reason to vote NO on Prop. 1….
Prop. 1 ignores the community’s needs and priorities.
In April 2010, the city of Austin commissioned a comprehensive, citywide survey to ask citizens to identify their priorities. No surprises-citizens overwhelmingly identified car traffic as the single most important transportation problem. The findings:
- Only 33% of respondents were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the “ease of travel by car on freeways”.
- Conversely, 51% of respondents were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the “walking and hiking” system in Austin.
- When asked what issues the city should focus on in the next two years, the top five responses require improvements in road capacity, including desired improvements in bus service (priority #3).
Yet, six months later the city council has proposed a package that would spend $24 million on the area the community is most satisfied with (trails) and only $2 million on that which they are least satisfied (new roads). It defies common sense that the city would absolutely ignore the community’s stated priorities.
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