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'Chronicle' Endorsements

Fri., Oct. 18, 2013

'Chronicle' Endorsements

Here are the Chronicle editorial board's endorsements for the Nov. 5 election, for which early voting runs Oct. 21-Nov. 1.

Constitutional Amendments

The Chronicle editorial board perennially suggests that the Texas Constitution is too long, too complicated, and too subject to arbitrary changes that should be matters of legislation and not basic governmental principle. Needless to say, those admonitions haven't had any effect, although voters may choose to reject all of the following on those grounds. However, should you choose to be selective, the following are our recommendations; the most substantive Proposition is No. 6, the state water fund.

Proposition 1: Yes. Would grant a homestead property tax exemption to a surviving spouse (who has not remarried) of a veteran killed in action. This amendment would add to already numerous exemptions, but is otherwise unobjectionable.

Proposition 2: Yes. Would eliminate an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Edu­cation Board and a State Medical Edu­ca­tion Fund – neither of which has been operational for decades. Clean-up legislation.

Proposition 3: No. Would authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts are exempt from ad valorem (property) taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period (aka the "freeport exemption") before shipping out of state. This is a giveaway for aircraft manufacturers; if they hold inventory, they should pay taxes on it.

Proposition 4: No. Would authorize the Legislature to provide for a partial exemption from ad valorem taxation of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the homestead was donated to the veteran by a charitable organization. Although the words "disabled veteran" assures passage, this amendment is more about incentivizing "charitable" giveaways (for corporate tax write-offs) than supporting veterans.

Proposition 5: Yes. Would authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan. This would add a homestead purchase option (via existing home equity) to existing reverse mortgage law; would make it easier for elderly to sell/buy a homestead in a single transaction.

Proposition 6: Yes. Would establish a state water fund. The recent deluges cannot hide the fact that Texas is in a drought. Even if it ended tomorrow, there is no guarantee the state's water pipes and reservoirs could supply its ever-swelling population. The Texas Legislature has spent decades ignoring the leaks in the infrastructure, and Prop. 6 helps redress that. It creates the State Water Implementa­tion Fund for Texas and pulls $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund into its coffers. From there, it will be loaned out at low rates to local and regional government authorities to invest in vital and long-overdue infrastructure restoration, replacement, and construction. The projects in question have already been identified by the Texas Water Development Board, and the cash should put a dent in Texas' needs for the next 50 years.

Its passage will also send a clear message to lawmakers that the Rainy Day Fund, contrary to conservative dogma, is not sacrosanct, and Texans want it to be used on essential investment in the state's well being. Of course, building new reservoirs and pipes will not be enough by itself, and so the TWDB will direct 20% of the dollars approved to recycling and conservation programs, plus 10% to rural political subdivisions and agricultural water conservation. This is the rare measure that has found support not only across the political divide, but also bound together business interests and environmentalists. Shell Oil and Environment Texas found common ground to back this vital measure, and we do too.

Proposition 7: Yes. Would authorize a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body, if the unexpired term is 12 months or less. Multiplying elections for very short terms is counterproductive and expensive.

Proposition 8: Yes. Would repeal Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County. The current law is a single-jurisdiction provision that does not belong in the Constitution, and has hampered the creation of a Hidalgo County hospital district; county voters can decide for themselves if and how to fund a district.

Proposition 9: Yes. Would expand the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. This would remove a disincentive to the conduct of open proceedings.

Texas House District 50: Celia Israel

Former Rep. Mark Strama's abrupt resignation from the House (to run Google Fiber Austin) has left District 50 voters with an interim special election and four candidates – two of whom may find themselves in an extremely low turnout December runoff. The sole Republican, Jollyville chiropractor Mike VanDeWalle, seems an affable fellow who proposes utterly reflexive and unexamined GOP notions like "less government, lower taxes, more gun rights, and less regulation" (especially of chiropractors). Never­the­less, he's got a good chance of capturing by default a runoff share of the vote.

That leaves progressive Democratic voters with three solid candidates – Celia Israel, Rico Reyes, and Jade Chang Sheppard – contending for what is likely to be only one remaining runoff position. We find much to admire in all three; each recounts a remarkable personal story that forms the foundation of their liberal politics, and each reflects particular public virtues that are worthy of voters' consideration. Sheppard brings valuable business experience and reproductive rights advocacy; Reyes' legal résumé and balanced platform are reassuring; and Israel's lengthy record of progressive advocacy and activism – on issues ranging from women's rights to public transportation – has made her an important public voice for many years.

On balance, it is the latter that has persuaded us that of the three Democratic candidates, Israel most fully represents the promise and energy of local progressive politics at its very best. We believe her grassroots experience, coupled with a clear understanding of how both local and state institutions work together in practice, make her the best of three good choices for District 50. We urge our readers to turn out to vote (twice if necessary), and to support Celia Israel for the Texas House.

City of Austin Affordable Housing Bonds

Proposition 1: Yes. Would authorize $65 million in affordable housing bonds and notes.

Last year's unsuccessful housing bond proposition had several factors working against it, particularly the vague ballot language that failed to explain what voters were being asked to fund. The city is making another ballot attempt, with a more explicit request to approve $65 million in affordable housing bonds for "constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping affordable housing for low-income persons and families." The bonds would also underwrite land acquisitions for affordable housing and repair programs for low-income senior homeowners. Since there is already an organized campaign against the measure by an anti-tax group, we encourage voters to closely review the lengthy list of projects already completed or underway, thanks to the financing from the 2006 affordable housing bonds.

These are worthy investments providing long-term affordability at a diverse set of incomes. The nonprofit LifeWorks, for example, acquired property and is building new housing for young people transitioning out of foster care, and Green Doors purchased duplexes, fourplexes, and apartment units to rehab for low-income residents (housing stock that might otherwise have been replaced by high-end apartments or condos). Austin's explosive growth demands more creative action on affordability – on all fronts. And while a housing bond election is not the only solution, we strongly urge voters to approve this proposal as a necessary step in the right direction.


Voting Information

Early Voting: Oct. 21-Nov. 1; Election Day: Nov. 5

Early Voting: You may vote at any early voting location in the county in which you are registered.

Election Day: You may vote in your home precinct, or in Travis County, at any precinct polling place.

Voter ID: Texas law now requires registered voters to show a current photo ID issued by either the Texas Dept. of Public Safety or U.S. government. For more info on obtaining a photo ID, contact DPS: 512/424-2600 or visit www.txdps.state.tx.us. No photo ID is required when voting by mail.

Additional election information is available in Travis County at 512/238-VOTE(8683), www.traviscountytax.org, or www.traviscountyelections.org. Williamson Co.: www.wilco.org/elections or 512/943-1630. Hays Co.: http://www.co.hays.tx.us/elections.aspx or 512/393-7310.


Early Voting Locations

Open Mon.-Sat., 7am-7pm, and Sun., noon-6pm, unless noted.

CENTRAL

Fiesta, 3909 N. I-35

Flawn Academic Center, UT campus

Howson Library, 2500 Exposi­tion (Mon.-Wed., 10am-7pm, Fri. 10am-5:30pm, Sat 10-4:30pm, Closed Thu. and Sun.)

Travis Co. Offices, 5501 Airport

NORTHEAST

County Tax Office, 15822 Foot­hill Farms Loop, Pfluger­ville

Gus Garcia Rec Center, 1201 E. Rundberg, (Mon.-Thu. 9am-7pm, Fri. 9am-6pm, Sat. 9am-4pm, Closed Sun.)

EAST

Parque Zaragoza Rec Center, 2608 Gonzales (Mon.-Thu. 11am-7pm, Fri. 11am-6pm, Sat. 11am-5pm, Closed Sun.)

Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina (Mon.-Wed., 10am-5:30pm, Thu. 10am-7pm, Fri. 10am-4:30pm, Sat 10-3:30pm, Closed Sun.)

NORTH

Ben Hur Shriners Hall, 7811 Rockwood

NORTHWEST

Randalls, 10900-D Research

Randalls, 5145 RR 620 N., Steiner Ranch

SOUTH

Randalls, 2025 W. Ben White

H-E-B, 2400 S. Congress

SOUTHEAST

Daniel Ruiz Library, 1600 Grove

Fiesta, 5510 S. I-35

SOUTHWEST

Randalls, 6600 S. MoPac

Randalls, 9911 Brodie

WEST

Randalls, 3300 Bee Caves Rd., West Lake Hills

Randalls, 2301 RR 620 S., Lakeway

Mobile Voting

Monday, Oct. 21

ACC Northridge, 11928 Stonehollow, 3-7pm

ACC Rio Grande, 1212 Rio Grande, 8am-7pm

North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg, 9am-1pm

Sam Houston Bldg., 201 E. 14th, 8am-noon

Manor ISD Admin., 10335 US 290 E., 9am-6pm

Continental Retirement Ctr., 4604 S. Lamar, 8-10am

William B. Travis Bldg., 1701 Congress, 2-5pm

Summit at West Lake Hills, 1034 Liberty Park, noon-2pm

Englewood Estates, 2603 Jones, 4-6pm

Tuesday, Oct. 22

Cambridge Villas, 15711 Dessau, 8-10am

Travis Co. Commissioners Ct., 700 Lavaca, 8am-5pm

Concordia Univ. 11400 Concordia Univ. Dr., 9am-6pm

Heatherwilde Asst. Living, 401 S. Heatherwilde, Pflugerville, noon-2pm

Conservatory @ Wells Branch, 14320 Tandem, 4-6pm

Emeritus at Spicewood Springs, 4401 Spicewood Springs Rd., 9-11am

Longhorn Village, 12501 Longhorn Pkwy., 1-3pm

Wednesday, Oct. 23

Del Valle ISD Admin., 5301 Ross Rd., 9am-6pm

Heritage Pointe, 1950 Webberville Rd., 8-10am

Heartland Health, 11406 Rustic Rock Dr., noon-2pm

Deer Creek Elementary, 2420 Zeppelin Dr., 4:30-7pm

Stephen F. Austin Bldg., 1700 Congress, 8am-noon

Central Services Bldg., 1711 San Jacinto, 2-5pm

Heritage Park Center, 2806 Real, 9-11am

Lakeside Senior Center, 85 Trinity, 1-3pm

RBJ Residential Tower, 21 Waller, 5-7pm

Thursday, Oct. 24

Dove Springs Rec Center, 5801 Ainez, 9am-noon

ACC Eastview, 3401 Webberville Rd., 2-7pm

Mary Lee Foundation, 1339 Lamar Sq., 8am-noon

Svcs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 2201 Post Rd. #100, 2-5pm

Summit @ Lakeway, 1915 Lohmans Crossing, 8-10am

CE-Bar Fire Dept., 353 S. Commons Ford, noon-6pm

Lyons Gardens, 2720 Lyons, 9-11am

Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson, 1-3pm

Friday, Oct. 25

Town Lake Ctr., 721 Barton Springs Rd., 8am-noon

Winters Bldg., 701 W. 51st, 2-5pm

Parsons House, 1130 Camino La Costa, 8-10am

Austin Area Urban League, 8011 Cameron #100, noon-5pm

Lago Vista City Hall, 5803 Thunderbird, 9am-6pm

Saturday, Oct. 26

Cantu/Pan Am Rec Ctr., 2100 E. Third, noon-2pm

Comm. Ctr. at Jonestown, 18649 FM 1431, Ste 6A, 9am-6pm

Briarcliff POA Comm. Ctr., 22801 Briarcliff, 9am-6pm

Sunday, Oct. 27

Lost Creek MUD, 1305 Quaker Ridge, 4-6pm

Volente Vol. Fire Dept., 15406 FM 2769, noon-2pm

Monday, Oct. 28

ACC Pinnacle, 7748 U.S. 290 W., 8am-noon

St. Edward's Univ. Ragsdale Ctr., 3001 S. Congress, 2-6pm

Southwest Key Program, 6002 Jain, 3-7pm

Crystal Falls Golf Course, 3400 Crystal Falls, 9am-6pm

Tuesday, Oct. 29

ACC South Austin, 1820 W. Stassney, 8am-noon

Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon, noon-6pm

Southeast Library, 5803 Nuckols Crossing, 2-7pm

South Rural Comm. Ctr., 3518 S. FM 973, 8am-noon

West Rural Comm. Ctr., 8656 Hwy. 71 West, 2-5pm

Wednesday, Oct. 30

Travis Co. Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe, 8am-5pm

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 8am-5pm

Travis County Sheriff's Office, 7811 Burleson-Manor, 9am-6pm

Thursday, Oct. 31

Travis Co. Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe, 8am-5pm

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 8am-5pm

Bee Cave City Hall, 4000 Galleria, Bee Cave, 9am-6pm

Friday, Nov. 1

Travis Co. Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe, 8am-5pm

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 8am-5pm

Emeritus @ Beckett Meadows, 7709 Beckett, 9-11am


See also the Texas Legislative Coun­cil website, www.tlc.state.tx.us/const_amends.htm.

For the bond proposal: www.austintexas.gov/2013bond. Sample ballot: www.traviscountyelections.org.

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