To the editor, In the upcoming city of Austin bond election, voters should be as interested in what is not on the ballot as what is up for a vote. For many years, the city government has been depriving voters of their prescribed rights in the city charter. Article 7, Section 11 of the city charter states "All revenue bonds issued by the city shall first be authorized by a majority of qualified electors voting at an election held for this purpose." Revenue bonds fund our municipally owned electric and water utilities. The city government has been defying this charter provision for well more than a decade. There are several reasons for this. One is that many City Council members and staff believe routine bond-funded utility maintenance should not be left to the voters. But usurping the voters' rights does not allow the people to participate in major policy decisions. Should Austin buy a coal plant or (!!!) another nuke? Should the city build a water-treatment plant on parkland or endangered-wildlife habitat? Should rate payers even fund a new water plant at all if it is cheaper to delay the need through conservation? All these decisions can currently be made without voter approval. Financial issues are also at stake. Utility decisions affect the city's economy through utility bills. Since 1996, $711 million of utility bonds have been passed without voter approval. And a new natural gas power plant was funded with electric utility overcharges that were not approved by the voters either. (These overcharges were illegal, since they were levied without a rate case.) The bottom line is your bottom line. Your rights are being denied by a city government that thinks it is above accountability. And you pay for their unaccountability in your bills. I want my vote back. Do you?
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