Page Two

Page Two
The first of two city bond elections this year unfolds May 2, with voters deciding on a trio of propositions designed to make everyone happy. In a cynic's eye, the tidy, $210 million "smart growth" package is a PR dream of a deal: It appeals to a cross-section of business and environmental alliances, while attending to the needs of flood-prone residents east of I-35. Propositions 1, 2, and 3 seek voter approval to: raise the hotel bed tax to fund expansion of the Austin Convention Center and improve downtown's Waller Creek; issue utility revenue-supported bonds to acquire 15,000 acres of undeveloped land over the Edwards Aquifer; and issue general obligation and revenue bonds to build flood control measures in the Walnut Creek Watershed. As such, the package has gained support from two powerful and symbolic corners - the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Save Our Springs Alliance. With this unprecedented joint agreement between the two groups, the bond package smells a little like an inside deal, brokered by environmental leaders, chamber chiefs, Mayor Kirk Watson, and the city council. Still, the fact that the chamber and S.O.S. were able to agree on something speaks well for the mayor, whom both sides are crediting for this rare feat.

Simply put, the propositions' okay from voters will give downtown boosters one of the things they most want - a bigger convention center and a tourist-friendly creek; enviros will score on their front - city ownership of undeveloped land over the aquifer; and for good measure, a wide swath of East Austin will get relief from the threat of flooding. Privately, representatives from both business and environmental camps acknowledge some healthy skepticism about the other's agenda in this bond election - the expansion of the convention center would displace residents of nearby apartments, and aquifer land purchase would effectively drive up water rates. But both sides, nevertheless, have vowed to work together to pass all three propositions.

And if citizens are rattled about being left out of the process this time around, take heart: A city-appointed committee of regular folk has formed to educate and solicit feedback from voters about the September bond election. There are a number of meat-and-potato projects being considered for that ballot - among them a new downtown library and other library branch improvements, as well as a new EMS and fire station.

Early voting for the May 2 election runs April 15-28. More complete coverage of the three proposals is on pp.14-26 of this issue, and more details can be found at the city's website - http://www.ci.austin.tx.us - or from the Bond Election Hotline, 499-2663. (Also on the May 2 ballot are six AISD Board of Trustee races - including President and V.P. - and a vote on whether to discontinue the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District; more on that in future weeks.)


[Ed. note: This issue marks the beginning of Amy Smith's tenure as The Austin Chronicle politics editor. She succeeds Audrey Duff, who has left to work on Jim Mattox's campaign for state Attorney General.]

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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