The Austin Chronicle

City Props & Bonds Close Early

By Michael King, November 6, 2012, 11:08pm, Newsdesk

There were no dramatic changes from morning until night on election day, at least regarding the City of Austin's charter propositions and bond packages. The big Props winners - early vote and e-day - were election changes, 10-1 geographic districts, and civil service rights for city employees. The question soon becomes: What did we just do?

Props 1 & 2, which will move city elections from May to November, and change council terms and term limits to correspond to that change, won overwhelmingly (essentially 3 to 1). The heavily contested Props. 3 and 4 -- geographic districting in two versions -- both won, but the 10-1 plus "independent commission" garnered 60% and the 8-2-1 "hybrid" only 51%, so 10-1 rules.

And the big civil service props -- 10 and 11 -- which grant important hiring, disciplinary, and firing protections to city employees (10) and EMS staff specifically (11), won handily (58% and 70%, respectively), and worth noting that was despite fairly hysterical opposition from the Statesman's editors, who persisted in using enormously exaggerated cost estimates long after city administration had abandoned them.

Of the 11 charter proposals, two went down - the city manager (and not Council) will go right on hiring the city attorney (Prop. 6), and there will be no additional month for council candidates to retire campaign debt (Prop. 8).

All the bonds passed but Prop. 15 -- an affordable housing measure, including repairs for homes of elderly residents -- and that's somewhat mysterious, as voters have supported such bonds before and the rest of the bonds passed easily. Sudden resistance to affordable housing in a town that never stops talking about "affordability"? Confusing ballot language? Call it the night's local headscratcher.

There's a lot more to say about all of this, but as a couple of Driskill return watchers remarked tonight after Austin voters reversed six previous elections against geographic districts: "We're in a whole new universe" for City of Austin elections and governance -- and it's much too early to know quite what that will mean.

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