Capital Metro Proposition 1Yes
Remember, you're not voting on a specific Capital Metro light rail plan, going down these streets and costing this much. You're simply voting to give Cap Met permission to build some kind of rail system. The details, for which Austin claims to be clamoring, don't exist, because contrary to anti-Cap Met rhetoric, you the people get to decide them. If we vote no on Prop. 1, we will not only never have anything but buses, but we may not even have the buses we have now.
City of Austin Proposition 1
Travis County Proposition 1
Williamson County Proposition 1Yes
These are all the transportation bond packages -- $130 million for Austin, $28 million for Travis County, and a whopping $350 mil for Williamson County. We need all of them. Even if you don't like roads, no one wins when approved road projects languish in limbo, and Austin's bonds would help speed them along. The Austin package will also dedicate a healthy sum to bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The Travis bonds, and $150 million of the Williamson bonds, are attached to specific toll roads -- they're going to get built whether you like it or not, and right-of-way isn't going to get any cheaper. And the balance of the Williamson bonds will fund the first phase of the county's Multi-Corridor Plan, an ambitious attempt to use infrastructure investments -- one of the few tools available to li'l ol' county governments -- to manage and rationalize the county's wild growth.
City of Austin, Proposition 2Yes
The Austin Museum of Art's generous donation of $13.4 million in bond proceeds will be well-appropriated by this proposition, which would convert the money into an incentive fund to promote private investments in greenspace.
City of Austin, Proposition 3No
Whoa, hold on here. Steering commercial development off the aquifer is well and good, but do we have to turn the Desired Development Zone into a developer's paradise? By leasing city parkland to sweeten the deal for a golf resort developer, the city is not only forfeiting the public planning process to private interests, it's giving the developer the expectation that building in responsible locations earns them a sweet plum. The area around Lake Long is going to swarm with thousands of homes and offices without the city's help, and we'll soon be glad we held on to our public land.
Readers of the Chronicle are familiar with Gov. George W. Bush's dreadful record on the environment, abortion rights, children's health insurance, patients' rights (he failed to mention in the most recent debate that he vetoed a very strong patients' Bill of Rights in 1995), and consumer protections. They also know about his zeal for execution (and The New York Times reports this week that he spent an average of 15 minutes reviewing the files of each of the 144 men and women executed in his six years as governor). Long before Bush declared his campaign for the presidency, the Chronicle was looking at the land grab the Texas Rangers pulled off while he was managing partner -- and the successful lawsuit filed by the Mathes family, when their land was taken on the cheap by eminent domain for the Rangers to build the Ballpark at Arlington.
Yet there are more reasons to vote for Al Gore than George W. Bush's record. We are endorsing Gore because we believe he can govern effectively and his values are closer to those held by the mainstream in America. Gore believes in protecting the environment. He will be a moderate when it comes to judicial appointments. The Roe v. Wade decision will not be in danger of being overturned if Gore appoints one or more justices to the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the most important thing is that we believe Gore just has more grit. He works harder, thinks harder, and tries to do right far more than his Republican opponent. Gore has had his moments of failure -- in particular in the fundraising scandal that tainted the Clinton administration. But he promises to support and sign the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which would put an end to the corrupt system by which both parties raise funds. Bush has not.
Bush has been governor for less than six years -- in a state in which House Speaker Pete Laney observes, "the governor does a whole lot of ribbon-cuttin'." Gore has held elective office for 24 years and served on U.S. House and Senate committees that require an understanding of how government works. Gore is a policy wonk and a bit of a bore. But government is, in the end, about policy. Bush claims to be a "uniter, not a divider." It's a good campaign line, but in Texas -- with a Republican Senate, and a House that's five seats short of a Republican majority and loaded with conservative Democrats -- there wasn't much to unite, except the Christian right and the economic conservatives in the Republican Party.
Several members of the editorial board wanted to endorse Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Nader is pro-consumer. He would strengthen the Federal Trade Commission, reduce the size of the military, and devise an energy policy based on conservation and efficiency. He would encourage small-scale farming, work on environmental cleanup, reduce the power of corporations, reform campaign finance laws, and compel TV and radio networks to provide free airtime to candidates. But he can't win. Yet, because Gore can't carry Texas, a vote for Nader could help create a true third party in the United States. If the Green Party gets 5% of the popular vote nationwide, it will be eligible for matching funds from the federal government in the next election.
Those are worthwhile considerations. But in an election that will shape the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal bench, determine the fate of Social Security, Medicare, a woman's right to control her body, and the role the Christian right will have in reforming our public schools, we endorse Vice-President Al Gore.
U.S. SenateDouglas Sandage
Although it is tempting to endorse Kay Bailey Hutchison for her intraparty stance on the abortion issue and for her work in the colonias, one only has to think of how much better represented the state would be were, say, Lloyd Doggett our United States senator. Or how much better Washington would be were Hutchison to vote her convictions on the abortion issue -- which she has yet to do. Democrat Gene Kelly is again running on a famous name and a thin résumé. Houston attorney Douglas Sandage, the Green Party candidate, is the former director of the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center. We endorse him as a better alternative to the incumbent.
U.S. Rep. District 10Lloyd Doggett
Doggett is undoubtedly one of the hardest-working congressmen in Texas. Yet that isn't the only thing that commends the two-term representative: He's also got integrity, grit, compassion, and a legendary tolerance for the heaviest schedule of public appearances this side of the Colorado. That, along with his strong record on the environment, civil rights, and health care, is reason enough to send Doggett back to Washington for another two years.
U.S. Rep. Dist. 14Loy Sneary
Congressman Ron Paul can at times be the only one right on foreign policy issues. But too often he is the only one wrong -- as he was when he was the sole vote against stricter enforcement measures for GHB, known as the "date rape" drug. Too often, it seems, Paul's loopy Libertarian principles get in the way of votes for sound public policy. Sneary is good on foreign trade, a moderate Democrat with real backing from the business community. He's a rice farmer backed by the Farm Bureau and organized labor. Anyone who puts together that sort of coalition is capable of representing all the constituents in a congressional district. Ron Paul hasn't done that yet. We enthusiastically endorse Loy Sneary.
Railroad CommissionerCharles Matthews
This guy must be nuts. How many politicos actually want to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission? We'll tell you: damn few. The Railroad Commission has become a way station for hyperambitious politicians eager to shake down the rich trucking and oil industries for campaign cash and promptly run for something else. Oops. Did someone mention Carole Keeton Rylander? Matthews was a leading voice in the effort to stop the disastrous merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, which cost Texas businesses tens of millions of dollars and left many markets in the grip of UP's monopoly. Matthews, the GOP incumbent, is smart, dedicated, and wants to do right in an agency that has long been a wholly owned subsidiary of the industries it regulates. He's the best commissioner that agency has had in a long time.
Supreme Court Justice Place 1Ben G. Levy
Okay, we'll admit it. We'd vote for Peter Pan for the Texas Supreme Court as long as he was Green. Levy's a Green. We'd probably like him if he were a Democrat. Heck, we'd vote for anybody but Hecht -- Nathan, that is. The last thing the Supremes need is someone like Hecht, a Republican stalwart who does whatever his political adviser, Karl Rove, tells him to do. Texas' highest court desperately needs balance. It desperately needs a move away from the arch-conservatives who currently dominate it. We hope Levy, who served for six years as a judge on First Court of Appeals, can provide some.
Supreme Court Justice, Place 2No Endorsement
The all-Republican Supreme Court, as Mark Currinden has reported in The Dallas Morning News, is one of the most aggressive, activist, anti-plaintiff courts in the nation. Even if the Democrats or Greens can't field candidates for the court, we can't in good conscience endorse a Republican. Incumbent Priscilla Owen will have to win without our endorsement. She is opposed by Libertarian Joe Alfred Izen Jr.
Supreme Court Justice, Place 3No Endorsement
Former secretary of state and onetime Vinson & Elkins lawyer Al Gonzales was appointed to a vacancy on the court by Gov. George W. Bush and is probably as moderate as a George W. Bush appointee can be. Gonzales was brought in from Houston, where he had almost no political record and was never an ideologue. But this totally Republican court's hostility toward workers, consumers, and plaintiffs in general makes it impossible to endorse another Republican. He is opposed by Libertarian Lance Smith.
Court of Criminal Appeals, Presiding JudgeBill Vance
Any time they sit on the bench, each member of this all-Republican court should be required to wear a black hood. The Bush presidential campaign has attracted national attention to what is essentially the Supreme Court for criminal matters, which has been roundly criticized for its reckless disregard for fairness. Incumbent Sharon Keller was the author of a 1998 majority opinion which ruled that Roy Wayne Criner should be kept in jail although a DNA test administered after his conviction determined that the sperm found inside the victim's body was not his. It was only after the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to free Criner that Bush pardoned him. Although the Democrats have done a dismal job in recruiting and supporting candidates for statewide races, we endorse Democrat Bill Vance, an appeals court judge who has promised to support a moratorium on any death penalty cases in which DNA technology could possibly prove a defendant's innocence or confirm his or her guilt.
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2William R. Barr
We endorse Democrat Barr over Republican Barbara Parker Hervey, again citing the Republican court's abandonment of its constitutional responsibility to serve as a fair, impartial, and final arbiter of criminal appeals.
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3No Endorsement
We continue to wait for a Republican to talk about the court's responsibility to carefully consider DNA evidence and to move the court toward the center. GOP candidate Charles Holcombe hasn't done that. We endorse no candidate. Libertarian Rife Scott Kimler is the other opponent.
State Board of Education, District 10Donna Howard
Republican Cynthia Thornton says she's no right-wing radical, but religious convictions aside, Howard is still the safer bet for returning sanity to the school board. She's a smart, reasonable, and articulate candidate who would show strongly against any opponent. A clear antidote to the religious conservative fervor that has gripped the board, Howard has worked constructively with Republicans as a board member for the Eanes Independent School District.
State Senate, District 14Gonzalo Barrientos
He's one of the most senior members of the Texas Senate. He's also one of the least effective. That may be a harsh assessment of Barrientos, but, alas, it is true. For all of his grit, hard work, and long record of public service, the senator from Travis County simply can't get much done for his constituents here in Austin. Whether Barrientos has lost his love for politics or has simply been worn down by the process isn't known. We would like to be able to enthusiastically back Barrientos and say there are few people more capable of doing his job. But, alas, that is no longer the case. We are endorsing him, but that is primarily due to the lack of a viable alternative.
State Senate, District 25Jeff Wentworth
Wentworth is a moderate Republican who represents constituents in the 25th Senate District well and is the rare pro-choice Republican in the Senate. We endorse him over Libertarian opponent George Meeks.
State Representative, District 47No Endorsement
Republican Terry Keel vs. Libertarian Michael Badnarik. Keel offers up some good public policy proposals, then votes the Republican line on tax cuts, making it impossible to fund the programs. We make no endorsement.
State Representative, District 48Ann Kitchen
Kitchen's long record of community involvement and political activism makes her a deserving heir apparent to the House seat being vacated by Sherri Greenberg. Kitchen comes loaded with Austin values, from environmental sensibilities to progressive stances on health care and education, and has hands-on experience in government. GOP opponent Jill Warren espouses a vision for Travis County that includes squashing abortion rights and promoting suburban sprawl. This choice is black-and-white.
State Representative, District 49Elliott Naishtat
One of the few worthy accomplishments of the 1999 Legislature was the Children's Health Insurance Program, and Naishtat, who chaired the House Human Services Committee, deserves a large share of the credit. Naishtat is the rare politician who truly shoulders the burden of the compassionate agenda -- leading on nursing home regulation, health care reform, and women and children's safety. And he's shown courage in publicly criticizing Gov. Bush's efforts to curb the CHIP program and cut off Texas welfare recipients before federal law requires.
State Representative, District 50Dawnna Dukes
As East Austin's representative for the past six years, Dukes has distinguished herself by taking tough stands on environmental justice, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and educational equity. She gets our wholehearted endorsement.
State Representative, District 51Glen Maxey
Maxey must get tired of being known as "the only openly gay legislator in the Texas House of Representatives." Better that he be known for his firm positions on children's health care, health education, and human rights (he gets extra points for standing up to Gov. Bush on hate crimes and CHIP during the recent session). That he is running unopposed only shows what a credit Maxey has been to his constituents.
3rd Court of Appeals, Place 1Woodie Jones
Is there really any good reason to vote Jones out of the position he's held for more than 10 years? GOP challenger David Puryear might think so, but we think not. Jones is the senior justice on this important court, which is based in Austin and serves a 24-county area and, of course, hears appeals in the state Capitol. Serving on one of the best benches in the state, Jones has done a good job deciding weighty issues that affect our quality of life. He deserves to stay put.
53rd District CourtScott Jenkins
This one's a no-brainer. Jenkins is an experienced civil trial lawyer with an impressive history of handling everything from civil rights cases, to employment law, to personal injury. More recently, Jenkins has gone from advocate to mediator, which is experience that should serve him well on the bench. Jenkins lays claim to a cross-section of bipartisan support from both the legal community and just regular folk. He can count on our support, too.
126th District CourtDarlene Byrne
District courts rule on issues about which we care deeply: the environment, family law, and domestic abuse cases, to name a few. Because we don't believe the Republican Party shares our opinion of these important quality-of-life issues, we can't in good conscience endorse Ernest Garcia, who currently holds this post by virtue of an appointment by Gov. Bush. Byrne is vastly qualified for this bench, with 12 years of civil trial experience and a strong record of volunteer activity that bears out her commitment to our community. We recommend a vote for Byrne.
353rd District JudgeNo Endorsement
Margaret Cooper backed away from one critical environmental decision on the regulation of giant agribusiness hog farms. If neither Bush's Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission nor the courts will protect the environment, then it goes unregulated. We make no endorsement.
390th District CourtKarrie Key
Municipal Court Judge Key has served as both judge and prosecutor and recently worked for a highly regarded Austin law firm. Her broad range of experience and her innovative judicial approach to protecting women in domestic violence cases make her a solid choice for a position on the Travis County district court bench.
Travis County District AttorneyRonnie Earle
After 24 years, you'd think Earle would want to run for higher office, or say goodnight. But he insists he loves his job too much to leave, and we commend him for the number of forward-thinking, community-oriented programs that he has brought to the D.A.'s office. While we believe that his opponent, Shane Phelps, is a skilled and able prosecutor, his hardened, law-and-order stance is better suited for Houston than Austin. Earle is not without his own faults; he is slow to own up to his mistakes. His treatment of Lacresha Murray, the young girl who was charged with capital murder and convicted of a lesser offense, is illustrative of a justice system gone haywire. Murray's conviction was overturned earlier this year, but Earle has left the teenager and her family in a holding pattern while he weighs his options. We are endorsing Earle on good faith that he will, as he said in a recent Chronicle article, "do the right thing" in the Murray case.
County Court-At-Law #5Gisela Triana
Since last December, when Triana was appointed to fill a vacancy on this court by the Travis County Commissioners, this former justice of the peace and part-time municipal court judge has gained plenty of on-the-ground courtroom experience. She has our vote to continue doing the job she's done competently for almost a year.
Frasier just happens to be the best sheriff -- respected and even loved by her deputies, by city and county leaders, by the community -- we've had in quite a while. We would be fools to let her go.
Tax Assessor-CollectorNelda Wells Spears
The Chronicle endorses incumbent Spears.
Constable, Precinct 2Bob Vann
The Republican incumbent has performed well in the what-you-make-of-it duties of the constable's office. But Vann's also been a useful player on out-in-the-county issues, from habitat conservation to annexation, of import to city folk and lakesiders alike.
Constable, Precinct 3Kevin Miskell
Did we miss the Texas government class where they explained why constables are elected in partisan races? Miskell has been both a Democrat and a good constable, which shouldn't be mutually exclusive, even out southwest.
Constable, Precinct 5Bruce Elfant
From this unlikely perch, Elfant has become a hub of local (and not just Democratic) politics -- forming his own think tank, fighting the gun lobby, being everywhere at once. If there were no Bruce Elfant, local politicos would have had to invent him.
Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5Herb Evans
Now that it's finally his seat, it's time to let Evans settle down on the JP bench. He deserves your vote.
Participating in the editorial board vote on endorsements were: Louis Black, Nick Barbaro, Erica C. Barnett, Robert Bryce, Mike Clark-Madison, Louis Dubose, Kevin Fullerton, and Amy Smith.