The Austin Chronicle endorses Gus Garcia for mayor of Austin and offers other endorsements on the Nov. 6 state constitutional amendments election and county bond propositions.
Gus Garcia is more than just the best person in this race; he may be the one person on the political scene best suited to be mayor right now. Austin doesn't need a polarizing figure, be it Eric Mitchell or any of several almost-candidates who chose not to run.
Mayor of Austin: Gus Garcia
Gus is experienced, loves Austin, and takes seriously the responsibility of being mayor.
Travis County Bond
Propositions We recommend "no" votes on the road bonds, which will not relieve traffic congestion or promote safety. Instead, they mean more traffic, more accidents -- and calls for more roads. We endorse only Prop. 2 -- the lone non-road project, to upgrade and develop four county parks. In all, $185 million seems an exorbitant price for the overall road-heavy bond package.
For the four propositions:
Prop. 1: Local Roads, Drainage, Bridges, Pedestrian Access -- NO
Worthy fix-it jobs are packaged with far-less-worthy sprawl road projects. Voters should decide between expanding Travis Cook Road to benefit affluent suburbanites in the environmentally sensitive southwest, or repairing aging Old Manor Road Bridge in the neglected eastern pocket of the county.
Most of the bridge and drainage work projects are needed east of I-35, while the majority of road extensions and expansions are in the booming northwestern fringe. This northwest portion would eat nearly half of this $57.4 million proposition. We urge voters to reject this tainted bond measure.
Prop. 2: County Parks Projects -- YES
This proposition offers a refreshing departure from the road-centric bond package, asking voters to approve $28.6 million to buy land for two new parks in east and southwest Travis County and to upgrade and renovate two existing parks -- actually, recreation areas -- in the southeast and northeast. Hats off to Prop. 2.
Prop. 3: SH 45 North and FM 1826 -- NO
Some call the SH 45 North project "Smart Growth" because it lies within the city's desired development zone. But an expanded FM 1826 -- from U.S. 290 West to Slaughter Lane -- would cross directly over the aquifer. You don't reduce traffic by expanding and building new roads. Vote No on 3.
Prop. 4: SH 130 -- NO
This is not a vote against SH 130, but a vote of No Confidence in the bureaucrats running the show. This proposition requests more than $66 million for R-O-W acquisitions through eastern Travis County. County residents previously approved $4 million (1997) and $20 million (2000) for SH 130 land purchases, and there is no guarantee this election will be the last.
The state and counties need to settle their financial squabbles before we shell out another dime for a project trumpeted as an I-35 traffic reliever, and the state should figure out the financial and traffic implications of toll road vs. free road. Until these matters are settled, we urge voters to reject this proposition.
Abolish County Surveyor: YES
Editor's note: Editor Louis Black abstained from the Travis County bond endorsements.
Amendments A defensible position would be to vote NO on all 19 amendments, because vague referendums are no way to run a government. Rejection of all the proposals might be one step forward toward real constitutional revision and a serious Legislature.
Yet this remains the only government we've got, and a few of these amendments make modest improvements in law and/or public services. We make the following recommendations among the proposed amendments, by category:
A. Corporate Welfare/Special Interests: NO
Four are corporate welfare: bad amendments and bad law. The Chronicle urges a No vote on the following:
3. Ad valorem tax exemption for raw cocoa and green coffee held in Harris County. NO
10. Ad valorem tax exemption for goods in transit. NO
14. Ad valorem tax exemption for travel trailers. NO
16. Shortening waiting period for home improvement liens and allowing homestead liens for manufactured homes. NO
B. Bond Authorizations
Four propose bond authorizations of questionable size and unspecified detail. Only No. 2 -- road bonds for border colonias -- is arguably an emergency. No. 19 would enable massive future water projects of little specificity and less certain utility, and would become a license to waste money and water.
2. Bonds for access roads to border colonias. YES
7. $500 million in bonds for veterans' housing loans and cemeteries. NO
8. Bonds for state agency construction and repair projects. NO
15. A highway bond fund and allowing spending on toll roads. NO
19. An additional $2 billion in bonds for water projects. NO
C. Not of Constitutional Substance
Nine amendments should instead be legislation. Three, on matters of equity, merit consideration for approval: clearing land titles in Bastrop County (1, 17) and allowing teachers to be paid for public service (11). These problems are rooted in the existing constitution, to be fixed only by Band-Aid amendments such as these, or by a complete overhaul.
1. Relinquishing state interest in land in Bastrop County. YES
4. Increasing the term of the firefighters pension commissioner. NO
5. Allowing cities to donate firefighting equipment to foreign countries. NO
6. Requiring a special legislative session to appoint presidential electors when the outcome is in doubt. NO
9. Canceling election if legislative candidate is unopposed. NO
11. Allowing schoolteachers to receive pay on local government boards. YES
12. Eliminating obsolete provisions from the Constitution. NO
13. Allowing school districts to donate schoolhouses for preservation. NO
17. Settling land-title disputes between the state and private landowners. YES
18. Consolidating and standardizing court fees. NO