Austin Municipal Bonds: The 'CliffsNotes' version

Election 2006

Listen up, all you last-minute citizens – as Elvis Costello declared, "Clowntime is over!"

It's the 11th hour before the Nov. 7 election – also known as the hour when folks like you cram the ballot propositions, hoping to God you kinda-sorta understand what the hell they say and that you're voting the right way. (You'll start earlier next time, you always promise. Really.) Luckily, you needn't stay home from the polls just because you're woefully uninformed! Deadly earnest policy wonks at the Chronicle have been paying close attention all along – beginning last year, when the bonds as now balloted were only a vague gleam in the collective eye of the citizens bond advisory committee.

We'll even let you crib our notes!

In the first place, the Chronicle Editorial Board has made it really easy by endorsing a "yes" vote on all seven propositions. A broad public interest group calling itself "7 Steps for a Better Austin" (UNITY PAC, Will Wynn treasurer) also assures all Austinites that we can, in complete good conscience, "Vote YES on ALL 7 Bonds." This is the first major bond package to go before Austin voters in eight years, and until last week, none of the props had any organized opposition.

Suddenly, those masters of public-spirited timeliness who make up the Travis Co. Republican Party – having held their cryptic silence through a year's worth of public hearings – finally reared their curmudgeonly heads, and urged "no" votes on propositions 2, 3, 4, and 5. Not to be outdone in reflexive skinflintery, the Travis Co. Libertarian Party met the challenge and abruptly told voters to reject all seven. (Isn't it reassuring to learn that, just like you, entire political parties also wake up so late in the game?)

Consider but two pertinent financial facts: The seven-part bond package, if all pass, will cost Austin taxpayers around $557 million, over seven years. That sounds like a lot – until you realize that total translates to about $4 a month in additional taxes for the average Austin homeowner, over a seven-year period. (More detailed info is available at www.ci.austin.tx.us/bonds. There, voters can also read them in Spanish, and download an informational brochure.)

Four dollars a month: You could buy a pair of tacky shorts at Dollar General for that! Or a latte grandioso at any number of local coffee joints. For cutting back on necessities so radically, what exactly do you get for your $4/month, or a seven-year tab of $336?

• Prop. 1: $103 million worth of streets, roads, and related infrastructure, including $10 million for sidewalks and bikeways

• Prop. 2: $145 million for flood control/drainage, including $50 million for open-space acquisition and aquifer protection

• Prop. 3: Nearly $85 million worth of parks and recreation centers

• Prop. 4: $32 million for cultural facilities – music, films, arts, theatre

• Prop. 5: $55 million in affordable housing, to jump-start that community effort

• Prop. 6: $90 million for a new, flagship central library

• Prop. 7: $58 million for public safety, i.e., police, fire, EMS, animal shelter

More places to go on the weekend. Parks and library books and arts events. And houses even slackers could maybe afford to buy? Now's your chance to chip in on making Austin an even hipper and cooler town, so you feel even smarter for living here!

For a fuller explanation of the bond history and a breakdown of the individual propositions, see our full endorsements at austinchronicle.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 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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