Travis County: Yes, we have elections ...
What you'll find on those ballots just outside of town
Beyond the excitement and rancor of Austin's City Council races and the to-and-fro over school bonds, across Travis County there's also a whole slate of council, municipal utility district, and school district board elections, plus a few hundred million dollars in bond propositions, being settled on May 10.
While Austin waits another year for mayoral fireworks, there are several offices being contested elsewhere. The three-way fight in West Lake Hills (so acrimonious that all three candidates are quick to insist they're running a positive campaign) is one of a handful.
• In Rollingwood, Mayor Pro Tem Dale Dingley and council newcomer Barry M. Bone are vying to replace the outgoing Hollis Jefferies.
• Things are a little simpler over in Round Rock (which has a little sliver in Travis Co.), where former Place 2 Council Member Alan McGraw is uncontested in his effort to replace Mayor Nyle Maxwell. McGraw, who stood down from council in January to run for the top seat, is being replaced by retired plant manager-turned-rancher George White.
• Incumbent Jan Yenawine will be back in for another term as mayor of our lake-dwelling neighbors in the Village of Volente.
The Austin Independent School District isn't the only local political entity looking for bond money to deal with the ever-growing demand on its infrastructure.
• Travis County MUDs 12, 13, and 16 need a combined total of $363 million in bonds, with $112 million of that going for parks and recreation and the rest for water, wastewater, and drainage facilities.
• Cities are facing some of the same pressures, and the same scale of costs. In 2001, near-northeast Pflugerville had 16,335 residents; by 2008, that had soared to 40,003, giving the town the highest growth rate in Central Texas. That population explosion means pressure on overstretched local government facilities. "Our City Hall was built in the 1980s as a doctor's office," said Mayor Jeff Coleman. City staff is split between that location and five auxiliary sites. "A new City Hall is needed to bring everybody together." The proposed 45,000-square-foot, $11 million building would not just be home for council chambers and city staff; it would be part of a new city plan for Pflugerville. Facing the new 5-acre retention pond that will become the heart of a 15-acre park, its grounds will be landscaped to connect up to the city's trails. There are also bond proposals for a $16 million recreation center with a double gym and nine-lane swimming pool and $7 million to quadruple the size of the existing public library. "We're planning so we're not behind the eight ball for the next 25 years," said Coleman.
It seems that the smaller the school district, the more candidates for its board of trustees. While AISD has four seats up for re-election, only one is contested (Christine Brister against Jerry Garcia in District 3). That seems like poor citizen participation compared to some of the surrounding school districts.
• Three seats on the board of Manor ISD are up for re-election, but without geographical districts, it's a six-way at-large scrabble in which voters can vote for none, one, or two of the candidates (it was supposed to be three, but a glitch on the ballot means the school district is seeking legal advice about a solution). Two incumbents, Vice President Desiree Cornelius-Fisher and trustee Karen Mazerac, are back in the race for another term, but trustee Pamela O'Brien has decided to stand down after 12 years of service to Manor schools. Even with the loss of a longstanding board member, there should be some continuity, since her husband, Mike O'Brien, is on the ballot.
• Meanwhile, over in Leander ISD, the fight by board President Jim Sneeringer to keep his Place 6 seat from challenger Nathan Deckinga would normally be the big story. But that may be overshadowed by Place 7, where six-year incumbent Pamela Waggoner is fighting off three challengers. Win or lose, she goes on to be November's Republican challenger to Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, in House District 48.