Then There's This: Bond Election Crib Sheet
A $385 million proposal to make Austin better, healthier, and safer
It's a busy election season, to be sure, what with all the candidates on the ballot, the big push for a medical school, and the debate over single-member districts highlighting a lengthy list of city charter amendments (see below). But bringing up the rear of the 18 propositions that city voters will decide are Propositions 12-18, a $385 million bond package that would provide funding for a range of capital projects and community programs. There's a little bit of something for everyone here, but the mission of the bond election campaign – fittingly called "Love Austin" – is to sell voters on all seven propositions, packaged within a price range that won't raise the tax rate. The campaign kicks off Monday (Sept. 24) at Nuevo León, 1501 E. Sixth, noon-1pm. Here's a look at each of the seven bond proposals. (Note: dollar amounts are rounded.)
Prop. 12: Transportation and Mobility ($143.3 million)
The big-ticket item calls for improvements on areas of Interstate 35, MoPac, North Lamar/Burnet Road, East 51st Street, and East Riverside Drive. Some of these fixes would involve traffic-signal synchronization, street reconfigurations, new sidewalks, bridge repairs, urban trails, and bikeways to address multimodal sticky wickets cropping up in these high-traffic areas. There would also be funding for the Violet Crown Trail, a long-proposed 30-mile regional trail system that would extend from Zilker Park to Hays County, with lots to see and do along the way.
Prop. 13: Open Space and Watershed Protection ($30 million)
The city's real estate arm has had a successful track record with this program, which targets tracts of land in the Barton Springs watershed to purchase and preserve as open space (and thus watershed protection). The program also works with landowners wanting to purchase conservation easements.
Prop. 14: Parks and Recreation ($77.7 million)
This covers park improvements for nearly a dozen neighborhood, metropolitan, and district parks, including Colony District Park, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Gus Garcia and Rosewood neighborhood parks, Waller Creek Trail, the city's Downtown squares, and Zilker. Facility improvement projects may include bathhouse renovations at Barton Springs Pool (home of a controversial grounds improvement plan that City Council will vote on soon), as well as Dougherty Arts Center, Dove Springs Rec Center, Elisabet Ney Museum, and Montopolis Community Building.
Prop. 15: Housing: ($78.3 million)
Affordable housing advocates are counting on strong carry-over support from the 63% favorable vote given housing bonds in the 2006 election. Four years and $55 million later, Austin is a bigger city with bigger needs. The 2012 housing bond program aims to address a broad spectrum of needs, including permanent supportive housing for homeless people, rehabbing and retrofitting homes of low-income seniors so they can stay in their homes and retain some independence, and providing affordable rental housing for poor working families, women with children, and low-income individuals. Home ownership opportunities are also on the table.
Prop. 16: Public Safety ($31.1 million)
These bond dollars would go toward building or improving police, fire, and EMS facilities, including women's locker room additions to fire stations, a park patrol police facility, and an Onion Creek-area fire and EMS station. The would-be headline item – a proposed new fire station in Northwest Austin – didn't make the final cut.
Prop. 17: Health and Human Services ($11.1 million)
This year, "women and children first" has been the rallying cry of boots-on-the-ground advocates who work with this growing sector of the underserved community. As such, the existing women and children's shelter is in line for an expansion and other repairs. Improvements are also proposed for the Montopolis Community Building/Neighborhood Health Center, the Far South Clinic, and the Betty Dunkerley Campus, where there's never enough space for the dogs and cats that end up at the Animal Services Center.
Prop. 18: Library, Museum, Cultural Arts Facilities ($13.4 million)
The Austin History Center is in line for some improvement projects, as well as city tenant Austin Film Society, which plans to add space for film and television production and creative small businesses. Eight neighborhood libraries are also in line for repairs and renovations.
Dates to Remember
Oct. 9 Last day to register to vote
Oct. 22-Nov. 2 Early voting
Nov. 6 Election Day
City Charter amendments
Prop. 1: Move the city's general election date from May to November?
Prop. 2: Move the City's general election date from May to November of even-numbered years, provide that council members serve four-year staggered terms, with a term limit of two terms?
Prop. 3: Elect City Council members from 10 geographical single-member districts, with the mayor elected at large, and provide for an independent citizens redistricting commission?
Prop. 4: Elect City Council members from eight geographical single-member districts, with the mayor and two additional members elected at large?
Prop. 5: Permit City Council members and the City Council's appointees to hire and manage their own staffs?
Prop. 6: Provide that the City Council appoint the city attorney?
Prop. 7: Reduce the number of signatures needed for a citizen-initiated ordinance or referendum?
Prop. 8: Allow council members to raise political funds for 30 days after an election in which the council member was elected?
Prop. 9: Permit the City Council to lease parkland to an independent school district for a purpose that the council has found, by a two-thirds majority, is a park purpose?
Prop. 10: Provide a civil service system for most city employees who are not already covered by a state civil service statute?
EMS Civil Service Proposition
Prop. 11: Adoption of the emergency medical services personnel civil service law.
City Bond Propositions
Prop. 12-18: See story above. See the city's voter information page at www.austintexas.gov/department/2012-bond.