The Austin Chronicle

The Road to 10-1: Now We Begin

How to fit six dozen candidates into a one-pound newspaper

By Michael King, July 18, 2014, News

Downballot: Bonds and Boards

In addition to being the first test of Austin's new single-member districting, the Nov. 4 election will be the first Austin municipal election not held in May – both aspects will be wild cards this year, with uncertain effects in this historic election. The fall date means city offices will be far down the ballot, below both state offices – the landmark Governor/Lieutenant Governor races, among others – and also U.S. Senate and Congressional races. And just below those will be state Proposition 1, the initiative that would (if voters approve) begin moving moneys from the Economic Stabiliza­tion Fund (aka the "Rainy Day Fund") – into highway projects (except toll roads, an exclusion necessary to get the bill passed).

After we page through and vote on all of that, we'll get to select a new mayor and one (1) Council district representative per voter – no more "at-large" members. In addition, there will be races for boards of trustees for Austin Community College and the Austin Indepen­dent School District – with candidates not quite confirmed yet, so follow our online Newsdesk and the weekly issue for regular updates.

Finally, up pop the local bond proposals: notably, a $386 million package for ACC (for voters in the college service district, not only Austin), and (pending City Council approval in August) an approximately $1 billion local transportation package, including $600 million for rail and $400 million for various highway projects. The ACC package – trimmed from a $2 billion needs list – will be in two propositions: $225 million to fund major renovations of Highland Mall for college purposes and new construction in Leander, and $161 million to fund renovations to the Rio Grande campus and campus work in Round Rock and Hays County.

The city's rail-and-road package will be to fund the much-planned-and-debated urban rail project, along with several I-35 projects and other highway renovations around the city. With voter approval, the rail bonds will yet depend on federal matching funds still a few years out – should those funds not be forthcoming, the city will not issue the bonds and the fate of "Project Connect" will re-enter limbo.

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