More than 713,000 registered voters need to know what's going on
By Chase Hoffberger, Nina Hernandez, Michael King, Richard Whittaker, and Mary Tuma, Fri., Oct. 21, 2016
Get Out the Vote! Beloved Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant has reason to smile this week: Roughly 90% of eligible voters in the county registered for November's election. Elfant said on Oct. 10 that 713,871 voters had registered (out of a population of 794,309), with another 11,000 applications still in processing. Now if somehow that will lead to an increase in the county's dreadfully low voter turnout ... – Chase Hoffberger
Pick Your Poll: Depending on whom you believe, the November "Go Big" Mobility Bond is either leading comfortably or balancing precariously on the public fence. An early October poll released by Move Austin Forward – the campaign coalition supporting the bonds – reflected that likely voters support passage 57% to 25%, with 18% undecided. But an Austin Monitor poll released almost simultaneously reported sentiment essentially tied, at 46-45% favorable, with 9% undecided. (The poll methodologies differed dramatically, so may have captured very distinct voter groups.) On the other hand, the money race heavily favors the proponents. The $662,000 contributed to the bond-supporting Austin Forward PAC, with the five largest donors (through Sept. 10) being Opportunity Austin (a project of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce), the Real Estate Council of Austin, the Austin Board of Realtors, Austin Apartment Association, and Heritage Title Co. (As of Oct. 11, Austin Forward reported $315,000 cash on hand.) There are two PACs opposing the bonds: Sensible Transportation Solutions and Honest Transportation Solutions. STS is a Mike Levy vehicle – the former Texas Monthly publisher has spent just under $20,000 on 4x8 signs calling the bond a "Big Bad Lie." Levy also contributed $25,000 to the HTS PAC, as did former Tracor CEO Jim Skaggs; Mercedes-Benz dealer Bryan Hardeman contributed $10,000, completing the bulk of $61,000 reported by the PAC – which has been uneven in its compliance concerning donor disclosure (e.g., the five largest contributors are not currently listed as such, as required, on its website). HTS PAC reported $7,800 cash on hand. – Michael King
Exclusionary Opposition: The Facebook group DesegregateATX released a video on Oct. 13 with the following caption: "Austin is expensive on purpose. We are the generation of Austinites who will repeal the segregation-era laws that were designed to keep wealthy neighborhoods exclusive." The blame, they profess, lies with local Democrats – specifically District 7 City Council Member Leslie Pool – whom DesegregateATX accuses of supporting "exclusionary zoning" rules to keep rich neighborhoods rich. – Nina Hernandez
An American Werewolf in Traffic: Honest Transportation Solutions released its first anti-Prop 1 video ad to YouTube Tuesday, and it's apocalyptic to say the least. The ad, framed as a preview for an upcoming horror movie, rates the mobility bond proposition "R" for "ridiculous," citing "more traffic, more congestion," heavy debt, and fewer lanes. – C.H.
She's Hillary Clinton, and She Approves This Message: Hillary Clinton's campaign is buying TV air time in Texas, a near-unprecedented ad buy that comes after Donald Trump fell even further in Lone Star polls. A new WFAA/Survey USA poll released Oct. 13 shows Trump leading Clinton by only four points in the state, 47% to 43%. That's a radical drop from Trump's earlier performances, which had seen him up by between six and 11 points. For context, in 2008, John McCain took Texas by 12 points. Mitt Romney bested Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012. While it still seems likely that Trump will take the state, the Clinton ad buy could bite into his lead, and give a boost to down-ballot races in purple districts, such as House District 47 in Travis County (see below). The 30-second commercials, airing in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, will concentrate on a previously unexpected event: The Dallas Morning News' endorsement of Clinton, the first Democrat the daily has backed since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. – R.W.
Go Green: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein pumped up voters at Huston-Tillotson University on Monday, Oct. 17, during a visit to Austin. Stein criticized Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, talked about immigration reform, and detailed her plans for the environment. Stein was joined by down-ballot Green Party candidates, including Travis County Commissioner Precinct 1 candidate Ashely "Flashe" Gordon. – Mary Tuma
Endorsing Abstinence: In the wake of the court ruling voiding City Council's Pilot Knob affordable housing agreement – State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled that the potential costs had been insufficiently posted on the agenda – District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman issued a press release patting himself on the back for having abstained on the vote concerning the agreement (it passed 10-0-1). Zimmerman called the episode "a prime example of why abstaining from a vote is allowed in government proceedings," and described his action as "essentially a 'no' vote citing misleading or missing information." D6 challenger Jimmy Flannigan responded to Zimmerman's statement: "You don't get to abstain 10 times more than any other council member and then claim your abstention was a 'no vote' when it's convenient. It's an accountability dodge that District 6 residents tired of long before he abstained on the mayor's transportation bond, and we're still tired of it now." – M.K.