The Austin Chronicle

Election Ticker: A Tale of Two Propositions

Prop A jostling amid record-breaking voting stats

By Beth Sullivan, October 16, 2020, News

Both sides of the Proposition A aisle continue to yay and nay about the tax rate election that would fund the "initial investment" of Project Connect. On Monday several local business owners, including Esther's Follies' Shannon Sedgwick and David Kruger of Kruger's Diamond Jewelers, spoke in opposition to Prop A's tax rate increase at a press conference, according to a release sent out by Tori Moreland of Our Mobility Our Future, an anti-Prop A PAC. "Per the tax-rate notice released on August 2 by the City of Austin, the passage of Proposition A will result in a 24.6% to 26.2% tax-rate increase in the City of Austin for both residential and commercial properties," stated the release, illustrating some of the confusion surrounding what Prop A will actually mean for property taxes.

Prop A calls for an 8.75-cent increase per $100 valuation to the city's property tax rate, meaning that rate will increase by about 20.4% from last year. But the city accounts for only about 18% of the total property tax bill for Travis County and Austin ISD residents, who make up the majority of Austin taxpayers, and the city estimates Prop A would result in around a 4% increase to the total bill. In any case, Prop A opponents decry increasing taxes at all during a pandemic, as well as the choice to raise the money by increasing taxes rather than issuing bonds.

On the other hand, community leaders and organizers issued a release Tuesday heralding Prop A as "an investment towards a more equitable city for working-class people of color in the Eastern Crescent." Austin Jus­tice Coalition, Workers Defense Action Fund, and NAACP Austin's Nelson Linder have all thrown their support behind Project Connect as a way to create job opportunities and to improve mobility for outlying communities where lower- income Austinites have been displaced. Prop A includes $300 million to avert further displacement by creating and preserving housing affordability along new transit corridors.

In other Prop A rama-drama, Mark Lit­tle­field, a local political consultant who works with the pro-Prop A PAC Transit Now, submitted 14 ethics complaints to the city clerk's office on Oct. 5 alleging that two anti-Prop A entities – nonprofit Voices of Austin and OMOF – failed to disclose donors as required by campaign finance law. As we went to press, his complaints were noted as future items in the agenda for Oct. 14's Ethics Review Commission meeting. As a nonprofit, VoA is not normally subject to disclosure rules but is supposed to avoid expressly calling on the support or defeat of a specific measure like Prop A.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since publication to clarify Workers Defense Action Fund – Workers Defense Project's 501(c)(4) organization – not Workers Defense Project, endorsed Proposition A.

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