Chronicle Endorsements for the May 7 State and Local Election

Early Voting April 25-May 3 • Election Day May 7

Austin no longer elects its city council in May (other area cities still do, including Round Rock, Georgetown, Lakeway, and Cedar Park), but city voters have a citizen initiative to consider as Proposition A. There are also two constitutional amendments that came out of the 87th Lege too late to make last November's ballot, and a proposition in Leander with regional implications. (This is not also the run-off date for the party primaries; that's later in May.) The Chronicle Editorial Board makes these recommendations.

State Constitutional Amendments

Proposition 1: FOR

Proposition 2: AGAINST

We have often urged readers to vote against all constitutional amendments as a protest against this incredibly opaque, and thus often malign, way of changing state policy. These two proposed amendments illustrate what's wrong with the system, but one of them is at least a gesture toward equity, which is pretty rare to see coming from the Capitol.

That's Prop 1, the ballot language for which is tragicomically tortured. The measure will eliminate an unintended consequence of the Lege's last attempt to shoulder as little as possible of the burden for paying for schools while also lowering property taxes, by compressing the school district tax rate. Under the status quo, taxpayers over 65 or living with disabilities whose taxes are frozen would end up, at some point, paying more in school district property taxes than the median homeowner. Kudos where due to state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who can also often be malign, for being proactive to get it fixed.

Prop 2 is much more straightforward but is also just straight-up pandering. It's almost guaranteed to pass now that everyone's seen their new tax appraisals, but increasing the school district homestead exemption (from $25,000 to $40,000) is the coward's way out of broad-based tax relief: Schools really need that money, and in many cases, this simply shifts the burden to renters.

Local Propositions

City of Austin Proposition A: FOR

This proposition, put on the ballot by citizen referendum, would decriminalize marijuana possession in Austin and also prohibit the use of no-knock warrants. The best reason to get out and vote for it is to create a data point: "Austinites voted 99-to-1 to decriminalize cannabis." That will be useful as de jure legalization inches forward at the state and federal level. The second-best reason is to help Ground Game Texas, the group led by former congressional candidates Mike Siegel and Julie Oliver, prove its concept that organizing around hot-button social issues can work for progressives as well as conservatives; decent turnout on this election would help. (Nobody appears to be mobilizing opposition to this, so "99-to-1" is not really a joke.) The specifics of the ordinance are almost irrelevant, since all the relevant parties have already decriminalized personal-use possession in practice, and Austin police can go for years at a time without executing a no-knock warrant. But an ordinance to codify these things would be great!

Leander Proposition A: FOR

Leander's got a whole slew of charter amendments and propositions on its ballot, but this one matters to nonresidents, too: It's the vote to keep Leander in Capital Metro, which of course they should. Yes, it is a lot of money! But the blame here belongs to Leander, not Cap Metro: If the city had stayed the course it set when it bought into being the terminus of the Red Line, it would be making bank on commercial property taxes right now, and there would be a lot more multifamily to absorb the boom tide in one of the fastest-growing towns in America. Plus, nobody is saving money here in the long run, since the city wants to capture the same sales tax for itself. How much of that revenue is Leander going to have to spend on improving mobility for its ever-growing number of single-family subdivisions? More than half? Lean in, folks, and make Cap Metro work for you and everyone else.

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