Let’s say you’re on the governing board of a city that has a lot of bad traffic congestion. You know you have to do something about it, because your predecessors either didn’t foresee the growth or they were trying, unsuccessfully, to deter it. You have leftover money from a transportation bond, and you might be able to get more bond money from taxpayers, plus the Texas Department of Transportation says they’ll sink money into your project, too. So what do you decide to do? Well, if you’re on the current city council in Austin, you’d probably decide to build a $10.5 million bicycle bridge.
I know I’ve been writing about the City of Austin a lot in the last month, but you have to admit, no one demonstrates the essence of fiscal mismanagement and spending boondoggles better than the blue dot’s city council. This latest proposal makes even Formula One junkets look trivial. TxDOT says they can put $6 million into the project (this from the agency known for “finding” random pots of cash and for being short on funds). In addition, the city has about $2.5 million leftover from a previous transportation bond and they can get a federal grant to cover the rest. Oh, but that might not be enough, and city officials plan to ask voters for an additional $4 million in case the bid comes in higher.
The City of Austin spends a higher percentage of its budget on debt service than any other city in Texas, and has had to cut the budget and routinely contemplates tax hikes. There’s no doubt that transportation needs to be a priority for the city, but surely this money could go toward road improvement and expansion and do much more for the majority of taxpayers. But then, it would be prudent and responsible to consider the needs of Austinites, instead of simply the wishes of the council. They want more people to use bikes and walk to work (from south Austin to downtown, no less), and spending money to engineer the society they want instead of using it to benefit the society they have is practically a budget requirement at City Hall.