Voters will decide on an all-or-nothing transportation bond in November, after Austin City Council gave final approval for the debt package earlier today. If approved by voters, the bond would constitute the largest transportation bond in the city’s history – five times larger than any previous bond — and require a property tax increase for Austin homeowners.
There were a few righteous attempts at improving the transparency and overall accountability of the measure, both of which unfortunately failed due to a lack of majority support. Councilmember Don Zimmerman attempted twice to bifurcate the bond package into smaller component parts for individual voter approval. Unfortunately it was made clear that the measure would not pass and thus it was withdrawn.
Similarly, Councilmember Troxclair offered an improvement to the bond. Last week, Troxclair succeeded on a narrow 6-5 margin in putting forward an amendment that would have required the ballot language to include information regarding the bond’s property tax impact. Unfortunately, after executive session Thursday morning, that language was removed on a 7-4 vote – with only Zimmerman, Troxclair, Garza, and Houston voting for improved transparency.
The final step for the debt package is for taxpayers to decide its fate as a whole. The $720 million is slated to go towards a hodgepodge of arterial projects throughout the city – some of which have debatable merit as meaningful transportation solutions, such as bike lanes and sidewalks.
The package was given final approval by a 7-1-3 vote, with Councilmember Ora Houston voting no, and Councilmembers Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair, and Delia Garza abstaining.