By Bill Oakey – June 6, 2014
Quick question – How many friends, neighbors and acquaintances do you know that plan to vote for the Highland Mall to Riverside urban rail bonds in November?
What was that…say again…?
Try asking that question the next time you are at a restaurant, a backyard gathering, a party, or a civic function. The first thing you might hear is that they haven’t really thought enough about it. Or, you might hear that they need to wait and see what the City Council decides to put on the ballot.
What you probably will not hear is a resounding chorus of support for the proposed rail plan and the staggering stair steps of annual property tax increases that come along with it. (The Austin American-Statesman reported that the tax bite could raise our property taxes by 15% over the next six years).
I’ve been to enough public events over the past year to know that the kind of broad support needed to pass the rail bonds is simply not there. The core voters who turn out for every Austin election do not have the “yes word” on their lips when the subject comes up.
What’s even more telling is how seldom the subject comes up at all.
We all hear a lot about traffic and transportation, and how Austin needs to find a way to deal with it. But in all my discussions with various City Council candidates for the districts and the mayor’s race, not a single one has voluntarily brought up the Highland Mall to Riverside rail plan or told me that they were clamoring for it to pass.
And I will go another step further. I’ve had numerous appointments with current City Council members on affordability issues since last year. Not a single one of them has urged me to support the urban rail plan. This tells me that at least some of them probably dread the fact that they are up against an August deadline to make a decision on what to put on the November ballot. I strongly suspect that several Council members toss and turn at night, wishing that the issue would simply go away. With the possible exception of Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
So, Where Does That Leave Austin After The Rail Bonds Fail?
That will be the subject of my blog posting on Monday. You might be very surprised at the positive outcome that I will predict.