By Bill Oakey – June 24, 2014
Citizens who have called for a chance to speak on the urban rail plan will get their wish this Thursday. The City Council has set the time for 4:00 PM, with no limit on the number of speakers. The good news is that this will not be a post-midnight meeting. The Council has decided to hear three major topics that will draw speakers, with the urban rail plan being one of those. After that they will most likely adjourn and finish the rest of the crowded agenda on Friday. This scheduling update was provided by Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office.
You Can Sign Up Now To Speak Against Item #64
You can sign up at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street, anytime between now and whenever the item is called after 4:00 on Thursday. Here are just a few of the reasons to oppose the current urban rail plan:
1. Many of us would like to support mass transit, but this is not the best plan for Austin. The route from Highland Mall to East Riverside is not a densely populated area, and would do more to help land speculators and developers hoping to attract newcomers than current residents. The population patterns behind the 2000 urban rail route along Guadalupe and Lamar still make sense. That ballot initiative passed within the City of Austin, and only failed at the polls because of opposition from outlying towns.
2. The $1 billion price tag would land you a property tax increase of $160 per year within five years on a $200,000 home. That would come on top of a multitude of other tax increases between now and then.
3. The City Council is likely to bundle a 60 / 40 split for rail and roads into a single bond proposition for the November ballot. The $1 billion cost would cover both. Voters should not be forced to accept a questionable and highly unpopular rail plan in order to vote for road improvements. The hastily throw-together batch of mostly I-35 improvements was contrived only for the purpose of “sweetening” the rail vote, and citizens should reject that tactic outright.
4. Those who say “We have to start somewhere” should be informed that if the bonds pass in November, Project Connect plans to install permanent concrete dedicated bus lanes along the competing Lamar / Guadalupe route, closing it off forever to urban rail.
5. Project Connect has come up with a new humdinger of a deal to reduce the cost of the rail plan. If you like paying your water and electric bills now, you will love this great idea! They have decided to “share” the cost of relocation of utility lines along the rail route with the Austin Water Utility and Austin Energy.
A better sharing plan would be to email this blog posting to your friends and share it on Facebook and Twitter.