By Bill Oakey – August 5, 2014
Voters who were still undecided in the mayor’s race can breathe a big sigh of relief. The decision just got a whole lot easier with yesterday’s announcement. Steve Adler is calling for the City to adopt a 20% residential homestead exemption on our property taxes. No sooner did the words spring forth from his lips, than Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole shrieked their resistance.
Of course the City cannot be more responsible in its budget. Of course they can’t grant us the very same exemption that Travis County has offered for two decades! What an outlandish and preposterous idea! The financial rule of thumb at City Hall has been to spend as much money as possible as quickly as possible. And if there is a budget surplus in midyear, be the first out the door with ways to spend that too.
That’s precisely why Austin has an affordability problem. If the local leadership does not set the right tone, every other group, public or private, will assume that we don’t have a problem. But this time around, the citizens know better. We have seen how affordability affects our own family budgets. And we cringe at the thought of so many good people having to sell their homes and leave Austin.
What we need to do is tell Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole that their time is up. They each had eight years to steer the City onto an affordable path. Instead they did the exact opposite. Both major utilities are facing unending rate increases. Taxes and fees at every level have spiraled out of control. So, why should we expect anything more than business as usual from either incumbent candidate for mayor?
Here’s What Steve Adler Says About the Homestead Exemption
“Yesterday, as I officially filed for Mayor on the City of Austin ballot, I announced my support for a twenty percent property tax homestead exemption for Austin homeowners. I hope you’ll join my efforts in charting a new way forward, away from the same old policies that have left our city the most unaffordable in the state.”
“The time has come for tax relief for Austin homeowners. I propose phasing this in over four years in a revenue-neutral way, without cutting city services and without significantly impacting renters.”
“I would prefer this homestead exemption be a flat amount instead of a percentage, but state law does not provide that remedy. A twenty percent homestead exemption is the maximum allowed by Texas state law, and is one of the only tools we have for property tax relief now. As mayor, I will fight hard at the legislature for more fairness in our tax structure.”
But What About Those Loud Voices Criticizing Steve Adler on the Environment?
Out of hundreds of legal cases over a long career, Steve participated in a tiny number of cases that were not favorable to the environment. It is a huge stretch to even think about comparing those to the untold number of harmful votes by both Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole. During eight years in office, they attended close to 400 City Council meetings. In that time period, they voted against neighborhoods and the environment dozens upon dozens of times.
If you are happy with the status of development over the Edwards Aquifer, or the wasteful spending on Water Treatment Plant #4, or the steady erosion of neighborhood plans and protections, then feel free to vote for more of the same. If you have not met with Steve or attended a forum to listen to his ideas, then keep an open mind about him. You owe it to yourself to consider a fresh start to a badly broken and unaffordable system at City Hall.
The next time you pull out your wallet or purse, ask yourself if you are better off than you were a few years ago.
Ask yourself if you can afford more of the same. Or, if you would rather vote for a mayor like Steve Adler, who will listen to all of the people instead of just the special interests.