Tag Archives: Austin mayor

Why I Voted For Steve Adler, And Why You Should Too

By Bill Oakey – October 31, 2014

It is quite appropriate that the Halloween tricksters from a certain male opponent of Steve’s sent out two ghoulish mailers this week. We shouldn’t let them scare us, and it’s easy to tell that they are the ones who are spooked!

The special interests who are backing Steve’s opponents are unwilling to match his pledge of real tax relief for Austin homeowners. Instead, they conjured up a band of outside agitators from South Carolina to send out negative mailers to Austin voters. This represents an act of desperation, and it probably means that Steve’s positives messages are cutting into the hopes of any opponents who were hoping to beat him.

This is where those of you reading this come in. Make your plans to vote for Steve, if you haven’t already. You can vote at any polling location on Tuesday. Then you need to email, Facebook and tweet your friends and remind them to vote for Steve. If we keep the attention focused on these net few days, Austin can finally put the bad old days of business as usual at City Hall behind us.

Steve is a down to earth, hard working guy who is quite the opposite of the spooky character that the outsiders portray him to be. You should set a time to go by his campaign office at 301 Barton Springs Road. Volunteers will be needed right up until the polls close at 7:00 on Tuesday.

In the meantime, just keep in mind that solid, common sense principles like financial transparency, truth in taxation, and real affordability reforms instead of lip service and empty promises can be ours if we just get out the vote for Steve Adler.

Treat yourself to a grass roots victory in the mayor’s race this Halloween. Remind your friends that all of the tough problems that Austin faces today were brought about by the very people who are opposing Steve in this election. It is their “experience” that got us into this mess.

Oh, and there’s just one other thing. Wouldn’t it be fun to see that boyish grin on Steve’s face Tuesday night when he wins!

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Steve Adler Supports City Homestead Exemption

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.

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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.

Maybe In Another Lifetime…

By Bill Oakey – July 26, 2014

This blog posting is a tribute to a special friend that I have not even met in person.  Her name is Roberta.  She follows this blog and often challenges me with good questions and interesting thoughts to ponder.  Like many of us, it appears that she is prone to occasional bouts of whim and fantasy.  I should know all about that.  My biggest creative influences growing up were Rod Serling and Richard Matheson, and others with a sweeping capacity for wild and adventurous imagination.

Here is what Roberta slipped into a message that she sent this morning:

Me for Mayor

I must admit that I love her styling!  Such a cool font, and just the color that I happen to like. How could she have known that?

There was another time, back in the old days, when people used to entertain suggestions about me running for City Council.  So, what I did was try to imagine what that might really be like. Here’s what I was told by a top aide to the mayor at the time.  When you run for office, all of your friends turn out to cheer you on.  You see those same friends and meet new ones every single day.  They are just like you.  They want grassroots representation at City Hall.  They want you to stand up to the special interests.  You are surrounded constantly by the best people you would ever want to meet.  The excitement of the campaign builds to a fever pitch.

Then comes Election Day.

Then comes the Victory Party…

Then, your friends practically lift you off the ground, as they clap and holler and raise the roof off the place.  You WON!!  TV cameras start glowing.  You start glowing.  You go to bed that night, thinking it was the biggest night of your life.  And maybe it was.

By the next morning, if not sooner, things begin to shift just a little.  People that you never spoke to during the campaign suddenly start smiling at you.  I’m talking big, wide smiles.  They dress a little bit nicer than some of your friends.  Maybe a whole lot nicer.  But it’s their demeanor that really stands out.  They approach you like that long lost roommate that you haven’t seen in 25 years.  They’re so happy to see you, and they can’t wait to sit down for a chat.

Then, as you pull your chair up to the table, your brand new friend hands you a business card. That person behind the smile wants something from City Hall.  Something that you probably campaigned against.

From that point on, your life changes completely.

Suddenly, it becomes a lot trickier to determine who is your friend and who is not.  What they say to your face and what you hear that they said behind your back may be two different things.  But still, you try your best to get used to it.

After you move into your new office, you look forward to greeting the friends that surrounded you during the campaign.  But where are they?  Why don’t all of them show up on your calendar?  The reason is really simple.  They are just too busy, with some of them working two jobs to take care of their families.  But your calendar is full.  There is no shortage of people with plenty of time on their hands.  Because they will be paid to come and see you.

The bottom line is that you have two choices.  Try to be nice to all of them, even if you plan to vote against some of their requests most of the time.  Or, brush them all off and sit alone in your office with nobody to talk to except the walls.

Ah, but there are some advantages.  Restaurants that you could never afford to go to suddenly show up on your calendar.  The check is never placed next to you at the table.  Tickets to plays, concerts, and all manner of things drop out of the sky.  Lavish parties.  Schmoozing events. Comedy shows…

Speaking of comedy shows, did I forget to mention those long Thursday meetings down on Second Street?  The ones that start at noon and sometimes don’t end until 3:00 the next morning?

It’s not that I don’t have lots of things in store for the new members of the Austin City Council. They will be reminded that all of us are still out here watching what they do.  Because I will be one of those reminders.

As you sit down with your friends at your favorite hangout during one of Austin’s high-flying events, that glass of wine or beer might start to wobble.  You might hear the deafening roar of a helicopter overhead.  The mayor and his top aides will be swooshed away to an air conditioned box at Memorial Stadium or a certain unnamed racetrack.

And I will be either sitting at this computer, relaxing on the couch with a cold beer, or out partying with real, dependable friends.  With thoughts of the next reform that needs to be finished, somewhere in the back of my mind.

But all of us should be lucky enough to have at least one Roberta in our corner…

Austin Leaders Should Unite Behind Tax Appraisal Reform

By Bill Oakey – June 4, 2014

The Travis County Commissioners Court took the first step on Monday toward meaningful action on tax appraisal reform.  Thanks in large part to the efforts of commissioner candidate, Brigid Shea, the Court is seriously exploring whether to legally challenge all of the commercial tax appraisals in Travis County.  Two stunning facts tell the story of gross inequities in the current system:

1. Commercial property is currently being assessed at only about 60% of its market value, thanks to a gaping loophole in State law.

2. The Travis Central Appraisal District is out-gunned by high priced lawyers who often sue in court and win if those property owners don’t get the appraisals they want from TCAD.

The end result is that residential homeowners get the shaft.  And with Austin taxes hitting unsustainable levels, local leaders are speaking out on the need for reform.  If the County Commissioners follow through with their challenge, the entire state will take notice, and regardless of the outcome, the Legislature will be confronted with the issue come January.

County Judge Sam Biscoe stated after the discussions in executive session on Monday that a lot of legal questions will need to be answered before commissioners can decide whether to take action.  A formal challenge would trigger the need to find out what set of appraisals the City, County, and other taxing entities would use for tax collections in the upcoming year.  A potential delay in tax collections could jeopardize the chances of a challenge being filed.  The issue will return to the Commissioners Court on June 17th.  At that time, homeowners will be given an opportunity to speak.

City Council Member Kathie Tovo has scheduled an item for the City to consider an appeal as well.  What would really be helpful would be a coordinated effort, including AISD.  The year of 2014 apparently marks the tipping point where citizens and local leaders have finally gotten the message.  Austin cannot continue to grow and maintain a booming economy unless there is available money to pay for services.  Homeowners cannot be expected to carry a lopsided portion of that burden.  It’s not even a matter of whether they WANT to pay.  The fact is that rapidly increasing numbers of them simply can’t afford to pay any more.

Mayoral Candidate Steve Adler Adds His Voice To The Call For Reform

I especially appreciate the comments that Steve Adler made on Monday in his handout to the packed crowd of frustrated homeowners at the Commissioners Court on Monday:

“Residential property owners are being unfairly burdened with property taxes. The city and local governments should have challenged the system years ago. There is nothing new about this problem and it is good to see Travis County considering action now.”

“Politicians should be honest when they talk to taxpayers about raising taxes, regardless of what they do with the tax rates. Taxpayers deserve truth in taxation.”

Mr. Adler’s characteristic breadth of scope in approaching complex issues will place him ahead of the pack when it comes to tackling property tax issues.  His experience working in the Legislature will help with respect to appraisal reform.  And he has made it clear in discussions with me that he would not tolerate the deceptive City Hall practice of hiding behind the tax rate during annual budget deliberations.  It was Steve Adler who brought to my attention the fact that the 7/10 of a cent tax rate reduction in the City Manager’s budget forecast actually adds up to a 5.5% tax increase.

I was reminded of John Kerry’s comment in his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “Imagine a President who believes in science!”  Well, how about this.  “Imagine a mayor who believes in truth in taxation!”