Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

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Steve Adler
Posts: 335
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Steve Adler » Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:33 pm

From Mayor Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Garza, Council Member Ellis, and Council Member Kitchen:

Colleagues,

On Monday, we have a joint meeting (http://austintexas.gov/department/city- ... 7-spec.htm) with Capital Metro where we will be asked if we’re ready to give direction on the Project Connect system investment. After having heard our Council’s various public statements and what we assume we’re all hearing from the various community partners and stakeholders, we’re thinking the following might represent a way forward that might represent council consensus on several issues, including the Project Connect TRE, investing in displacement mitigation, and furthering active transportation. If there is in fact support behind this, then Monday’s work may come together.

This week, City staff and Capital Metro laid out an alternative funding scenario for implementing the Project Connect transportation system that would have an initial investment of approximately 8.5 cents rather than 11 cents.

- We’re excited about the possibility of achieving the entirety of this transformative plan with an initial and smaller overall impact to City of Austin property taxpayers.

- We’re confident that revenue from a reduced City of Austin tax rate increase of approximately 8.5 cents can be successfully leveraged with future matching funds from federal, state, regional, and private sources. Combined with Capital Metro’s ongoing financial commitment to the project, this more prudent approach will still enable our community to build, operate, and maintain the entire proposed transportation system.

- We have experience with this approach. The city has demonstrated our ability to leverage our local transportation funds to draw down other funding sources, e.g., the 2016 Mobility Bond Program.

Given the importance of this opportunity to invest in a city-wide transportation system, we support keeping the tax rate for the proposed City budget at 3.5% (even though the law would enable us to go higher, given the state-wide disaster declaration).

Given the expressed priorities of all of us on the dais, it’s important and exciting that we have the opportunity to make a really significant investment in displacement mitigation at the initiation of a city-wide transportation project. When the staff laid out the 8.5 cent option, it included $200 Million for displacement mitigation and active transportation. We anticipate it could be the will of the Council to put at least $200 Million toward just displacement mitigation. We believe a commitment to fund anti-displacement programs at this level follows through on the direction in the unanimously approved Council resolution in April (https://www.austintexas.gov/edims/docum ... ?id=339361), and our transportation equity policies enshrined in Chapter 6 of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (https://austintexas.gov/sites/default/f ... munity.pdf).

Austin has the opportunity to lead the nation in proactively addressing equity and planning for anti-displacement as part of our transit investment. We are not aware of any other city that has acted so boldly and proactively as we have the opportunity to now. We support the anti-displacement elements proposed by PUMA, AJC, and other housing advocates, and included in the recent staff memorandum developed with the Equity and Innovation Offices (http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/pio/do ... ?id=343876):

- Substantial funding for displacement mitigation strategies (at least $200 Million in the TRE*)
- We would suggest Council consider having this fund administered by the NHCD and city housing staff, rather than the independent construction oversight board, to take advantage of the expertise and project leveraging that would enable.

- Equity scorecard for each station area to evaluate displacement risk

- Neighborhood level anti-displacement strategies co-created with the community

- New, inter-agency team to coordinate anti-displacement strategies and actions

- Identify any other disparate impacts through an Environmental Justice Review for each project

Finally, we’re sure you’re hearing, too, from the coalition of community organizations, leaders, and advocates calling upon the Council to give voters the opportunity to also approve a transformative package of active transportation investments this November. If we are to move forward on active transportation beyond the elements included in Project Connect system projects, we would suggest these additional projects be funded through a separate bond measure. This is something we could discuss on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday (as related to Item 90 on the 07/29 Council Agenda https://www.austintexas.gov/edims/docum ... ?id=343582) and then give direction to staff.

We hope that laying out a possible direction prior to Monday will help inform our joint meeting.

Mayor Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Garza, Council Member Kitchen, and Council Member Ellis
Mayor

Delia Garza
Posts: 49
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:20 am

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Delia Garza » Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:25 pm

Thank you Mayor for posting our thoughts as a general framework to get the conversation going. I do want to just emphasize that before making any decisions Monday, I will need to have an understanding of what specific projects are included in the plan we move forward (e.g. which park and rides and neighborhood circulators, etc.). I also want to understand what options we have for more investment in anti-displacement efforts and possible projects even if it means going slightly above 8.5. I’d hate to miss an opportunity to add more investment to help our working families stay in Austin. We won’t know what opportunity we missed if aren’t given options.

Thanks,

Delia
Mayor Pro Tem, District 2

Ann Kitchen
Posts: 197
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:04 pm

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Ann Kitchen » Fri Jul 24, 2020 5:12 pm

Thank you Mayor and MPT

I also want to understand options for additional investment in anti-displacement efforts at a level that is slightly above 8.5. Now is the time to build into Project Connect the investments necessary to ensure this transformative initiative benefits everyone. Understanding the options is important.

Best
Ann Kitchen
City Council D5
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5

Paige Ellis
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:37 pm

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Paige Ellis » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:52 pm

Thank you, Mayor Adler, for laying out our thoughts in this post. Over the past few months there has been a lot of dialogue around anti-displacement and active transportation needs both on the Dais and with residents and organizers.I also believe that a separate bond measure for active transportation may make more sense due to the specific type of project management necessary to implement the projects. I look forward to the discussions to come.

-Paige Ellis
Paige Ellis
Council Member, District 8

Jimmy Flannigan
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:44 am

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Jimmy Flannigan » Sat Jul 25, 2020 10:12 am

Thank you, Mayor... there is a lot of this that I agree with.

I am committed to limiting our council-approved property tax increase to 3.5%, which would be the lowest for the city in 15 years. While that is not a long-term sustainable level (until we implement reforms on public safety budgets), the pandemic and federal support programs do allow us to limit that part of tax growth this year.

I am also in favor of bringing to the voters a Project Connect plan that stays within ~8.5-9 cents. That represents the parts of the program that can confidently be constructed within the city and CapMetro's authority. I agree with MPT Garza that we will want to be clear with the public what the remaining items are and which jurisdictions and agencies (TxDOT, CTRMA, CAMPO, Counties, etc.) might be future financial partners in those additional services and extensions. I am also in support of funding to address displacement and will be interested to see analysis on what the appropriate level of funding should be for that element.

However, I have grave concerns about the wisdom of adding a separate bond for related active transportation improvements. Active transportation infrastructure is a critical need in our community and represents a necessary and compatible piece of successful public transportation. The tax-rate election is the most fiscally responsible approach as it will allow for cheaper financing options, more opportunities for leveraging external partnerships, and a reliable long-term revenue stream. A separate bond is a far inferior option for both the taxpayers and for long-term planning. Any concerns with project management should be solved within the proposed Austin Transportation Partnership through thoughtful development of the interlocal, incorporation/bylaws, and future joint powers agreements.

- Jimmy
Jimmy Flannigan
Council Member, District 6

Greg Casar
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Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:20 pm

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Greg Casar » Sat Jul 25, 2020 2:59 pm

Thanks y’all. I support a separate active transportation bond proposition.

I also will support the plan outlined above, but at 8.75 cents to increase the displacement mitigation provisions. While I generally support the entire 11-cent plan, I think given our economic situation this year, passing 8.75 cents in one election and coming back to the voters in coming years to fund the rest of the plan makes sense. The staff will be presenting us with information on how a 8.75 cent election will contribute significantly to both our transportation and anti-displacement efforts.

I am willing to do 8.75 cents with the following understanding from the City and CapMetro:
• The plan will implement the Orange and Blue lines plus rapid buses every 5 minutes on North Lamar segments north of 183, which will connect buses and rails, providing the best bus service in the City.
• The plan will not slow down the extension of rail north of the North Lamar Transit Center. It will either necessitate another voter approved election in coming years to approve the extension or such an election would be unnecessary with sufficient federal or state funding.

-Greg
Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member District 4

Leslie Pool
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:22 pm

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Leslie Pool » Sat Jul 25, 2020 4:45 pm

Colleagues, in advance of our joint meeting Monday with Cap Metro and the attendant tax rate discussions I’d like to add my support to:
- approve a FY21 tax rate no higher than 3.5%
- set TRE financing for Project Connect at ~8.5 cents, and
- commit to adding significant funds in the TRE to mitigate displacement.

I want to join those commenting about the necessity of anti-displacement funding here already, and emphasize my wholehearted support for a significant level of funding. The 8.75 that CM Casar suggests looks pretty good to me. Transportation investments, like Project Connect, can change the economics of an area, particularly around the transit nodes, putting upward pressure on property values and causing rents and tax bills to increase on our families. That’s why we need to be prepared to mitigate any unintended consequences for our communities with well-funded anti-displacement measures that are more sustainable with a revenue stream.

I also support funding for new Active Transportation projects. I would like to have a better idea of the amount being requested and would like to hear more discussion about what form the funding would take – separate bond proposal or included in the TRE.

Thanks to all for the thoughtful discussion of such an important topic for our city.

Leslie
Leslie Pool
Council Member, District 7

Eric Byrd
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:38 am

Re: Monday’s Joint Meeting with Capital Metro RE: Project Connect

Post by Eric Byrd » Mon Jul 27, 2020 1:04 pm

On behalf of Council Member Harper-Madison:

Colleagues,

We have before us the opportunity to make history in Austin. We set some bold goals in our Austin Strategic Mobility Plan last year, and a lot of skeptics doubted we would do anything to achieve them. This is our chance to prove them wrong.

I fully support the proposed Project Connect initial investment. Not only will it finally bring light rail to where it belongs on Austin’s busiest corridors, it will also provide enhanced bus service and a new commuter rail line in the Eastern Crescent. A separate bond to finally achieve the goals set out in our sidewalk, bicycle, and urban trail plans also makes plenty of sense and I am eager to explore our available options.

Finally, I am particularly excited by the proposal to included $200 million for anti-displacement measures related to Project Connect. As I have noted before, big infrastructure projects in this city have a notorious history of exacerbating racial and economic segregation. As we’re talking about better ways to help people move around our city, we also absolutely have to be talking about better ways to help them stay right where they are. Furthermore, we can’t just throw money at a problem, which is why I was pleased to read the mayor’s bullet point about “neighborhood level anti-displacement strategies co-created with the community.” As a demonstration of good faith and trust, those initial collaborative conversations with our constituents should be starting sooner rather than later.
Chief of Staff, District 1

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