My thoughts on a proposed 2016 Mobility Bond

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Delia Garza
Posts: 47
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:20 am

My thoughts on a proposed 2016 Mobility Bond

Post by Delia Garza » Wed Jun 22, 2016 6:12 pm

I'm certain tomorrow's bond discussion will be lengthy, so in the interest of time, I want to lay out my thoughts at this point.

First and foremost, I’m certain we can all agree that we have mobility issues. I think we can also agree that we need a strategy to start addressing our mobility issues. Most of our disagreements come from what strategy we should use to move forward.

For me, it is important that we don’t rush into a strategy that doesn’t consider the many other pressing needs in our community. Of course I and all Austinites would love to live in a city where we never have to sit in traffic, but I don’t want to live in a city that hasn’t addressed affordable housing, has families living in floodplains, doesn't have an adequate number of fire stations, and hasn’t provided a great quality of life that includes parks and recreation facilities and programming for all children. Right now, for example, children in my district have showed up to a closed Dove Springs Recreation Center Pool because there are very limited pool hours due to lifeguard shortages and limited pools in this particular area. While other parts of Austin have more public pools that are open all week, children in my district have very limited opportunities to swim.

We have a very limited general fund to meet these critical needs throughout the city, and bonds are what help us bridge that gap. And along with those bonds (depending on the size of the bond) come tax increases to our taxpayers. Furthermore, I am having a difficult time supporting an enormous bond package that does little to address critical corridors in South Austin.

Below are more of my concerns with this process –

• Staff made clear yesterday that the promised improvements in traffic wouldn't really be realized with this first investment (even at the $720 million option). Those traffic improvements aren’t realized until the full corridor plan improvements are finished. All proposed bond packages before us for consideration are simply the FIRST step in many more million, likely billion dollar investments and future bond elections. I have big concerns about how this affects our bond capacity for other pressing needs and the eventual cost to taxpayers.
• There are definitely some great things in all the packages before us, but I’m very uncomfortable that the rushed process before us included very little input from South Austinites or people with no access to a computer.
• If we want to support transit and get people out of their cars, this plan should be finalized after Capital Metro’s Connections 2025 plan is completed. This will help us achieve a more comprehensive, multimodal transportation package.
• Given that we haven’t spent millions of dollars approved from previous bond elections, why are we adding a huge addition now when staff has stated there isn’t the staff necessary to implement the proposed improvements?

Yes, mobility is a pressing need and we need to make investments, but we must be transparent with Austinites and make sure they understand that even the largest proposal before us for $720 million dollars is not the full solution. It will take billions of dollars to fully ease our traffic issues in Austin. Is this rushed strategy the best use of our taxpayer dollars? Is raising the tax rate, primarily for transportation needs with the necessity of asking for more tax rate increases, what Austinites want? These are the questions I am having a hard time answering.

I’m not proposing we do nothing. We should invest in our sidewalks and in safety and in making improvements to support multimodal options, with sensitivity towards the diverse transportation needs throughout the City, but we should give Austinites more time to provide feedback before proposing a package that increases their tax bill. Therefore, I support a smaller package now and a more deliberate, more informed, more comprehensive look at all the needs in Austin before we make such a large request from our taxpayers. If I support any measure on Thursday that potentially raises taxes, it will simply be to let the voters decide if they want that tax increase (with the understanding there will be more tax increases), not one of support for the process we have used to date.

Best,

Delia Garza
Mayor Pro Tem, District 2