Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayers’ Union and “Honest Transportation Solutions” says the $720 million bond is not well-defined.
Travis County commissioners voted Tuesday to move toward selling a downtown lot at 300 Guadalupe Street, according to an Austin American-Statesman report. The lot was purchased to be site of a new county courthouse, but last year voters defeated a $287 million bond package that would have paid for the new building—some of them reasoning that the value of the land would be better realized through private development.
On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court voted to request proposals from developers wanting to lease or purchase the site, the Statesman reported.
The county also continued in its attempt to to acquire the old federal courthouse at 200 West Eighth Street. The Depression-era building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the paper reported, noting that the General Services Administration is expected to release it as surplus property—which would mean it could be given to a governmental entity a no cost.
Nov 4th, 2015
The Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) believes voters made a prudent decision in rejecting the courthouse bond. We postulate several principal issues influenced its defeat; fatigue with ever increasing downtown-focused development subsidies and congestion, frustration with unabated increases in un-affordable property taxes, a convoluted public-private real estate investment scheme that deviated from county government’s core mission, and a rejection of the influence of special interest money on our local elections. The counties own master plan calls for a total of 126,350 sq. ft. of civil courtroom space by 2035. The $287m courthouse scheme was for 520,000 sq. ft., the size of the Frost Bank building. It was a perfect storm of exorbitant size, astronomical price per square foot, unpopular location and financial hocus-pocus. We also perceive a rejection of the local, “Citizens United/Koch Brothers” style, special interest cash fueled PACs. The “Community for Civil and Family Courthouse PAC” collected over $320,000, much of it from outside Travis county, compared to the TCTU SPAC who spent around $3,000. Voters are tired of being manipulated by the same old politically connected consultants and ‘rubber stamp’ endorsers who have been eroding Austin affordability for two decades. The people have spoken. We now hope to see a more affordable plan that includes less expensive east Austin sites.
Travis County Taxpayers Union (plus other groups) are holding press conference against downtown courthouse Bond:
Wed. Oct 14th
Austin City Hall outdoor plaza
TCTU analyst Bill Worsham is leading the conference
NOTE — 22-Oct-2015 — RECA has joined opposition groups:
DRAFT Resolution TCTU has proposed against Bond, submitted to Travis GOP:
Whereas the $287 million Bond election for the proposed new downtown civil
courthouse on the November 3rd, 2015 ballot, is in addition to the $22 million
of non-voter approved debt used to acquire the downtown courthouse property
Whereas, the most recent courthouse site selection analysis was performed in
1999-2001 by a committee consisting of Travis County and other government
employees (Sheriff, Dist. Att’y, Co. purchasing agent, Dist. Judge, Co. Att’y,
tax assessor, exec. mgrs. of other county agencies), and A Guiding Principal of
the Travis County Central Campus Study initiated in 2010 was to keep the
facilities downtown, meaning no other locations were considered or evaluated,
Whereas, over 1,000 daily individual visits are now made to the current
courthouse facility, not including 275 employees or an unspecified number of
credentialed (frequent user) attorneys, with all three numbers forecast to rise,
while only 500 combined parking spaces are pledged, and crucial parking demand
is not part of the estimated project cost, and;
Whereas, Travis County is $695 million in debt with another $91 million of
additional debt issuance already planned for 2016, and;
Whereas, the additional $287 million courthouse debt proposal is less than
one-fourth of the eventual $1.2 Billion need identified by the Central Campus
Study within 25 years, meaning a projected need of at least two additional
rounds of similar magnitude of debt issuance during the life of the currently
proposed (20-year) bonds, and;
Whereas Travis County and Austin taxpayers already suffer the highest taxes and
fees of any major metro area in Texas, and;
Whereas Travis County and Austin residents have some of the highest electric
(PEC and Austin Energy) and water bills of any major metro area in Texas, and;
Whereas the new $287 million of Bond debt would cause an increase of at least
$13 per year for the ‘average’ property owner and an unknown increase to the
‘average’ renter, and;
Whereas real estate experts predict that the proposed downtown courthouse
property could be sold for at least $30 million, and could provide desperately
needed downtown residences remitting at least $120 million in new tax levy over
the next 20 years, and;
Whereas developers predict that a low rise civil courthouse project in
non-congested east Austin could provide many acres of free surface parking and
construction costs 25% to 50% lower than the downtown project, and;
Whereas at least three Austin City Council members (Houston, Troxclair,
Zimmerman) have supported a Resolution asking the Austin City Manager to
cooperate with Travis County on locating government owned land in east Austin
suitable for the new civil courthouse, and could possibly include a combined
city/county justice center, and;
Whereas Travis County has indicated they will not consider alternatives to the
current plan unless the Bond is defeated, then,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Travis County Republican Party urges voters to vote
AGAINST the Travis County civil courthouse Bond on the November 3rd, 2015
Austin has a growing gridlock issue, principally between the hours of 7 – 10 a.m. and 4 – 7 p.m. The intensity and duration of this gridlock will likely grow with population. There’s no end-game solution in a growing city; however intelligent upgrades and keeping up with demand controls the problem. Austin’s the only large city in Texas with no loop connecting its urban core arterials. San Antonio has two (IH-410 and 1604), Houston has two (IH-610 and 8), Dallas has IH-635/20, Ft Worth has 820/20 and El Paso has 375/54.
Our city has a number of urban core intersections that could be optimized to improve traffic flow. They’re contributors to lost time, higher emissions and congestion. Our traffic control system needs a major overhaul. Some progress has been made by programs like the Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS), however we need more robust efforts to fund, design and implement a next generation traffic management system.
TCTU URGES VOTERS TO REJECT the “URBAN RAIL” Proposition in November, and SUPPORT NEW CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES WHO WILL COMMIT TO RELIEVE CONGESTION BY ADVOCATING LONG OVERDUE ROAD EXPANSIONS AND OTHER VEHICULAR TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS.
SEE THE FULL REPORT HERE:
“The frequent reporting of surprises and bad news regarding urban rail (increasing costs, taxes and congestion) to serve low ridership, and the fact that many key rail questions proposed by the Mayor and others are still unanswered after three years, make it irresponsible to place urban rail on this November’s ballot.”
Travis County Taxpayers Union Urges Austin Voters to Reject Unlimited Taxes and Unsustainable Debt from School Bond Propositions
TCTU is happy to see Austin City Council members finally acknowledge that the millions of dollars they confiscate from us are part of the affordability problem. While any discussion of property tax reduction is a positive, we’re less excited about a plan whereby they would bestow relief only on neighborhoods of their choosing.
We also note in the 2/13/2014 Council meeting agenda item 44 backup that two areas they may target contain so-called Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) associated with CapMetro’s Red Line, as well as the “Riverside Corridor” (possible future rail route). If instituted, tax relief at these TODS would constitute stealth subsidies of exorbitantly expensive, impossibly unsustainable local passenger rail proposals.
Special Interest Propaganda + over $250,000 of corporate money + City Government Lies = Another Taxpayer Loss
Few things expose the breathtaking hypocrisy of this City government and it’s profit-sharing political machine like this past Bond election.
In November of 2012, about 120,826 voters said “NO” to the city’s demand for $78 million for an “affordable housing” Bond. To these hypocrites who perpetually extol the virtue of “democracy”, this vote result wasn’t “democratic” at all because it did not satisfy the progressive demand for unending debt and taxation, and did not satisfy a progressive prophecy which declares, “of the increase of money and power upon Austin government, there shall be no end”. For the Austin political machine, “No means Yes”, or “No means ask again after $450,000+ of political propaganda and city government disinformation”.
Fast forward to Nov, 2013, when about 39,878 voters say Yes. This of course is proof that “voters were educated” on the issue and “democracy” was served, in spite of the fact that over 91% of the voters said NO, or said nothing. Shame on hypocrites claiming to champion “democracy” when they ignore the voice of 91% of the voters, and who claim fewer voters who say YES are “democratic” while more voters who say NO are not.
What TCTU finds alarming is the insatiable lust and greed this city government machine has for other people’s money and liberties. Worse, that greed comes with a self-righteous god complex that they uniquely care about things like “affordable housing”, while God and the rest of us who work hard to pay our own way without burdening our neighbors, and pay all the taxes, and donate to true charities, don’t care enough, if at all.
What we need to remind everyone about is obvious — if Austinites had won the Nov, 2013 election, the greedy hypocrites would be back to try again. Likewise, since we lost, the greedy hypocrites will be back to try again.
TCTU gives a hearty THANK YOU to all the volunteers and voters with TAG and the other smaller groups and individuals who worked for all of Austin, trying to RE-DEFEAT this un-affordable Bond. These same self-righteous progressive hypocrites will be back — and so will we!
TCTU’s Roger Falk on YNN:
TCTU’s Don Zimmerman on KEYE:
Dear Taxpayer Friend — if you haven’t done so already, PLEASE VOTE! Early voting results are encouraging because suburban Austin neighborhoods who defeated the Bond a year ago are voting relatively well compared to more central Austin locations. Overall turnout is pathetic – as expected.
Please join us Tuesday Evening after the polls close:
What: TCTU Election Watch
Where: BB Rover’s Pub, 12636 Research Blvd. Suite B-101 Austin TX 78759
When: 7:30PM to 9:00 PM
Why: Meet-up with taxpayer friendly voters and activists and hope for the best (a taxpayer victory #2 on the Unaffordable Housing Bond)