COST Recommends NO Vote on Austin “Mobility” Bond (Proposition 1)

Photo of press conferece opposing Proposition 1. There were 10 speakers from more more than a dozen organizations representing a broad spectrum of Austin citizens. Jim Skaggs of COST is speaking here. In the background are some of other speakers including Paul Hernandez, El Concilio member(sitting on left) and on the right are Ed Wendler, Jr. and Dominic Chavez (far rightr)representing ‘Sustainable Transportation Solutions for Auston’ who served as the ‘master of cermonies.’ Following the COST Press Release below are releases representing 10 other organizations opposing this ill-conceived proposition.

Coalition On Sustainable Transportation (COST)
Vote NO on Austin “Mobility” Bond (Prop. 1)

Vote No sign as you’ve seen around town

The Coalition on Sustainable Transportation (COST) joins the overwhelming and growing number of Austin organizations and citizens in opposing the City Council’s proposed “Transportation” bond referendum to be placed on the November 2, 2010 election ballot.

This proposed $90 million dollar bond package has been created with little transparency and lacks integrity. The package is a veiled hodgepodge of projects deceptively mislabeled “transportation and mobility” improvements. The city has provided scant data regarding the costs and transportation benefits of any proposed project.

Austin area citizens use roadways for 99% of their travel. Contrary to the City’s deceptive presentation, more than one-half of the bond money will be spent on projects which have no impact on roadway mobility and congestion, including the following defined projects:

1. The most expensive project in the package is a $14.4 million boardwalk on the south side of Lady Bird Lake.

2. The second most expensive is $10 million for American Disabilities Act sidewalk improvements.

3. The third most expensive is $8 million labeled as “Arterial Streets” but is primarily bike lanes and sidewalks for the 3rd street Lance Armstrong Bike Boulevard.

In addition, another $12.3 million is allocated to projects for sidewalks, trails and bike lanes making a total of $36.7 million.

More than one-third of the $90 million bond is a “blank check” for the city because specific projects are not identified.

The largest true roadway project is $4 million for temporary improvements to the highly congested “Y” at Oak Hill. Undefined neighborhood streets are allocated $16.35 million of which $2.7 is for ‘traffic calming’ and ‘quiet zone’ funding. Almost $20 million is allocated for street reconstruction which appears to be ‘deferred/neglected maintenance’ with little mobility improvement. An additional $2 million is to support Capital Metro’s Bus Rapid Transit and Urban Rail which has not even been approved by voters. Clearly Cap Metro should fund this and zero should be spent anticipating Urban Rail.

The city’s selection criteria for bond package projects are decidedly ‘anti-automobile’ and ‘anti-mobility.’ They are biased against projects which should have the highest priority: Those which are cost effective in relieving the most road congestion and improving mobility for the greatest number of people.

Voters should vote NO on this poorly formulated bond proposition and require the city to present a cost-effective package with total transparency and mobility benefits data.

Mobility bonds with mixtures of very different kinds of projects, some of which provide little or no mobility improvement, should not be placed in the same “catch-all” proposition. Voters should be allowed to vote separately on necessities versus amenities. Voters should also be provided a projection of the City’s plan to fund and complete ‘design only’ projects in any current bonds.
Normal, ongoing road maintenance should be included in the city’s general fund. It is too expensive to use bond funding.

COST strongly recommends a significant, revised bond package comprised of cost-effective projects to relieve road congestion for the most citizens.
The mission of the Coalition on Sustainable Transportation (COST) is to promote sustainable, cost-effective people mobility solutions for the Austin region. COST’s purpose is to seek and provide objective, analytically based and understandable information which allows citizens, elected officials, other community leaders, and transportation officials to assess people mobility alternatives and select those which equitably serve the Austin region’s greater good.

COST web site:


For more information contact:
Gavino Fernandez, Jr. 477-7512
Coordinator of El Concilio, a coalition
of Mexican-American Neighborhood Associations



Today, the first day of early voting, six different Mexican-American Neighborhood Associations and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), District 12, joined with other citizen groups from across Austin who are urging Austinites to reject Proposition 1 on the ballot.

“We the members of El Concilio, a Coalition of six Mexican-American Neighborhood Associations will be voting ‘NO’ on the City of Austin Bond Proposition 1 on this November 2nd , 2010 election ballot”, said Coordinator for El Concilio, Gavino Fernandez. “We are strongly opposed to the FURTHER polluting of Lady Bird Lake by the construction of a 14 MILLION DOLLAR Board Walk on the waters of Lady Bird Lake. Proposition 1 bond language lumps 90 million dollars of projects all together and is an insult to the integrity and the intelligence of Austin tax voters. East Austin continues to be neglected. Proposition 1 ignores many needed street repairs and sidewalks in our Barrios, giving our voters reason not to support this,’take it or leave it’, with all projects thrown into one bond proposition. Once again, ‘Broken Promises’. Our neighborhoods also deserve sidewalks and road repairs for our streets to ensure our children and citizens with disabilities enjoy a safe walk to school and to our Mom and Pop businesses. Let’s send our City Council Mothers and Fathers a strong message that we will no longer tolerate being ignored by rejecting Proposition 1 and VOTE NO”, Gavino said.

Speaking for LULAC District 12, Marcelo Tafoya, stated, “This Council with Proposition 1 is demonstrating the same arrogance and injustice that our community is use to from this Council. They want us to just hand them a check from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers for 90 million dollars and they will do whatever they please with it because of the vague and misleading wording on the ballot. They do not listen to the people. We are proud to join with the six neighborhood associations in El Concilio and with other citizen organizations all over Austin in urging a strong
Neighborhood Associations in El Concilio coalition and contact member: Gavino Fernandez. Jr.
Barrio Unido Neighborhood Association —Frances Martinez
Buena Vista Neighborhood Association —Leon Hernandez
East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association —Marcos de Leon
Perdernales Community Neighborhood Association —Gloria Moreno
Montopolis Neighborhood Association —Racheal Rios
Govalle Neighborhood Association —Alicia Garcia
LULAC District 12 —Marcelo Tafoya


For more information, contact:
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
(512) 415-3939

Citizen Groups Unite to Oppose Austin Bond Vote
Bond package fundamentally fails to address critical community needs

AUSTIN, Texas–Today, three citizen organizations joined forces to urge Austinites to Vote No on Proposition 1, the City of Austin bond package to be voted on during the November 2 election. The West Austin Downtown Alliance, Austinites for Downtown Mobility and Austinites for Action announced that they will work aggressively to educate Austin voters about Proposition 1, which they unanimously described as a failed attempt to address traffic congestion in Austin.
“To suggest this bond package will get Austin moving is the kind of empty, disingenuous political rhetoric that is fueling distrust in city leadership,” said Dominic Chavez, member of Austinites for Action. “Commuters stuck on MoPac or IH 35 during rush hour are not clamoring for more trails or landscaping subsidies for downtown development–they want congestion relief and want it now.”

“Every recent survey of Austin citizens identifies vehicular traffic congestion relief as the number one priority,” explains Susan Harris, spokesperson for Austinites for Downtown Mobility. “At a time the city is cutting services and raising taxes, we need to focus our limited resources on projects that will immediately reduce congestion–Prop.1 fails on all accounts and should be defeated.”

Scott Sayers, President of the West Austin Downtown Alliance, says that Austin voters have not been given a fair shake by allowing them to choose which projects they want to fund. “Unfortunately, our City Council has said, ‘take it or leave it’ and lumped all of the projects from roads to bike lanes to jogging and hiking trails into one bond proposal, so that the public doesn’t have the choice to vote yes on the most important ways to spend our dollars and to vote no on frivolous non-critical items,” explained Sayers.

The coalition points to the proposed Lady Bird Lake trail project, which will cost the city at least $14 million of the proposed $90 million Prop. 1 package, as the most outlandish example of city leaders missing the mark on addressing critical community needs. The coalition is urging a NO vote on Prop. 1 and asking that the city council instead develop a comprehensive congestion relief bond program that includes both short and long term projects targeting traffic on major highways and arterials in Austin. The coalition is also asking the city to end the practice of project bundling for bond elections-the strategy of combining dissimilar projects into a single bond proposition forcing an all or nothing vote by citizens.

The coalition believes this practice compromises the integrity of the bond process and is the cynical attempt by special interests to ensure unpopular projects are not scrutinized by voters.

“The message this bond package sends is simple and clear: the city council’s number one priority is to relieve congestion for joggers rather than commuters,” said Chavez. “By any objective measure, this package is completely out of touch with the community’s real needs and we encourage a NO vote on November 2.”


#7: Prop. 1 intentionally hides controversial projects from voter scrutiny.
Prop.1 bundles everything from roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, hiking trails, and the completion of the Town Lake jogging trail, into a single bond package. Most of the projects won’t relieve congestion, but voters must accept all of them or none of them–“Take it or leave it!”

#6 Prop. 1 costs $1 million per word, but not a penny’s worth of transparency.
Voters will need decoder rings to translate the 99-word ballot language written by city lawyers. The ballot language for Prop. 1 does not explain how much or where taxpayer dollars will be spent. Prop. 1 not only flunks middle school grammar standards, but gets an “F” for transparency.

#5 Prop. 1 is a blank check with no accountability.
Because the bond language is intentionally vague, the city council can effectively spend the money on any project they want. Think it impossible? Earlier this year local leaders tried to eliminate a major highway project-SH 45 Southwest-approved by voters via a bond election more than a decade ago.

#4 Prop. 1 is the result of cooked books.
Common sense suggests that a “mobility” bond package would have been graded based on the amount of commuter capacity added. But no one has ever accused the city of common sense. It is then no wonder that the city used a skewed process to identify the Lady Bird Lake jogging trail as the 12th most important transportation project in Austin, or the redesign of 3rdstreet downtown as the 5th most important transportation project in Austin. Only the city council could make us believe that improving a trail for joggers and eliminating lanes of traffic and parking on downtown streets is an answer to Austin’s traffic problems.

#3 Prop. 1 is the result of the City Council’s frivolous budget priorities.
One-third of the funding in the $90 million bond package is paying for road reconstruction-the result of deferred and unfunded maintenance. For years, the City Council has shortchanged maintenance on infrastructure around the city, to include waterlines, roads, and facilities in favor of frivolous spending on non-critical priorities. Because of their negligence we are now asked to spend 30% of the bond package on maintenance of old roads and less than 3% on new roads.

#2 Prop. 1 was manipulated by special interests
All forms and types of special interests directly influenced what projects were included in this bond package. No interests were more prevalent than the downtown boosters and developers who successfully steered significant resources from this package to enhance investment interests and the lifestyles of a few thousand downtown residents. Even under the rosiest of scenarios, downtown Austin only has 9,500 residents. The short math shows that this package will result in $3,500/downtown resident and only $71/resident for the rest of us.

And, the #1 reason to vote NO on Prop. 1.
Prop. 1 ignores the community’s needs and priorities.
In April 2010, the city of Austin commissioned a comprehensive, citywide survey to ask citizens to identify their priorities. No surprises-citizens overwhelmingly identified car traffic as the single most important transportation problem. The findings:

 Only 33% of respondents were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the “ease of travel by car on freeways”.

 Conversely, 51% of respondents were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the “walking and hiking” system in Austin.

 When asked what issues the city should focus on in the next two years, the top five responses require improvements in road capacity, including desired improvements in bus service (priority #3).
Yet, six months later the city council has proposed a package that would spend $24 million on the area the community is most satisfied with (trails) and only $2 million on that which they are least satisfied (new roads). It defies common sense that the city would absolutely ignore the community’s stated priorities.

For more information:

Austinites for Action
Austinites for Downtown Mobility
West Austin Downtown Alliance


Below are portions of a full page ad (Shown at the end) printed in the Austin-American Statesman. The Ad was paid by Sensible Transportation Solutions for Austin PAC.

Eight common sense reasons to vote NO to Proposition 1 Bonds

1. It’s very, very deceptive. Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot. One long, deceptive sentence that’s gobbledygook; legal duck speak that gives approval for
what you’ll actually be getting as shown in the chart below. The chart lists expenditures they knew would never get a “Yes” from a majority of Austin’s voters if they gave us the
opportunity to vote on them separately. (Politicos call it “bundling”.)

The issuance of $90,000,000 in tax supported general obligation bonds and notes for
constructing and reconstructing roads and streets; constructing, improving and reconstructing sidewalks, bikeways, and other bicycle and pedestrian mobility infrastructure; improving traffic signal synchronization and control systems; acquiring and installing traffic signals; constructing, reconstructing, and improving drainage facilities related to these improvements; funding design and engineering for roads, streets, drainage, traffic signal, sidewalks, bikeways, and other bicycle and pedestrian mobility infrastructure; and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

2. Ignores the real problems. What about MoPac? Most who have the pleasure of daily rush hour(s) there know all about heavy traffic. Austin has 11 of the top 100 worst
traffic spots in Texas, according to the Texas Dept. of Transportation, yet Prop. 1 spends just 3% of its budget on only one of them. 183? MoPac? Forget it. Think sidewalks.

3. Creates more congestion. Removing existing traffic lanes for sidewalks and bike lanes will consequently increase congestion on key streets. If you like 2nd Street, you’re
going to love the proposed 3rd Street reconstruction (and reduction). For a preview, stroll down Brazos or Colorado Streets. Fewer lanes of traffic are better, right? Converting 7th and 8th to two-way streets is yet another “inspired improvement”
(also being proposed for 9th, 10th, Brazos, Colorado, San Jacinto and Trinity in the next 5 years). Enjoy!

4. Under 25% for auto traffic. Somehow, less than a quarter of the money is earmarked for increasing automobile capacity on our already congested roads. It’s nice to have
amenities such as trails and promenades, but we desperately need relief for Austin’s traffic-jammed streets.

5. It adds little real capacity. Though the bond’s proponents tout increased traffic capacity, the city counts pedestrians, bikes and, presumably, pogo sticks as cars.
So while it may get easier to walk around, the drive home is still going to be a slow, frustrating process.

6. Neighorhoods Lose Again. Much of the money is being spent in and around downtown. No surprises here. The vast majority of the budget labeled as “regional”, for instance, will be spent in or adjoining downtown. They must believe the neighborhoods won’t notice or care.

7. Amenities trump traffic. $14.4 million would be spent on boardwalks. Will these reduce traffic congestion? Of course not. And in the absence of rush hour pedestrian
gridlocks, it makes little sense to spend such a large proportion of our limited funds on what can only be called a nice extra if we could afford it. Council also says it won’t increase taxes. Really? They probably just “forgot” to remove that phrase from the ballot language. (See the last two lines of bond language in Reason 1.)

8. It invites further disaster. Approval will lay the groundwork for a much larger folly. 2012 ballot plans include a $1.5 billion trolley (with $23 million in annual operating
costs) which promises to replicate Cap Metro’s riderless rail fiasco on a far grander scale, rob basic and social services budgets and still do nothing for neighborhoods. How stupid do they think we really are?

The devil is in the details.

The City of Austin’s Proposition 1 Bond budget breakdown is below. Read carefully. Is hiding the truth the same as not telling the truth? You decide.

The ads table is below in a copy of the full page ad or at the City’s web page.



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©2007 Coalition On Sustainable Transportation