Is it too soon for another bond election? Austin residents weigh in

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 13, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 13 at 6:46 PM

AUSTIN -- Improving transportation, parks and public safety facilities are causes Austin voters deemed important enough to pass bond packages on this past November. There was only one area out of seven that the majority didn't want money allocated toward, affordable housing.

"The phrase 'affordable housing' scares the average citizen," said Austin business owner Terry Mitchell. "Your mind conjugates pictures of dilapidated housing with scary people inside and people don't want that in their neighborhoods."

Proposition 15 would have allocated $78.3 million to help house Austin's homeless and to build and fix homes for the elderly and veterans. Money the city could have doubled or tripled with matching federal grant programs.

"We're not here today to point fingers, but rather to accept responsibility for ballot language that could have been confusing and a failure to inform voters," said Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole at a news conference Saturday.

She and Council Members Bill Spellman and Chris Riley are planning to present a resolution at Thursday's council meeting to look into holding another bond election. This one, solely for affordable housing.

"Not only is it morally the right thing to do, not only ethically should we help people," said Spellman, "it's also good for you and me, even if we're never going to need affordable housing."

Terry Mitchell agrees. "Do any of you think that Austin has a traffic congestion problem," he asked during the news conference, "about 229,000 jobs exist in our four urban zip codes, 01, 03, 04 and 05. The interesting statistic however is that 92 percent of those people don't live in those zip codes."

Mitchell argues that those people have to drive to work, on congested highways, everyday. Analyst say the economy is also suffering because the overall cost of living in other cities is less expensive than Austin. And they are concerned about future generations.

"My daughter will graduate this semester and I hope she comes back someday," Mitchell said. "What can she afford? Downtown Austin, the average new condo will cost over a million dollars. West Austin, where we live, the average home price fluctuates between $750,000 and $800,000 a year."

Some other members of the Austin City Council argue it's too soon for another bond election. So we decided to ask, what do Austin voters think.

"It's not fair," said Adam Breznicky who voted against Proposition 15 in November. "They put the offer out there, everyone objected and that's what it is. You can't be a sore loser."

David Meaux is torn. He voted for Proposition 15. As a Realtor, he said it is his belief that everyone should have access to housing. As for another proposition, "it depends on how bad it didn't, you know, how bad it failed," said Meaux. "If it was a very close vote then it's probably not too soon."

"No I don't think so," said Paola Ortiz when asked is it too soon for another election. "I mean if more people are aware of it then maybe they'll get a better response."

A better response is what city leaders are hoping for as one step in helping the struggling and homeless.

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