What Are The Propositions Austin Voters Will Decide On This November? It's An Alphabet Soup.

Sep 28, 2018

You might have seen signs around town telling you how to vote on certain ballot propositions in November. It’s a big list. There are 11 of them — Proposition A through K.

Here's a quick video explainer from our friends at KLRU's Decibel (featuring KUT's Audrey McGlinchy):

Need more info? We got you.

Here’s a proposition-by-proposition breakdown of the bond measures — plus the rest of the ballot items:

Proposition A

This is the first of seven propositions that make up a $925 million bond package the Austin City Council put together. Proposition A accounts for $250 million of that whole package. This item is all about affordable housing.

If voters approve it, the city would borrow money for a range of things related to building and maintaining housing, specifically for lower-income residents.

$100 million would go toward buying land for affordable housing development. $94 million would go toward housing that’s specifically targeted to renters and providing housing for the homeless. $28 million would go toward developing affordable housing to be bought by people with lower incomes. Finally, another $28 million would go toward home repairs for lower-income homeowners.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $250,000,000 in tax-supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping affordable housing facilities for low income and moderate income persons and families, and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so, funding loans and grants for affordable housing, and funding affordable housing programs, as may be permitted by law; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition B

The second bond proposition is aimed at the city’s libraries, museums and cultural arts facilities. It totals $128 million.

$56.5 million would go toward renovations at the Mexican-American Cultural Center, the Asian-American Resource Center, the George Washington Carver Museum and the Mexic-Arte Museum. $34.5 million would go toward branch library renovations and beginning the renovation of the old central library to be used by the Austin History Center. $25 million would go toward replacing the Dougherty Arts Center. $12 million would go toward buying and maintaining “creative spaces.”

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $128,000,000 in tax-supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, acquiring, constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping community and cultural facilities, libraries, museums, and cultural and creative arts facilities, and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition C

This bond asks voters to approve borrowing $149 million for parks and recreation projects.

$45 million would go toward buying new parkland. $40 million would go toward a new pool in Colony Park in Northeast Austin and renovations at existing pools. $25 million would go toward parks improvements. $21.5 million would go toward rehabbing parks and rec buildings. $17.5 million would go toward improvements to things like playscapes, parking lots, trails and city cemeteries.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $149,000,000 in tax-supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, acquiring, constructing, renovating, improving and equipping public parks, recreation centers, natural areas, and other related facilities, including, without limitation, playgrounds, hike and bike trails, sports courts, and swimming pools, and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition D

This bond measure would borrow $184 million for flood mitigation, open space and water quality protection.

$112 million would go toward drainage and stormwater projects, including improvements to low-water crossings and buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas. $72 million would be used to buy land to keep it undeveloped to protect water quality and mitigate flooding.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $184,000,000 in tax supported general obligation bonds and notes for flood mitigation, open space and water quality and quantity for planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, and installing improvements and facilities for flood control, erosion control, water quality, water quantity, and storm-water drainage, and acquiring land, open spaces, and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition E

This $16 million bond is for a neighborhood health services center in the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin, a historically underserved part of the city.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $16,000,000 in tax-supported general obligations bonds and notes for planning, constructing, reconstructing, improving, and equipping a neighborhood public health and human services facility in the Dove Springs area; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition F

This bond proposition deals with public safety. It includes $25 million for upgrades to the city’s Emergency Medical Services facilities. There’s also $13 million for fire station renovations.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $38,000,000 in tax supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, renovating, improving, and equipping existing public safety facilities, specifically fire and emergency medical services stations, buildings, and other related facilities; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Proposition G

This $160 million measure is kind of a grab bag of transportation projects.

There’s $66.5 million for rebuilding streets. There’s $50 million for replacing the bridge over Lady Bird Lake on Red Bud Trail. There’s $20 million for rehabbing sidewalks. There’s $15 million for intersection and pedestrian safety improvements as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths. $4.5 million would go toward new traffic signals and upgrades to existing ones. Last, there’s $1 million for something called the Neighborhood Partnering Program, which lets citizens propose small projects on city-owned property.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

The issuance of $160,000,000 in tax supported general obligation bonds and notes for planning, constructing, reconstructing, and improving roads, streets, intersections, sidewalks, bridges, urban trails and related utility and drainage infrastructure for the roads and streets; improving traffic signal synchronization and control systems; acquiring and installing traffic signals; and acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

Now, for some context. If voters agree to let the city borrow this money for the bond measures above, property taxes will be impacted. The city has published the following chart to show just how much passing these measures would affect your annual bill, depending on the assessed value of your property.

Credit City of Austin

Still with me? OK, there are a couple more items to go.

Now we’re out of the bond propositions — and into the minutiae (sort of).

Proposition H

This one amends the city charter, which is the basic framework for how the city operates, to change how and for how long members of the city’s Planning Commission are appointed and how they get removed. Instead of two-year terms, Proposition H would make those terms up to two years. Right now, the charter lays out when members get appointed. If passed, the proposition would remove that stipulation and allow the City Council to set the appointment schedule — as well as the process for removing commission members — by ordinance (meaning they wouldn’t need voter approval to set those rules).

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall the City Charter be amended to provide that the term of service and process for removal of the Planning Commission members be determined by ordinance?

Proposition I

This one is pretty exciting. Basically, Proposition I is a spelling, grammar and punctuation check on the city charter. It’s all laid out here, if you want to go through the details, but most of the changes this proposition would bring to the charter involve removing unnecessary commas, uncapitalizing words, changing numerals to spelled out numbers and adding a few missing words here and there.

Like I said, exciting stuff.

Here’s the ballot language you’ll see:

Shall the City Charter be amended to make non-substantive corrections to grammar, typographical errors, capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure; and to change or remove charter language that is obsolete?

Proposition J

You probably see a lot of signs about this one, in particular. This is the proposition, created by a citizen-led petition drive, that would require a waiting period — and voter approval — before any re-write of the city’s land development code can go into effect.

This one grew out of the controversy over CodeNEXT, the effort to overhaul Austin’s land development code that was scrapped by City Council earlier this year. The six-year, $8.5 million project was canceled amid what Mayor Steve Adler called “misinformation” about how the new code would impact neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups argued the new code would remake entire neighborhoods by allowing higher-density housing to be built.

The City Council initially declined to put this measure on the ballot, saying state law prohibits putting zoning issues to a public vote. Folks who organized the petition sued, and a court forced the city to put the measure on the ballot, regardless of whether the proposition is legal or not.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall a City ordinance be adopted to require both a waiting period and subsequent voter approval period, a total of up to three years, before future comprehensive revisions of the City's land development code become effective?

Proposition K

OK, last one.

This proposition is the result of another citizen-led petition. If approved, the measure would require the city to hire an outside firm to do an “efficiency study” of the city’s operations and finances. The city already has its own internal auditing office and uses outside auditors, as well. This measure calls for a brand-new audit — done by someone the city does not currently work with.

This item has become more controversial than it sounds. The political action committee that spearheaded the petition effort that landed this proposition on the ballot was funded by a nonprofit that shields its donors from disclosure — which some city officials say is illegal under city ordinance.

The City Council was also sued over this measure. Organizers said the ballot language it approved was biased against the item because it included the fact that the city has its own auditor and the potential price tag for the “efficiency audit.” That lawsuit was tossed out.

Anyway, here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Without using the existing internal City Auditor or existing independent external auditor, shall the City Code be amended to require an efficiency study of the City's operational and fiscal performance performed by a third-party audit consultant, at an estimated cost of $1 million - $5 million?

Happy voting!