Austinites went to the polls Tuesday to vote on 10 amendments to the state constitution, as well as a Travis County proposition and two city measures.
Voters struck down Austin’s Proposition A, a petition-led ordinance that would have forced public votes on most future uses of city-owned land and made the organizations that lease those lands – frequently nonprofits – pay property taxes.
Meanwhile, Travis County voters approved the countywide Proposition A, which will direct 2% of the hotel occupancy tax to go toward renovating the Travis County Expo Center. It's unclear when the county will begin receiving that money. The prop will go into effect only after the City of Austin finishes paying off its convention center debt, which could happen in 2021.
That debt, however, could have an extended life, because Austin’s Proposition B failed. Prop B would have required any expansion of the convention center to be put to a public vote. Because the measure didn't pass, the teardown and remodeling of the convention center – already approved by City Council – can move forward.
Austin voters have rejected every petition-led ordinance since 2014, when the council was expanded to 10 single-member districts and the mayor.
*Failed — 36% for and 64% against (35,642 votes for and 62,529 votes against)
What was on the ballot: Shall a city ordinance be adopted that requires that a sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation of City-owned land for any existing or future youth, recreational, or professional sports facility or any existing or future entertainment facility be approved by a supermajority vote of council (9 of 11 members) and also be approved by the voters at an election for which the City must pay; requires that any site development permits and variances related thereto be approved by a supermajority vote of council (9 of 11 members); requires that site development permits and variances related thereto be approved by the voters at an election for which the City must pay, if the sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation of City-owned land for the facility has not already obtained voter approval; requires that the facility post payment and performance bonds and pay ad valorem taxes, or payments equal to the amount of ad valorem taxes; and requires that all information concerning such sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or other alienation shall be disclosed to the public.
What it means: Austin's Prop A would essentially add restrictions on the process by which the city leases out its land for large-scale projects and venues – like, say, a soccer stadium – and smaller projects, like youth sports organizations and theater groups. It would require those leases to be approved by a supermajority of the City Council and require a public vote on the leases.
*Failed — 45% for and 55% against (39,967 votes for and 48,220 votes against)
What was on the ballot: Shall an ordinance be adopted that prioritizes the use of Austin's Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue by continuing the City practice to spend 15% of the Austin Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue on cultural arts and 15% on historic preservation, limiting the City' s spending to construct, operate, maintain, or promote the Austin Convention Center to 34% of Austin's Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, and requiring all remaining Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to support and enhance Austin's Cultural Tourism Industry to the potential exclusion of other allowable uses under the Tax code; and requires the City to obtain voter approval and public oversight for convention-center improvement and expansion costing more than $20,000,000.
What it means: Prop B would require any expansion of the Austin Convention Center to be put to a public vote and would adjust how the city allocates revenue from taxing hotel stays, diverting more of it to cultural and tourism-minded efforts.
*Passed — 62% for and 38% against (74,770 votes for and 45,089 votes against)
What was on the ballot: Authorizing Travis County, Texas to provide for the planning, acquisition, establishment, development, construction, renovation, and financing of new and existing facilities of the type described by Section 334.001(4)(A) of the Texas Local Government Code, including a multipurpose arena and adjacent support facilities and any related infrastructure in the area of the Travis County Exposition Center and designated by a resolution of the Commissioners Court of the County adopted on July 30, 2019 (the “Resolution”) as a sports and community venue project within the County in accordance with applicable law (the “Venue Project’’), and to impose a new hotel occupancy tax on the occupancy of a room in a hotel located within the County, at a rate not to exceed 2% of the price paid for such room, and if approved, the maximum hotel occupancy tax rate imposed from all sources in the County would be 17% of the price paid for a room in a hotel, for the purpose of financing the Venue Project, and approving the Resolution.
What it means: Prop A would re-allocate a portion of the county’s existing hotel occupancy tax and direct it toward renovations to the Expo Center.
There were dozens of other local races in Central Texas on Tuesday. To find those results, visit your county's local election page: