A divided Austin City Council approves $720 million mobility bond

The Austin City Council spent a large part of Thursday morning and early afternoon putting the finishing touches on Mayor Steve Adler's "Go Big Corridor" plan, a transportation bond with a $720 million price tag.  It focuses on road improvements but no rail.
Mayor Adler has said the tax burden will be less than $5 a month for the median homeowner.
After successfully getting the tax increase information added to the ordinance language for voters to read up on, Council Member Ellen Troxclair also tried to get it on the actual ballot language.
That idea didn't get much traction.

"The reason that I would rather it not go here is because someone could say 'but wait a second that isn't true in all cases'...and we would have to say 'well yeah that's correct, it's not true in all cases but it is generally true and it serves as a really good guide to the community," Adler said.

Troxclair stood by her request. 

"I think that this would have protected the city by saying that that was just an estimate...by using a median home value which I think is a reasonable value to use," she said.

She added that it's perfectly legal to have put that information on the ballot.  Council Member Don Zimmerman believes city legal staff intentionally didn't want the language added despite council's commitment to keeping the public informed on what this is.

"Our legal staff paid for with tax money has been lobbying and lobbying and lobbying...presenting one side of the information and I believe deliberately misleading me on what we're allowed to do under the law.  It's very, very clear that we could have some form of statement to talk about the cost," Zimmerman said.

Before the final vote, Council Members weighed in on the plan.  Support from Council Member Pio Renteria.

"We're going to have more accidents, we're going to have more deaths out there in the streets because we're not addressing these issues.  These are safety issues," he said.

Council Member Delia Garza said it was a tough decision but ultimately decided to abstain.

"You know I've heard in some instances it's going to solve all our congestion problems, it's going to solve all these things.  I hope that really changes from this 'it's going to solve everything' to an honest conversation of what exactly it does," she said.

Council Member Ora Houston says not enough people were a part of this conversation.

"That's what I feel pressured into and I've not really liked bullies ever in my life and so this feels like I've been bullied into taking something.  I was fine with $300 million and $500 million but there was no opportunity to make those choices because it was all or nothing," she said.

Houston ended up being the only "no" vote.  With Troxclair, Zimmerman and Garza abstaining, the plan is a "go" for November.

Now begins the campaign to educate the public.  One amendment that did pass today is to put a tax calculator online for the public to be able to calculate exactly how much this will cost per month.