AUSTIN, Texas - New buses, new rail lines, new destinations for commuters. That’s the promise of Proposition A.
Tuesday, a group stood in front of a sign which said there was another reason to support the proposed property tax rate hike. It read: “Support Prop A, For black and brown people, For working-class people, For all people. “
“If you care about equity In the city then you have to care about transportation. We need better bus infrastructure, we need cheaper ways to get around,” said Chas Moore with the Austin Justice Coalition.
This rally, organized by leaders with the Austin Justice Coalition and Workers Defense Project, included the president of Huston Tillotson University.
“So I quickly realized that the current transportation system as it is in Austin in fact was and is a barrier and impediment to my student's success,” said Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President of Huston-Tillotson University.
The Project Connect plan from CapMetro was portrayed as a way to bridge the social-economic gap between East and West Austin. Providing well-paying jobs along with connectivity.
“So really this is the first time we’re going to see a significant amount of investment in infrastructure in transit infrastructure in East Austin is an exciting time but to address your question it will need to be expanded to further the parts,” said Awais Azhar with Planning Our Communities.
Project Connect has a $7 billion price tag. The money not only buys new vehicles but also sets new routes and builds an underground downtown transfer tunnel. There’s also $300 million set aside for a housing assistance program.
“It’s stabilization, and stabilization means many things, it can mean affordable housing but it could also mean home repair, it can mean, we created a buffet of options of what can help community members stay in their homes,” said Yasmine Smith with PUMA People United for Mobility Action.
Those who oppose Prop A say it is an old school solution and that a tax hike during a pandemic is simply not a good idea.
On Monday, a group of iconic business owners expressed concern that if the tax increase passes several notable locations in town will struggle to survive. They also warned that apartment owners may be forced to increase rent.
Supporters admit the plan could be a burden on some but view the tax as an investment in the future. “Vote yes but only vote yes if you’re willing to say yes to getting behind the scenes and putting in the work,” said East Austin resident Nook Turner.
The annual tax bill for a typical Austin homeowner, according to planners, will increase by about $300. The yearly property tax bill for businesses will increase by thousands of dollars.
A lot of money for a construction project that could take decades to complete, which brought about this pledge from the NAACP. “And I believe at this time we have an enormous responsibility to ensure that what is promised is delivered,” said Nelson Linder with the local NAACP.
Modifications to the plan have already happened.
In July the plan was scaled back by $3-billion because of the pandemic. The Gold Line of light rail from the ACC Highlands Campus was eliminated and replaced with bus service. And the North/South Orange Line was shortened to run only between 183 & Ben White.