You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Transportation bond’s supporters pile up heavy fundraising advantage


The campaign to pass Austin’s $720 million transportation bond initiative, powered by donations from real estate, development, engineering and construction individuals and companies, has raised eight times as much money as opponents of the measure, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

Austin Forward, the political action committee supporting the bond proposition on the Nov. 8 ballot, had through Sept. 29 raised $662,705 from 215 cash and in-kind donations, or about $3,082 per contribution. At least $380,000 came from companies or individuals engaged in industries that might actively participate in the substantial road and sidewalk construction resulting from the bond’s passage or from the real estate development sector.

The committee has about $315,000 cash on hand as it enters the final four weeks of the campaign.

Honest Transportation Solutions, a political action committee formed to oppose the bond proposition, raised $61,160 from just eight donors, with the bulk of the money coming in two $25,000 chunks from retired tech executive Jim Skaggs and former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy. Levy has spent an additional $19,962 to oppose the bond, all of it on campaign signs, through a separate political action committee, Sensible Transportation Solutions for Austin.

Honest Transportation Solutions has about $53,000 cash on hand, while Levy’s other committee has spent all of its money.

Skaggs and Levy have been active in similar past campaigns, generally in opposition to rail proposals. Levy said he jumped in because of what he considered the behind-the-curtain origins of the bond plan in Mayor Steve Adler’s office, and the all-or-nothing vote rather than breaking the historically large transportation bond program into component pieces.

“It’s the opposite of transparency,” Levy said. “And it doesn’t matter if you were for or against it. People deserved a choice.”

Jim Wick, a former Adler staff member who is running the pro-bond campaign, said the trove of donations demonstrate the bond’s breadth of support.

“It’s a good package that’s going to do something about traffic,” Wick said. “And we have a broad coalition of more than 50 endorsing organizations from all walks of life in Austin.”

The campaign committees under city and state law each will have to file an additional campaign finance report at the end of the month, eight days before the election.

The bond program, primarily conceived by Adler’s office and supported by an array of business associations and groups that advocate for bike and pedestrian improvements, includes $482 million for improvements on some major streets, $137 million for “local” transportation (primarily bike, trail and sidewalk projects) and $101 million for expansion of about a half-dozen major roads in the city’s western and northwestern suburbs.

City officials estimate the work would take up to eight years to complete.

The proposition, which the city estimates would cause a property tax increase of about $60 a year on a $250,000 home by 2021, was put on the ballot in August by a 7-1 City Council vote, with three abstentions.

Adler has emphasized the aspects that city studies say would help move traffic: traffic signal improvements, bus pullout spaces and the replacement of continuous left-turn lanes on streets such as Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road and Airport Boulevard. But the “smart corridor” changes that the city envisions doing with the bond money would also be attractive to commercial and residential developers. That sector has responded enthusiastically with their checkbooks.

The Greater Austin Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, gave the campaign $130,482 in cash and in-kind donations, according to the report filed Tuesday. The Austin Board of Realtors and a political committee of the Real Estate Council of Austin each gave $50,000.

Other large donations: $20,000 from Manchester Texas Financial Group; $15,000 from the Austin Apartment Association; and $10,000 each from Grayco Partners, Brandywine Realty Trust, Stratus Properties, HDR Inc., investor Michael Klein, Silicon Labs CEO Tyson Tuttle.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who...
Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools
Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools

Three Austin neighborhood swimming pools will sit out the 2017 swim season for repairs, while others remain in “critical” condition and the city grapples with the future of an aquatics system that is rapidly deteriorating. Givens and Govalle pools in East Austin, and Shipe pool north of downtown, all in various stages of repair, will not...
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era

For those concerned about press freedom, the first months of the Trump administration have been troubling. Journalists have been yelled at, pepper-sprayed, pinned by security and even arrested on the job. Now, one reporter has accused a Republican candidate of assault.   Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists...
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities

  British leaders were infuriated this week when the name of the Manchester concert bomber was disclosed by U.S. officials, and further outraged when The New York Times ran investigators’ photographs of the bomb remnants. After Prime Minister Theresa May complained bitterly to President Donald Trump, he denounced the leaks on Thursday and...
Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury
Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury

The Trump administration is considering moving responsibility for overseeing more than $1 trillion in student debt from the Education Department to the Treasury Department, a switch that would radically change the system that helps 43 million students finance higher education.   The potential change surfaced in a scathing resignation memo...
More Stories