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.

Herman: Voters, though relatively few, spoke on courthouse plan


Some of us here at the newspaper recently enjoyed a four-hour diversity training session led by Dr. Joy, our friendly facilitator.

Joy is her full name and she holds a Ph.D. so she is Dr. Joy. Who can dislike a person who renames herself for such a wonderful emotion? The session was interesting, keying heavily on generational diversity. I’m a baby boomer, defined as people who grew up at a time when nobody made a living as a facilitator.

Anyway, Dr. Joy rankled me (maybe I should rename myself Mr. Rankled) by announcing the scheduled 8:30 a.m. session would be delayed to allow for stragglers. I asked her why the punctual were being punished for the sake of the nonpunctual.

Seeing the impenetrable sense of justice inherent in my point, Dr. Joy started on time. Yes, I revel in small victories, especially those in defense of those who have done the right thing, like show up on time. Or vote.

I tell you all this because I had a Dr. Joy flashback Wednesday when I read that Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt was peeved that county voters, by a small margin in a small turnout, had turned down the proposed $287 million in bonds for a new civil courthouse in downtown Austin.

When the results were in, Eckhardt told fellow bond supporters to get a massage, hang out with their kids or do some meditation in coming days, because “we are back in the saddle 48 hours from now because we need” a new civil courthouse.

“This is not only a constitutional mandate, but it is a duty under our democracy to provide justice to our entire community in a building that is fit for that calling,” Eckhardt said. “We have not delivered on that promise. Our courthouse is overstuffed and inadequate to the needs of our growing community, and it is a visual slap in the face to the notion of accessible justice. So we are not off the hook.”

Yes, yes and yes. I voted for the bonds, though not fully convinced the proposed downtown location was the best idea.

But no, no, no to Eckhardt’s next declaration. “The low voter turnout in this election was not a rejection of the project and it was not a rejection of the location,” she said. “It was a lack of interest in our democracy, and that’s the real tragedy.”

Yes, it was a rejection, a rejection by the only people who matter on an election day — those who vote. To dismiss their decision is tantamount to delaying the start of an event to wait for stragglers. Downplaying the decision of voters, even in a low turnout, is downright disrespectful. And losers don’t get to assume victory if nonvoters had voted.

Nonvoters don’t count.

Looks like 11.6 percent of Travis County registered voters turned out Tuesday for the candidate-free ballot that also included seven proposed state constitutional amendments. That’s not good, but not atypical for this kind of election. And I always figure every election, barring extenuating circumstances, has the right turnout: 100 percent of the people who wanted to vote.

The results count regardless of turnout. For example, in heavily Democratic Travis County, Eckhardt effectively won the county judgeship by winning the March 2014 Democratic primary. Total turnout that day was 13.31 percent — 7.73 percent for Dems and 5.58 percent for Repubs.

Was that, as Eckhardt deemed Tuesday’s election, a “lack of interest in our democracy” to the point that the result should have been dismissed? Did anybody call for folks to get back in the saddle to try it again?

We need a new courthouse. The one we have now isn’t old enough to be quaint nor new enough to be useful. And it certainly isn’t big enough. And kudos to Eckhardt and others for planning to go right back to work on getting us a new one.

But Plan B should not be one that dismisses the will of the voters, few though they may have been, who rejected Plan A.

And we can hope for a better turnout next time, just like we can hope that everybody starts showing up on time for stuff.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Scientists find 7 'Earth-sized planets' orbiting star 40 light-years away, NASA says
Scientists find 7 'Earth-sized planets' orbiting star 40 light-years away, NASA says

Forthy light-years from Earth, scientists have discovered seven "Earth-sized planets" in the largest-ever cache of planets found around a single star outside of our solar system. "The discovery gives us a hint that finding a second Earth is not just a matter of if, but when," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the...
NASA to announce 'discovery beyond our solar system'
NASA to announce 'discovery beyond our solar system'

Scientists will share newly discovered information on Wednesday about planets that orbit stars other than Earth's sun at a 1 p.m. news conference hosted by NASA. The announcement that NASA would share findings on a "discovery beyond our solar system" came Monday. The vague nature of the tease prompted speculation that scientist could unveil...
Here’s how to reach Austin District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen
Here’s how to reach Austin District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen

If you live in most parts of South Austin, here’s how you can reach your City Council member: Who she is: An attorney and former state representative, Ann Kitchen spent much of her career as a health care consultant before being elected to the council in 2014. For five years she was the executive director of the Indigent Care Collaboration, a...
2 more tornadoes confirmed in Austin area in late Sunday storms, National Weather Service says
2 more tornadoes confirmed in Austin area in late Sunday storms, National Weather Service says

Norma Prieto’s house on 12300 block of Mustang Mesa Drive in southern Travis County was badly damaged by a storm on the night of Feb.
Here’s how to reach Austin District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool
Here’s how to reach Austin District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool

If you live in parts of North Austin, here’s how you can reach your City Council member: District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool Who she is: Leslie Pool, an Austinite since the 1980s, was elected to the City Council in 2014 and won reelection in 2016. Prior to that, she worked as the executive assistant to Travis County Constable Carlos Lopez and...
More Stories