Monday, October 5, 2015

Travis County receives FIERCE pushback on Courthouse

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty (R - Western Travis County)

"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it."
Proverbs 21:20

Travis County Commissioners Court -- Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, the only Republican on the Travis County Commissioners court, held a forum with the Travis County Taxpayers Union to discuss the proposed Courthouse bond this afternoon.  Daugherty, who supports the bond, repeated the company line about the current aging Courthouse that no one disputes.  The presentation was, to put it mildly, greeted with skepticism.

Belinda Powell, a county bureaucrat, handled the bulk of the presentation, she was assisted by Matias Segurra, an outside consultant with AECOM.

The most notable claim the county made was that the current proposal is a "design, build" project.  This means that everything we're hearing before the vote is a "concept" but we won't know the final plan until construction begins. Council member Don Zimmerman got the county to admit the ballot language was impossibly vague.  The county attributed that to a need for "flexibility."  Essentially, we have to pass the bond to find out what's in it.

The primary objections dealt with the issue of parking.  Former Austin City Council candidate Bill Worsham got the county admitted the new courthouse won't have sufficient parking to cover peak usage.  Several African-American residents of East Austin bemoaned the cost of parking downtown.  They were unpersuaded by the county's discussion of the bus routes available downtown.  One elderly gentleman explained that it was insulting to expect people who live in the outer reaches of the city to take the bus for two hours (each way) to reach downtown instead of building a facility with adequate parking.

Two of the (Democrat) candidates for the open seat in Precinct 1, Richard Franklin and Arthur Sampson, attended; both oppose the current proposal.

The bonds would have a duration of 20 years and the county currently has $695 million in debt outstanding.

Bottom Line: Today's presentation doesn't change the fact that current Courthouse proposal would produce a traffic nightmare, doesn't have NEARLY enough parking, and would make Austin's affordability issues worse.

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