Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Astonishingly inept Austin ISD bond draws remarkably diverse opposition coalition

"You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning."
Leviticus 19:13

[Note: There was a lot of ambient noise in the background and the sound wasn't amplified on site, so the audio quality on the videos we shot turned out terribly.  Unfortunately, because we were filming, we didn't take notes during the press conference.  We've included the videos below, but hope readers will cut us some slack over the fact that we're writing up today's events from memory without the aid of notes or good video.]

It takes a special act of chutzpah to push a tax hike so big that you piss off every Republican in town, while structuring said tax increase so that the burden falls disproportionately on the Black and Hispanic communities in East Austin to subsidize affluent white people on the west side of town, which pisses off half the Democrats; with this current bond, somehow Austin ISD somehow accomplishes that feat.

This afternoon, a broad trans-partisan coalition of grassroots Austinites held a press conference in East Austin to highlight a number of flaws with the current Austin ISD bond proposal.  Objections ranged from the sheer size of the package, to the deceptive marketing of a tax increase that could easily surpass $600/year for median Austinites, to the fact that the district is holding East Austin schools hostage to the bond while structuring the bond so most of it's 'benefits' are seen elsewhere.

Obviously, this website has been opposed to the bond ever since we learned of it's magnitude (combined with the fact that they've never completed the process of selling off other real estate holdings they assured us they would complete before attempting another bond).  It's just a gigantic ask when their recent record of financial stewardship doesn't inspire confidence.  What have they done with the maintenance budget they already have?!?

Taxpayer advocate John Goldstone explained how the district is using deceptive language to minimize the tax impact.  The district is claiming the bond won't change the tax rate.  But you don't pay a tax rate, you pay a tax bill.  And more debt service means higher taxes.  In this case, Goldstone estimates the tax hike at over $600 per year (we will deflect all questions over how he came up with that number to Goldstone himself).

A number of other community advocates, including former #atxcouncil candidate Pete Salazar (ran against Greg Casar in 2014), LULAC head Gavino Fernandez, and Grey Panthers head Richard Franklin, discussed how the bond places a disproportionately large tax burden on the black and Hispanic communities on the East side to disproportionately benefit affluent white folks in the West side.  To be honest, we hadn't thought about that aspect prior to hearing it today.  But it's completely true.

And that's what's interesting: We've been fighting poorly conceived bonds for several years in Austin.  And it seems like there's more opposition on "the left" this time than we've seen previously (or that they're at least more engaged).  And the district has no one to blame but itself and its own arrogance.

Bottom Line: Early voting begins in two weeks; Election day is November 7.


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