If you live in the Travis County area and are registered to vote, you have a vote to cast this Tuesday.
A sample ballot for anyone registered at St. Edward’s University will show seven different propositions for state constitutional amendments and a local bond proposition from Travis County.
While some of the major state proposals are important to address, like Proposition 7 which dedicates taxes on cars to the state’s infrastructure, the local bond proposition hits close to home in a deceptively positive way. It is important to vote “yes” on it due to the benefits of the new courthouse and the controversy that may lead to its failure if nothing happens.
Travis County’s proposal spends $287.3 million in order to build a new civil and family court. The issue, according to KVUE’s report, is the location of the new construction which will replace a parking lot near Guadalupe Street. Due to the congestion it will add, the cost and its location in downtown Austin, it has drawn many opponents, including the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) and the Travis County Taxpayers Union.
It is easy to see why there is a lot of controversy on the issue, especially when most of these groups suggest building the courthouse in East Austin instead.
However, there are flaws with these criticisms.
Calculations from the Austin Bar Association reveal that the costs would be the same no matter where the court was built since the current building site belongs to the county of Travis.
The land swaps needed to build in East Austin would rake up the price of construction substantially so that the alleged reduced costs would be at least wash but potentially more expensive because the city must rework the plans for the new land. The current cost only adds $36 a year in taxes to the average homeowner.
Additionally, the way that the old land and new land is used may actually reduce the congestion in the downtown area.
The old courthouse is going to be sold and used to build an apartment complex with public ground-level parking, which can encourage some people walk to work instead of drive while retaining the same level of parking in the long run. The new courthouse will also support an underground parking structure which will replace the parking from before, but may also expand further underground to make more parking in the downtown area.
Even though the building plans may add to the skyline, it won’t add to the congestion and will more likely address it.
Furthermore, there are clear positive reasons to support the new courthouse. The old one was falling apart, experiencing numerous disasters and was inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.
Both the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman endorse the new building. The Chronicle calls the plan “well thought out” and the Statesman furthers advocates the plan for its various features that include accountability measures, room for future expansion and cost-cutting measures.
If you can vote, and you haven’t yet, make sure you get out there on Tuesday to your local polling station. St. Edward’s has a station on campus in Trustee Hall, and there’s another at Gardner Betts Annex across the street from the local HEB.