It's Election Day, meaning it's the last day to head to the polls to vote on two propositions in Austin—including the contentious Prop A, which would add more police officers to the Austin Police Department—and eight state constitutional amendments.
There's been a low-voter turnout so far this election, with only 11.84% of registered voters casting an early vote, according to the Travis County Clerk.
Here's everything you need to know before heading to the polls today.
Check Austonia.com tonight for election results.
When and where
Polling locations will be open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents can ensure they are registered before heading to the polls here. You'll need an acceptable form of photo identification when voting.
Find a polling location near you:
Races to watch
To view a personalized sample ballot, click here.
The more controversial, Proposition A, if approved, would establish new minimum standards for the Austin Police Department. By adding a new chapter to the department's established standards, the proposition would require the department to employ at least two sworn officers for every 1,000 residents of the city and would create other standards related to staffing, training and recruiting. Implementing the proposition could cost between $271.5 and nearly $600 million over five years, according to estimates reported by city staff.
Proponents say the measure will bolster APD, which currently faces a staffing shortage, and make Austin safer after the city has seen a high murder count this year. Opponents say it costs too much and ties the hands of city officials who will be forced to cut other city services to meet the new requirements. Beyond the financial implications, some opponents also disagree that more officers will necessarily make the city safer as its a national problem and the murder rate isn't unusual.
Proposition B asks voters to allow City Council to "convey or lease" 9 acres of parkland along Lakeshore Boulevard, which is currently being used as a maintenance facility, in exchange for at least 48 acres of new waterfront property and the "cost or construction" of a new maintenance facility on other city-owned land. Proponents say the measure will add greatly to Austin's parkland resources and allow for construction of a new maintenance facility. While the ballot language of the proposition is not specific, it's been reported that tech giant Oracle is the likely partner in this deal and that the parkland of interest to be acquired is adjacent to John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park in southeast Austin.
Voters will also be asked to approve or reject eight amendments to the Texas Constitution.
- Texas Proposition 1, the Authorize Charitable Raffles at Rodeo Venues Amendment, would allow professional association-sanctioned rodeos to hold raffles at their events.
- Texas Proposition 2, the Authorize Counties to Issue Infrastructure Bonds in Blighted Areas Amendment, would allow counties to issue bonds for infrastructure within certain limits.
- Texas Proposition 3, the Prohibition on Limiting Religious Services or Organizations Amendment, would prohibit state or local governments from prohibiting or limiting religious services.
- Texas Proposition 4, the Changes to Eligibility for Certain Judicial Offices Amendment, would increase restrictions on who is eligible to run for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.
- Texas Proposition 5, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct Authority Over Candidates for Judicial Office Amendment, would allow complaints against judicial candidates to be accepted and acted upon.
- Texas Proposition 6, the Right to Designated Essential Caregiver Amendment, would guarantee that residents of certain types of group facilities have the right to in-person visits from essential caregivers.
- Texas Proposition 7, the Homestead Tax Limit for Surviving Spouses of Disabled Individuals Amendment, would bring the state constitution in line with existing state law which already provides for this exemption.
- Texas Proposition 8, the Homestead Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Military Fatally Injured in the Line of Duty Amendment, would expand the homestead tax exemption that covers surviving spouses of those killed in military service to include those killed in ways other than combat, such as in training exercises.
By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.