Can Council agree to a big bond package?

Tonight –– or more likely tomorrow morning –– Council will decide what kind of bond to put on the ballot this November. It will be interesting to see how stubborn Council members get about their preferences. I think it’s odd how little discussion there has been on Council about the bond and what should go into it. A bond election is a rare opportunity to get the kind of money you need to significantly improve or expand services.

Granted, there are the five members (Casar, Garza, Tovo, Renteria, Adler) who have come out in support of $250-300 million for housing. Casar in particular has made a big point about this being the moment to do something transformative on affordable housing.

But there hasn’t been much talk about the other categories: parks, transportation, stormwater infrastructure, cultural centers etc. I’d highly recommend you take a look at the $816 million staff recommendation and what it includes in each of those buckets.

There are definitely some members of Council who would like to see more money for parks in general and the pools system in particular. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that some on the dais were envisioning $124 million just for pools. The bond package recommended by staff only has $33 million for a new Colony Park pool; I don’t see anything else in the Parks & Rec bucket that suggests pool repairs etc.

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And then of course there’s the question of the overall bond size. There are differences of opinion on that too.

And yet, despite the competing priorities and the varying interpretations of fiscal responsibility on the dais, it’s treated as a given that a majority of the 11 Council members will be able to agree to something tonight.

And in fact, it might pass very easily. I could see, for instance, the housing folks propose upping the housing funding from $161 million to $250 million and leaving everything else from the staff recommendation the same. It passes easily, 8-3, with Troxclair, Flannigan and Houston voting against.  But I could also easily see things getting really, really complicated if there aren’t six votes in favor of a $900 million bond. If Kitchen, Pool and Alter all say that they don’t want to vote for that big of a tax increase, then it could turn into a very lengthy, frustrating debate over what to cut and what to keep in the bond.

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