2012 Bond Election

Austin's 2012 bond election features seven spending proportions totaling $385 million. The bond propositions are as follows: 

Proposition 12: Transportation & Mobility

Proposition 13: Open Space & Watershed Protection


Proposition 14: Parks & Recreation


Proposition 15: Housing


Proposition 16: Public Safety


Proposition 17: Health & Human Services


Proposition 18: Library, Museum & Cultural Arts Facilities

Ryan Robinson, via the City of Austin

All City of Austin bonds passed on election night except one: Proposition 15, which would have dedicated $78.3 million to affordable housing.

The map above shows how Prop 15 lost.

 Ryan Robinson is demographer for the City of Austin. He produced this map, plotting how the vote against Prop 15 went. The darkest blue voting precincts went overwhelmingly against Prop 15 (by a margin of 65 percent or more); the warmer-colored precincts were mixed or voted in favor, with less than 40 percent of voters in red precincts voting against Prop 15.

 While Prop 15 carried Central Austin,  a majority of suburban precincts, largely west of MoPac, voted it down.

Good morning. That dense fog advisory is still in effect, so stay safe on the roads. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Nonprofits that help people in Austin get into housing are scrambling to come up with a plan B after Tuesday’s election. They were expecting Austinites to pass Proposition 15, which called for $78 million to build affordable homes and maintain existing ones. They never expected it to fail at the polls.”

“Austin’s form of government will never be the same. Voters have approved sweeping changes to way Austinites will vote in the future and who will represent them at City Hall. It all comes down to single-member districts, but it will be a long road from election night to a 10-1 City Council.

A citizens’ commission will draw the district boundaries. And that commission will get to work quickly. Prop 3 calls for the city auditor to start looking for volunteers next month, with an eye toward elections in November 2014.”

Here are voting results from the City of Austin, as of 1:18 a.m.:

Central Health

Prop: 1 (Expanded healthcare and medical school)

For: 55%

Against: 45%

City of Austin Charter Amendments

Prop: 1 (Moving elections to November)

Yes: 77%

No: 23%

Prop: 2 (Moving elections to November and changing City Council terms)

Yes: 76%

No: 24%

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In the last presidential election, the iPhone 3G was the hottest phone on the market, and there were just a few million people on Twitter. Now almost half of American adults own smartphones and more than 500 million use Twitter. So let's check out what they're saying about voting lines! We'll be trawling the internet and adding new info here. 

Matt Largey, KUT News

Election Day is here and hundreds of thousands are expected to head to the polls in Travis County. More than 237,000 Travis County voters cast a ballot during early voting—that's a little over 37 percent of registered voters. Traditional voting patterns show that half of registered voters don't vote until Election Day.

More Texans than ever before are registered to vote in this election—13.64 million people. Presidential elections typically bring more voters to the polls. In 2008, more than 402,000 Travis County residents voted in the presidential election.

Here are six things you should know if you're headed to the polls today:

1. Registered Travis County Voters Can Vote Anywhere in the County:

For this election, Travis County Commissioners approved vote centers. That means registered voters can forget about their precincts and cast a ballot anywhere in the county with a 'vote here' sign. These places include schools and libraries along with locations used for early voting such as grocery stores.

KUT News

Update 2 (Nov. 5): Early voting is over in Austin, but on Election Day (Nov. 6) Austin voters can cast ballots at any polling place in Travis County. For more on the local issues facing voters, see our topic page, "Austin Election: Bonds, Props and More." 

Update (Oct. 22): Early voting began today, Monday, Oct. 22. KUT News has more information, including a map of early voting locations. And for more information on the $385 million in bond spending proposals, check out KUT News’ bond election coverage.

Original post (September 13, 2012): Austin elections are traditionally sleepy affairs – you can look at local turnout to bear that out.

But moreover, the elections themselves are pretty straightforward: the election of the mayor and city council members (held in May), or every few years, a bond election to fund city initiatives (usually held in November.)

This fall, it’s a different story: While no elected positions are on the ballot, a $385 million bond election, coupled with several possible amendments to the city charter, means Austin voters will face a whopping 18 propositions when they head to the polls on Nov. 6. Below, we list them all.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Early voting began in Travis County today, including voting on Central Health's Prop 1. Designed to bring a medical school and a new teaching hospital to Austin, if approved Prop 1 would raise the Central Health district's tax rate from 7.98 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of accessed property value. (The average Travis County homeowner would pay an additional $107 a year.)

The measure is facing opposition from the Travis County Taxpayer's Union. Today, the group filed a lawsuit claiming Central Health improperly augmented the language printed on the ballot. The group argues that Central Health added language that encourages voters to vote for the measure.

The original proposition is recreated below, with the district's addendum in bold:

Approving the ad valorem tax rate of $0.129 per $100 valuation in Central Health, also known as the Travis County Healthcare District, for the 2013 tax year, a rate that exceeds the district's rollback tax rate.  The proposed ad valorem tax rate exceeds the ad valorem tax rate most recently adopted by the district by $0.05 per $100 valuation; funds will be used for improved healthcare in Travis County, including support for a new medical school consistent with the mission of Central Health, a site for a new teaching hospital, trauma services, specialty medicine such as cancer care, community-wide health clinics, training for physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals, primary care, behavioral and mental healthcare, prevention and wellness programs, and/or to obtain federal matching funds for healthcare services.


KUT News is profiling the seven bond propositions that will appear on Austin voters’ ballots this November. The last one the list, Prop 18, allocates $13.4 million to library, museum and cultural arts facilities.

Part of the bond would fund interior and exterior renovations at several branches of the Austin Public Library. Facilities earmarked for funds include the Austin History Center and the University Hills, Cepeda and Will Hampton branches.

Another $5.4 million would go toward Austin Studios, operated by the Austin Film Society. The money would be used to remodel the National Guard Armory next to Austin Studios for use as an annex. If approved, the renovated facility would provide offices for small film-related businesses and artists.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to expand what we’re already doing in Austin Studios and create a hub of artists and small businesses and additional film making,” says Rebecca Campbell, executive director of the Austin Film Society. “But the building is over 50 years old and its in terrible condition.”


As part of our coverage leading up to the elections, KUT News is taking a closer look at each of the seven bond propositions Austin voters will see on their ballots in November. Prop 17 shores up the city’s Health and Human Services efforts.

The $11 million outlined in Prop 17 would pay for several facilities-related projects, including renovations at Austin’s women’s and children’s shelters.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless offers showers, laundry facilities, counseling and shelter to Austin’s homeless population – men, women, and children. But overnight accommodations are only available to men. That’s where Prop 17 comes in.

“The bond proposition put forth will allow for construction or the expansion of an existing shelter over on the East Side,” says Jennifer Denton. She’s with Front Steps, which runs the ARCH via a contract with the city. “That will provide a space not only for more women and children, but for the single women on the street that at the moment have nowhere to go.”

Prop 16: Public Safety

Oct 12, 2012
KUT News

Seven bond spending propositions are included among the 18 propositions Austin voters will decide on this fall. KUT News is reporting on all seven of the bond propositions, which together are worth $385 million; today we take a look at Prop 16, which would allow the city to spend $31 million on public safety projects.

The money would go toward police, fire and emergency medical services. But some critics contend it’s not enough to cover Austin’s public safety needs. Austin Public Safety Commission vice chair Mike Levy says Austin’s number one need didn’t get included on the proposition.

“There’s a huge deficit, not including a new fire station in the very-high-risk 360 corridor,” Levy said. “The Public Safety Commission has said that the biggest risk facing Austin is wild land fire. “

Levy says the population has grown significantly in that part of town, and emergency response times are slow. The proposed improvements on Prop 16 do include a new Onion Creek Fire and EMS Station, fire department renovations and ambulance bay expansions and new police substations and facilities. But Levy says  the bond missed an important APD need.


Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions this fall, including seven bond spending propositions worth $385 million. KUT News is reporting on all seven of the bond propositions; today we take a look at Prop 15, which would dedicate $78 million in city dollars to affordable housing.

“There is a need for affordable housing everywhere, and there is a strong desire to have the ability for residents to have a housing choice in all parts of Austin,” says Rebecca Giello with the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office.

Prop 15 would provide funding to build, renovate and repair homes for low-income Austinites. It also earmarks money for home improvements for the disabled and elderly.

Supporters say that all types of people in Austin need affordable housing.


This fall, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is examining all seven of the spending propositions; today we take a look at Prop 14, which pump $78 million dollars into Austin’s public park and recreational facilities.

Some of the parks that would see improvements are the Emma Long Metropolitan Park, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt and Zilker Metropolitan Park. Facilities like the Barton Springs Bathhouse would be renovated and the Dove Springs Recreation Center would be expanded.

“We have nothing for our seniors out there,” says Dove Springs community leader Ofelia Zapata. She says the recreation center needs the money that Prop 14 would provide.

“Every neighborhood has a senior center, a multipurpose center, except southeast Austin,” Zapata says. “The time is now to deliver a multipurpose center to meet the needs of the families in our neighborhood.”

KUT News

This November, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is examining all seven of the spending propositions; today we take a look at Prop 13, which would spend $30 million purchasing land and conservation easements for open space and water quality protection. 

According to the city, the bond would help preserve Austin's water quality by funding land buys in the Barton Springs Watershed, where water filters into the Edwards Aquifer.

“It’s preserving the lands, keeping it from urbanization, which inevitably leads to some degradation of water quality,” says Michael Personett,  assistant director for the city’s Watershed Protection program.

The bond would also add to the city's undeveloped space by funding the purchase of land conservation easements in environmentally sensitive areas. Easements are essentially agreements between the city and landowners that keep land in the hands of its original owner while preventing outside development. The owner gets some extra cash, and the city gets assurances water quality won't deteriorate in that area.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

This election, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is taking an in-depth look at all seven of the bond propositions, starting with the largest spending package: Prop 12, funding transportation and mobility projects.

According to the city, the $143.3 million proposal would fund the “improvement, construction and design” of sidewalks, bridges and roads to help ease traffic and congestion. That will likely include updates to Interstate 35, MoPac and North Lamar Boulevard.

The bond would also fund new traffic signals and pedestrian beacons backers says will improve safety, and help pay for a portion of the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hiking and biking path from Zilker Park to Hays County. A full list of potential transportation projects can be found on the city’s website.

Love Austin is a campaign by bond supporters that hopes to educate voters about the city’s overall bond package. At a kick-off party at Nuevo Leon in East Austin, field director Ian Davis said he’s excited about the new trail. “You know I grew up hiking and biking in the greenbelt and now ... I have a young son and I’m just looking forward to taking him on this very new trail," Davis said.  "I think it’s going to be an environmental treasure."

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Absent major opposition to the seven proposed Austin bond initiatives up for a vote next month, supporters of their package have focused their ire on the closest thing: the editorial board of the Austin-American Statesman.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell chairs a group in favor of the $385 million package, which would fund projects including transportation, open space acquisition, parks, housing, public safety, health and human services, and cultural facilities. Today, the Statesman published an op-ed Leffingwell wrote upbraiding the paper for an editorial he said “lacks context” and “inaccurately and unfairly” characterizes the issue.

Earlier this month, the Statesman published an editorial (“Be straight with voters on $385 million bond package”) that said if the bonds don’t pass, the property tax rate could decline two cents over time. (That’s because the portion of the tax rate that would pay for the new bond spending is the portion that is currently paying off existing bond projects; when those projects are completed, theoretically, the debt could be retired.)

But the Statesman took the additional step of saying city leaders weren’t being truthful when they said the package wouldn’t raise property taxes:

The Austin City Council unanimously approved a $385 million bond package for voters to decide on in November.

The package had not changed any since council’s initial vote on Wednesday, but council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo – who had both previously voted against the proposal on its first two readings – joined their colleagues in blessing the final package.

“I just was optimistic that after a good night’s sleep somebody was going to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and come up with some miraculous way that we could all agree on shifting some funds  that would make everybody happy,” Morrison said. “But that didn’t happen.” 

The Central Health Board of Managers voted unanimously last night to ask voters whether they want to pay five cents more in property taxes per $100 of taxable value.

The funds would help develop a medical school and teaching hospital in Austin. The proposal will be on the November ballot.

Board members say now is a good time to move forward with the project because of the federal Medicaid matching funds available.

KUT News

Austin City Council members spent their morning going line by line through the numerous items being considered for inclusion in November’s bond election. And by the end of the meeting, they gave preliminary approval to an outline of the package.

Council members have agreed to stick to a $385 million dollar price tag in order to ensure that taxes will not go up. But they’ve been split on which specific items to include and which template to start from. Two different ones had been suggested – one from the city’s Bond Advisory Task Force (at $400 million) and one from the city manager (at $385 million) – and disagreement over how to proceed resulted in two tie votes yesterday.

This morning, a majority agreed to adopt the city manager’s original proposal but to also include items from the task force proposal. Mayor Lee Leffingwell said that doesn’t mean the task force’s work goes unappreciated.

City of Austin

A dueling set of recommendations and a council member’s medical leave of absence lead to a series of tie votes earlier today regarding November’s bond spending package – meaning the Austin City Council needs to act pronto to set the ballot.

Council member Bill Spelman’s absence was acutely felt at this morning’s work session, as the council split on what should be included in a $385 million bond package the city presents to voters this fall.

A motion supported by council members Sheryl Cole, Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo took the $400 million recommendation from the city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force as the starting point for negotiations. A series of amendments then added additional items to the tally, and subtracted others. 

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council kicks off another three-fer this week – two work sessions and a full Thursday meeting – that will set the ballot for November’s city charter and bond elections.

Today, the council holds a work session previewing its Thursday meeting. But also on the agenda are several items pertaining to this November’s election. One item would let voters approve terms under which the city could sell or lease portions of Austin Energy properties, like the utility’s stake in the coal-burning Fayette Power Plant. That initiative has already received two affirmative votes, so only one more vote is required to add the measure to the crowded November ballot.

Another item would place a charter amendment on the ballot authorizing the council to create an independent board to oversee city-owned utilities such as Austin Energy. No vote has been taken on the measure yet, and with council member Bill Spelman’s potentially decisive vote absent from the dais, it’s uncertain whether the council is ready to approve the item.