All of the bond issues on the ballot this year had favorable conditions working for them, so their ultimate passage should not be a surprise.
The dire warnings of crippling debt, the long presidential campaign conversation about the limits of government and the potential for sticker shock over local governments’ asking to borrow $2.7 billion all failed to make much of an impact Tuesday. Houstonians said yes to everything, in most cases by a margin of 2-to-1, even when it meant a tax increase.
Observers and participants offering a postmortem on Election 2012 in some cases ascribed the across-the-board sweep to the Houston character: optimistic, pragmatic, cognizant of the need for the right tools to get the job done, satisfied that the Bayou City is faring better economically than its fellow metropolises across the nation.
Others, though, said it is basic politics. Bond promoters used an astute strategy of placing the measures on a presidential election ballot that promised to inspire an urban, Democratic turnout in jurisdictions that already skew blue.
That combination contributed to victory after victory for local government at the ballot box: $1.9 billion to rebuild and repair Houston Independent School District campuses, $425 million for the Houston Community College system to build and upgrade its classrooms and job training centers, $410 million for city parks, libraries, public safety and public health facilities, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s plan to continue to use a chunk of its sales tax money on roads.
“Other bonds have had loud opposition,” said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, which took no position on the propositions. “This one had a lot of whining, but no real organized opposition. It wasn’t a huge tax increase, and I think people who voted for it looked at it is as they were doing something for the kids.”
Other than the usual cranks and some robocalls from the Harris County GOP, there really wasn’t any opposition to these issues. Especially for the school bond, where no one who usually supports public education spoke out against it, this was very helpful. A Presidential year turnout and a mostly Democratic electorate in the city of Houston and the HISD and HCC juristictions didn’t hurt, either. I’ll be sure to take a close look at where the support was highest and lowest for all these issues once I get my hands on the precinct data.