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Not a surprise that the bonds passed

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.

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“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.

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2 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    I wonder if some pro-education Republican voters turned against the GOP local candidates this cycle based on the opposition by the party to the bonds? The Republican party sent emails and held townhalls on the bonds, and opposition groups mailed at least two glossy mailers. That energy and those resources might have been better spent helping candidates.

  2. Peter Houston says:

    A couple of the bond packages made sense since they were designed to repair facilities before they required replacement. Fiscally speaking though, most of these bond packages should have been pushed back five years to allow each governing entity to shore up their finances. The city itself has huge amounts of debt that would be better addressed now, the leverage soon to start drastically impacting services. If Parker wants to make a lasting impact for the foreseeable future, she would have cut the amount of employees for two more years, not borrowed via any bonds, and paid down some of the outstanding liabilities. Then she might be poised for higher office, unlike her borrow happy buddy Bill White who left city finances in shambles to those who look at the books closely.

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