Local elections are coming up May 8th with early voting starting on Monday. Here are the local races, via the Williamson County Elections page, (includes early voting schedule):
Liberty Hill ISD
Round Rock ISD
City of Cedar Park
City of Georgetown District 3
City of Granger
City of Hutto
City of Jarrell
City of Leander
City of Liberty Hill
City of Taylor (citywide)
City of Taylor District 4
City of Thrall
Block House Creek MUD
Brushy Creek MUD
Fern Bluff MUD
Wells Branch MUD
Anderson Mill Limited District
Chisholm Trail SUD
Austin Community College
Below are some recent news articles on the elections. Any candidates or supporters of candidates have any articles to add for any of these races or information on the candidates, feel free to do so in the comments.
There have been three new voting precincts created, and several more adjusted, in Williamson County for 2010. The changes occur only in commissioner precincts 2 and 4, Cedar Park and Hutto respectively. From the Elections page on the county web site.
January 1, 2010 Redistricting changes are effective. Early in 2009 we identified three voter precincts that had over 5000 registered voters to reduce the number of voters we began the redistricting process. Three new precincts were created 201, 402 and 403 additionally boundary adjustments were made to precincts 254, 273, 277 and 293. [Emphasis added].
They have links to the new maps and orders of the changes too, [All links are .pdf files].
According to Rick Barreon, Williamson County Elections administrator, changes to precincts were made as a result of Precinct 426′s violation of Texas Election Code because it contained more than 5,000 registered voters as of May 12, 2009, when the changes were adopted by Hutto.
The document states that after consultations with Precinct 4 County Commissioner Ron Morrison, and the chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties, Bill Fairbrother and Richard Torres, recommendation was made to adjust the boundaries to election precincts 420, 424, and 426 to create precincts 402 and 403.
The county states that new voter registration cards were mailed late last year reflecting these changes. There is a conflicting message regarding a mailed notice to all affected voters. The county web site states, ” voters will also be mailed a notice the first week of January notifying them of the change and their polling place”. While Candi Zaccheus, county Elections Geographic Information System analyst, in the RRL article above states that “..a notification would be sent out to residents about precinct changes”.
It’s highly recommended that anyone that lives in the Cedar Park, or Hutto areas double check their precinct and voting location if they plan to vote on election day. These changes have no effect on where or when anyone can early vote.
Word came yesterday that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) will raise tolls on the current stretch of 183-A. For a good primer on the issue check out the video below from KXAN last night, Cedar Park toll road rate set to rise. Here’s what one driver said of the increase:
The plan includes the implementation of a previously-scheduled 20-cent toll increase at the Park Street Main Plaza on Jan. 1, 2010.
When the Northern Extension project opens, the Mobility Authority is also proposing a 30-cent toll rate reduction at the same plaza.
” I would hope that it would [go down],” said Charity Wood. “But I’ve seen these things happen before where it doesn’t come back down.”
The Mobility Authority is considering a number of changes to the toll rate schedule for 183A in connection with the Northern Extension project. The first change will involve implementation of a previously planned toll rate increase at the Park Street Main Toll Plaza. As provided for in the original 2005 bond documents for the 183A project, the toll at the Park Street Main Toll Plaza is slated to increase from $1.35 to $1.55 for TxTag customers on January 1, 2010. The increase would only be temporary as the Mobility Authority is proposing to adjust its entire rate schedule when the 183A Extension opens in about two years.
Under the proposed changes, the toll rates at the Park Street Main Toll Plaza would decrease from $1.55 to $1.25 when the extension opens. The Mobility Authority is also planning to implement annual inflation-based toll rate increases beginning in 2013. Annual increases of a few cents each year eliminate the need for larger one-time increases such as the one scheduled for the first of the year. The Mobility Authority Board is expected to consider the proposal at their November 18th meeting. For more information about the proposal click here (PDF). [Emphasis added].
That’s right folks the unelected and unaccountable CTRMA board is scheduled to vote for automatic annual increases at their next meeting. Just wondering if the local Cedar Park “tea partiers” are going to show up at the next board meeting to protest this tax/toll increase. Of course this is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as a local tax increase. And not a single member of the CTRMA board is accountable to any voters. Just imagine the outcry if this was an actual “tax increase”!!
Of course this is the way this board was always meant to be – insulated from any public pressure or outcry. It’s extremely doubtful too that the tolls will ever go down. Sure the CTRMA will probably try to spin this in 2013 in a way that shows in 2009 dollars the toll actually did go down, but the actual price of the toll will likely never go down. And with a board likely composed of different members by 2013, they will feel no tie to any decisions that were made in 2009.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) released it’s report Crime in Texas: 2008[.pdf]. Here’s the good news, crime statewide is now close to 3 percetn.
The major crime rate in Texas decreased nearly 3 percent in 2008, according to data compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
Compared with 2007, the crime rate—the number of crimes per 100,000 population in Texas—decreased 2.9 percent in 2008. The violent crime rate decreased .6 percent in 2008 from 2007. The property crime rate decreased 3.2 percent in 2008.
“The reduction in our overall crime rate is a result of Texas’ tough approach to law enforcement. I commend the brave men and women of local law enforcement who continue to work every day to keep our state and its citizens safe ,” said Col. Lamar Beckworth, interim director of the DPS.
New crime stats from the Texas Department of Public Safety show unexpected results in Williamson County.
According to DPS’ Crime Statistics report, crime in Round Rock went up 12.2% in 2008, while in Cedar Park, it went up 8.8%.
In the past, Round Rock has placed among the top 20 safest cities in the country. Now, according to the report, every category increased except for murder. There were 216 more larcenies and thefts than in 2007 and 63 more burglaries.
Austin’s crime went down 1.2 percent.
Certainly seeing Austin’s crime rate down and the two biggest cities in Williamson County having large increases won’t sit well with Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, via KXAN.
“There’s no question in my mind that that the economy is already beginning to show an increase in our property crimes,” said Bradley.
What concerns Bradley most about the crime in Texas report is Cedar Park, where the number of rapes, aggravated assaults and burglaries all jumped.
Overall crime is up 8.8 percent and rape increased at the highest rate, jumping from 5 reported cases in 2007 to 12 in 2008.
“That’s a significant jump in sexual assaults I would like to break them down to see if [victims] are adults or children,” said Bradley.
It is too soon to tell exactly what is making crime more common in the suburban neighborhoods of Cedar Park and Round Rock.
“I’m going to talk to our police chiefs and we’re going to come of with a way to focus on those areas,” said Bradley.
Meanwhile [Round Rock resident Alan Newman] has his own theory.
“A lot of people leaving the city they are moving out to the rural areas,” said Newman.
Certainly the economic downturn and the increase in population have contributed to the rise in crime in these two Williamson County cities. We will just have to wait and see how the weakening economy will effect the budgets of these cities and the county and their efforts to combat the rising crime rates.
There’s a public forum for the candidates in Hutto coming next week. It will be at Hutto Middle School on Tuesday April 21. Doors Open at 6:00, Forum Starts at 7:00pm. There will also be an opportunity to meent HISD candidates at 6:45pm. See the event poster[.pdf].
Ben Wear had an article that does a great job of pointing out the childish place of our tranportation financing debate at the state level has become, Lege is missing a road fairy.
In fact, the salient characteristic of the road fairy seems to be doubt about its existence. As in, “There’s no road fairy, so we have to build toll roads.” Or, for those on the other side of the debate, “Unless you believe there’s a road fairy somewhere out there, we need to increase the gas tax.” Or for the truly confident and ecumenical: “There’s no road fairy to save us. We need to build tollways and raise gas taxes.”
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, was the latest to cite the highway sprite, this time during a debate last week over legislation to allow localities to raise the gas tax or fees to pay for transportation projects. Wentworth supports the idea. But some conservatives, you see, don’t like the bill because it would allow the public to vote to tax themselves. The Legislature for 18 years has resisted raising the state’s 20-cent-a-gallon gas tax.
Recall that last session, a majority of lawmakers rebelled over private toll road leases. And toll roads in general are not real popular across the state. But then again, neither is sitting in traffic going nowhere, spewing out pollution and stewing over missed appointments. So: Don’t toll me, don’t tax me, but by God build me some roads and rail lines.
That leaves us with the engineering elf.
If it wasn’t so sad it might be funny. Isn’t making the tough choices why these people want to be elected in the first place? That’s rhetorical. Oh well, it’s obvious that we must have roads, and that we must pay for them. It would sure seem that a skilled leader and politician would be able to explain that to their constituents, and not fear they wouldn’t get reelected. Maybe they’re right and the voting public has been conditioned to believe they can have everything and not pay for it for too long.
Elections in Leander this year have drawn quite a crowd. 15 candidates for mayor and city council and 6 for two, (one open), LISD board seats. For a “blow by blow” on the filings in Leander and Cedar Park check this link to the Hill Country News, they did a great job covering all the filing news in those areas.
Sales tax collections for most Central Texas cities fell in January, with a 23 percent drop in Round Rock and a 13.8 percent decline in Austin, according to a new report from the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
Georgetown had the biggest percentage drop, down 27.3 percent from a year ago.
Of the region’s 10 largest cities, only Cedar Park, Lakeway and Kyle had increases. San Marcos was essentially flat from a year ago.
Here’s a link to Top 20 Cities. Definitely the Houston, Southeast Texas, and the Corpus Christi seem to be doing the best. Also West Texas Midland, Amarillo, and Lubbock are on the plus side.
Williamson cities,and county total are listed below:
Cedar Park 1.54%
Liberty Hill -3.40%
Round Rock -16.87%
County Total -13.90%
Without a state income tax in Texas and so much of our state government funded by the sales tax this is going to cause serious problems at the state level too, not just the local level.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today announced state sales tax revenue in February totaled $1.74 billion, down 2.6 percent compared to February 2008.
“State sales tax collections declined in February as important sectors such as retail trade and construction continue to struggle,” Combs said. “While state sales tax revenue has grown 2.8 percent through the first half of fiscal 2009, further declines are expected as the economy continues to weaken.”
Combs delivered $433.4 million in March sales tax payments to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts. Local sales tax allocations are down 0.6 percent compared to March 2008. So far this calendar year, local sales tax allocations remain up 2.2 percent compared to the first three months of 2008.
State sales tax revenue for February and March payments made to local governments represent sales that occurred in January.
Combs sent March sales tax payments of $291.1 million to Texas cities, down 0.7 percent compared to March 2008. Since Jan. 1, city sales tax allocations are 1.5 percent higher than the same period last year. Texas counties received sales tax payments of $27.5 million, up 2.5 percent compared to one year ago. Calendar year-to-date, county sales tax allocations are 7.2 percent higher than last year.
The 150 special purpose taxing districts around the state received $17.3 million in sales tax revenue, up 21.6 percent compared to last March. Ten local transit systems received $97.4 million, down 4.3 percent.
While Texas and Williamson County have not been hit as hard an many other places around our country, it appears some of those issues are starting to “trickle down”. Several issues in Hutto were chronicled late last year. Growth slows in suburbs.
Few Texas towns grew faster than Hutto in the past decade.
A small farming community of 1,250 in 2000, the population has swelled to more than 17,000 as young families moved there in droves in search of affordable housing.
Nearly 950 new houses were built in the flat, treeless fields from mid-2005 to mid-2006.
Home builders started construction on just under 500 new houses in the 12 months ending in September, and city leaders expect that number to fall further in the coming year.
Today, the narrow country lanes once clogged with heavy construction trucks and obscured with clouds of dust are largely clear.
Few new houses were halted in progress, but a few subdivisions were abruptly abandoned, leaving paved cul-de-sacs lined with streetlights but no houses.
City officials originally projected that Hutto would collect more than $1.5 million in development and permitting fees in the 2007-08 budget year. Instead, the city collected $782,409 , and city leaders expect that amount to drop to just below $767,000 this year.
Financial troubles among national retailers are compounding the problem, and many are likely to postpone entering these markets as they weigh their own economic health and the fact that residential populations aren’t growing as quickly as once projected.
Blaming the economy and scarce financing, Atlantic Coast Developers said it will almost certainly postpone beginning construction on its 466-acre Crossings of Carmel Creek project at Texas 130 and U.S. 79, which it had announced would start next year.
When fully built, the Crossings of Carmel Creek would include 6 million square feet of retail and office space, 2,100 residential units and 900 hotel rooms.
Despite what economists are calling the worst recession in three decades, Round Rock’s assistant finance director, Cheryl Delaney, says the city is financially strong and still on-target to meet its FY 2009 budget.
“We have some of the lowest tax and utility rates in the area. We have excellent tax reserves. The pay-as-you-go capital program has saved our taxpayers approximately 10 cents on the tax rate,” Delaney told elected officials and city employees at their winter retreat Feb. 18. “And the thing we’re most excited about is our recent general obligation bond rating upgrade from AA to AA plus. I think that was significant that in this in environment we were able to have this upgrade.”
Round Rock’s FY 2009 budget shows a certified taxable property value of $8.1 billion.
Currently beginning her work on the city’s 2010 budget, Delaney is estimating a 3 percent decrease in taxable property value for the upcoming fiscal year – down to $7.8 billion – including new property added to the tax roles.
Sales tax also represents a significant portion of the city’s general fund revenue in the FY 2009 budget at $49 million, with Dell Inc. making up $19.5 million and all other sales tax revenue the remaining $29. 5 million.
For the upcoming fiscal year, Delaney is estimating a 7 percent year-to-year decline in the computer giant’s sales tax revenue and a 3 percent decline in all other sales tax revenue.
As a result, Delaney is currently anticipating a $3 million revenue shortfall in the city’s 2010 budget – assuming no new programs are added.
Monthly sales tax revenue for the City of Taylor has fallen sharply since last year’s figures.
Property tax money also continues to flow in at a slower-than-expected pace, City Manager Jim Dunaway said, and city funds sitting in a bank are gaining an abysmal 0.7 percent interest rate.
The most recent sales tax revenue collected, $235,160, generated during December, typically the strongest month of sales because of the Christmas season, dropped about 40 percent from last year’s figures.
This graphic from the AAS recently on area sales taxes shows a mixed bag.
Austin and Round Rock both saw large drops in sales tax revenue in December, but some other Central Texas cities had healthy gains.
The cities that had increases included Kyle and Leander, which have seen new retail openings in recent months.
There’s a lot of discussion going on right now about whether Williamson County will turn blue, is turning blue, etc… and whether it’s a blip or a sign of things to come. And the truth is no one knows for sure. But what the last two election cycles show pretty clearly is that Williamson County is trending Democratic, with Democrats improving their numbers over the last two election cycles. As pointed out so well yesterday by Dembones awesome map, and similarly in today’s article in the AAS, Is Williamson turning blue?
Although Barack Obama did not receive help from Williamson County on his way to being elected president, he had more support here than Democrat John Kerry did in 2004, preliminary voting numbers show.
That increase in support and the strong showings by several down-ballot candidates have Democrats talking about a gradual shift in the Republican stronghold.
“We’re starting to see a demographic change, with more individuals moving into Williamson County that are Democrats, and they’re moving into Precincts 1 and 2,” county Democratic Party Chairman Richard Torres said. Precinct 1 contains parts of Austin, Georgetown and Round Rock. Precinct 2 contains parts of Austin, Cedar Park and all of Leander.
Straight-ticket Democratic votes increased 64 percent this year, and Obama received about 24,000 more votes than Kerry did in 2004, election results show. Overall, John McCain won the county by about 88,000 votes to about 67,000. The totals are still not official; the results will be canvassed today.
Although Republicans won almost every contested race in the county, Democrat Diana Maldonado of Round Rock was elected to the state House of Representatives, and the race for the Precinct 1 seat on the Commissioners Court was close, with GOP incumbent Lisa Birkman beating Mike Grimes by fewer than 300 votes.
Only thing I would add to that is that Precinct 4 is trending Democratic as well where the Democrat in 2006, Brig Mireles, lost 56 – 44 and will be contested in 2010, especially with Ron Morrison’s lackluster record on the court thus far. The Hutto News had a recent article that showed Hutto’s two voting precincts giving winning margins to different parties.
However, voters who cast ballots in Hutto seem to be geographically divided as in their choices for president and state representative. South Hutto tended to favor Democrats while northern Hutto went for Republicans. Hutto’s two voter precincts border on U.S. 79. Precinct 420, which extends north from U.S. 79 to Jonah, voted solidly for McCain and Daniel. However, Democrats earned narrow majorities south of U.S 79 in precinct 426, which spans from the highway to the southern county line.
Before continuing, It can’t be lost sight of what a monumental win it was for Democrats to elect Diana Maldonado in HD-52. it cannot be overstated how groundbreaking it is to get an Hispanic female elected in a district that was thought to be a GOP stronghold. If that’s not a sign of a Democratic trend then what is?
But the main question is, will the trend continue? Now that we have an elected Democrat no one will be asking that question anymore – everyone is well aware now that there are Democrats in Williamson County. The key to remember is that these trends did not just happen. There has been a lot of time and effort put in by what started out as a few committed Democrats and has grown much larger, and must keep growing, for these trends to continue. The momentum and enthusiasm that was generated must be carried over to the next election cycle, and the next, and so on. Those who called, block walked, talked to their neighbors and families, etc.., have to stay involved and bring more into the fold.
The Williamson County Democratic Party (WCDP) is planning to keep the office from the 2008 election open on a permanent basis, but that takes money. If you have $5 or $10 a month to give, or a one time donation, it would be money well spent and greatly appreciated. It’s not just that. We all know well qualified Democrats are out there and they are needed to run for the offices that will be on the ballot in 2010. Maybe that’s you, or someone you know, that just needs a little encouragement to run. Now, unlike in the past, there’s an organization and supporters to back them up and help them win. But most important of all it’s now clear that Democrts can win in Williamson County. So rest up and be ready to get back to work in 2009.