Not Just “No,” but “Hell No!”

The “Clean Government” charter amendments went down in flames this weekend, with the vast majority of attendant voters casting their voice against Props 1 (76%) and 2 (69%). The Save Our Springs coalition helped push the propositions, and in the process managed to drive a rather large and environmentally-unfriendly wedge through their own eco-progressive vote.

Much has been made of the wording behind the amendments, and rightfully so. No matter how important SOS believes these amendments were, it is extremely difficult to ask casual environmentalists and would-be activists to wade through such documents to find their rallying cry.

And if voters did bother to wade through the amendment text, they may have missed the laudable goals within language that occasionally smacked of petulance more than reform. Fourteen years after passing the SOS ordinance with 64% of the vote, supporters have seen their ideals riddled by state legislation, judicial wrangling, lawsuits, tenuous enforcement, and good old-fashioned dishonesty, and AMD’s decision to break the development stalemate in the recharge zone is the latest and largest assault on what has always been a very personal and bitter struggle for environmental leaders. Unfortunately, calling out one of Austin’s largest and most community-oriented employers in a charter amendment comes across as spiteful, whether or not it is deserved.

But the truly spiteful acts were reserved for the City Council, some of whom acted more like spoiled children than public representatives when dealing with the amendments. Despite a court order to accurately distill the initiatives, the Council managed to craft ballot language that implied privacy threats and unworkable government over and above weaknesses in the actual amendment language. The propositions were clearly a threat to Council’s ability to adapt and respond freely to issues, but whether you think that means they are free to make back-room deals or make decisions without the fickle noise of the crowd drowning out reason is a matter of perspective.

Linguistic confusion and political maneouverings certainly clouded the issues, so in lieu of an informed electorate we got an(other) election based primarily on perspective. Based on his re-election success, lots of people trust the Mayor, and Will Wynn opposed the propositions. It’s tough to trust the environmentalists when Bill Bunch and Daryl Slusher are at odds. But as usual, most people just chose to trust the minority who actually voted (around 15% of registered voters), and that minority chose to trust the status quo. Hey, why not? Times are good, Austin is growing like gangbusters, and UT is getting a plasma screen bigger than your house. Nobody – AMD, the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce – nobody would be stupid enough to derail this train by ruining Austin’s quality of life, would they?

Perhaps the best thing about this election is that Austin got the opportunity to witness a case study of bad government all around; poorly-crafted citizen initiatives manipulated by self-serving city council representatives operating out of fear from a vengeful state government. All the while, clean government gets sent to its room to cry itself into a shameful slumber until some vile political act re-sets the public wake-up call. Sweet dreams, Austin.

3 Comments so far

  1. Eddie C. (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

    It just seems to me that if the Chronicle AND the Statesman both agree that it’s a bad idea, then most likely? It really is a bad idea.

  2. wae (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

    Eddie, I think your perspective gives far too much credence to the Statesman and the Chronicle. Some of the earlier Chronicle reporting was interesting and insightful, at least until the PTB started taking this election as a personal rebuke against SOS. I didn’t see much meaningful discussion from the AAS editorial staff.

    Many of us (myself included) have gotten used to the Chronicle being the de facto voice of informed progressivism in Austin, but that’s like saying Austin City Limits is our primary voice of independent music. The Chronicle is clearly part of the establishment rather than a rebellious voice of dissent, and despite their liberal leanings should always be considered in that light.

  3. Spook (unregistered) on May 18th, 2006 @ 6:09 am

    The Chronicle is clearly part of the establishment rather than a rebellious voice of dissent…

    Doesn’t matter what the Chron is. The proposistions needed the votes of mainstream Austin in order to pass, and as such, they needed the support of both the AAS and the Chron.

    It was over before it started — the proposistions had no support from the “establishement” media, and therefore no support from the mainstream.

    We need a more politically savvy organization to defend Barton Springs, ’cause SOS just ain’t cutting it. Despite the fact that SOS has their hearts in the right place, they have no clue as to how to play politics to win.

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