Thanks to Mr. Turner for the video of the Democrat Club sponsored Q&A from Monday. Despite going heads up against the highest rated Monday Night NFL game in history, an SRO audience attended. Tells me we have high interest in a very open special election to replace Mayor Lown.
I am referring here to the "Un-Mayor" portion of the Nov. 3 election, the State Constitutional Amendments. I can tell you, election clerks and judges regularly get more questions on these measures than nearly any other item on a ballot: by law, come election day, about all we can do is read what is on the ballot. FYI, while I still can, let me run these Amendments down by the numbers.
Amendment One will give cities with military bases the option to use bonds or tax increment zones to buy buffer land between the base and local development, cutting down on complaints. This would apply more to a base such as Dyess in Abliene with an active and noisy flight line. Goodfellow's training mission is quieter, we have residences cheerfully building right up to the perimeter fence. Our local effect is close to zero, but I will vote yes. It will help cities with a noise problem deal with that and keep good relations with the local base
Amendments 2,3 and 5 are related to property tax appraisals. I hear often from people who first read of an ad valorem reduction, as San Angelo has done five years in a row, but then find their tax bill has not gone down, or has even increased due to a higher appraisal of the property. Amendments Two and Three are on the same issue: On Two, current common standard is "highest and best use". In English, if you live near a commercial establishment with a high evaluation, the Appraial District can evaluate your property as though it were worth the same. Amendment Two will require the District to evaluate that residence property on its residential value. The companion Amendment Three will give State Comptrollers office authority to write a fairer standard than "highest and best use". Amendment Five allows appraisal review boards (equalization boards in ballot language) to consolidate as the appraisal districts have. Two and Three are crucial, Five is housekeeping with a possible lowering of expense. I vote "yea" on all three.
Amendment Four would create a National Research University Fund designed to help major Texas Universities become Tier One research institutions. Though ASU is not one of the seven named schools, we could see some local benefit to ASU through its affiliation with Texas Tech, which is specified in the measure.
Amendment Six will allow the Texas Veterans' Land Board to issue bonds if needed to assure our veterans the Land Board benefits of lower-interest loans for home buying. In the past, each bond request required separate voter approval, the last in 2001. I don't think voters have ever turned down a bond request. This program is self-funding, with a default rate under 0.5%. In a state with 2 million veterans and no cost to taxpayers, I see this as a solid "yes".
Amendment Seven adds the Texas State Guard to others exempt from the rule against "holding two paid civil offices". Many voters are unaware of the Texas State Guard. It is an all volunteer group, separate from the National Guard. Its function is to supplement the Texas National Guard if it is unable to respond due to say, deployment overseas. See hurricane Ike. If we could allow LBJ to run for Senate and VP on the same ballot, surely we can allow a State Guard reservist to be a Councilman or County Commissioner without resigning his/her State Guard position.
Amendment Eight is the diciest. It would allow the State to support and build VA hospitals. HB 2217 has already been passed, and there is valid debate whether Amendment Eight is truly needed to support 2217. I'm probably wouldn't have supported HB 2217. Slight digression here, but I have long supported laws that would eventually replace the separate VA Hospital system with cards/vouchers allowing vets to recieve the care we owe them at the same hospitals we use. Local care, gov't funded. This is going to be my "NO" vote in November.
Amendment Nine is called "Open Beaches". Obviously little local impact unless you vacation at our Texas beaches. Since 1959 the legal definition of Public Beach is the area between the water and the line of vegetation bordering the Gulf of Mexico. In short, if you choose to "build thy house on shifting sand", your property rights depend on the vagaries of aforementiond shifting sand. Even if you have the grandest house on the waterfront, you can't keep us commoners off the beach between your manse and the beach. Hurricane Ike again; some homeowners found their houses to be a "public beach" due to storm related erosion. I am not completely without sympathy, BUT...Homeowners knew they were building on sand. Nine merely gives Constitutional standing to a law that has been on the books since Eisenhower was President.
Amendment 10 is the sort of housekeeping another state would have had decided by Commissioner's court or some county review board. No local interest I know of, if I bother to vote it, I will vote in favor.
Amendment Eleven on eminent domain. It moves us in the right direction, post the infamous Kelo decision. I would have preferred stronger, more informed debate. With Gov. Perry backing the TTC and its huge appetite for eminent domain, it's hardly a secret he opposes this Amendment. That's OK Gov. Perry, I don't like Amendment 11 either. I think it should have been even stronger. Definite "yes" vote on this. It may not be perfect, but it's a step in the right direction.
There it is, my personal guide to the "un-mayor" issues. Regardless of how the gentle reader votes, I hope you will vote on the Amendments. I hope this helps make it an informed vote.