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Voters defeat Proposition 2’s bid to stop retail tax rebates

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Travis County sent out the following notice about 1:45am:



Results listed in the Travis County report printed at 12:43 am do not include final Williamson County results for the City of Austin.  A revised final report will be issued by Travis County later this morning to include the updated totals.  The updated figures are not expected to alter the outcome of the elections for Proposition 1 or Proposition 2 for the City of Austin.


Austin voters Tuesday rejected a charter amendment that would have stopped the city from entering into future agreements to give tax rebates for developments that include retail. Proposition 2, the Stop Domain Subsidies amendment, was rejected by 52 percent of voters.


Opponents, who organized under the Keep Austin’s Word political action committee, were pleased with the outcome. “The Austin community understands the value and importance of ‘a deal is a deal’, and how important it is for Austin to keep its word,” said local business owner Bobby Jenkins. “At the end of the day, it still comes down to…how does Austin want to be viewed in a world market? And I think a big part of the business community understands that.”


State Sen. Kirk Watson concurred with Jenkins assessment that voters were more concerned with Austin’s integrity than with punishing any particular business or politician.


“They might not agree with a specific decision that was made to do a specific agreement…but they don’t want to be put in a situation where Austin goes back on its word on something,” Watson said. “They may question the decision of an elected official from time to time, but we’re not going to say we want the city to turn its back on a deal it has already entered into.”


The Keep Austin’s Word group had extensive financial support from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Opportunity Austin, and Simon Properties. Mayor Will Wynn appeared in the group’s campaign commercials. For the Stop Domain Subsidies PAC, the primary contributor was founder Brian Rodgers.


“We’re thrilled to have run neck-and-neck with the opposition,” Rodgers said. “They out-spent us by $250,000. Considering the barrage and the people we too, half of the people in Austin didn’t believe the Mayor, and we don’t either.” Wynn served as a public spokesperson for Keep Austin’s Word and appeared in the TV and radio ads urging voters to reject Proposition 2.


“The anti-Prop 2 side was well-funded,” local political strategist David Butts told In Fact Daily. “They poured a bunch of money into the campaign and used the Mayor in a very effective way. He’s very popular and people believe him when he talks.” Butts said Stop Domain Subsidies did not respond adequately to the criticism raised by Keep Austin’s Word that Prop 2 would have unintended consequences. “They never came up with a driving message that said ‘you’re going to give away $65 million of our money as we go into a recession next year’. That message did not get through,” he said. “They did not have an effective, well-funded campaign.”


Although the election defeat puts an end to Rodgers’ five-year quest to block the city from making sales tax rebate payments to The Domain, he said Tuesday night he would continue to remain active in city issues. “We have an election coming up in May with … City Council members and a Mayor,” he said. “We’ve got over 130,000 people and a broad coalition and 500 local businesses. We feel like we can be a major player in those elections.”

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