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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2021 by Jo Clifton
Prop B: City to vote on East Austin parkland swap
Austin voters will have a chance in the Nov. 2 election to authorize the city to trade nine acres of city-owned parkland for at least 48 acres of waterfront property that will complete the existing John Treviño Park. The nine-acre parcel, while legally dedicated parkland, has never been used as anything but the site of a maintenance facility. But because it’s parkland, state law requires that the public vote on whether to sell or trade it. The likely purchaser will be tech giant Oracle, which wants to add the smaller plot to its headquarters in East Austin.
The campaign to educate voters about Proposition B can be found at GrowAustinParks.com. Here’s the gist of the argument:
“Austin’s parks are being loved to death. Many of Austin’s parks are overcrowded, especially on the weekends. With Austin’s rapid growth, and the stress it places on our existing park system, we should prioritize new parkland acquisition. A vote for Proposition B would add more parkland at once than any time in the last 65 years. We need to plan now so that future generations have public land available to enjoy as well.”
Ted Siff, who has worked on land conservation and parks issues for many years, is one of the top donors to the Grow Austin Parks political action committee. He told the Austin Monitor that the planned land swap envisioned trading the maintenance facility site for “critically important parkland that fills in the donut hole in the existing John Treviño Park.”
Oracle is offering $17 million in addition to the cost of the land, which would be used to develop a new maintenance facility and convert another maintenance facility on Festival Beach back into parkland.
Of course, anyone can bid on the nine acres, but no bidder is likely to come up with a better offer than Oracle.
According to the Oct. 1 Grow Austin Parks PAC filing, Oracle America has donated $250,000 to the campaign. Mykle Tomlinson, Prop B campaign manager, said Monday the campaign has a Facebook page with an educational film on it.
Treviño was Austin’s first Mexican American City Council member. He served from 1975-1988, including a stint as mayor in 1983 after Carole Keeton McClellan resigned to join the State Board of Insurance.
On Aug. 11, when Council approved putting Prop B on the ballot, Mayor Steve Adler said, “So my understanding of this, colleagues, is we have an opportunity to be able to get a really desirable piece of land that I know our parks staff has indicated that they want to get. Something that the staff has inquired about in the past and never been able to actually acquire – an important piece of river-fronting property that could be used right now for recreational purposes, also provides a connection for trails and provides continuity in our city.”
Adler thanked Council Member Pio Renteria for his efforts to bring the matter forward. In particular, Adler said the proposal would give the parks department funds to restore parkland at Fiesta Gardens. At some point after the vote, someone started a petition to oppose swapping the nine acres for the 48 acres, but the ballot is set and early voting starts on Oct. 18.
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