Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities: City Bond Edition

Allen Stadium
Future Allen Stadium

What makes politics endlessly fascinating and intractably difficult is how two sides can look at the same objective facts and reach diametrically opposite positions. Or how one side can effortlessly forget its argument on one issue as it moves onto debating a related issue. Or how one body politic can deal with an issue without controversy while another body politic is hopelessly divided over similar issues.

After the jump, examples from Richardson's upcoming bond election.

Now is the best of times to sell bonds. Now is the worst of times. According to the City of Richardson's bond election information:

"finance experts ... informed the Council that now appears to be a good time to sell bonds due to the sluggish economy. The slump in the construction market is expected to allow the City to find low bids for projects, while historically low interest rates are anticipated to allow the City to borrow money at a low cost."

But opponents of the bond election argue that due to that same sluggish economy, now is a bad time to sell bonds. They argue that Richardson residents are financially strapped and cannot afford the increase in property tax rates that will accompany the bonds. They argue the city should wait for more flush times.

The opponents of the bonds argue that in a recession, parks and recreation centers and swimming pools are luxuries. Instead of going into debt to replace these aging amenities, they argue that we should consider bond debt only for necessary infrastructure such as streets and alleys. If you think this argument leads them to support a "yes" vote on the separate bond package for streets and drainage, think again. When it comes to streets, these same opponents argue that funding should come from the operational budget, not a capital budget that raises long-term debt.

So, at least on the surface, it appears that the proposed $66 million bond package has divided Richardson. In contrast, a story this week about a city to our north, Allen, indicates how a different electorate didn't hesitate to support a similarly-sized bond package for just a single amenity, a high school football stadium:

"The residents of Allen will soon have a $59.6 million stadium. ... Next month in the booming north Dallas suburb, ground will be broken on a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat facility that will feature two decks, a video scoreboard, four concession stands and 12 restrooms. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012. ... 'This was not that controversial in Allen,' Tim Carroll, the public information director for the district, said."

The proposal for the new Allen High School stadium passed 63%-37%. And it isn't just football that Allen loves. A similar-size bond package for an auditorium for the performing arts was also approved by voters in the same election. The voters in Allen did not consider these amenities to be unaffordable luxuries. They recognized them as engines of growth, attracting new businesses and families to Allen.

We won't know just how controversial the City of Richardson's bond proposal really is until the May 8th election returns are counted. Maybe Richardson's bond proposal will pass as easily as Allen's did. Maybe, despite appearances now, the tale of these two cities will have the same happy ending. You can influence the ending yourself by voting May 8.

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