Each Austin City Council member will submit a list of priority infrastructure projects for their district to be considered for Quarter Cent Fund spending following council's 9-2 vote Dec. 17 to approve an amended resolution regarding the fund.
Council Member Ann Kitchen, who helped to spearhead the initiative in her role with the Mobility Committee, said the Quarter Cent Fund gave council members the opportunity to work very closely with residents to understand the community's priorities.
“There has been some concern that this is ward politics,” Kitchen said. “I just don’t agree with that. … It’s just a demonstration of responsiveness to the needs of our city at the micro level.”
Mayor Steve Adler, who opposed the vote along with Council Member Greg Casar, said dividing the money up on an equal basis may be “politically expedient,” but it could also create problems.
Kitchen clarified the language does not state money should be split equally, but equitably, totaling “no more than $1.9 million” per council district.
Before the final vote, council approved an amendment stating an updated recommended list of projects to be funded by the Quarter Cent Fund would come back to council Jan. 28 for consideration and potential approval.
Council passed a resolution in June to determine how to distribute the so-called Quarter Cent Fund equitably among the council’s 10 geographic districts and citywide. Council wants to use the Quarter Cent Fund to support low-cost projects that would help with congestion relief and other issues.
The fund’s creation stems from a light rail proposition that was defeated in 2000. Capital Metro, Austin’s regional public transportation provider, agreed in 2001 to share 25 percent of its annual revenue—money previously allocated toward light rail—with the city to fund transportation projects.
Eric Goff, a representative of AURA who also serves on the city’s board of adjustment, spoke at the Dec. 17 meeting in favor of Mayor Adler’s efforts to amend the resolution before council.
He noted some Austin residents do not work in the same district in which they live, and AURA’s concerns include the precedent that could be set by dividing the fund to give about $1.9 million to each district.
“I think you can still get to your districts’ needs because there are many things that are important across the city," he said. "I think that you can strike the right balance by having projects that are important to the district without having them being submitted by each member of City Council.”
Council Member Sheri Gallo noted council received a very specific list of the types of projects the Quarter Cent Fund could be spent on, including traffic cameras, intersection improvements, turn lanes, sidewalks, curb ramps and safety features.
Council Member Delia Garza said to each resident, a sidewalk in their neighborhood might be a No. 1 issue, but it is No. 200 or greater on city staff’s list of prioritized projects.
“This is just a one-time opportunity to be really responsive to our constituents,” she said.