Originally published November 6 2015
Austin's corrupt city government plans to go ahead with insane courthouse project despite being shot down by voters
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) For nearly a decade, the Travis County Commissioner's Court has been trying to decide where to build a new family and civil courthouse complex. Where did they choose? Well, the most expensive piece of dirt in Austin, Texas, of course.
On Election Day, Travis County asked voters to approve $287.3 million in bond funds to build a new courthouse on prime real estate, fully equipped with private office space, a day care, restaurants, boutiques and even a theater.
Critics feared that the end result would be a Taj Mahal-style courthouse funded by taxpayers who are already feeling overwhelmed by the soaring cost of living in Austin. Opponents viewed the proposal as a frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars in a city that's pushing a $1 billion deficit.
Despite its population still being under 1 million people (885,400), Austin's debt reached $830 million in 2012, with its debt per capita greatly exceeding cities such as San Antonio, which has a far greater population (1.4 million) and land area.
Judge Eckhardt demands "Taj Mahal" courthouse while refusing to uphold fair electionsLuckily, the Austinites practiced common sense on Election Day, ultimately voting "no" on the overly lavish near-$300 million courthouse, with 51 percent "against" and 49 percent "for" the measure.
However, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and her fellow bureaucrats, who spearheaded the proposal, announced that they will not accept defeat, pledging to find another way to build the opulent courthouse.
In a heated speech given following the measure's defeat, Judge Eckhardt said the election result was a "visual slap in the face to the notion of accessible justice to all," adding that the lower voter turnout was "not a rejection of the project, or a rejection of the location, but a disinterest in our democracy."
Her words were rather shocking, considering that Judge Eckhardt showed no interest in preserving democratic principles on Election Day when citizen voter groups asked the Travis County Commissioner's Court to investigate election code violations after Travis County officials allegedly failed to print Results/Tally tapes on site at polling locations.
The Texas Election Code requires that Results/Tally tapes be printed at each polling location at the time of closure in order to "verify and authenticate that the vote count of each precinct is consistent with the final vote count tabulated by the central counting computer program on election night."
Our reporters were present during this request and witnessed firsthand Judge Eckhardt distractedly sipping a Coca-Cola for breakfast, while appearing completely disinterested in investigating potential voter fraud – a surprising reaction for a woman supposedly so passionate about justice and democracy.
After all, is a fair voting system not the cornerstone of a true democracy?
Council Member Don Zimmerman says city can build a new courthouse in east Austin for fraction of the priceWhile Austin's need for a new courthouse is not to be discounted as its population continues to rapidly grow, the real debate is about where the best place to build the new courthouse would be, and how much money the project should be allotted.
District six Council Member Don Zimmerman told Natural News that the major qualm of the city's courthouse proposal is the location: a plot of land with a $30 million price tag.
The Austin City Council plans to "[m]ove ahead with a resolution to formally instruct the city to cooperate with Travis County" in an effort to build a new courthouse east of downtown Austin where the land is less expensive, allowing for the construction of a more reasonably priced courthouse, said Zimmerman.
Under that proposal, Zimmerman says the city could build a courthouse for less than $100 million – a huge savings of at least $200 million.
Another twist, said Zimmerman, is that the city of Austin is going to ask for a new municipal courthouse. If the city agrees to building on the east side, they can construct both courthouses for a fraction of the cost, he said.
Regardless of whether an agreement is reached, the city will continue to use the existing historic Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse, which was built in the 1930s.
Zimmerman also told Natural News that the city used certificates of obligation (non-voter-approved debt) to purchase the $30 million plot of land and lied to voters about owning it. It turns out that Austin still owes $20 million on the land.
"They (the county) bought the existing land with non-voter-approved debt," said Zimmerman. "They told the voters we already owned the land, but they lied."
When asked what recourse the city has to continue with their proposal despite it being shot down by voters on Tuesday, Zimmerman said that, legally, the City of Austin is not required to sell the land.
He believes that the project could be put on hold and reappear on a future ballot. Zimmerman also said any moves by Judge Eckhardt to go against voters and continue with the project will create "bi-partisan criticism" against the judge, who was elected just last year.
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