Austin City Council Election 1993

In August 1992—nine months before this city council election would occur—an election was held seeking voter approval for two different ordinances designed to provide environmental protection in the sensitive Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. The Save Our Springs Ordinance was initiated by a citizens petition. The other ordinance was put on the ballot by the council majority that opposed the SOS Ordinance (Ronney Reynolds, Charles Urdy, Bob Larson, and Louise Epstein, who came to be known as the RULE council.)

Voters overwhelmingly approved the SOS Ordinance (64 percent to 36 percent) while rejecting the council alterative 65 percent to 35 percent.

Ultimately the SOS Ordinance would be challenged in court and proved victorious there, too, all the way through and including the Texas Supreme Court.

The citizens’ demand for strong environmental protection of the aquifer that feeds Barton Springs, home to the Barton Springs salamander (later be designated an endangered species) proved a seminal event.

Two candidates from environmental organizations won council elections in 1993:

• Brigid Shea had helped spearhead the SOS Ordinance election campaign as director of the Save Our Springs Coalition. She beat incumbent Bob Larson, a member of the council majority that had fought to defeat the SOS Ordinance.

• Jackie Goodman came out of the Save Barton Creek Association, also a backer of the SOS Ordinance. Goodman beat another environmentalist, Mark Tschurr, in the runoff for the seat on the council that was open because Louise Epstein chose not to seek reelection.

Incumbent Council Member Michael “Max” Nofziger, who also campaigned to pass the SOS Ordinance, thumped his two challengers to win reelection.

By 1997, every member of the city council would be backed by environmental organizations, providing an iron-clad mandate for ongoing commitment to environmental protection.

Although the SOS Ordinance had been opposed by business and real estate interests, they would later come to realize that protecting the environment contributes to a healthy business climate.

Proposition 1, also on the ballot with the council elections of 1993, gained approval for sale of $400 million of airport systems revenue bonds to construct a new municipal airport at Bergstrom Air Force Base, which was being shuttered. Prop 1 also provided that Robert Mueller Municipal Airport would no longer serve as an airport after opening the new airport.

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