San Antonio’s voters aren’t always offered a choice about where new tax dollars go. But in 2000, they faced four such choices, as then-Mayor Howard Peak proposed his “Better Future” initiative: four new spending efforts to be funded with an increase in the city’s sales tax. Proposition 1 was dedicated to improvement of the San Antonio River, including what is now the Museum and Mission Reaches north and south of the Paseo del Rio. Proposition 2 was intended to finance improvements at the former Kelly Air Force Base, while Proposition 4 promised a host of economic development projects scattered throughout the city. Proposition 3, which would fund land purchases over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, promised both environmental benefits and more green space for the city.
The voters proved quite selective. Propositions 1, 2, and 4, as well as the light rail plan proposed by VIA, were all defeated. It was only Proposition 3 with its promise of parks and aquifer protection that the voters were willing to pay for. And they proved willing to pay again in 2005, and once again in 2010. Unfortunately, the pressure of Northside development meant that a growing portion of the funds went to purchase land further afield, over the contributing zone, often outside Bexar County. But given the choice, San Antonio voters repeatedly showed their willingness to invest in the better local environment.