September 22, 2023 8:00am

Power Poll Austin finds skepticism about Paxton impeachment outcome

Majority of Power Poll Austin respondents believe Paxton acquittal was based on politics, not evidence

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Austin, TX Correspondent
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Oh, ye of little faith in your elected leaders.

In the wake of the Texas Senate’s impeachment trial acquittal of indicted state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a solid majority of Austin-area Power Poll respondents say they think the whole thing was a political sham.

Also in the September poll of area politicians, governmental and business leaders, Power Poll found that respondents are not impressed with local efforts to help those experiencing homelessness but are impressed with the ambitious Interstate 35 expansion project through Austin.

And an almost majority of respondents think there should be an age maximum for all elected officials. There’s less consensus, however, on what that maximum age should be.

Thei month’s Power Poll was in the field shortly after the GOP-controlled Texas Senate - sitting as the jury in 16 wide-ranging impeachment charges brought against Paxton by the GOP-controlled Texas House - cleared Paxton and returned him to office.

GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer in the trial, has insisted the verdict was based on the evidence and not politically motivated. A paltry 11% of Power Poll respondents sided with the notion that the verdict was proper and that the prosecution failed to prove any wrongdoing that warranted Paxton’s permanent removal from office.

Nineteen percent of respondents disagreed with the verdict and said the evidence was sufficient for removal. And 13% said they did not follow the trial closely enough to have an informed opinion.

But by far the biggest group - 58% - checked the box that said “I disagree with the verdict and believe the evidence didn’t matter.”

The political fix was in, these folks said, siding with the proposition that “The GOP-controlled Senate was going to acquit Republican Paxton regardless of what the evidence showed.”

There was an interesting gender-related note in the Power Poll results. A Paxton extramarital affair was brought up several times during the trial. No female Power Poll respondents said they agree with the verdict. Among males, 9% said they agreed with the verdict.

Paxton remains under a securities fraud indictment pending since 2015.

The question about the Texas Department of Transportation’s recent approval of a $4.5 billion project involving major changes to I-35 through Austin also produced solid majority response, with 77% saying it’s a worthwhile, overdue project for a stretch of highway that’s long been among the most congested in the state, The other 23%, echoing a sentiment often heard around town, said endless expansion fo major highways is not a long-term solution for the region’s transportation challenges.

Realtor Crystal Weigle, director of expansion for PorchLight Texas, expressed concerns raised by the vocal opposition to the I-35 project.

“There are so many social issues that are tied in with this construction, from the destruction of dozens of longstanding minority businesses to reclaiming land to make it into more public park space,” she said. “I think it's a massive failure that the final plan doesn't include making the top of the deck a greenspace for all residents and future generations."

Skepticism prevailed about efforts by the Austin City Council to find remedies for the proliferation of people experiencing homelessness in the area, a condundrum that’s become a persistent problem in recent years. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent and plans call for spending many millions more.

Only 26% of respondents said the spending to date has produced much improvement. But a combined 74% indicated they are not impressed, including 47% who said they perceive little difference as a result of the spending and 27% who said the money, so far, has been “a complete waste of tax dollars.”

And as America moves toward a very possible 2024 presidential election featuring incumbent Joe Biden, who will be 81 on Election Day, against former President Donald Trump, who will be 78 on Election Day, Power Poll wanted to know if respondents are ready for age maximums for elected officials. Only 37% said no.

Forty-nine percent said they favor an age maximum for all elected officials. Only 3% said there should be a maximum only for president and vice president. Eleven percent said it should apply to president, vice president and members of Congress.

A total of 37% opposed age maximums and said it should be left to voters to decide who’s qualified.

The largest group - 40% - said the age maximum should be 75. Another 24% favored 80 as the max.

Heather Gaddes, board treasurer at the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce, said there’s a better way to address this.

“I would prefer to see term limits more than age requirement,” she said.

Realtor Weigle said the answer lies in a combination.

“There should not only be an age maximums for all elected officials, there should be term limits at all levels of government. At what point does the oldest generation step aside and make room for the younger generations to make their own decisions?” she said. “These geriatric boomers have been running our country into the ground for generations and are making policies that will have negative impacts on many generations to come. They need to step aside!”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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