City Council Candidates 2011

Hey did you know we’re having a city election in Austin on May 14th? Did you know early voting starts May 2nd? Fantastic, here’s some info on where to vote.

But are you feeling like you haven’t heard enough ranting from me lately, and would like to know who I’m voting for? Great! Read on… (and don’t forget to read the Austin Posts’ candidate interviews, and decide for yourself)

Place 1

Let’s start with the easy one first. Chris Reilly has been a pretty good council member. I don’t agree with his every decision, but he’s made practical decisions and he’s not anti-growth. You should read about the other candidates in this race. They’re colorful. Especially Norman Jacobson the anti-fluoridation candidate.

Place 3

This one looks to be a race primarily between Randi Shade and Kathie Tovo. Shade has been a decent council member. She’s admitted that she’s made mistakes and she’s still learning, but she seems to have one of those rarest of abilities in politics – the ability to change ones mind. Her answers in interviews show she’s more interested in solving hard problems where multiple people have legitimate competing view points, then providing easy election sound-bites. Her discussion of single member districts in the Austin Post interview I think really highlights how she thinks and weighs issues.

Tovo was running a fairly information free campaign until recently, but has four main points that you’ll find on her website and reiterated in campaign Q&As:

Completing Communities


p>This is central to her platform, and sounds great. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what it means. The best I can gather she wants to integrate commercial into the fabric of neighborhoods so that you can shop and work where you live. Which sounds great, but she was been a driving force in the Austin Neighborhood Council which has spent the past decade fighting any and all change in our urban neighborhoods. So I can’t really buy that this is more than a sound bite, like loving picket fences, lemonade stands, and american flags. I want to work and shop in my neighborhood. But the city has to let a developer re-zone a residential plot to commercial for that to happen.

Ensuring Affordability

She thinks that the foremost issue affecting Austinites is affordability. And that the economic incentives to lure Formula 1 racing to Austin should have been put towards affordable housing. Which is great. But she hasn’t addressed how exactly that would work. Or if we would raise taxes to provide more affordable housing. Because the subsidizes necessary for the city to directly fund affordable housing and property tax abatements and make any real change would be a large chunk of change. And she also spends a lot of time talking about reducing taxes. So it’s puzzling how this could be achieved.

She was also a proponent of the McMansion ordinance that has not only stopped large family friendly housing from being built within the central core, but has also stopped duplexes, four-plexes and apartment complexes. The Austin Neighborhood Council has repeatedly fought apartment complexes in our central core.

Since getting the McMansion ordinance enacted Tovo has moved into a 2700 square foot home. But I think it’s just classified as a mansion, because it’s old.

She also opposed the development at 801 Barton Springs (the vacant lot across from the Palmer events center that houses snow cone stands in the shadow of two tall buildings). Interestingly enough she does still own a rental property in Bouldin Creek that has winter views of downtown. Views that would potentially be obscured by a building at 801 Barton Springs.

So while she says she’s for affordability, her actions seem to be the actions one would expect from those trying preserve the value of their property, over a concern for housing the poor.

Respecting Citizens and Saving Schools

That’s technically two, but seriously? One of those is what everyone’s jumping on this season because of the outrage over the fact that city hall was using email and walking decisions to make decisions outside of public view. But why should we trust Tovo? She’s been a longtime member of the Bouldin and Austin Neighborhood council who are well known for making obtuse decisions outside the purview of public scrutiny. And Saving Schools? Considering the City Council has zero authority in that area, I’d say that’s a pretty strong campaign slogan, with absolutely nothing behind it.

Place 4

This one is a tossup for me. Morrison absolutely needs to go, and it’s unlikely to happen. She along with Tovo are part of the Austin Neighborhood Council crowd. They’re pretty popular and they’ve managed their message about preserving Austin’s character quite well. The problem is that realistically unless you’ve been here longer than Morrison, you’re actually part of the threat to Austin’s character.

During her short time in office she’s been a huge threat to the Austin music community in attempting to shut down outdoor music in favor of the neighborhoods. She’s been against pretty much all new development unless it’s a development by her cohort Brian Rodgers (who basically buys blighted strip malls and makes them prettier, but only slightly more pedestrian friendly). And she’s been a proponent of the historical tax breaks which led approximately 100 of her richest West Austin neighbors to apply for tax breaks in a single year. Costing millions in tax revenue when the city and school district need it most.

Toby Ryan and Eric Rangel are both young and inexperienced. I’m favoring Ryan because he has better name recognition and has a clear plan for helping Austin’s music scene.

So that’s it. My ranting’s over. What do you think I’ve got wrong (or right) here?