Councilmember Randi Shade held a press conference at City Hall this afternoon to outline her rationale and issues on which she plans to campaign headed into the June 18th runoff election against challenger Kathie Tovo. Below and in the extended entry are her full remarks. Regardless of where one stands in this election, it is encouraging to see the campaigns focus their message to better define their differing visions for the City of Austin. I encourage you to read the full piece, especially the final bulleted remarks in the extended entry.
I'm extremely gratified to be joined by so many good friends and supporters. The last few days have been more exciting and more energizing than any time during this entire campaign – or even during my first campaign, three years ago.
I've literally been inundated with hundreds of phone calls and emails since Saturday from people urging me to stay in this race.
This is not about personalities, it's about priorities.
I want to say that again, because it's important: This is not about personalities, it's about priorities.
Specifically, it's about the enormous differences between me and my opponent when it comes to some big decisions that are critical to Austin's future.
Let me say right off the bat, I know that some of my opponent's supporters have been saying since Saturday that I should quit this race and save the taxpayers the cost of holding the run-off election. But I want to be very clear about this.
There is much more taxpayer money than $500,000 at stake in this run-off election.
I believe my opponent's positions on one issue alone – Water Treatment Plant 4 – could end up costing the citizens of Austin millions and millions of dollars.
As most of you here know, my opponent has refused to say whether she would vote to stop construction of Water Treatment Plant 4 if she were elected to the Council. Personally, I believe that means that she would vote to stop it.
And if she did, it is very clear to everyone that terminating our construction contracts on that plant would result in lawsuits, hundreds, if not thousands, of lost jobs, and lost sunk costs that would easily tally into the millions of dollars. So let me say again – there is clearly much more money at stake here than the cost of holding the run-off election.
I also believe that I can win this run-off, which is another reason I don't intend to quit.
The turnout on Election Day was essentially tied with the lowest turnout percentage in Austin's entire history. In terms of raw votes, it was the lowest turnout in more than 40 years. The margin between me and my opponent on Election Day was just over 4,000 votes.
That's one-half of one percent of Austin's population. That's fewer people than fit into the Austin Music Hall. That's less than the number of students and parents at Bowie, Austin, Crockett or just about any of our local high schools. It is also about the same number of people expected to move to Austin this summer.
And, there have been several examples over the last 15 years where candidates have made up larger vote deficits than mine to win in a run-off.
So what I intend to do on June 18 is not without precedent. I am absolutely confident that it can be done, and that we will do it.
The reason that I'm confident in our ability to win goes back to priorities and the clear differences in priorities between me and my opponent.
I already mentioned Water Treatment Plant 4. I was the swing vote on the City Council to build the plant.This is our first new water treatment plant in Austin in more than 40 years.
It is absolutely critical to ensuring that Austin has a safe, adequate supply of drinking water for the next generation.
I have an excellent track record on environmental issues, but to some folks who claim to represent the entire environmental community my vote to proceed with this important infrastructure investment trumps all else. This vocal minority of citizens does not represent the entire environmental community, nor does it represent the best interests of our community as a whole.
I'm obviously for planning for the future. But my opponent is very strongly against it.
She's said she would have voted against Water Treatment Plant 4, and as I mentioned before, she now won't say if she would vote to stop construction if she were elected. That's a clear choice for the voters to make.
Another big difference between my opponent and me is our approach to public safety.
Public safety is my top priority. It is also the top priority of the majority of Austinites. I've supported putting more firefighters, cops and paramedics on the street, and I've supported paying the kinds of salaries that get us the very best public safety personnel we can get. I don't think there is anything that is more important for Austin to do than to ensure that our families and our neighborhoods are safe.
My opponent has a very different view about public safety. She's said very clearly that she believes we spend too much money on public safety. She's said she believes that our investments in public safety personnel are financially unsustainable.
Well, if you are going to spend less on public safety, then you are going to have fewer firefighters, cops and paramedics on the street. That's the only option. And, that means slower response times to emergencies, and it also means we continue to fall further behind when it comes to protecting the safety of our citizens.
So I'm for more firefighters, cops, and paramedics. My opponent is for fewer firefighters, cops, and paramedics. That's another big difference in priorities, and another clear choice for voters to make.
I'll mention one other area where my opponent and I have a major difference of opinion and approach.
If you look at our records, you'll see a clear history that shows we have very different priorities and attitudes about development and how to grow Austin sustainably.
The decisions we make now about the place we live are critical. These decisions affect the safety and vitality of our central city and our neighborhoods citywide, from Oak Hill to University Hills, from Great Hills to Dove Springs, and everywhere in between.
My opponent has said that she wants to focus on saving our schools in central Austin. But unfortunately she speaks with a forked tongue. Because at the same time she says she wants to save schools, as a Planning Commissioner and as an officer of her neighborhood association, she has consistently opposed projects that help make our city thrive and that help strengthen our tax base.
The way to save schools in Austin is not to shut down new development projects, but to support reasonable, mixed-use development, especially in our urban core.This is also consistent with our environmental goals.We want to reduce sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions.
One recent example of that, which many people here know about, is the Park PUD project on Barton Springs Road, which puts an 8-story building across the street from the Long Center and next door to a 6-story building and a 10-story building. I supported this project along with five other Council Members, and my opponent fought it tooth and nail.
My opponent has also consistently called for adding red tape and regulatory and permitting burdens that pit neighbor against neighbor while also driving up the costs of doing anything – whether you are a small business owner or a homeowner who just wants to improve your property.
How we approach decisions about how to sustain our community clearly demonstrates another important choice for voters to make.
So, these are just some of the big differences between me and my opponent that will be at the heart of this run-off campaign. I'm going to be talking about all of these issues, and many more, for the next four weeks.
So the bottom line for me and my supporters is that the stakes are very, very high.
The stakes are too high – and the differences between me and my opponent too big – for us to quit this race. But I want to be clear about something. I am not in this race for me personally.
I have no political aspirations whatsoever, beyond doing my very best to serve the city that I love, whether it's on the City Council or in some other way.
I have been involved in decisions that affect our community for decades – long before I was a member of the City Council, and I will be for a long time after I finish my tenure on the City Council.
I'm in this, and I'm staying in this, and in Austin, because I believe in my heart that there are more people out there who share my priorities for Austin than there are who share my opponent's.
I believe the majority of Austinites want to be sure that we have a safe, adequate supply of water in the future.
I believe the majority of us want to put MORE emphasis on public safety, not less.
I believe the majority of us want to see our city and our public schools grow and thrive – not shrink and fail.
I am in this race because I believe the majority of us want to continue to create a city that is the place to be.
This is our Austin. We can't let just 7% of us speak for all of us.
I believe the majority of us want a balanced approach to decision making.
That's what this race is about. This is our Austin. We choose its future by the votes we cast and the people we elect.
That's why I am asking for your vote.