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Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt Offer Different Policy Priorities for County Judge


by: Michael Hurta

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 09:04 AM CST


The most ardent supporters of Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt rarely point to their policy proposals as the main reason to support them. For Brown partisans, his leadership with the Democratic Party points to how he will lead the county. Eckhardt supporters are quick to contrast her heavy experience with the county to Brown's.

Indeed, commentators on the race and even candidates, themselves, focus on this difference. While the two will be asked policy questions at debates, neither candidate will ever leave without emphasizing their leadership style or superior wonkiness. A recent Statesman article entitled "How Travis County Judge Candidates Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt Differ"  focused on their stylistic difference so much that it declared the two are "running for two different jobs."

But they still quibble on policy issues. If one looks closely, they don't actually agree everywhere. And more importantly, their priorities differ. The first things they do on the job will be different.

Click below the fold to find out how.

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One Priority is the Same: Transportation. Both Eckhardt and Brown talk extensively about transportation. They both realize that it's one of the area's biggest problems and that the County can do much much, much more to support a multimodal system. Sure, they disagree on many of the details. But they support Lone Star Rail and working towards its completion. You don't need to worry about electing a County Judge that ignores our transportation concerns.

Brown's two big proposals: an ethics commission and a sobriety center. Besides transportation, the first policy proposals out of Brown's mouth will always be either the creation of an ethics commission or of a sobriety center. Of course, both have their complications.

There's already a push behind the scenes for a sobriety center, but as Brown says on the stump - why hasn't the County moved forward yet on so many good ideas? Brown will make sure it gets done sooner, instead of waiting for bureaucracy to move its slow gears on its own without any special impetus. Cost is one concern, too, but Brown insists that a sobriety center will pay for itself. It will cost over a million dollars initially, but in a budget over $850 Million, I am sure Brown will find the room.

Brown's other preferred project will be the creation of an ethics center, though he will need permission from the state legislature to do so. Brown asserts that Travis County is too easy of a target for lobbyists, and there's some evidence to prove it. For a County Judge who will have a lot on his list of requests from for the Pink Dome, allowing Travis County to create an ethics commission will probably be the first. And, according to Brown, Travis County will then be able to be in the 21st Century.

Eckhardt wants Travis County to get into the water business. For all the talk about Central Texas's water problems, it may come as a surprise that Travis County currently does very little with water. The most the county can do without a major policy overhaul is what Brown proposed later in the campaign -- make the county conserve more and encourage others to do the same. That, in itself, will make a big difference, but Eckhardt wants more.

Eckhardt wants to work with other counties in the regions to establish a regional working group that develops a larger water plan. Many worry about different locales competing for water, and Eckhardt believes the best solution to that particular concern is a plan to do the exact opposite: work together. This would initially be through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and the Capital Area Council of Governments (CapCOG), but eventually would become its own model

Everything else.
Of course, Andy Brown talks about water, to, and they each talk about other issues. Eckhardt also emphasized tax equity to me, for instance, although she has talked only sparingly about the subject on the campaign trail. Brown will insist that affordability is also a major priority, but both the primary proposals of Eckhardt and Brown are in other areas.

The distinction between policy priorities is important, because these are the areas where our new County Judge will take the lead. Big policy issues will always get discussed, but leadership enhances an issue. These are the issues that will be enhanced the most, respectively, when one of these two candidates takes office.

If you generally agree with both Brown and Eckhardt on their positions, perhaps decide your vote on this. What do you want done first?



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