Meet the City of Austin Council Candidates for District 1

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This November, the City of Austin will hold its first-ever election under the new 10-1 district system, and shift the voting date from May to November.

Burnt Orange Report reached out to all 78 people running for Austin City Council and mayor to learn more about their opinions about the biggest issues facing Austin.

For more on this election cycle, click here.

Below, meet the candidates for District 1.

Austin City Council Map

District 1

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Andrew Bucknall:
This is a close tie between traffic and water. I mention traffic below so will let that speak to the issue. Water is becoming extremely important as we have increasing rainfall deficits. I support increasing rates on high level water users and promoting conservation, capture and reuse strategies. I support increasing incentives for movement away from thirsty to drought resistance or edible landscapes, monitoring and being judicious with sale and release of water to farmers is an ongoing need. We will need to continue to work through a legislative agenda to conserve and protect our water supply.
Ora Houston:
We have silos in our communities that keep us separate and we must acknowledge them so that we can begin to dismantle them. Silos encompass almost every facet of our lives and almost every group in Austin. From developers and environmentalists, five institutions of higher education, cultures, class, income strata and different parts of the city. We must provide safe places to have conversations about what we have in common so we can address the concerns and make our city what we all want it to be.
Norman Jacobson:
The number 1 issue is the deaths being caused by Fluoridated Water.
Scientific statistics show that 212 people are dying each year in Austin from Fluoridated Water induced Bone Cancer. In Dec 2010, I successfully terminated Mylanta®. I will do the same for Fluoridated Water. We each receive 5 cents per day in benefits from drinking Fluoridated Water. CDC says we pay 50 cents/year for fluoridated water and receive $19.00/year in benefits. @ $60.00 per cavity it takes 3 yrs to prevent 1 cavity.
Courts, EPA, Dept of Agriculture have ruled that Fluoridated Water is a poison that kills Environment, Wildlife, Farmland, Farm Animals. We are dumping 217 tons of Fluorine in Fluoridated Water, into the Austin Environment every year. The EPA has made an exception for Fluoridated Water pollution because it generates $53 Million per year savings for Mosaic in not having to pay Fluoride dump fees. A skilled negotiator could get Mosaic to pay us $25 Million/year to take their Fluoridated Water.
DeWayne Lofton:
The number one issue in Austin is affordability. There are a couple of things I feel we can do to address this issue. The first thing we can do as a council is to offer a homestead property tax exemption on homesteads. I also feel we can establish a homestead preservation district to preserve affordability through providing assistance in payment of taxes to qualified homeowners.
Valerie Menard:
The number one issue is rising property taxes and I will support a homestead exemption (10%–20%) to help give homeowners some relief.
Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Andrew Bucknall:
Yes but not at the full current funding proposed. The decision is up to the people on the ballot. I will not try to influence that process. If the bond passes I will work to replace as much funding from G.O. Bonds to alternative sources. I will work to ensure we have an open and inclusive process that allows for max participation from public. The bonds will be issued over many years through the new 10-1 council so project development and funding discussion will be ongoing. I support rail!
Ora Houston:
No, although I support rail in general, Unable to support a rail plan that does not address the core issue about congestion and transportation – alleviate traffic coming into the city from the edges of the district and beyond. We need transit options that allow people to leave their cars at home or at a park and ride and use public transit to get into and around town. This route will not do that.
Norman Jacobson:
No. We are spending way too much for so little in return. The train provides a faster ride. However, there are so few riders that bus riders a picking up the tab for the train. And it only duplicates existing bus lines. It is a status symbol that eats money. An Alligator. The train is an Alligator that will eat up the budget. We need to be more financially responsible and not be concerned about how much the contractors will be making on the project.
DeWayne Lofton:
Austin is land locked and we can no longer build roads. As we look at what are our other choices, rail quickly rises to the top as the next viable option. I support Prop 1, as we have to do something to get traffic moving in Austin and this is a first start. A lot has been said about the cost to build the proposed line, but if you believe it is expensive now, just imagine how expensive it will be in five or ten years from now. We have to start making bold decisions to address this issue now.
Valerie Menard:
No. At a time when taxpayers are clammoring for relief, I cannot support Prop. 1. because it will raise property taxes. Also, it will have little effect on current congestion.
What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Andrew Bucknall:
Increase physically separated bicycle lanes, increase reliability of Capital Metro, work with taxi and other franchise to ensure more transit options with increased park and ride opportunities such as the proposed at highland Mall location.
Ora Houston:
Transportation is the linchpin to a connected, well-operated community. Many creative, hard-working, diligent people including city employees and people who work in the service industry live in or are moving to District 1. However, the focus on public transportation continues to be on North-South rather than East-West routes.

The focus must be shifted to getting people into the Central Business District rather than moving through the district. By making that shift, traffic congestion will be mitigated.

Make it easier and more appealing for people to leave their cars at home and use public transportation. Exercise smart planning regarding the management of traffic flow within the district so that proposed changes will not cause congestion. Accommodate growth by extending public transit routes to keep up with that growth. Appoint people to the board of Capital Metro who are knowledgeable about public transportation and actually use the city’s transit system.

Norman Jacobson:
Increase Bus Service. The express routes are great for providing faster service to the Domain and other malls. Promote Car Pooling. Reduce Tolls on the Toll Roads so that more truckers use the Toll Roads to go around the City. Promote more home based businesses and work at home jobs. Possible call centers could be more home oriented.
DeWayne Lofton:
1. Build new capacity where and when we can.
2. Support rail options.
3. Improve rapid bus and other bus service that is reliable and predictable.
Valerie Menard:
The top three policies to reduce traffic congestion include:
—improved bus service especially to outlying areas of town like District 1
—economic development in District 1 to bring jobs and retail services so that families can stay in their neighborhoods rather than traveling across town to grocery shop (there are only two in Dist. 1) or go to the movies, etc.
—Austin needs freeways not toll roads so I will serve on the Comp. Plann. and Trans. Committee of City Council to urge Tx.Dot to open the toll roads starting with toll-free Fridays. I also support directing trucks with hazardous materials to the toll roads.
Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Andrew Bucknall:
Yes, We have a lot of open land in District One and residents have supported development which is compatible with surrounding structures. We have many opportunities for many types of housing in District One while still maintaining neighborhoods and increasing multifamily housing. I would encourage the use of Transit Oriented development along transportation corridors, SMART or Safe Mixed Use Accessible Reasonably Price Transit Oriented Housing along with LIHTC programs to increase housing.
Ora Houston:
I am not a renter or a policy expert on the issue. Am wiling to talk with renters about how to fix their concerns. One possible idea would be to use publicly owned land to build housing for fixed and low-income individuals.
Norman Jacobson:
Yes. The logical places would be along the Toll roads, as transportation is important for working people also it makes it easier to supply merchants in the outlying areas. I expect the Round Rock, Hutto, Elgin, Bastrop areas will rebound more as more industry comes in to replace Dell’s departure.
DeWayne Lofton:
We need to increase our rental stock in an effort to get ahead of the rising cost of rents. In order to address this issue, I feel we need to try and build new stock in all parts of Austin and not just limit it to one area or another.
Valerie Menard:
Yes, I support increasing the rental and affordable housing supply but it needs to be compatible with neighborhoods and spread throughout town. The current rewrite of the Land Development Code (CodeNext) will be critical for ensuring that we can accomplish both.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Andrew Bucknall:
This is a continual process. Our growth pattern indicates that we can predict coming demand and begin to assess infrastructure to accommodate growth that is coming. In the past we have made the mistake of thinking we can stop growth. That is neither a realistic or beneficial. We need to identify need, prioritize and begin to address through repairing replacing and providing infrastructure. One of the barriers of growth is that there is a lag between expense for and revenue from growth.
Ora Houston:
That’s a very interesting question and 500 characters will not allow me to elaborate. This would have been a great question that should have been asked and addressed before the unparalleled growth. We need to communicate with city staff and outside subject matter experts on how infrastructure needs can keep up with the growth in the community.
Norman Jacobson:
We need to be more cost conscious and analyze the cost benefits more closely so we don’t waste too much money on projects that only benefit the builders. Hire more project financial analysts.
DeWayne Lofton:
Infrastructure is one of my campaign issues. We lag behind in infrastructure improvements, especially in District One. I feel we need to start maknig real investments in upgrading and improving our infrastructure in order to be able to withstand the growth we know is coming.
Valerie Menard:
We need to recognize that Austin has grown and will continue to grow rather than try to contain growth in a central core. This approach has left outlying parts of town ignored, exacerbating our current problems, and in dire need of city services. We have commissioned studies with recommendations aplenty to help guide us to smart growth but they need to be followed and implemented to be effective.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Andrew Bucknall:
Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, live music, Sitting on my back porch with a cold beer with friends and just hanging out (the people and diversity of Austin). I love the character of Austin and hope it is something we can keep and not lose.
Ora Houston:
Bird watching and gardening in my front yard.
Norman Jacobson:
The many parks, river, and Lady Bird Lake. The music and nature. Museums, Educational opportunities.
DeWayne Lofton:
y favorite thing about Austin is the weather. Austin has so much to offer, but I really love the practically year round outdoors environment here. That allows us to have a lot of outdoor events and music, which is another like of mine. In a nutshell, there is a little bit of everything here for everyone, regardless of what your interest are.
Valerie Menard:
I love Austin’s diversity. District 1 is one of the most diverse, with 43% Latino, 28% African American, 23%, and growing Asian and LGBT communities.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Andrew Bucknall:
I have lived in West and East Austin, been elected to leadership positions including:
Chairman EMLK Neighborhood Contact Team, Chairman Urban Renewal Board, Chairman Urban Transportation Commission, President Huston Tillotson Young Dems, and more. I represent the spirit of the new 10-1 system with 100% volunteer staff, no political consultants or paid staff. I am and will be accountable to the people of Austin and District One. I am a creative person who will get things done for Austin.
Ora Houston:
Because I feel like I present a perspective that is much needed on the council. I have spent most of my life in District #1, and have dedicated my career to civil service. In the past, many residents of Austin have been excluded from the decision making process. I supported geographic representation in the hope that every voice will be taken into account when determining the future of our city. I will ensure that the halls of power are made accessible to everyone.
Norman Jacobson:
I have a track record in fighting for human rights, safe food, safe medicines, and legal rights. I am trained & experienced in high tech that Councilmen need today. I have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering; I have taken graduate courses in Business, Law, and Engineering. I am a creative person that solves problems. I am the one that crunched the scientific data on Fluoridated Water to show that Fluoridated Water kills people in Austin every year and is only worth 5 cents/day.
DeWayne Lofton:
I am the most involved District One candidate. I have been working in this community for a long time to improve the quality of life here. I’m a consensus builder and I get results. I believe that experience matters and I have the most civic experience of all candidates and that will be important as we go into this new district system.
Valerie Menard:
My experience on the Austin Arts Commission (6 yrs) and with the Center for Mex. Am. Cultural Arts (president for the last 10 yrs) has exposed me to the highs and lows of community service. I have faced an auditorium full of folks who were unhappy and listened to each one air their concerns. As a public servant, that’s our most important skill, listening, and I will make a point of listing to my constituents and being a voice for them at City Hall.



Early voting begins Monday, October 20. Click here for information about voting in the 2014 election.

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Burnt Orange Report, or BOR for short, is Texas' largest political blog, written from a progressive/liberal/Democratic standpoint.

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