Meet the City of Austin Council Candidates for District 3

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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 3.

Austin City Council Map

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District 3

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
Property Taxes, my plan is to convince my counter parts on a cross the board 20% property tax cut by the next budget cycle while keeping a surplus in the budget.

The city departments will go through a zero-waste audit they must show accountability. The city manager and his staff must be held accountable. If we audit every department and we find $1.00 of waste I believe the City Manager is not doing his job.
You cannot manage a city by taxing the citizens to death.
With 1700 employee salaries out 18,000 employees making over $100,000.00 up to $323,000.00, I think we should get better results from the Department heads, Attorneys and City Management.

Christopher Hoerster:
Affordability. We are creating a city where that people that build it cannot afford to liv in it. A city where small business cannot afford to stay open. We need to focus on our spending filling our needs instead of our wants. I do not support a homestead exemption but rather reducing our budget transfer from Austin energy and passing the savings on to all residents not just homeowners. We should simplify our taxing system so that our residents can see what they are paying. We currently have our taxes coming from multiple sources making it ore difficult to track and therefore less transparent.
Shaun Ireland:
Affordability is the biggest issues facing Austin. I have a plan that calls for reducing the property tax burden and lowering monthly utility costs for renters. I support the proposed twenty-percent homestead exemption but only over the course of six years. The city cannot sustain a $36 million hole in the budget without the possibility of layoffs or cuts to benefits. I also propose a grant program for property owners of multi-family dwellings to upgrade to energy efficient appliances, add more insulation or replace roofing materials, update HVAC, and replace windows to reduce water and electric costs. The grant program would require property owners to cap their rent increases over the span of five years for existing and new renters in exchange for the upgrades. We can make Austin more affordable by investing in our current housing stock and reducing the tax burden.
Kent Phillips:
On the surface, traffic is the number one issue in Austin, but that and all other issues ultimately come back to taxes. I am running in district 3, which can generally be considered a low income district that is currently experiencing a massive increase in gentrification. Bottom line: is that many of the people that live in my district cannot afford to continue to live there and are being forced out of their homes by the current tax rate, not to mention the current tax rate on their skyrocketing property value because the area is becoming more desirable. If elected to City Council, I am not going to work to make this area less desirable in which to live, nor am I going to tell someone they cannot try to purchase property in the area at a greater value. The only way this problem can be resolved is to offer a homestead exemption on our city’s property tax and make sure we remain close to the effective tax rate when we are evaluating our budget.
Eric J. Rangel:
The number one issue facing Austin, is 10-1 itself. It doesn’t matter if transportation, housing, and/or water are being discussed; if we have 10 people going in different directions and have their own agenda, Austin will rip at the seams and nothing will ever get accomplished. And that’s something we cannot afford. We have enough division and rift at the federal and state level; we don’t need it at the local level. I understand that the concern of many is that by having the 10-1 system we’ll fall into “Ward Politics”. That’s why it’s very important that we elect people that will to continue to look at their own district as a small piece of a larger puzzle called Austin. I plan to do what I’ve always done, continue to treat everyone with dignity and respect, to take time to understand each councilmember’s point of view, and recognize that that compromise and collaboration are not signs of weakness, but merely signs of strengths.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
Affordability is #1.Ever increasing fees for seniors/families using rec centers/ball fields/pools/summer camps/classes hurts poor folks. Skyrocket utilities are unpredictable folks living paycheck-to-paycheck. I’d try to stop most outside legal/consultant fees; adopt reduced, income-based “family passes” for recreation/cultural programs; stop non-voter-approved Certificates of Obligation- limit the use to emergencies; stop recruiting out-of-town jobs-refocus job creation incentives to small local businesses. The Economic Development & Sustainability Offices don’t have Commission oversight and pursue their own agendas. I support adding to the legislative agenda:state income tax; medical marijuana; & public disclosure of property sales.
Jose Valera:
The number one issue facing current residents of Austin is affordability as relates to housing and general cost of living. Increases in property taxes, sky rocketing rents, and a lack of economic opportunity for lower and middle income residents has caused the displacement of many long term Austinites. Moreover, increasing costs have forced many residents to move further and further from our city’s core, resulting in increased congestion. The affordability issue will have to be addressed through comprehensive tax reform, increase in rental unit availability, and leveraging future growth to the benefit of our lower to middle income residents. Aside from these long term strategic initiatives, we must also seek out smaller short term plans to create economic relief. Some examples include approving a Homestead Exemption or approving equitable accessory dwelling units (properly regulated) to help defray rising property taxes.
Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Julian Limon Fernandez:
No, too vague! Without more information and better routes.
Too few will benefit. There has to better options and we must also entertain private investors and see what they have to offer. Let’s not rush, to spend. Let’s rush to make better decisions.
Austin needs a long term plan not just a temporary fix. Rail is our future, just not this rail!
Christopher Hoerster:
No. I support rail but just not this route. There are too many unanswered questions and it really does not address the issues we have. This route will serve areas that are currently served by buses and these buses can maintain this need as it has for many years. Rail is so permanent, buses we can rearrange as demographics change. We need a rail plan that actually goes somewhere and serves a larger base of riders.
Shaun Ireland:
Yes. Mayor Lee Leffingwell and three past Mayors have endorsed Proposition 1. We must seek cost effective and high-capacity public transit solutions for Austinites in 2024 and beyond. This bond will only build rail if there is a federal match. From a policy and finance perspective its rare to have the opportunity to build a 9.5 mile urban rail line for fifty-cents on the dollar.
Kent Phillips:
I am unequivocally against the bond. The rail will take up valuable lanes of traffic on one of the most congested roads in my district (Riverside). The benefits of the rail are many years away (if they ever come), and worst of all is the massive price tag that will force many of the people in District 3 out of the city and only benefit the new transplants moving to Austin. The end result will be a large tax increase, loss of traffic lanes, and a system that will finally arrive years too late.
Eric J. Rangel:
Yes, I support the 2014 Transportation Bond. The longer we hold off with rail, the more it will cost and the more difficult it will be to build. Imagine if we had the vision to do this decades ago, how much better off we would be when it comes to alleviating traffic and congestion. By changing from a “parking pass” culture to a “bus pass” culture and by changing our behaviors with alternate work hours and telecommuting, we’ll change our mindset and get to correcting our transportation problems.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
Yes but won’t spend until state/federal match funds are secure.I support public transit & worked the 1st vote creating Metro. I had leadership roles in both rail elections.If Dellionaires didn’t mess with the route in the 1st vote & Kruese’s Republican House Transport Committee hadn’t turned a 2nd vote for rail into a commuter line to nowhere in Williamson County, then we’d be on expansions instead of a starter line. I’m aware of I35 Mobility Project, like HOV-Managed Lane on all major corridors.
Jose Valera:
No. In a time where affordability is the number one concern for homeowners and renters in District 3, and likely across Austin, the current transportation bond is simply too expensive. I do however support rail in Austin, just not the current proposal. If I am elected I will work to create a more economically feasible plan that provides for a route more likely to relieve the traffic problems in our most congested corridors.
What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
I wasn’t aware there are three policies to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion if there was it should of been in place by now.
However, I do believe there’s an answer for a quick relief.

It will take UT, ACC, AISD, State of Texas, Travis County and City of Austin to agree on a release plan of action. With different start times and release time of employees, students, and teachers simply by moving these times by 30 minutes either by earlier or later time this would relieve traffic on IH 35, MOPAC, Ed Bluestein, and Ben White. It’s not a cure but it would show compassion, responsibility and wiliness to help out when we need it most.

Christopher Hoerster:
Increase our availability of bus transportation to provide transportation where it is needed and when it is needed. More east/west and later hours.
Create more streamlined traffic by synchronizing our lights, making freeways out of 183 and 360 and getting the failed 130 involved in solutions.
Create more opportunities for biking and electric vehicles.
Shaun Ireland:
If elected, I would make a re-write of the city’s “for hire” transportation code a top priority. Recently the City of Dallas began this undertaking in an effort to bring Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar onto the same level as taxicabs and limos. The city must embrace app based transportation alternatives. The city also needs to synchronize traffic lights and work with CapMetro to extend bus service delivery hours. At the very least, CapMetro could have expanded night owl routes on holidays, for special events, and weekends to help reduce traffic congestion and DWIs.
Kent Phillips:
1. The current city council never realistically considered options like Personal Rapid Transit and above-ground magnetic rails. I say remove the current rail plan and request a modernized proposal from private companies. Then, implement the best proposal that offers the cheapest prices and the shortest build time, while still being better for the environment and removing fewer lanes than the current rail plan.This will provide the same service at almost no cost to the taxpayer. To reduce ticket costs, I would consider an option to include a profit-sharing plan to reduce property taxes for those that buy into this plan.
2. Do not use tolls to coerce commuters to use rail instead of driving because this method unfairly affects my district. Tolls will be used only towards road maintenance and expansion.
3. Suspend the practice of giving large corporations tax breaks to move to Austin. This raises taxes AND draws more people to our city that would not have otherwise come.
Eric J. Rangel:
First, the policy I would propose is to increase the number of buses on key routes and run faster services in fewer places. I believe that by doing this, it will increase ridership because people will feel inclined to ride the bus since it stops closer to where they work. And by extending the run times,I believe this will encourage people to take the bus when they go out. Second, I would like to have seniors 65 and over, Medicare card holders, and people with disabilities, as well as, students 6-18 with a valid school ID, and active and reserve military personnel with a valid ID to ride for free. And the third policy I would highly consider is car regulation. Regulation of automobile use and possession via policies such as road pricing and taxes on car acquisition I believe would have a positive impact on transit patronage.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
1. Find ways to push Metro to reduce fares and run buses and the commuter rail earlier so that ‘reverse commutes’ from the central city out to the jobs around Kramer and Crestview serve the workers who are low-income and need to be at work before 9 am.
2. Restore the free Dillos and expand the routes to serve the neighborhoods that surround downtown, UT, and the upcoming Hospital District.
3. Invest in upgrading the traffic light timing system and allow for meaningful input by local businesses and neighborhood groups who know how major intersections in their areas operate.
Jose Valera:
First, I would encourage and possible incentivize commercial trucks to use SH130 rather than the IH-35 corridor. This would provide direct relief to this congested area of downtown while at the same time reducing pollutants in our most densely populated areas. I would also work to support mixed-use development and high residential density that is coordinated with improved public transportation, pedestrian access, and bikeways. This coordination can reduce the need for individuals to drive on our most congested roads. This plan would also require revising outdated bus routes, increasing frequency, and providing sheltered stops. Lastly, as described above, I would move to implement an improved rail plan that is less expensive and more focused on our current congestion problems.
Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
High property taxes have been more apparent in the last 5 to 7 years, just recently it started to impact the affluent homeowners. Now, those tax increase got there attention. We will now start seeing changes in our political structure in new State Reps, Senators and County Officials. These professional politicians crossed the line of no return. The pocket book of the rich. Orale, now what? There’s your main reason for skyrocketing housing and rentals.
Christopher Hoerster:
To maintain affordability we need to consider new urban villages on the outside of our city core. We need to create these villages with housing, shopping, schools, jobs and transportation with good quality homes for our most neediest citizens. Land, being cheaper further away for our city core will allow developers to charge less in rents. Couple this with the cities ability to encourage Low Interest loans for developers will fill the need we have for housing.
Shaun Ireland:
Yes. I believe that the city’s policies to encourage development of affordable housing stock is a dismal failure. As a city, we cannot continue to allow new development without encouraging affordable units. Currently we anticipate the Riverside corridor to sustain growth in rental supply. HACA has recently broken ground on a public-private venture that will bring some 250 affordable units to District 3 on Ben White.
Kent Phillips:
Subsidizing new multi-family housing properties just raises taxes on those who currently live here and really benefits those who are moving to the city from elsewhere. Developers have no shortage of opportunity to build new units. City Council’s only role is to not get in their way. If we really want to lower rent, the answer is to lower taxes on low-income, multi-family properties as well as with long-standing homeowners. This way we are not forcing current residents out of their homes too.
Eric J. Rangel:
Yes, I support increasing the rental housing supply. I also support Public/Private partnerships, using Public Land, and streamlining the building process to address affordable housing in Austin. I believe Public/Private partnerships and using Public Land gives us the best return on our investment and also allows us to place affordable housing throughout the city. Finally, eliminating a lot of red-tape, allows us to grow more efficiently.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
Yes, put workforce housing everywhere.Served on City’s CDC 14 yrs/8 yrs chair, I’ve passion/experience to fix housing crisis.Implement Homestead Preservation Act allows TOD TIFs; creates reliable source of funds for home repair/acquisition of rentals/land trust. Require 25% on-site affordable units at TODs/VMUs, limit incomes to 50% MFI; scrap fee-in-lieu; get big campus companies to build on-site homes for entry-level workers. Add to legeslative agenda: rent control; disclose property sales.
Jose Valera:
Yes. I support increasing the rental supply as a mechanism to relive pressure on housing and rental prices. High density and affordable units with integrated parking should be constructed in underutilized locations such as parking lots or unused city land. It is key that these units not just be focused in one area of the city. It is also important that construction only move forward in close coordination with the local residents.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
Planning and development. Our old politicians didn’t want growth they were happy to keep this a small college town. Our worst traffic problems were when Arkansas Razorbacks came to town.
No vision, no plan, no action. That’s why we’re in this mess now.
Time have changed and will continue to change. We need to stay ahead of the curve and invest for the future and the only way we can get there is with a strong management and smart infrastructure.
Christopher Hoerster:
We need to plan ahead. There used to be an attitude in Austin of “if we don’t build it they won’t come” Well we didn’t build it and they came anyway. Now we are paying the price for this shortsightedness. We need to stick to our long term plans and make adjustments on a yearly basis.
Shaun Ireland:
The city demographer expects Austin to reach a population of 1 million within ten years. We have 3000 miles of Austin Water Utility delivery pipes that leak over 4 billion gallons of drinkable water each year–I’ll work to replace aging water lines. And I support Proposition 1 to plan for public transit solutions for 2024 and beyond.
Kent Phillips:
This is very simple and direct. We need to suspend practices that encourage population growth with policies like corporate tax incentives. Instead, we can fall back on our city’s natural growth and rely on our strong economy without these practices. Then, take all of the effort and resources that we were spending encouraging growth, and put them toward our infrastructure improvements. Once we are able to get ahead of the growth, then find the balance between infrastructure and encouraging growth.
Eric J. Rangel:
City planning and transportation is sometimes like a game of chess, you have to think 4 to 5 steps ahead. The first start of that process is rail. This will give us the ability to grow organically and fill the needs of the city to ensure maximum participation. Meanwhile, we increase bus routes and run times. Because of its proximity, this will give people an incentive to take the bus. And since the bus will run later, more people will hopefully use it as an alternative to driving.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
Stop Economic Development Office & 5 Chambers wooing out-of-town companies who bring their workers to Austin – especially the guzzlers of energy/water operations. Refocus those incentives/abatements/fee waivers to existing businesses Local businesses create more jobs & hire folks who already live here reducing stress/sprawl on infrastructure Limit infill in to 60′ to reduce need to upgrade utilities that tear up streets/create sink holes.Make growth pay for itself, show survivors a little love.
Jose Valera:
The city has a long way to go in improving infrastructure, especially in District 3. I would certainly lobby for city funds to improve existing infrastructure in my district. In addition, new construction and development in the district can and has supported some infrastructure improvements the city of Austin should have made a long time ago. Moving forward, comprehensive infrastructure improvements can be achieved through a combination of city and private funds.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
Music, the arts, outdoor theaters, the diversities in cultures, our libraries, our beautiful parks, the Texas Longhorns. Oh I was just suppose to put one. Oh well, keeping it weird. The greenery, composting, urban farms, outdoor concerts, smiling the neighbors grilling. the social connections and the festivals.
Christopher Hoerster:
Something we are losing. Whether you have been here for 15 minutes or 50 years you came here or stayed here for a reason. Austin has a always had a unique soul and character. An attitude if you will that is just fun and laidback.
Shaun Ireland:
I am an avid outdoor enthusiast. As a youth, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around the world and visit scenic locations. Despite my travels, Austin is the one place where we have tremendous natural wonders. Whether Barton Springs or the green belt, my favorite thing about Austin is our respect for nature.
Kent Phillips:
The political culture here is phenomenal. Somehow, being a very liberal city in the middle of a very conservative state has created a mentality that breeds forward political thought. Only in such an environment, would we see so many different kinds of people come together and change an election system that was failing to appropriately represent so many others. It is this very movement that has created the opportunity for me and 77 others to stand-up and to make this city better for everyone.
Eric J. Rangel:
Where do I start: people, food, greenbelt, music, neighborhoods, arts, nightlife, culture, diversity, and so on. It’s a big city with a small town feel. As much as all these things are what make Austin amazing, my favorite thing to me about Austin is my family. Other than my home town of Lockhart, Austin is the host of where majority of my family resides. And I like the fact that they are in all parts of Austin. This allows me to get to see many parts of Austin that normally wouldn’t.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
My favorite thing about Austin is its ‘live and let live’ attitudes where our city’s cultural/ethnic diversity is finally recognized as an important community asset.I know from growing up very poor on the eastside, that it’s ok to respect differences – but I’m proud that we celebrate our differences and the cultural gems that make Austin a great place for long-time residents and newcomers alike.
Jose Valera:
My favorite thing about Austin is the diversity of events and activities available to enjoy life. Whether you want to jog around the lake, go to a live music show, join a sports league, or get involved in smaller off the beaten path activities, Austin has got it.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Julian Limon Fernandez:
I bring to you honesty, compassion and trust. I promise to do the best job for you and our city. I know with your support and of my community, family and friends we can all be proud. Move ahead to mend the fences that social injustice played in East Austin for many years. I will serve you because I’m am you. I will Listen, I have compassion for my community. Bring dignity and respect to District 3. I’m asking you to choose me, vote for me and know that you will have great representation @ City Hall.
Christopher Hoerster:
District 3 needs a leader that will not only listen to the constituents but also reach out to other leaders outside the district to increase interest and opportunities for the district. That is why I entered the race at the last minute, because I don’t believe we had candidates that could accomplish this. Too many candidates are too focused on single issues and personal agendas. I am the candidate that will represent everyone and my only agenda will be to do just that.
Shaun Ireland:
I am a democrat and the only candidate in this race that is talking about all of District 3 not just Cesar Chavez and Montopolis. I was raised in a low-income single parent household. I ate reduced lunch at school, graduated from high school, and earned my bachelor’s degree from NYU. With a background in business and community advocacy, I’ll fight to make sure every Austin ISD and Del Valle student graduates in a safe and high tech Austin.
Kent Phillips:
You mean other than the fact that I was the only candidate to attend your trivia fundraiser? As a Classical Liberal, I may not be your typical candidate, but this puts me in a unique position to speak out as an atypical candidate and explain why I think our overlap exists where it counts most. I’m not trying to abandon our traffic problems and the bond. I just believe Austin can do better. I will do everything in my power to keep Austin citizens in their homes by lowering their tax burden.
Eric J. Rangel:
You should vote for me to be your voice on Council because I’m the only one who has a degree from a College or University that has an emphasis and/or concentration in business. I also have a diverse community involvement which includes my neighborhood association, an array of political organizations, my church, and my alma mater. And finally, I have the ability to work across district and party lines. Which I believe is crucial when it comes to 10-1.
Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria:
BOR readers are a lot like me & I’m a lot like them. We do what’s right & just.We’re not afraid of evil-doers & greedy bastards.I did 1 term on EnviroBoard, 14 yrs on CDC. My 1st job was teen leader for LBJ’s War on Poverty @ Pan Am Rec Center-50 yrs later-I’m its treasurer. Co-founder: Friends of MACC-1991; E. Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team-1998. This gives me experience/institutional knowledge/good relations with city; setting me apart from others. I’m devoted, determined & democratic.
Jose Valera:
The 10-1 system allows residents to elect a true representative. This representative should mirror the district, listen to the community, and have the qualifications to serve Austin. Given my deep roots in the district and inclusive message, I am well placed to represent our district. My diverse experiences: graduating from West Point and UT Law School, serving in the military and Iraq, working as a attorney, and opening a small business have given me the qualifications for the job.

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

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Burnt Orange Report

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

2 Comments

  1. “Burnt Orange Report reached out to all 78 people running for Austin City Council and mayor.”

    Funny, but I don’t show any record of y’all reaching out to my campaign. Would you please be so kind as to publicly document your efforts to reach out to me?

    Thanks,

    Dr. Fred L. McGhee, Candidate for Austin City Council, District 3

    • Katherine Haenschen
      Katherine Haenschen on

      Hi Fred — Our intern Katie sent you the questionnaire on September 1, and a reminder on September 9. They were due September 10. I see that it went to your gmail address. Sorry for any confusion — feel free to post your answers in the comments.

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