Meet the City of Austin Council Candidates for District 4

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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 4.

Austin City Council Map

-Consider more intensive transit options, including urban rail and passenger rail service, if we can ensure grassroots support for these large investments. Work on regional solutions to divert regional traffic from congesting Austin.

District 4

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
On its face, Austin is prospering. Unfortunately, too many Austinites are not included in that prosperity. Instead, many of us are being pushed out by skyrocketing rents and property taxes, a struggling education system, and income stagnation.

My number one priority will be to fight for policy so our prosperity is more widely shared. Our first step must be to ensure working class and moderate income Austinites are truly heard at City Hall.

Second, we can rebuild pathways into the middle class by leveraging Austin’s purchasing power, public-private partnerships, and budget dollars to create good jobs for residents. Third, we need to support a homestead exemption, but only if paired with an expansion of utility-bill relief so that low to moderate-income homeowners and renters can get the relief they need, too. Also, we can purchase land and require that future development include housing that’s affordable for everyday Austinites.

Katrina Daniel:
The number one issue facing Austin today seems to be what to do with all of this growth. The city council of the past has continued to kick this can down the road, and now we are faced with very expensive options and tough choices about how we will choose to grow, and whether we will accommodate those who made this city great. I plan to work with my neighbors in District 4 as many parts of the district (e.g. North Lamar, Highland) are already poised to accommodate for this growth, but we want to see a shift in the equity of amenities as it grows.
Marco Mancillas:
We have to make Appraisal Tax reform a # 1 priority for city council legislative agenda for the upcoming legislative session. Reforming our state’s property tax system for affordability and fairness won’t be easy and nothing will be perfect. But homeowners have been doing their part. It’s long past time for the Legislature to do its part and help relieve homeowner frustration. Second, a 20% homestead exemption that can provide tax relief now. It can relief 73,000 homes and a median of homes value at 180,000.With the housing bond that passed last year, it’s a good start for pushing expansion of affordable housing projects through more state and federal grants.
Sharon E Mays:
Affordability. The avg income cannot afford the avg house in Austin. Salaries dropped in Austin last year while property values and prices continue to increase. We need a variety of solutions to course correct affordability on a root level. The rent is high in Austin because people that should be able to buy a house are forced to rent. The lack of homes for sale in the $150-220K range has buyers trapped as renters, which puts a heavier demand on rental properties which cause the rent to go up. Our high schools need to provide students who aren’t on a college path with skills that will allow them to qualify for living wage jobs after graduation. Incentivize small and local businesses to create new jobs that pay a living wage. Find solutions to infrastructure issue that either don’t require an increase in property taxes and/or that quickly return on the investment.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
Affordability. The solution to affordability is addressing the following issues:
1.We need to lower the cost of living in our city:
a. Property Taxes
b. Utility Costs
c. Transportation
2. We need to part of the mechanism to increase income:
a. Workforce development to meet the needs of the employers in Austin

I would collaborate with the new Mayor, Council and the Community to address these issues.

Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
I’ve chosen to vote against the bond. While I support rail transit, I can’t support this bond because our leaders have not successfully passed a comprehensive affordability plan. If this rail passes, I will be dedicated to building a comprehensive affordability plan, so that we can pass the second and third lines that we need for a successful system. If the bonds fail, then I will champion a more robust conversation about pairing affordability with new transit investments.
Katrina Daniel:
I support the concept of rail and I have been a proponent of multi-modal transportation options as long as I have been on the contact team of my neighborhood, as well as serving on both the ACC Highland Advisory Board, and the Alliance for Public Transportation. Whether this referendum will be right for Austinites, is up to the voters, but also their many valid concerns by residents, especially in District 4, who are disproportionately impacted by changes is rate structures, transit service, etc.
Marco Mancillas:
No, it’s too expensive and doesn’t fulfill the use for ridership its intended for. Last November we passed two bonds, Now we are going to have two other bonds on the ballot this November. The language is misleading for the voters. The voters are only voting on 600 million and not 400 million. The 400 million in contingent on the council and not the voters. Plus, Texas state prop 1 will provide 100 million a year for Austin and it can go to roads.
Sharon E Mays:
I support urban rail & investing in transportation. I don’t support Prop 1. The data doesn’t prove 9K cars will be taken off the road. Transist system must include improved bus service or rail riders will still need a vehicle to travel the places that the rail doesn’t go. Rail is being called an affordable solution but will be premium priced. AFFORDABLE & PREMIUM PRICE usually don’t play well together. The data doesn’t support the info that we’ve been given. Too many contingencies & grey areas.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
No. I do not support the 2014 Transportation Bond. I am not against the concept of Urban Rail.

Reasons I do not support the project:
1. Cost of the project
2. Route of the project
3. Combining Roads and Urban Rail
4. Will not address current road congestion

What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
-Prioritizing our local bus service, including expansion of current routes, investment in dedicated lane facilities on popular routes, and minimizing transfers as much as possible; and enhance and expand the existing Rapid Bus service and take steps to ensure those buses don’t get stuck in traffic;

-Fight for safe pedestrian and bicycle access throughout District 4 and the city as a whole, including those areas which have been traditionally isolated or neglected. Pedestrian access and sidewalks are the foundation for a successful transit system.

Katrina Daniel:
1) Synchronize traffic lights. 2) Increase “free” capacity. 3) Develop a comprehensive plan that addresses the transportation needs of our growing aging population allowing them to age in place.
Marco Mancillas:
Transportation is a huge issue for Austin. We need to increase metro bus, because its cheap and mobile. It can be efficient to add more buses in high density areas. Also, increase metro rapid to different areas of Austin, Its fast and efficient that provides real-time for riders, If we utilize these two forms of public transit in an effective manner we can take off more cars from the pavement. Last but not least, bring in more options of new companies to proves transportation services through social media and smart phone usage. Also, provide free capital metro fares for seniors and disabled. We need to bring back the 22 year old Austin tradition. The sunset commission has build back the reserves so now we can get the free service again.
Sharon E Mays:
Transportation options with dedicated pathways that truly reduce the number of cars on the road. Expand/Improve Capital Metro. Optimizing our current transportation options is going to be a very cost effective way to improve traffic congestion. There are bus stops without benches or protective covers or sidewalk accessibility. We need to commit to making bus a viable transportation replacement for personal vehicles. Late night bus service needs to be available immediately to address our drunk driving epidemic. Economic Development to help neighborhoods become community centers where residents can live/shop/play. We could reduce the number of cars on the roads by increasing the retail options within walking/biking distance of dense neighborhoods. Incentives for businesses to have more work-from-home positions or staggered shift start/end times. Carpooling. Bike lanes and sidewalks so that walking is a safe option.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
Phase 1:
Return the free Capitol Metro fixed route service for Seniors and the Disabled.
Phase 2:
1. Expand capacity for current modes 2. Educate employers on how to shift workforce out of rush hour 3. Develop strategies to shift travelers to other modes of transportation.
Phase 3:
We need to use all the options available to accommodate daily commuters. A possible solution: I propose implementing free fixed routed bus service for Austin Residents in the future.

Benefits for free fixed route service for Austin Residents:
• Faster boarding and shorter dwell times, allowing faster timetabling service
• Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible to all residents
• Zero-fare transport can mitigate transportation problems. Decrease congestions, faster average road speeds, easier parking, reduce road and wear and tear on roads, reduce and environmental pollutions.
• All Phases needs public input and collaboration from all stakeholders

Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
Yes. Severe housing shortages result in increases in rents and taxes for everyone. Neighborhood and environmental voices are critical for ensuring new housing is built where it respects current residents and the environment. I support increasing rental housing supply primarily on major corridors where we have the infrastructure for increased use. I will stand up for housing options for people of all backgrounds and incomes near where they want to live in Austin.
Katrina Daniel:
We will not get ahead by continuing to keep our heads in the ground. Regardless of how we got here, the reality is that we will have to accommodate for demand, as well accommodate for those who cannot afford to keep up with these skyrocketing rates. Growth is unavoidable. We know this in Highland, we just want to make sure we grow smart, and make sure we can build the infrastructure around this growth in a smart way.
Marco Mancillas:
Yes, I believe we need to build more rental housing for the city. We have to make sure its affordable to the working person. Mix use developments and affordable housing will be great to fit into the equation. With the housing bond that passed last year, it’s a good start for pushing expansion of affordable housing projects through more state and federal grants.
Sharon E Mays:
District 4 would be a great place for more rental supply. Increasing entry level home buying options is crucial too. The avg rent in Austin is equivalent to a $150K mortgage payment. If we had more affordable homes for purchase we could reduce the population of renters who should be home owners. This would decrease the demand for rentals as well as give more opportunities for residents to invest in the community. A land bank could help turn abandoned, blighted property into affordable housing.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
New units need to be built in all areas of the city that will provide housing for diverse groups of families and individuals.
There is a demand for new housing units that are within reach of working Austinites and more can be done to ensure that new affordable housing is being built so that we do not continue a policy of pricing out existing residents.
Supply and demand determines housing availability. The City should encourage development on vacant land in the city.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
We must be able to pay for it. Given our rapid economic expansion, we must use all the impact fees at our disposal and consider using more tools to work with private development to finance public improvements. We also should avoid purchasing infrastructure that we will not need– energy and water conservation are critical for reducing the number of power plants and pipelines we’ll need to fund.
Katrina Daniel:
We will need to make some tough choices, but we also have less expensive ways that have simply been ignored in the past because there was no incentive to work with the neighborhoods. For example, certain neighborhoods in District 4 need more street lamps to illuminate the walk from the bus stop to the rest of the neighborhood, making people feel safe at night. We need to work with the neighbors to encourage them to ride public transportation.
Marco Mancillas:
140 people are moving into Austin every day. This causes a supply and demand problem. We are not building fast enough to keep up with the people moving to Austin so pricing keep going up. Jobs coming into Austin are not targeting the people living here already. As a result, good paying jobs are being taken by people form out of town and they are wanting to live in nice areas with major developments.
Sharon E Mays:
We need to reprioritize our budget so that infrastructure is a top priority in Austin. Public safety, better schools, affordable/reliable water supply, affordable housing, transportation, access to parks/green space – this is where we should invest resources. No more incentives to bring businesses to Austin. No more annexing of other cities. We don’t have the infrastructure to support the increased population right now. We can look at growth options once we’re able to fully service our community.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
Elect Roberto Perez Jr. to City Council. I proudly serve my community while pursuing my Doctorate in Business Administration. My experience in business and workforce development along with my educational choices make me confident to represent the highly diverse population of District 4 and the City of Austin.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
Bartholomew Park Pool. This pool was historically the first racially integrated pool in Austin, and it remains one of the most integrated, community-oriented, and alive places in Austin. On July 4th weekend, I watched a father and son in their Ferrari pull up next to a truck whose bed was full of immigrant family members. All their kids came to learn tricks off the diving board together with me and my friends. To me, the pool is a symbol of Austin’s promise, and our very real challenges.
Katrina Daniel:
It’s people.
Marco Mancillas:
My favorite thing about Austin is the culture and diversity. I have been in Austin for 15 years. I have learned a lot about myself and I grew up as an adult in this fine city. The music is a huge thing for me in AUSITN. I love going to shows and hearing different kinds of music.
Sharon E Mays:
Austin is my hometown, so it’s hard to name just one thing that is my favorite. I have a lifetime of awesome/hilarious/wonderful memories of this city. I love the spirit of Austin. People are friendly and have a true sense of community. It’s why when people visit Austin they immediately feel at home. People help each other. Businesses support one another. Even with all of our growing pains and traffic woes, Austin is a great place to live. Our local leaders need to support & protect that.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
My favorite thing about Austin is the diversity that can be found in every district. This is a unique and weird city.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Gregorio “Greg” Casar:
I have the best track record of spearheading local policy for working people. I’ve worked with Democratic activists, environmentalists, and community groups to build political power for those who are forgotten by City Hall. Together, we’ve changed over 24 local policies: including raising wages for thousands of workers. The majority of District 4’s residents aren’t eligible to vote. More than any policy solution, our residents need someone who will vote for them, even if they can’t vote for us.
Katrina Daniel:
I didn’t move to District 4 to run for office, I moved here more than a decade ago to make this community my home. I’ve been a nurse for 25 years. As vice-chair of Central Health we’ve expanded access to healthcare for low-income families. At TDI, I formed Healthy Texas to give small businesses and families access to affordable health insurance. Ensuring that people have equitable access to services has been a hallmark of my career, and it’s why I’m running for city council.
Marco Mancillas:
I have been a reader here since BOR first started. I know the founders that started this great site. I have been following you since the beginning as a student and now a person running for office. I have always been a big fan of BOR and seen this site grow. I been involved in so many campaigns and reading your articles. Now I’m a candidate looking for articles of my race .I have been a life long reader and supporter. I hope to get your endorsement.
Sharon E Mays:
I have lived in District 4 for almost 10 yrs & have been working to improve our neighborhood as a board member at the North Austin YMCA and Chair of the North Austin Community Garden. I’ve been a manager of people and projects for 20 yrs and have solid reputation as an innovator and a problem solver. I have deep roots in the Austin community and have been serving our community my entire adult life. I have a vision for this community and the experience required to get Austin back on track.
Roberto Perez Jr.:
I serve as Co-Chair and Place 14 representative on the Restore Rundberg Revitalization Team, I work daily to make District 4 safer while listening to the additional needs of our neighborhoods. In turn, I serve on the Community Development Commission for the Austin City Council and the Project Advisory Council for Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities at Safeplace. I have been working to give District 4 a voice 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

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

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