Meet the City of Austin Council Candidates for District 5

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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 5.

Austin City Council Map

District 5

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Dan Buda
Austinites across District 5 who I have spoken with feel a lack of responsiveness from the city, in everything from general responsiveness on constituent concerns to access to city council and in working through the bureaucracy to solve neighborhood concerns and permitting problems. As the new city council begins to tackle these issues, it is important to take a step back and evaluate how we do business, in everything from access to city council meetings by the public, to how we create our city budget, and how city services are provided to Austinites. I will seek to implement a thorough review process for city departments, Austin Energy, and AWU to revisit old programs to make sure they are still effective, and appropriately staff our city departments to be better able to respond to residents’ needs. I will also seek to return the city to a culture of public service by working with city management and staff to make it easier for citizens to navigate the bureaucracy at city hall.
Ann Kitchen:
Improving mobility is the top issue. In this era of tighter public budgets we need lower cost, more immediate congestion relief while we tackle long-term issues: 1) Redesigning streets and intersections to improve traffic flow through improved signal light management and turn lanes, 2) encouraging employers to avoid peak traffic for their employees with flexible hours, work days and telecommuting, 3) building sidewalk and protected bike lanes, 4) emphasizing maintaining and improving existing roads, and 5) improving access to Metro Rapid and other buses.
South Austin also needs a stronger voice in mobility planning. I will support a South Austin planning project to coordinate road improvements, bus service, and infrastructure spending. I also initiate a Locally Preferred Alternative Study for South Austin with our regional transportation body (CAMPO) to plan for expansion of rapid bus and other transportation options.
Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Dan Buda
No. I believe that while we need to increase our transportation capacity and reduce traffic congestion, this proposal has the potential to do neither. With Austin being in the midst of trying to figure out how we can maintain affordability for residents, adding an extra $150-200 a year of city property taxes onto a median-priced home (around $200,000) is not something I can support.
Ann Kitchen:
While I believe rail is needed for our future, I cannot support the $1 billion rail/road bond proposal as it has been conceived. In a time of deep concern about affordability, the proposal does little to serve existing residents of South Austin. Additionally, the $400 million road package should have been presented as a separate measure so it could have addressed critical transportation needs in South Austin, as well as across the city from redesigning chokepoints to building sidewalks.
What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Dan Buda
I would like to see an expansion of our current bus system to include expanded routes, more frequent service, and expanded night service as both an increased level of accessibility for downtown service workers as an alternative to driving for those who like to “take in” the downtown nightlife.

I would also like to rework city code in order to companies like Uber and Lyft to be able to operate legally in Austin. I believe adding competition from other sources will help improve customer service and access among all of our transportation service companies.

Finally, I think it is important to find ways to incent people to leave their cars at home and use public transportation. Austin still has a stigma around taking the bus that isn’t found in other major cities and until using public transportation is seen as a preferable alternative to jumping into a car, we will continue to see low ridership.

Ann Kitchen:
Changing the way we think about mobility is key. With limited funding, we need to look at lower cost mobility fixes in a shorter time frame. This doesn’t mean that large expensive projects will end, rather that we need to better balance funding to make headway while we tackle long-term items. We must provide more options to create a better-connected system of roads, buses, transit, and sidewalk and bicycle infrastructure, including:

1) Redesign streets and intersections to improve traffic flow: Use improved signal light management, continuous flow intersections and turn. Redesign can make streets work better for automobiles, pedestrians and bicycles.

2) Build complete streets. Building better sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes help streets work for everyone.

3) Improve access to Metro Rapid and other buses: while transit will someday form the backbone of our system, we can make our bus system work better today with dedicated lanes and increased frequency.

Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Dan Buda
We need to increase our supply, but how we increase it is important. Growth in places like S. Lamar has been poorly planned due to the strain it will have on our infrastructure. But the housing we are building – units for people who are moving here, and not those who are already here – is an issue. Small, high-priced units are not adequate for families and unless we adjust our building habits, we will continue to push people further away, leading to increases in traffic congestion and sprawl.
Ann Kitchen:
Austin rental rates are rising faster than home prices. Reversing the trend will take increasing the supply of rentals and preserving and building more affordable units across the city. Key actions: 1) expand the types of housing we can produce; 2) rewrite the Land Development Code to support new housing; 3) fix the development process to lower costs; 4) continue public funding for affordable housing; 5) use available public land for affordable housing; 6) preserve existing affordable housing.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Dan Buda
Future growth and development must be based on our future infrastructure needs. We’re already behind in this, and in order to move forward responsibly, efforts must be made to address our current infrastructure problems before we start loading on more development in already-stressed areas. We need to build from the foundation (roads and water infrastructure) up, and not the other way around.
Ann Kitchen:
Our city has limited funds, high needs, and previous decisions that constrain our ability to respond to growth. Long term, Imagine Austin’s priority programs have set our infrastructure agenda – focusing growth in centers such as Highland Mall. This should reduce future infrastructure needs and costs. The Land Development Code rewrite can also help determine what, where, and how much can be built. Permitting should consider cumulative impacts on infrastructure.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Dan Buda
I have always found Austin to be an incredibly welcoming city. As big as we are now, I still feel the friendliness and warmth of a much smaller town. This extends beyond the social aspects, and also encompasses strong community and neighborhood involvement in, and passion for, the future of our city.
Ann Kitchen:
I love the outdoors, our green city. I like to bike, walk, kayak, tapdance and generally try to stay fit. But my answer has to be the people. Throughout my years, from the Rape Crisis Center in the 80’s, to the Save Our Springs Coalition in the 90’s, to affordable housing in the 2000’s, to the Capitol last summer when thousands came out for women’s health, that’s my favorite thing – knowing I’m part of a community that cares and will stand up for what’s right. That’s why I live in Austin.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Dan Buda
I have spent six years over four legislative sessions managing policy, working with stakeholders, and developing public policy aimed at improving the lives of all Texans. My focus has been on issues important to all Austinites, including public education, consumer protection, equality, environmental protection, property tax reform, and public safety. The passion I have for policy-making extends to a passion for public service, and a desire to bring a true voice for South Austin to city hall.
Ann Kitchen:
I am best prepared for the job. I’m a 20+ year South Austinite who served as State Rep for much of District 5. I am a founding member of the Save Our Springs steering committee; fought for women’s health as Co-Founder of Annie’s List; successfully fought for access to healthcare for many years. My legislative, law and business experience have prepared me for Austin’s complex legal and financial issues. I have received every endorsement to date and would be honored to have BOR readers’ support.

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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