Meet the City of Austin Council Candidates for District 6

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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 6.

Austin City Council Map

District 6

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Jimmy Flannigan:
The city is big enough to work on more than one thing. I do consider traffic to be the top issue, especially for District 6, and the one where the city has the most opportunity. In the near-term, improvements can be found via technology (improved signal timing, transit routing apps, improved bus service), small-scale infrastructure (pedestrian safety, urban trails, bike paths), and private transportation alternatives (taxis, TNCs, Car2Go). In the mid-term, the road network needs to be improved, including lane additions, creative intersections, and arterial road improvements. In the long-term, we must develop and expand high-capacity alternatives to the road network.

However, these improvements only impact the supply-side. Austin must work with the business community to reduce demand through off-peak work hours and telecommuting. Also, land use patterns must be complimentary to transportation investments and provide residents easier access to high-capacity alternatives to driving.

Mackenzie Kelly:
The biggest issue facing Austin is the need for better representation of resident needs on the Austin City Council. For far too long, the previous members on the City Council have kept districts such as district 6 outside of the bubble they lived in. District 6 has been known as a suburb rather than a community that needs to have an active part with the city government. The new 10-1 district election is a game changer with how the Austin City Council will be better serving residents. I will bring city government to the residents of district 6 by having a remote office within the district and regular hours for residents to talk one-on-one with me. This new level of engagement will be an opportunity to better address the issues that affect district 6 and I’m sure other districts will be doing this too.
Matt Stillwell:
The number one issue is the proper management of the growth Austin will see over the next 20 years, when we are predicted to double in population. That means proactive solutions and strategies dealing with traffic and transportation, water usage and conservation, and getting a handle on the development code so we can address the structural problems that have made affordability worse and contributed to the sprawl and problems we have seen grow over the last generation.
Jay Wiley:
Affordability. The problem we’re experiencing in Austin is the direct result of a big and expensive local government. 10-1 is an opportunity to bring new focus to the proper role of government. Ballooning budgets and increasing layers of bureaucracy are squeezing out homeowners, renters, and business owners. It’s an unsustainable rate of growth and cost. When taxpayers get to keep more of what they earn, it allows for greater prosperity for more people.
Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Jimmy Flannigan:
While I have been present for the conception, planning, and vetting of this project, I cannot support it. The long-term plan duplicates the first project’s route (the parallel line north of MLK). That is no way to start building a rail system. I also cannot support the idea that Austin taxpayers will spend $250mil improving roads (I-35) that the state is responsible for supporting.
Mackenzie Kelly:
No, I do not support the City of Austin’s Proposition 1 for the Urban Rail Line from Riverside to Highland Mall. The route proposed by the current Austin City Council represents their desire to develop an area with potential future growth. The better option would be to support a line along Guadalupe-Lamar which is one of the densest corridors in the state. The new 10-1 Austin City Council should be the group responsible for creating the next urban rail plan.
Matt Stillwell:
No. I’m not one who will argue the route is wrong either – I’m against it because I haven’t been given a clear answer on what the expected cost might be to build out the entire urban rail system – because if Austin won’t get on board with that and what will undoubtedly be a $6B-$10B plan, there’s no way we should build the first line. Building the Highland to Riverside route and not completing the system would be a disaster. This was rushed to the ballot before it was ready.
Jay Wiley:
No because Prop 1 would cost, according to Project Connect, more than $400,000 per new rider, be the largest bond/debt commitment in Austin history, and raise our property taxes by hundreds of dollars in order to carry less than ½ of 1% of local commuters by 2030. As the Red Line from Leander to the Convention Center demonstrates, there is not a sufficient market to sustain this idea. If I saw an urban rail plan that could be financially sustainable, I would be a strong supporter.
What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Jimmy Flannigan:
The centerpiece of both my traffic and sustainable growth plan is my “Connected Corridors” proposal. Unlike the gridlock-inducing “Centers” plan, Connected Corridors leverage density along the entire length of high-capacity infrastructure. This will facilitate more mobility (via more jobs located near transit) and decrease congestion (cars only drive to the closest corridor connection point). It requires the comprehensive suite of infrastructure investment, transit planning, and land use rules we should have implemented 30 years ago.

As a part of that plan, we need to finally approve the TOD plans for Lakeline, Howard, and Kramer stations where people will actually ride the RedLine (as opposed to TOD already implemented at Crestview and MLK which has sufficient bus service).

Finally, we need serious partnership with the business community to encourage telecommuting and flex-time to get drivers off the roads at peak times.

Mackenzie Kelly:
1. Improve traffic flow through the use of a traffic signal control system that is managed to handle Austin’s daily challenges with traffic.

2. Implement road impact fees for each new housing unit in order to pay for growth Austin is experiencing. This will fund the road improvements needed in order to keep up with the rapid growth without fully relying on existing residents on funding road projects.

3. Provide support for businesses to offer telecommuting, flexible schedules and get employees to use alternative transit options.

Matt Stillwell:
1: Bring back the Dillo as a solution for a downtown circulator system. Have it be electric. Before it was shuttered late in the last decade due to CapMetro’s funding problems, it was free and well liked, and it would be a much faster, much more economical solution than urban rail as a way to move people around downtown.
2: Work with the freight lines to open up the Red Line to more nights and weekend schedules, and once we figure that out, start planning more commuter rail.
3: Press our friends at the legislature to properly fund road projects through TXDoT so that the Austin roads they are in charge of get the attention they deserve.
Jay Wiley:
1. Greater capacity and connectivity for existing roadways. We cannot continue to ignore the fact that upwards of 80% of Austin commuters drive alone to work. Let’s focus resources on what we actually need and use today, not decades from now.

2. Free market innovations like Uber & Lyft. We should welcome these innovations because they fill a market need that current taxis, etc. are not meeting.

3. Expand bus routes. Buses are flexible and much cheaper than rail.

Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Jimmy Flannigan:
Yes. Increasing housing supply is consistent with my “Connected Corridors” plan, which calls for dense housing and commercial along corridors of infrastructure, instead of just in “centers”. This also protects single-family homes and neighborhoods that are not immediately adjacent.
Mackenzie Kelly:
Austin desperately needs an increase in rental housing. In district 6, 53.2% of the residents live in rental units and 98% of the available rental units are occupied. The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently reported that a full-time worker would need to earn $20.65 an hour in order to afford a 2-bedroom unit in Austin. In order to increase rental housing supply, Austin’s permitting process and code need to be structured to better support the development of rental units.
Matt Stillwell:
Yes, both the supply of rental units and the supply of homes/condos/townhomes for purchase need to be increased. District 6 will be a region where a lot of those rental units will be built, and are currently being built. We still have relatively inexpensive land and our rents are lower than in some other districts.
Jay Wiley:
Yes, wherever the market will support new rental housing. I’m skeptical of government’s ability to centrally plan where rental housing should go — we can’t even get the Waller Creek Development right. Government is poorly equipped to plan the dynamic economic activity of a million people over the course of a generation or more. We need a framework, but it should be flexible so it can adjust to market forces.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Jimmy Flannigan:
Again, “Connected Corridors” addresses this need by concentrating the users of infrastructure and city services near the highest-cost investments. We cannot continue a policy of growth “everywhere” and think we can somehow pay for a spider-web of infrastructure to support it.
Mackenzie Kelly:
Austin needs to make more investments in infrastructure by properly funding these improvements. Bond measures, property tax and sales tax revenue affect existing residents who get stuck with paying for the growth of adding infrastructure for the new residents moving into Austin. Austin needs to look into creating a system for collecting impact fees on each new housing unit for roads, sewer and other services.
Matt Stillwell:
It’s already not equipped to handle Austin’s growth, and hasn’t been for 15 years We’re in a horrible position of both having to make up for lost time because of the inaction or inability to address infrastructure in the past as well as looking toward the future to plan for the growth that hasn’t happened yet. The next city council must both fix the mistakes of the past and make sure they don’t happen again – a difficult task for sure when we are trying to spend as little as possible.
Jay Wiley:
We should focus more on the City’s core responsibility to build roadways with greater capacity and connectivity. City Hall spends too much time and resources on boutique issues like green energy experiments and bag bans. Let’s re-prioritize.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Jimmy Flannigan:
The entrepreneurial spirit and love of local business. As a small business owner and former local chamber of commerce leader, the passion that Austinites have for our home-grown businesses outshines any other city I’ve visited. I truly feel like anything is possible right here in Austin.
Mackenzie Kelly:
My favorite thing about Austin are the people who make Austin the community that I have always called home. As a former volunteer firefighter, I have helped people through some of the worst moments in their lives and always enjoyed serving the community through the positions I have held in public safety.
Matt Stillwell:
My favorite thing about Austin is the character of the city. Yes, it’s changed a great deal since I moved here in 1990, it’s lost a lot of its weirdness, but it still has an eclectic vibe, it still has a creative pulse, it retains a friendly and laid-back atmosphere. The people that live in Austin by and large embrace that character and help to promote that to future residents and generations. I’ve traveled all over the country and all over the world, there’s no place else I’d rather be.
Jay Wiley:
The people. I love that Austin has such a creative energy — I even love the liberals! But let’s leave the public policy to those of us who want limited government.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Jimmy Flannigan:
In short, I’m the only candidate in District 6 with real experience on these issues and the relationships across the city to make sure Northwest Austin isn’t ignored. I’m running for this office because my background is in City issues, not as a stepping-stone for higher office or as a consolation prize. Similarly, I‘ve come to my policy positions as the result of a lifetime of service and meetings with staff, advocates, and community groups. So when I speak up, District 6 won’t be ignored.
Mackenzie Kelly:
I an the only candidate who was born and raised within district 6. This has given me a very unique perspective of the history between neighborhoods and the City of Austin. I have also been a firefighter and involved with emergency management serving the public safety within the Williamson County side of district 6. While I will be appearing last on the ballot for district 6, I hope to be the first in your hearts as the first member of the Austin City Council representing district 6.
Matt Stillwell:
I’m the best chance to keep Austin wholly progressive by electing someone from District 6 who reflects the character of Austin. There are several far-right tea-party backed candidates licking their chops to get a seat at the table on City Council, to throw stones and be a thorn in the side of what Austin wants to be – a model of forward-thinking leadership and progressive values. I’m in the best position with the most likely chance for success in not letting that happen.
Jay Wiley:
10-1 is about new, fresh ideas that reflect Austin’s diversity of thought. One of the seats on the new Council should reflect a preference for limited government. We need more fiscal hawks on Council and that’s what I intend to be.

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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