Meet the Austin City Council Candidates for District 7

0
0 Flares Filament.io 0 Flares ×

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 7.

Austin City Council Map

District 7

What is the number one issue facing Austin and what do you plan to do about it?
Jeb Boyt:
Affordability is the top issue. We can’t keep Austin weird if we can’t keep it affordable. We’re 47,000 housing units behind demand. If we’re going to have affordable housing, we’ve got to build housing. My solutions include:
• $5,000 universal homestead exemption;
• Limiting utility rates and fees and restructuring water rates so that larger volume users paying more;
• Sales price disclosure for large commercial properties so that TCAD has reliable information for setting property values;
• Using the CodeNext rewrite of the land development code to support an abundant supply of housing in a wide range so people have housing choices at each stage of their lives, filling the “missing middle” of housing, i.e. duplexes, four-plexes, townhomes, rowhouses, tri-hats, etc.;
• Increasing supply of MF housing to get apartment occupancy rate from its current 97% to nearer 90%; &
• Streamline and standardize the City’s permitting process, reducing the time, expense, and uncertainty.
Jimmy Paver:
Livability. The city continues to spend beyond it’s means and it seems every year our expenditures match our revenue. As our budget has increased 80% in the last 10 years, we have seen our level of service stagnant. City leadership has let fee increases multiply within its purview despite robust growth. We need to take a hard look at what is being funded for city employees, find cheaper ways to supply energy & water to customers, and levy taxes more consistent with our budgetary needs. The city council and manager should endeavor to provide transparency and clarity to citizens when it comes to spending, debt accumulation, fee increases that are too often obscured by cumbersome documentation or the fine print. Most residents aren’t aware of these changes until the bill arrives. A balanced approach to revenue spending that benefits all residents of Austin is a tough formula to engineer but it is one of the most important things I will do when I’m on Council.
Leslie Pool:
The number one issue in my district is affordability. That topic includes property taxes and rents being too high, transportation costs grow as congestion increases, and an aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced. The city has been too eager to hand out incentives and subsidies to big corporations. Sweeteners aren’t required to recruit businesses: Austin is an attractive place to live all on its own. The rail proposal will add another billion to our debt load and that drives up property taxes. Tax reform must be at the head of everyone’s list of issues to take on during the 84th Lege.
Pete Salazar:
If I had to focus on just one issue, it would be focusing on responsible growth. Many Austinites are bearing the burden of rising property taxes, and a rise in density with a greater value being placed on luxry condos instead of family housing. This has created a migration of Austinites moving out of the city because they can no longer afford to live in their homes, they are forced to move to outlying areas. Austin has a soul, as a native Austinite I was enriched by it, grew up in it. IAustin’s soul is at risk if we do not take the steps to be responsible in our growth. we have a duty to our fellow Austinites to create the best future possible for generations to come.
Melissa Zone:
The city’s rapid pace of growth is not keeping up with needed facilities and improvements. Growth can be effectively managed, but the burden of paying for improvements must not fall on individual citizens alone. Our property tax system is out of balance because it unduly relies on homeowners and renters which is now forcing residents to move to the suburbs, contributing to urban sprawl. We need to find innovative infrastructure funding sources to reduce reliance on bond initiatives. The city needs to coordinate private investment with federal funding programs for large-scale projects and evaluate the feasibility of adopting a transportation impact fee ordinance. Greater density should be located on major public transportation corridors. This will improve the likelihood that residents in these high density areas will use public transportation. The city could then adopt a balanced growth plan that identifies the most appropriate areas to target for increased density with cost and funding considerations as part of the equation.
Do you support the 2014 Transportation Bond? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and explanation.
Jeb Boyt:
Yes. The proposed rail is designed to secure federal funding for half its construction costs. The Riverside portion of the route scored at the top of the technical and public reviews. The northern portion scored in the top three and will serve the convention center, Capitol, medical school, UT, county offices on Airport, and ACC Highland. It will also improve operations of the Red Line, allowing northern commuters to directly connect at the new 45th St station to go to UT and the Capitol.
Jimmy Paver:
I fully support the concept of urban rail but, I am not in favor of the current proposal from ACC South to ACC Highland. A few of the reasons why: cost of $110 million a mile, projections of less than 1% reduction in road traffic and a route that sidesteps areas of existing demand. Most importantly, this proposition saddles weary residents with additional tax burdens they cannot afford. I agree we must do something but, don’t believe this is the only and best option.
Leslie Pool:
I support rail, want it for Austin, and ride light rail and subways in many cities, but I can’t support this very expensive proposition. Austin’s current proposal costs too much and residents don’t feel it will take them where they want to go.
Pete Salazar:
No, I believe the bond in general could have been separated, between road improvements and the rail. I do not support the rail, it cost too much and it serves too few. But the city council and Austin connect tried to give us a take it or leave it scenario. Because of this attempt we will lose much needed funding for road projects. But, we must do things that benefit all Austinites, not just a chosen few. We have transportation needs that need to be addressed now, not 20 years from now.
Melissa Zone:
No, I support and want urban rail, but the current alignment will not help the people who need rail today. I would prefer to see an alignment developed to serve existing demand. We need to think about everyone, not just the people who will be moving here in ten years. Also, I would prefer to have the package of highway improvements proposed as a separate bond measure rather than as an addendum to the urban rail proposal.
What are the top three policies you propose to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion in Austin?
Jeb Boyt:
• Secure funding for Lone Star Rail. We have a plan and an agreement with Union Pacific. We now need to work with the state and the federal government to find the funding.
• Late Night Service. Downtown workers and others need safe, reliable ways home. We need to work with Capital Metro, taxis, transportation network companies, and others on this.
• Burnet Gateway. We need to improve transit, bicycle, and pedestrian connections in the corridor linking ACC Northridge, the Kramer Lane Station, the Domain, the Pickle Campus, and the Arboretum. We need to connect the Shoal Creek Bikeway to the Red Line Trail, the Walnut Creek Trail, and the Jollyville Bikeway.
Jimmy Paver:
1)Relieve congestion short-term via a transportation demand management plan to include: bus system expansion, extension of hours, routes and number of stops; synchronization of traffic signaling, reparation of failed intersections; and education and encouragement of time-shifting, reverse flow for heavy traffic in one direction, car-pooling and telecommuting for industries that can accommodate. 2)Utilize our partnerships with regional organizations like TXDot, FTA and the FHA to improve existing thoroughfares like 183 and I-35, and increase usage of 45 and 130. 3)Full review of all current and future transportation initiatives to address long-term infrastructure development and maintenance. For example: busing turnout lanes where feasible to help increase the flow of traffic along major arteries and an urban rail that has the components necessary to yield true convenience-parking, co-location of retail, grocery, schools, and connections to other lines-both bus and rail.
Leslie Pool:
a. improve the sidewalk and bike system so people can get around without cars
b. improve bus system including expanding routes to underserved areas of town and increasing bus run frequency.
c. work with employers to increase telecommuting, stagger work hours, and investigate or pilot work hubs in areas outside of downtown.
Pete Salazar:
We need to expand our bus services to all areas of Austin and we need to expand the hours of operation to at least 3:30 AM. This will benefit our 3rd shift workers, and people trying to go out for a night out. We also need to open up the toll roads during peak hours and allow Austinites to use it for free. Both public and private entities can implement staggered work hours, and as a city we can make ride share programs more available.
Melissa Zone:
We need a mix of mobility options for everyone with convenient public transportation, including urban rail and reliable bus service with average headways of no more than 15 minutes. Interconnected and well maintained bicycle and pedestrian facilities designed to limit conflicts with automobile traffic. The city needs to identify a package of operational improvements to existing roads to increase capacity. These operational improvements could include new and extended turn lanes, intersection improvements and establishment of reverse lanes on selected arterials. The city needs to ensure developers build bicycle and pedestrian facilities instead of the payment in lieu option and dedicate a greater share of resources to bicycle and pedestrian facilities in accordance with their bicycle and sidewalk master plans. Interconnected bicycle and pedestrian facilities are critical to a successful Complete Streets program and actually serve to encourage more use of public transit.
Rents are skyrocketing in Austin. Do you support increasing the rental housing supply, and if so, where?
Jeb Boyt:
Yes!!! Everywhere! Particularly in the Central City, and particularly with a focus along transportation corridors and the centers identified in the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan. I support a pilot program to expand the use of accessory dwelling units, aka garage apartments or granny flats, in the Central City. We support having a supply of abundant housing so that people will have choices for housing at each stage of their lives.
Jimmy Paver:
I support the development of rental housing near dense business centers where residents have access to work, services and recreation. It is important that developers take into consideration who will be inhabiting these units (i.e. a mix of single occupancy units and larger units for families), including affordable family housing options and considering access to public transit.
Leslie Pool:
Increase the supply of rental housing stock where possible. Much of the increase in rents is related to Austin’s boom. Landlords will almost always charge top of the market if they think demand warrants it. The city could also do more to leverage our public dollars by partnering with private entities to keep rents more affordable.
Pete Salazar:
We must build more housing because people need a place to live, but in doing so we must work diligently to make sure that there are affordable options. There many places we can build, off of 290 east for example, but we must have connectivity throughout the city. This can no longer be seen as a luxury, but rather a right for all Austinites to have the ability to navigate the city at a time and place in which they desire. If we do not fix these issues we are creating second class Austinites.
Melissa Zone:
We need to provide non-monetary incentives like density bonuses and expedited building permits for on-site affordable rental housing. We need to enforce current long-term affordable housing agreements through enhanced monitoring programs to ensure rental rates remain below market rate. I would support a policy requiring affordable housing on any city-owned land that is opened up for residential development. We can encourage building in appropriate areas by allowing owners of existing commercial structures to retrofit their buildings to allow rental housing.
How can we make sure the city’s infrastructure is equipped to handle its growth?
Jeb Boyt:
As described in the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, the demands of growth can best be handled by focusing development into regional, town, and neighborhood centers where it can be most easily and cost-effectively supported by infrastructure and city services. We need to make sure that new developments are constructed with the infrastructure to properly place and support themselves in the City’s grid of streets, sidewalks, bikeways, water, wastewater, stormwater, etc.
Jimmy Paver:
It isn’t now, obviously. We should pursue a methodology on this type of thing – before we add a significant number of people, there should be a required amount of road and public transit to service them. Same goes for all other resources that make a city go – water, affordable places to live, Etc.
Leslie Pool:
How do we build the city we want? We can build infrastructure where we want growth. A key to that is better land use planning, and finding a better match between the cost of new development and infrastructure particularly along major corridors, like Burnet and North Lamar. Recognize capacity and its impact on neighborhoods.
Pete Salazar:
Well we need to start implementing neighborhood plans, then we can work on corridor plans with an integration of the plans. We must establish small business corridors [that help promote and highlight local businesses, and as stated before the city must have connectivity throughout the city.
Melissa Zone:
The City must assess the capability and capacity of existing infrastructure in order to provide a clear plan how we will balance the current infrastructure to the projected demand of increased population. Once the needs are determined then the city will need to correct deficiencies before guiding growth in areas that are unable to support that growth.
What is your favorite thing about Austin?
Jeb Boyt:
Austin’s inventiveness that manifests itself in creativity, humor, entrepreneurship, food, and general joy of living. Austin has a large and diverse creative sector working in music, film, theater, writing, advertising, and games, computer and tabletop that collectively inspires and supports one another and makes Austin a great place to live.
Jimmy Paver:
That’s not a fair question – Suffice to say there are many items I could list here, some things I don’t. I love that I am here, living and raising a family in a town with a good quality of life and like-minded people who value the character of this special place.
Leslie Pool:
My favorite thing about Austin is our neighborhoods where I shop at one-of-a-kind businesses, eat at local restaurants, buy pet food at an iconic pet store that’s been there for decades … our history, Barton Springs, the sense of community and evidence that our work to better Austin has tangible results. My favorite thing about Austin is it’s so very Austin.
Pete Salazar:
My favorite thing about Austin has and will always be the people of Austin. In my life I have met Clifford Antone, Don Walser, Raul Salinas, and many others. I do not mention them because they were known, I mention them because we had one commonality we loved Austin, We loved it its spirit and soul, it must be guarded and protected. This city has and should always be a city of hope. We must never try to sell it, or let it go, to be atop some random list somewhere.
Melissa Zone:
My favorite thing about Austin is that we are a pet friendly town and I love our No-Kill policy. I also like that the city is moving towards a Zero Waste diversion goal. Both are very near and dear to my heart.
Why should readers of Burnt Orange Report vote for you?
Jeb Boyt:
I am a native Texan and life-long Democrat. I will make Austin an exemplar of progressive values, providing a City that is welcoming and that ensures opportunities are broadly shared by all. In my career, I have worked with local groups, local governments, state agencies, and federal agencies, getting them all together in support of projects that improve our quality of life. I am ready to work with you, whether you’ve been here for 30 years or whether you arrived yesterday.
Jimmy Paver:
Our city is changing and we need address this fact head on. We deserve an honest dialogue and real action on Austin & D7’s challenges. Solutions to these issues require our city to collaborate with all levels of government. I am the only D7 candidate with over a decade of policy experience at the State and Federal level. I am a leader with sound judgment who will put public interest above politics and will jump right in: solving problems and bringing new resources to the table on day one.
Leslie Pool:
I am the most progressive candidate with the longest record of leadership on democratic issues in this race: president of AWPC, co-founder of the first NXNW Democrats, ran for School Board, helped create a n’hood coalition that won protections for n’hoods all across TX, worked in the election to protect domestic partner benefits, long-time environmental advocate, from SOS to the National Wildlife Federation. I’ve been reading BOR since it was founded in 2003, and would be honored to be endorsed.
Pete Salazar:
I am born and raised in Austin, Texas. I know its beauty and I have seen its ugliness, through it all, this city has been more than a place I moved to, it is my home. I have worked in non-profits here in Austin and know the human cost of inaction and un -checked growth. I have dedicated my entire professional life to learning and fixing Austin’s issues, for the simple fact that it is my home. There is no candidate that has prepared for this specific position more than me.
Melissa Zone:
If we’ve ever needed an experienced urban planner on City Council it’s now! Uncontrolled growth and development have given us traffic jams, sky-high cost of living and threaten the quality of life that we value so much. The City is overhauling its land development code and we must have someone who understands land development and its regulations. I plan to incorporate participatory planning into the government process and bring my “can-do, make it happen” spirit to everything I tackle at city hall.




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

Share.

About Author

Burnt Orange Report

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

Leave a Reply

2015 © Skytop Publishing All Rights Reserved. Do not republish without express written permission.

Site designed and developed by well + done DESIGN

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Filament.io 0 Flares ×