To a degree, District 9 reflects the power structure that has historically dominated city politics. Anchored by Downtown, it runs north and south through some of the most politically active Central Austin neighborhoods: Hyde Park, Mueller, Travis Heights, Bouldin, Old West Austin, as well as UT and West Campus – ground zero for Sixties and Seventies student activism, succeeded by development battles over "stealth dorms" and the like in recent years.
Here also are the homes of most incumbent council members, who irked 10-1 supporters by including an alternative (8-2-1) proposal on the 2012 ballot. District 9 may represent all the reasons Austinites voted for 10-1 – a miniature reflection of its old self, predominantly Anglo, with a strong progressive streak.
Incumbents Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo are default frontrunners in the three-way race that includes Erin McGann, a program supervisor with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She shares many of the same views as her opponents, but hopes to attract voters who want a fresh face. "A large contingent of people don't like the way the city is going ... and feel they aren't heard by the City Council," she said.
Riley and Tovo each proclaim themselves "progressive" and both cite liberal voting records, but have fundamental differences on growth and development. Riley supports "New Urbanist" principles – more density and fewer automobiles, in keeping with millennials less inclined to drive. Tovo is the "voice of neighborhoods" whose longtime residents – many of whom came of age in the cultural wars of the Sixties and Seventies – are less inclined to welcome the forces driving the growth train in the central city.
Copyright © 2015 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.