The Daily Hustle: 1/26/11

Chris Riley campaign launches

Chris in the mix
Chris in the mix (Photo by Wells Dunbar)

The last 24 hours have seen buckets of ink spilled over words from Chris Riley.

But some 36 hours ago, at Riley's campaign kick-off, the only utterances were in support for his Place 1 re-election run, and offering policy prescriptions for the next three years.

The party, held by the stage at Threadgill's World Headquarters, saw some 200-plus participants churn through in the space of a few hours. Fellow council members were among the bold faced names in attendance – Sheryl Cole, Lee Leffingwell, Randi Shade and Bill Spelman, plus Mike Martinez, who introduced his next door neighbor on the dais – but also former mayor and fellow urbanist Will Wynn, who, decked out in a suit and tie, gave the Hustle some circa-2007 council flashbacks. Also in the house: zoning attorney Nikelle Meade, judges Charlie Baird and Tim Sulak, and many more.

Martinez, clutching a beer (and not being up for re-election this cycle, eligible to, he informed the audience), began by noting the shuffling of some staffers between his and Riley's office. Lauding their work, and other staffers in attendance, like Leffingwell's chief of staff Mark Nathan, he said “You all know this – those are the folks who do all the heavy lifting at City Hall.”

Martinez then described Riley as a “comrade, friend, and colleague,” noting that while “maybe you don't always agree” – reflecting their opposing votes on Water Treatment Plant No. 4, for instance – he and Riley are able to work together “not next week” after a disagreement, “not at the next meeting, but on the next agenda item,” something that's “unique and rare,” he said.

An avid environmentalist, Riley broached the topic of recycling immediately in his remarks. Citing the same “very basic issues” he hammered on his first Place 1 run – jobs, transportation, and “preserving Austin's character” – he said “I'm not gonna recycle the same old speech, but I am gonna be talking about largely the same things.”

The jobs situation, Riley said, was “more pleasant a subject” in Austin “than just about anywhere else in the country.” While stopping short of any specific proposals, he lauded Austin as “leading the United States out of the recession.” On transportation, he similarly touted “the most progressive transportation bond we've ever done in the history of Austin,” the 2010 bond package, but also spoke to his experience serving on the CAMPO board, and more pointedly, the Capital Metro board. “Cap Metro has been something of a saga, but I'm proud to say we really have turned the boat on that.” Despite “struggles in the past,” he continued, “under the leadership of chair Mike Martinez, we've really set a new course.”

That last plank of the platform – preserving Austin's character – “doesn't get quite as much attention from the public,” Riley said, but it “consumes a lot of our time.” Here, he mentioned the city's steps to address homelessness, and specifically, council-lead efforts to create 350 units of permanent supportive housing by 2014. “The Austin that we know and love is a city that's going to be mindful and attentive to the issues of the least fortunate among us,” he said.

He then ran down a laundry list of topics facing the new council: “A lot of issues at Austin Energy,” including the ongoing generation plan and rate case discussions; more transportation planning, including a 2012 bond election on urban rail; and what's been Riley's pet project on council, a form-based code zoning revamp of Airport Boulevard, which, he said, could “reinvent the way Austin deals with its major transportation corridors” and “accommodate population growth in a way that is sustainable, that suits the values of our community, and manages to preserve the very special small local business that make that corridor something of a special place already.”

Speaking to that project – but seemingly to his entire planning-happy tenure on council – Riley surmised “It's about doing better than we have at the things we've been weak at in the past – pedestrian and bike friendlessness, and making sure we live up to our standards.”

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