Commissioner Race Heats Up

Shea formally announces her candidacy for Pct. 2

Brigid Shea
Brigid Shea (by Jana Birchum)

At her campaign kickoff for Travis County Commissioner June 15, Brigid Shea sounded a familiar theme about an important natural resource: Water. It’s familiar because Shea has spent most of her adult life involved in water-protection issues.

And, in keeping with the dry times, she’s pledging as part of her platform to address the dwindling supply of water and to work toward developing a countywide conservation and drought management plan.

Shea, according to her prepared remarks, acknowledged that the job description of the Commissioners Court does not include “protect our water resources” – indeed the court by law has a narrow scope: roads, taxes, and jails – but local leaders should nonetheless take steps toward developing a comprehensive water roadmap, she said.

The former City Council member and 2012 mayoral candidate is running for the open Precinct 2 seat that former Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt vacated to run for county judge. It’s still early in the campaign season but the Pct. 2 race is already shaping up to be a competitive three-way (to date) contest that includes candidates Garry Brown and Richard Jung. Until last year, Brown served as chief of staff to former Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber and now handles public relations for Travis County Constable Sally Hernandez. Jung is an immigration lawyer and more recently served on a City Council-appointed task force that devised the voter-approved 10-1 representation plan that will be put to its first test in next year’s Council election. (Jung favored the 8-2-1 ballot proposal.) The attorney said he’ll formally announce his candidacy in late summer or early fall. Brown officially launched his bid at an April fundraiser.

Shea got her campaign underway at the North Austin home of Bill Glass, giving props to the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods for working with the Austin Police Department to crack down on the drug-and-prostitution trade in the area and for its efforts to preserve the creeks and greenways in the neighborhoods.

Shea is best known for her environmental work and in the early Nineties was a founder of what was then the Save Our Springs Coalition, which launched the grassroots campaign that led to voter passage of the 1992 SOS water-quality protection ordinance.

Citing the growing threat of drought-induced wildfires in the county, Shea also vowed to work on disaster prevention and preparedness measures. “We have all the talent and skill in Travis County to design a model program,” she said. “We can both preserve our natural resources and keep our residents safe."

Perhaps in reference to the controversial plan to build State Highway 45 across environmentally sensitive land in Southwest Austin, Shea cited the need for “new and imaginative solutions” to address traffic congestion. Commissioners could reverse a previous vote to withdraw support for the road. The vote to withdraw support contributed in part to Huber losing reelection last year to Gerald Daugherty. Daugherty supports building SH 45, as does County Judge Sam Biscoe and interim Commissioner Bruce Todd, who Biscoe appointed to serve out the remainder of Eckhardt’s term.

Finally, Shea pledged to reform a “broken property tax system [that has] put an undue burden on homeowners and small businesses. Residential property appraisals have more than doubled in the recent decade, causing homeowners’ tax bills to go through the roof,” she said. “The process is broken and I will make it my business to fix it.”

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Brigid Shea, Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 2, Richard Jung, Garry Brown, Sam Biscoe, Sarah Eckhardt, Bruce Todd, Gerald Daugherty, water, State Highway 45, March 2014 Election

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