The Austin Chronicle

Kitchen's Menu for a Better Austin

By Amy Smith, June 20, 2014, 2:55pm, Newsdesk

Former State Rep. Ann Kitchen launched her District 5 City Council campaign Tuesday evening at the Broken Spoke on South Lamar – an apt location for a candidate who focused her kickoff speech on the growing demands of a city in transition.

In this South Austin district, few things illustrate the rapid changes better than the iconic dance hall dwarfed by big, new developments along the busy boulevard.

To compensate for the venue’s considerably downsized dirt parking lot, the campaign sprang for valet parking for the some 200 supporters who turned out for the kickoff. At least the Lone Star on tap is still ice cold.

The crowd was thick with advocates for a wide range of causes, including affordable housing, health care, and neighborhood and environmental issues. Supporters also included Downtown developer Perry Lorenz, Downtown Austin Alliance executive director Charlie Betts, and County Court-at-Law Judge Nancy Hohengarten.

Kitchen is one of five candidates running in District 5, which starts on the north side of Lady Bird Lake and runs through much of Central South Austin and parts deeper south, including Onion Creek to the east. In this race, the former state rep, who is an active player in high-profile civic and community efforts, is widely considered the leading candidate.

The four other District 5 contenders include Dan Buda, a former chief of staff to state Sen. Wendy Davis; Jason Denny, a state employee with the General Land Office; Dave Floyd, an attorney with the law firm of DeLeon & Washburn P.C., and Mike Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran and retired financial advisor.

Kitchen was introduced by affordable housing advocate and UT Law faculty member Heather Way, Barton Hills Neighborhood Association President Tom Nuckols, and Onion Creek resident Jim Rodriguez, who serves as president and CEO of TexHealth Central Texas, which provides health coverage for small businesses. Kitchen chaired the board of this organization until recently. Rodriguez credited her leadership abilities for having “chartered the course” for TexHealth.

Like other City Council candidates, Kitchen is shaping her campaign theme around the city’s growing number of challenges like affordability and transportation, along with the other growing pains that come with being the 11th largest city in the nation.

“It is appropriate that we are here today at the Broken Spoke – a South Austin landmark that represents what’s old, what’s real, and what we love about our city. A place that’s is now surrounded by what is new and changing, on a street – South Lamar – that is in transition,” Kitchen said.

On traffic, Kitchen said the city should redouble its efforts on short-term projects. “Right now, we need lower cost, short-term congestion relief … while we tackle longer term solutions.” She cited several short-term examples: redesigning intersections, adding new bus routes, sidewalks, bike lanes, ride sharing, and flexible work options.

She vowed to ensure South Austin has a greater voice in mobility planning. “I’m prepared to be that voice,” she said.

Kitchen also added her support for revamping the city's growth policies. “We must do a better job of making growth pay for itself and stop the giveaways – stop using public incentives to subsidize development without receiving extraordinary community benefits in return,” she said.

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