The Austin Chronicle

Sampson Opens Commissioner Campaign

By Michael King, October 2, 2015, 8:00am, Newsdesk

Before a small but encouraging crowd at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex Wednesday evening, contractor and consultant Arthur Sampson formally opened his campaign for Precinct 1 Travis County Commissioner, reiterating his pledge to be “responsive, respectful, and resourceful” for northeast county residents.

Sampson began by recounting his career, primarily as a project coordinator for the city, and also as an independent contractor and as a part-time constable and law enforcement officer (county, Manor and Elgin). He is particularly proud of his work on the new City Hall (“They put my name on a plaque, still in the building”), and emphasized his supervision of 20 miles of railroad track and 21 railroad crossings in the Precinct 1 area. “I have been doing the work in the eastern part of Travis County.”

Sampson noted his experience in law enforcement, at building affordable housing (“I’ve built houses out in the rural areas, and I’ve rented them to people who still live there”), and related projects, as underlying his qualifications to be County Commissioner. “People in Precinct 1 lack basic needs for a good quality of life,” he said, arguing that his candidacy represents the best chance to change that circumstance. He also said he would be fiscally responsible, maintain the county’s Triple A bond rating, and “eliminate wasteful spending.”

Nevertheless, Sampson also laid out a fairly ambitious series of projects and programs to improve conditions in Precinct 1. He wants to improve public safety response times, and make certain that all areas of the county – including outlying regions like the City of Webberville and Austin Colony – are covered sufficiently by Sheriff, Fire, and EMS response. He wants to expand rural bus service to connect and network with Capital Metro, and establish better road networks with better permanent maintenance rather than “quick fixes.” He would work with municipal utility districts to expand water and wastewater service to underserved areas, believing that MUDs can often do what the county cannot do directly.

While he acknowledged such plans will require cooperation from the county judge and other commissioners, he reiterated several times to his audience, “We can make this happen.”

Sampson also recommended “maximum fines” for such offenses as illegal dumping and illegal manufacturing runoff, and said he is committed to protect the precinct’s water resources and environment. He spoke as well of his experience in law enforcement as built on a philosophy of “always giving someone a chance to fix what was done wrong,” and committed to more peace officers dedicated to community policing. He reiterated plans to promote affordable housing – “in rural areas, where land is cheaper” – and economic development, including use of tax incentives that would require local training and hiring by incoming employers: “jobs for youth and the middle class.”

“I’ve been there and I’ve done that,” Sampson summarized, noting that his youth as the 10th of 11 children gave him a particular perspective and history in being an effective worker and advocate.

Asked after his talk whether he thought his ambitious programs might run counter to his concerns about frugal budgeting, Sampson said, “I believe the money’s already there,” and that it’s question of setting priorities, using the example of long-term road maintenance programs being more effective and cheaper in the long run than just repeated patching. This is his third run for commissioner (after runs in 2004 and 2012), but Sampson said he is not discouraged: “This is something that needs to be done.” Speaking of the dozen or so people attending the kickoff event, he said he knows that he will need to draw more people and more voters. “Now you’re talking about money,” he said. “And if needed, I will foot this [campaign] bill myself." He repeated, "This is something that needs to be done.”

The other declared candidates for the March Democratic primary election are attorney James Nortey, nonprofit president Richard Franklin, and city of Austin program administrator Jeff Travillion.

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