The Austin Chronicle


By The Chronicle Editorial Board, April 16, 1999, News

Place 1: Daryl Slusher

Place 3: Jackie Goodman

Place 4: Beverly Griffith

Vote. At its heart, that is our simple endorsement. It is your right and your responsibility. Every election we have determines our future. There is no time off for consistent behavior. Vote.

We are going into a City Council election that seems a sure thing. Despite the Circle C residents' threats and endless talk radio caterwauling, and, maybe, because of election campaign finance reform, it looks like the three incumbents will be re-elected.

Jackie Goodman has amazingly deep and loyal neighborhood support. Goodman can at times be easily overlooked, but don't be fooled by her mild manner. If it weren't for the battery of issues she has worked on, such as the formation of the Citizens Planning Committee a few years ago, the doorway to Austin's planning future might never have been unlocked.

Beverly Griffith has been the lone voice of loyal opposition to this council. To her credit, Griffith provides what passes for actual deliberation on the council dais. She's taken heat for it, but the fact that she asks us to think about issues is not a bad thing. Nor is her so-called single-issue"greenspace" agenda. It's refreshing to see someone hammer away at what will be tomorrow's big issue, particularly in the city center.

The surprise, perhaps, is that it looks like our former politics editor Daryl Slusher will be handily re-elected. If any of the incumbents faced strong opposition, we would have thought it would be Slusher, since he has been the strongest environmental force on council -- as when he was the lone vote last week against the Forum PUD deal. But Slusher has had a strong first term, and impressed even his opponents, we expect, with his thoroughness and attention to detail. (All of this, of course, depends on voter turnout on May 1. There could be some surprises out there.)

We think the main reason for the incumbents' probable re-election is that this council is doing such a great job. After years of bickering and meandering in council chambers, the current mayor and council have provided real leadership and vision. Given the context -- this council's huge ambition and relative unanimity -- it's inevitable that this election is seen less as individual races than as a referendum on the entire council. And that leads to our greatest hesitation about this endorsement: It's not so much about what the council has and hasn't done as about their increased tendency toward steamrolling their way along. Regrettably, we fear that a landslide win will only reinforce this, turn it into a mandate. And we are cautious about where, unchecked, this council will go.

Still, there is no way for the Chronicle not to endorse these three. And the fact is, this council's basic "Smart Growth" philosophy, if continued to its logical conclusion, is a winner. If there's a mandate to be given, let it be that: Having approved a rash of Smart Growth development, finish the job by realizing the infrastructure to support it. So despite our concerns about a landslide, we still think voter turnout is key. If they have the mandate, let's endorse them resoundingly and then ride them carefully.

There are some very difficult decisions to be made in the next few years, decisions which will affect Austin forever. We trust these people, but we are nervous because there is just so much in front of them. And some of this process is supposed to be difficult; intense dialogue helps achieve a better idea. Swiftly maneuvering high-dollar political packages through the process is expedient, but not always rational. Downtown representatives bragged to us that five months had been devoted to developing the Computer Sciences Corp. plan for downtown. Five months seems like a relatively short time to begin a pattern of redevelopment that will affect this city through the next century.

The business, development, and environmental communities have been brought together. Now the future is ours. City services, transportation, development patterns, new city agency efficiency, and a host of other mundane issues need to be tackled. This new alliance must be brought along by the council to tackle the less sexy, yet more serious, problems.

Back-handed compliment after back-handed compliment aside, we urge you to re-elect Jackie Goodman, Daryl Slusher, and Beverly Griffith to the Austin City Council.

We also urge you to turn out and vote. And if you disagree with us, this is your shot. Beat the drums for a big turnout.

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