Running Solo (Almost)
With the late, late entry of Alyssa Eacono -- the former legislative aide who neatly encapsulates the phrase "token opposition" -- into the Place 3 race, Jackie Goodman was denied the rare opportunity, for an Austin city councilmember, to run unopposed. (It's only happened once in the 24 council races of this decade.) But the mayor pro tem still has a broad, straight path to her third term at the middle left -- an appropriate position -- of the dais.
So why is it that, in an election season crowded with new faces, nobody doesn't like Jackie Goodman? The incumbent chalks her near-walk up to her years in the Austin political trenches. "I've been involved for such a long time in so many civic issues -- from early childhood education, to education in general, to health and human services, land use, neighborhoods, civil liberties, social equity, parks and libraries -- that I've met a lot of people and worked for all of their issues. And I haven't dropped any causes off my list, so I still keep involved with all those people, and most of them seem to be happy with me. It's a positive way to be a public servant."
Goodman seeks a third term -- one that, contrary to popular suggestion, she denies ever saying she wouldn't seek -- as a more important player than one might have expected her to become. Right now, the entire city machinery seems to be focused on her targets. You might be able to conceive of Smart Growth without Jackie Goodman paving the way, but you'd probably get an even purer version of the top-down, go-getter flash and zeal-for-the-deal that has left so many Austinites scared and skeptical of the Watson Council and its civic religion. As the city now aims to redirect the Smart Growth juggernaut to more neighbor-friendly ends, Jackie is at the wheel.
Goodman does acknowl-edge that she thought she wouldn't have to run for a third term to get her programs -- like neighborhood planning and the Land Development Code rewrite -- established, "which was silly. Things are in motion, but there are a lot of details and components that still need to be shepherded through the process. ... I don't have a really good nutshell reason [for running again] but to finish what we started with everyone's interest in mind."
What Goodman helped get started, with the Citizens Planning Committee, back in her first term -- she now wants to see come to fruition in her last term, at least in this particular place, under the city charter's term limits. "If those things are instituted, it'll be difficult to undo them," she says. "People will see success. And we have to put our transportation resources and systems into place soon, or else the transportation crisis will destroy all that is good about Austin. Without the transportation element, much of Smart Growth will be much less productive, and possibly not work at all."
Well, yeah, that's what the more strident candidates elsewhere on the ballot are saying out on the trail -- although it's true that their idea of a "transportation solution" probably differs greatly from Goodman's. And the less confrontational challengers are also taking a page from Goodman's playbook, echoing her parallel focus on child care, health and human services, and other "people issues" that go beyond the environment and land use. So it makes some sense that none of these aspirants jumped into the Place 3 race.
"If I were watching someone else doing what I'm doing on the council," Goodman says, "I would be happy with the effort. I would vote for a council that chose to make growth work for us, and I assume I'm still Josephine Citizen at heart. If people think things are right enough to not mount a significant opposition challenge, then we owe them something for their trust."