May 4 Election Wrap-up
Place 3: Goodman Rolls"If a democracy is well-run," said Place 3 candidate Billy Sifuentes at East Austin restaurant Nuevo Leon on Saturday night, "you don't just let an incumbent go. Someone has to run against them to at least hold their feet to the fire."
In the end, that was about all challengers Sifuentes and Linda Curtis could manage against Jackie Goodman, who won her fourth consecutive term on the City Council with a clear mandate: 60% of the vote, compared to Sifuentes' 21% and Curtis' 12%. (Robin Stallings, despite withdrawing and supporting Goodman, got 7%.) Ultimately, the hardest part of the election for Goodman was getting the 18,263 signatures required by Austin's term-limits law for her to get on the ballot.
The closest the night came to drama was the release of early voting totals, showing Goodman at only 53%, raising the possibility of a run-off. Most observers called Goodman a shoo-in, but at the Threadgill's World HQ combined Goodman/Slusher victory parties, she actually looked worried, making no pretense of the normal bravado of political candidates. "When a lot of people are telling you that you have no problem, I get really, really nervous," she said later at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, where the votes were counted.
Once 22,902 voters had spoken in her favor, however, all that remained was to check her soles for any singe marks.
"I want her to look at stopping the city from giving tax money to companies that are coming here anyway," Sifuentes said. "And at what we can do to help places like this [Nuevo Leon]. My second issue with her is that she needs to be more vocal on things that matter. Not just the Austin Music Network, but potholes. The environment is just on radar screens over there [the Westside]. Over here, what's on the radar screens is crime, crime, crime," said the retired police officer.
Curtis, also a tireless activist for reform of the political process, said of her supporters, "They're voting against the incumbents and against downtown, and I'll do anything possible to break up the downtown club. I've been talking to people all over town for 10 years, Republicans and independents as well as progressive Democrats ... and I listened to them today. They think the budget is a mess and the incumbents have no excuse for it. ... Maybe we can teach these incumbents what they need to do ... and if they don't do it, they'll have the worst fucking three years of their life. I guarantee it."
Incumbent Goodman defended the council and her record. "We were looking at different kinds of initiatives for the Eastside, things like this," she said of the Millennium Complex. "That's really where we focused. There is always in the back of everybody's mind the thought that what you do for large business has to be commensurate with what you do for small business, they're really the backbone. In the economy that we've just had, the focus was on the bigger, larger-than-life, corporations that were doing so well. And that was a distraction. All of our resources [were] making those high-profile initiatives happen. The downturn put a stop to that." Goodman disputed Sifuentes' claim that the initiatives went to incoming companies, and said they went to redirect companies already here into the desired development zone.
As for Curtis' persistent complaints about the process, "I'm not sure what that means exactly," Goodman said. "My office, for instance, has always been very much a constituent-based office. And in fact, part of the reason why I can't meet with some people is because I'm meeting with other people. That's also a good argument for single-member districts [Prop. 3, which failed]. There's just too many folks who want your ear, and need your help, and there are not enough hours in the day."