May 4 Election Wrap-up
Aquifer District Gets GreenerThe Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District shifted to a 4-1 environmental majority Saturday with the re-election of the board president and a landslide victory for a political newcomer.
Craig Smith won a second four-year term on the board, representing South and Southwest Austin. The Austin attorney easily defeated opponent Felix Manka, a civil engineer with professional ties to development and water utility interests. Smith carried 71% of the vote in a race tinged with environment vs. development overtones. Manka collected most of his votes in his Southwest Austin neighborhood of Circle C, where he also had the endorsement of the political action committee.
Given the deep pockets of developers backing Manka, Smith printed about 1,000 campaign signs and volunteers staked them throughout the district. "Four years ago I won by 34 votes, so I took nothing for granted this year," Smith said at Threadgill's, victory party headquarters for City Council winners Jackie Goodman and Daryl Slusher.
First-time board candidate David R. Carpenter turned out to be the biggest surprise, however, with his stunning victory over 12-year board member Don Turner, who typically votes for big water suppliers. Both Carpenter and Turner are Air Force retirees, but that's where their common thread apparently ends. Though only 474 ballots were cast in the precinct that spans far south Travis County and a small portion of Hays, 351 of the votes went to Carpenter. "What we're seeing is a change in voting demographics in an area where people are now more interested in tougher environmental laws," said Carpenter, a scientist and currently a consultant with Karta Technologies in San Antonio. Turner's fate may have been sealed months before the election, when he voted in favor of a Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corp. request to triple the amount of water it draws from the Edwards Aquifer. The proposed increase drew strong opposition from residents in Turner's district, who feared their own water supply would dry up at the hands of Creedmoor-Maha. In the end, the board voted 3-2 to deny the request.
Carpenter joins three other green-friendly board members -- Smith, longtime board member Jack Goodman of Austin, and Jim Camp of Hays County. The new board makeup leaves only one development-leaning board member, Bill Welch, president and managing partner of Colliers Oxford Commercial.