May 3, 2003 Municipal Elections
Austin City Council
Mayor: Will Wynn Will Wynn is the clear choice among the field, even though we know quite well that we already have significant disagreements with him, on matters of both style and substance, that will surely return. He's been a competent and thoughtful council member -- necessary virtues in difficult times. He is also refreshingly frank about the hard budget choices facing the next council, that "gut-wrenching" decisions will have to be made this summer, and that neither painful taxes nor more painful layoffs can be ruled off the table.
But Wynn is also likely to be the first recourse of the business lobby in search of allies for the usual well-tailored suspects. When that happens -- whether the issue is real estate or reproductive rights -- our readers must join us yanking negotiations out of the back room.
We do not exactly recall Max Nofziger's nine years in office -- from 1987 to 1996 -- as an Austin golden age, and the fact that after 25 years in the public eye Nofziger is still something of a fringe candidate doesn't give us much confidence. Marc Katz's intriguing candidacy is diminished by his less-than-firm grasp of how the levers of power actually work at City Hall and his presumption that he can just pick that stuff up on the wing, and that is even more true of Brad Meltzer, who also proposes to run Austin "like a business." Government is not and should not be a business. In this race, Will Wynn is the best choice for Austin.
Place 2: Raul Alvarez
Place 6: Danny Thomas Incumbents Danny Thomas and Raul Alvarez have done good jobs, on balance, and have made clear that East Austin's issues are everybody's issues. (And vice versa.) They deserve re-election. At press time, Alvarez faces longtime El Concilio leader Gavino Fernandez, who's been in, out, and in again over the last few days, a pattern that unfortunately reflects the candidate's political history. Both are also facing challenges from Anglo Libertarians: Steven Adams in Place 2 and Wes Benedict in Place 6. We generally don't find ourselves endorsing Libertarians because they are almost invariably more ideological than pragmatic (delivering a dogmatic "less government" solution to virtually every issue).
Place 5: Margot Clarke
We believe Margot Clarke is the best candidate for this particular council in these particular times. We like her strong record of public service, and we expect her to apply that same sense of dedication to community values when making difficult council decisions. Clarke has spent the last six years working in the nonprofit arena, first as public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood and then as state director of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Not surprisingly, women's reproductive rights, public health, and environmental protection are high on her personal agenda, and these are values the council must maintain, even in a weak economy. Crucial to this council will be informed discussion rather than too-polite consensus. Clarke will be a strong, informed, independent voice.
Brewster McCracken, in his second run for the council, is a front-runner. On a Wynn council, however, we fear McCracken will too often simply echo the mayor. Carl Tepper, a member of the city's Urban Transportation Commission, is also formidable. The most pleasant surprise is Scott Marks, an affordable-housing advocate with strong progressive appeal, and we fully expect that Marks' debut race will not be his last. Grassroots activist Robert Singleton has been such an effective public advocate we wish he'd lose the tie and go back to doing what he does best. Jason Pate and Steve Swanson, both likeable and sincere, seem to lack grounding in City Hall operations.
Of the seven, Clarke is clearly the best current "fit" for Austin and for the next council.
Austin Community College
Prop. 1 (Raising the Maintenance Tax Cap): Yes
Prop. 2 (Bond Issue): Yes Just as we supported the failed 1999 attempt to raise ACC's tax cap, we urge your support for this year's measures, even in hard times. The current 5-cent rate is the lowest among Texas community colleges, unchanged since 1986. ACC is a vitally important part of Austin's infrastructure and has been wholly handicapped in its efforts to help solve problems that cannot be solved with an unrealistically low revenue stream. Moreover, extremely shortsighted state budget proposals call for further cuts -- like yanking faculty health insurance. ACC's capacities are already badly overstrained, and the community must step in when the state abandons its responsibilities. The ACC measure has two provisions: 1) to raise the tax cap gradually by 4 cents (over the next three years), and 2) to undertake a $99 million construction bond issue, underwritten by an additional 1-cent tax increase. These propositions are a tough sell, but Austinites should understand the importance of broad community access to education, a hard-fought citizen right under furious political and economic attack.
Polls are open 7am-7pm. For your neighborhood polling location and other voting information, call the county clerk's office, 238-VOTE (238-8683), or go to www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election.
Election Day is Saturday, May 3.
On the Ballot:
Austin MayorWill Wynn
Christopher N. Keating
Michael "Max" Nofziger
City Council, Place 6
Gavino Fernandez Jr.
City Council, Place 2
City Council, Place 5
Increasing the Austin Community College maintenance tax rate by an additional $0.02 above the existing $0.05 rate in 2004 and by an additional $0.01 in 2005 and an additional $0.01 in 2006.
ACC Prop. 1