June 14 City Council run-off
Place 4: Laura Morrison
As we pointed out in our initial endorsement, former Planning Commissioner Cid Galindo and former Austin Neighborhoods Council President Laura Morrison are highly experienced and very impressive candidates who have each worked directly with current council and staff on crafting workable city policy initiatives – indispensably, they both know their way around City Hall. The challenge for run-off voters will be to determine which of the two better represents the ideal future of the city.
We've now had several months of campaigning and additional information in order to compare the run-off candidates a little more closely. Morrison has been most broadly identified as the "neighborhoods" candidate, and in forums, we should note, she's been perhaps a little too willing to default to the given "neighborhood's" perspective – even when that perspective might clash with that of another "neighborhood" or, more broadly, the city as a whole. Galindo, by contrast, has represented himself primarily as the candidate with a "plan" – for managing and directing growth and anchoring Downtown with a lakeside "central park." On that subject, it's worth noting that the candidate now acknowledges that "the Galindo Plan" in fact grew out of several years of Planning Commission discussions and might be more precisely known as "the PC Plan." These quibbles acknowledged, both candidates are familiar with the sort of consensus process that in principle (if not always in practice) drives so much of city policy. In that context, it's been disheartening to see Morrison pillory the current council as inking dubious "deal after deal" in her advertisements. The dark towers on Lady Bird Lake and developers-as-devils imagery are misleading since – as a former task force chair familiar with the tribulations of bringing disparate interests together – Morrison should know better than to reduce complex issues like the redevelopment of the Green site to election-ready sound bites.
Yet overall, we've concluded that Morrison's solid engineering and business background make her a pragmatic, nuts-and-bolts choice to succeed the retiring budget-whiz, Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley. With her ANC background and experience, Morrison has listened thoughtfully to the concerns of Austinites in every part of town and helped them to advance their interests. She has earned a reputation for fairness, balance, and respecting multiple points of view. Under her leadership, ANC maintained its impassioned, inclusive activism (and increased the voice of Eastside neighborhoods) while curtailing its tendency to reactionary NIMBYism. Morrison's leadership on the city's McMansion task force as well as the Design Standards Mixed Use Ordinance demonstrated her talent for tailoring city policies to reflect valid citizen concerns.
Galindo espouses a comprehensive growth plan (which would contain sprawl along the SH 130 corridor), grounded in the principles he espouses in his (admittedly recent) New Urbanism consulting work, a perspective developed in his four years as a Planning commissioner. His self-proclaimed "independent" political affiliation and GOP history have caused backlash among orthodox Democrats, but in nonpartisan city elections, we're not terribly abashed by his lack of ideological purity. However, with a Downtown development-focused mayor, flanked by a largely deferential council, some of us question whether Galindo's primary focus on Downtown, development, and regional planning offers the right balance for this particular council.
In sum, as a consensus-builder who's generally strong on progressive issues, and possessing pragmatic experience across the entire city, Morrison represents the voters' best choice.