Place 4 Run-Off Heats Up
Morrison and Galindo exchange accusations as election day approaches
A new fire flared up in the increasingly contested City Council run-off between Laura Morrison and Cid Galindo last Wednesday, when several Eastside community activists accused Galindo of furthering gentrification and unaffordable housing. The charge – that Galindo, in building a handful of Eastside condominium homes with City Bloc Development, was increasing taxes on existing Eastside neighbors and failed "to disclose his financial involvement with purchases and development of East Austin property while on the Planning Commission" – was unveiled in a press conference and press release. Read the release: "Many East Austin residence [sic] are being taxed out of their homes, due to the type of high price condo-type developments, like Mr. Galindo's City Bloc represents." Undersigned were Sabino Renteria, his sister Susana Almanza, and Daniel Llanes, all activists with People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (which joined with Morrison in opposing the move of the Town Lake Animal Center), as well as Ora Houston, Willie Mae Kirk, and Johnny Limon, the latter three all Morrison supporters.
"It's a bizarre charge," Galindo counters. "What I am doing is taking the rules that were established by the neighborhood so that there could be more affordable housing in the area," he says of the developments, close to the waterfront on Riverview and Haskell streets in the vicinity of the shuttered Holly Street Power Plant. By building two condominiums on one lot, Galindo says, the homes share property taxes, preserving affordability "in the face of rising real estate values in a neighborhood that is evolving. ... And I am using those affordability rules to build these projects. I am building green homes at the highest levels of green building standards, and I'm building under the McMansion Ordinance rules. So I am doing all three things that Laura Morrison has promoted as good things in her campaign, and I'm being attacked for that."
It's a sign Morrison's gone on the offensive after Galindo accused her of supporting a so-called "green tax," that would supposedly require expensive energy upgrades for people to sell their homes, and supporting the creation of a "$36 million city computer system" that could have made City Hall vulnerable to identity thieves – belabored references to Morrison's early support for making homes more energy efficient at point of sale and to her past support for the Open Government Online 2006 charter amendment, roundly defeated and unlikely to reappear.
Additionally, Morrison hammers a separate conflict-of-interest claim in a mailer accusing Galindo of standing to personally benefit from the future growth plan he's proposing. "By a strange coincidence, the 'Galindo Plan,' Cid's map for our future, calls for the City of Austin to develop a special suburban 'town center' of 50,000 people in the northeast – which would be located conveniently near Cid's own development project in Pflugerville." The project is the as-yet-unbuilt Pecan Street Plaza. "To insinuate that I have a conflict of interest because I have clients in Pflugerville is pretty ridiculous," Galindo says, calling the charge "baseless." Galindo says he owns no land in Pflugerville and therefore "would have nothing to gain from anything that would happen in a town center to that area, five years from now. I am a consultant to a landowner in Pflugerville to help them design a town center." Via e-mail, Morrison's campaign claimed that "this statement is not true," citing Pflugerville reports naming Galindo as the project's developer.
Meanwhile, both Galindo and Morrison filed their eight-day-out campaign finance reports last Friday; while Galindo leads in money raised over the last month – $88,950 to Morrison's $70,348 – Morrison has more cash on hand entering the home stretch – $18,569 to Galindo's $4,641. By electing to comply with the fundraising and spending limits of the Austin Fair Campaign Ordinance, which Galindo did not, Morrison collected a cool $66,543 from the city's Fair Campaign Finance Fund – the entire amount. (For more on the Fair Campaign Ordinance and its loophole, see "Naked City.")