'Chronicle' Endorsements

May 9 municipal election (early voting, April 27-May 5)

Mayor: Lee Leffingwell

When the mayoral race was first being handicapped last year, it didn't appear the central issue would be how to survive the economic bust. Now that problem is front and center – and of the five candidates running, only City Council incumbents Lee Leffingwell and Brewster McCracken have direct experience in handling and adjusting city budgets, programs, and staffing. We seriously considered both candidates, and on balance, our endorsement goes to Leffingwell. We believe he has been the most reliable and thoughtful advocate for protecting core city services and those policies indispensable to citizens' quality of life: social services, environmental protection, neighborhood programs, public outreach.

Leffingwell's willingness and ability to work patiently with disparate interest groups – as well as his council colleagues – has broken policy logjams and moved the city forward on water conservation, redevelopment, public safety, and other issues. We haven't agreed with him on every issue, but he listens very well and seriously considers all public input, including opposing viewpoints. His mandate will also include being an inspiring, forward-thinking leader; he will need to use wisely the "kitchen cabinet" he proposes, in order to generate fresh ideas, solutions, and public energy.

McCracken offers often more visible enthusiasm and an emphasis on creative, enterprising projects (especially related to clean energy – the city should ask him to continue facilitating the Pecan Street Project). During his six years on council, McCracken has governed more wisely than we would have predicted from his campaigns and has accomplished important ongoing initiatives. But he remains too often a creature of his enthusiasms. His too common "flipping" on substantive issues (toll roads, the urgency of rail transit, etc.) has burned the trust of many former supporters and colleagues – thus his nearly total lack of group endorsements this time around. Indeed, his consistent flaw has been his inconsistency, as his enthusiasms outstrip his judgment.

The Chronicle board discussion of the candidates even suggested an apt and double-edged analogy: "Right now, who do you want in charge of city policy, your stodgy but reliable dad or your energetic younger brother?" We've opted strongly for the former.

We would add, for the record and as a warning to voters, that either Leffingwell or McCracken would be leagues above former Mayor Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Austin's most prominent political chameleon. The radical city budget cuts she favors show little concern for less fortunate citizens or preserving progressive city initiatives – which she casually dismisses as unnecessary – and her notion of governance is locked into a decades-old perspective of leaving the good ol' boys and girls in charge. Strayhorn has become the default candidate of those who would unthinkingly slash spending, trash programs, and turn the clock backward to small-town governance and real estate interests.

Progressive voters should certainly not take this election for granted – with five candidates in the race, and Strayhorn's old guard waiting in the wings, turnout will be crucial. We encourage our readers to vote, in early voting, beginning April 27, or on election day, May 9 – and to vote for Lee Leffingwell for mayor.


Place 1: Chris Riley

We've said before that the Place 1 race provides a good argument for a larger City Council – both candidates are strong, and the city would benefit (as it already has) from their leadership. But voters must make a choice, and our endorsement goes to Chris Riley as the more broadly experienced candidate with extensive, specific knowledge of city programs, as well as applied progressive credentials that he can bring to the council on his first day. Riley has worked on urban planning, environmental protection, mass transit, affordable housing, and a host of other city programs, and on the stump he has articulated general or specific knowledge of virtually every city program and most city neighborhoods, through his neighborhood association and boards and commissions experience. We believe that he'll be a great addition to the council on a whole range of issues and that his experience at working with a wide range of city groups demonstrates he can collaborate to get things done.

Perla Cavazos has also been a breath of fresh air on the campaign trail, and she has legislative experience as well as serving a term on the city Planning Commission. Her personal background enables her to see city life from a perspective uncommon on the dais. When she discusses mass transit and "affordable housing," Cavazos speaks for families who measure transportation and housing affordability from paycheck to paycheck, not in the euphemistic terms of "median family income." Moreover, as a Hispanic woman, she ably represents a demographic segment of the city finally coming into its own for leadership and power. All this acknowledged, we believe her experience does not yet match in breadth or depth that of her opponent. We expect she will continue contributing to the city and broadening her experience, and we encourage her to return to the council contests before too long.


Place 2: Mike Martinez

In his three-year tenure, Mike Martinez has been a proactive and no-nonsense City Council member who speaks his mind to all audiences and yet has demonstrated his willingness to listen to everyone. He has been a leader on such contentious issues as deeply affordable housing and the oft-debated single-member districts and has adapted his proposals to opposition yet has not been discouraged by it. He has been engaged with ongoing plans for the Eastside Homestead Preservation District, and in serving on the Capital Metro board, he has both pushed for progressive changes and spoken his mind frankly about agency problems. Martinez is the "go-to" council member for many everyday citizen and is bluntly honest about what the city is able to achieve within its means and what still needs doing. A powerhouse in combat, in his second term he needs to demonstrate equal effectiveness in leading on collaborative solutions that don't involve a fight.

Martinez has received only token opposition from challenger Joe Quintero, the standard-bearer of one tiny, disgruntled neighborhood group.


Place 5: Bill Spelman

While we traditionally do not issue formal endorsements in uncontested races, we note that former Council Member Bill Spelman (1997-2000) has been diligent and engaged on the campaign trail, and that bodes well for his return to the dais. We expect he'll be a considerable asset to the new council.


Place 6: Sheryl Cole

Asked about her accomplishments on the council, Sheryl Cole points to her work leading the Waller Creek Project, sponsoring the Barton Springs Master Plan, supporting affordable housing for transit-oriented developments, and expanding social services, as well as initiating the closing of the notorious Chester's Club. She has also done urgent and thankless work chairing the Audit and Finance Committee – she expressly sees herself as the financial successor to retired Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley – and credits her financial and legal experience for slowing some of the other members' more expansive enthusiasms, whether direct supervision of the city attorney (which she opposed) or the new biomass purchase (which she supported after additional scrutiny). She's also been an effective peacemaker on more than one occasion when tempers were flaring. That said, she's had a hard time garnering some group endorsements, perhaps because she is sometimes perceived as either too passive or too willing to compromise public values on behalf of economic development. Her response: "We need development to sustain the city, keep residential taxes low, and to support the things we most want to do." In her second term, we hope Cole chooses to become a more vocal and assertive leader – rather than staying in her comfort zone working quietly behind the scenes.

Cole is opposed by Sam Osemene, a theoretical libertarian who has articulated little about actual city policy other than generic budget-cutting and a suspicion of "lobbyists," while launching gratuitous personal attacks on the incumbent. It's unfortunate Cole didn't draw a stronger opponent – a fact that speaks to the establishment support she enjoys – as it could have required her to highlight her achievements, defend her record, and propose some measurable goals for her second term.

We believe Cole has been a competent if not dazzling council member, and we urge voters to support her for re-election.


May 9 General and Special Elections
(Early Voting, April 27-May 5)

You may vote at any early-voting location, as long as it's in the county in which you are registered. On election day, voters must vote in their precincts. Get a list of precinct locations by calling 238-VOTE or visiting www.traviscountyelections.org.

For Williamson Co. info: www.wilco.org/elections or 943-1630. For Hays Co. info: www.elections.co.hays.tx.us or 393-7310.


EARLY-VOTING LOCATIONS

Early-voting polls are open Monday-Saturday, 7am-7pm, and Sunday, noon-6pm, unless noted otherwise.


CENTRAL


Travis County Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe

Fiesta, 3909 N. I-35

University of Texas, Flawn Aca­dem­ic Center Lobby, West Mall

Goodwill, 701 Newman (Mon.-Sat., 10am-7pm; Sun., noon-6pm)

Travis County Offices, 5501 Airport


EAST


Parque Zaragoza Rec. Ctr., 2608 Gonzales (Mon.-Fri., 10am-7pm; Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., closed)

Northeast Health Center, 7112 Ed Bluestein Blvd. (Springdale Ctr.)


NORTHEAST


MT Supermarket, 10901 N. Lamar, Bldg. G, China­town Ctr. (Mon.-Sat., 10am-7pm; Sun., noon-6)

County Tax Office, 15822 Foothill Farms Loop, Pflugerville

Goodwill, 1015 Norwood Park Blvd. (Mon.-Fri., 8am-7pm; Sat., 9am-7pm; Sun., noon-6pm)


NORTH


Ben Hur Shriners Hall, 7811 Rockwood

Round Rock ISD Performing Arts Center, 5800 McNeil Dr. (Mon.-Sat., 7am-7pm; Sun., closed)


NORTHWEST


Randalls, 10900-D Research

H-E-B, 7301 FM 620 N.*


SOUTH


H-E-B, 2400 S. Congress*

Randalls, 2025 W. Ben White


SOUTHEAST


Dan Ruiz Library, 1600 Grove (Mon.-Thu., 10am-7pm; Sat., 10am-5pm; Fri., Sun., closed)

Fiesta, 5510 S. I-35


SOUTHWEST


Randalls, 6600 MoPac S.

Randalls, 9911 Brodie


WEST


Randalls, 3300 Bee Caves Rd.

Randalls, 2301 RR 620 S., Lakeway

Bee Cave City Hall, 4000 Galleria Pkwy.

* Temporary building in parking lot


MOBILE VOTING


MONDAY, APRIL 27

Travis Building, 1701 Congress, 8am-6pm

Sam Houston Building, 201 E. 14th, 8am-6pm

Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, 500 E. Seventh, 8-11am

Northwest Rural Community Center, 18649 FM 1431 Ste. 6-A, Jonestown, 9am-6pm

Parsons House, 1130 Camino la Costa, 1-3pm


TUESDAY, APRIL 28

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, first floor, 9am-6pm

Manor ISD Admin. Bldg., 312 Murray, 9am-6pm

Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd., 10am-6pm

Loyalton of Austin, 5310 Duval Rd., 10am-1pm

Englewood Estates, 2603 Jones Rd., 3-5pm


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29

LBJ Building, 111 E. 17th, 8am-6pm

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, first floor, 9am-6pm

Manor ISD Admin. Bldg., 312 Murray, 9am-6pm

Brighton Gardens, 4401 Spicewood Springs Rd., 9am-noon

Heritage Park Center, 2806 Real, 2-5pm


THURSDAY, APRIL 30

Austin State Hospital, 4110 Guadalupe, 7am-4pm

Southwest Key Program, 6002 Jain, 9am-6pm

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 9am-6pm

RBJ Residential Tower, 21 Waller, 9am-noon

Lakeside Senior Center, 85 Trinity, 2-5pm


FRIDAY, MAY 1

Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second, 9am-6pm

Dell Children's Hospital, 4900 Mueller Blvd., 9am-5pm

Del Valle ISD Administration Building, 5301 Ross Rd., 9am-6pm

Heatherwilde Assisted Living, 401 S. Heatherwilde Blvd., Pflugerville, 9am-noon

Heritage Pointe, 1950 Webberville Rd., 2-5pm


Austin City Council

Mayor

Lee Leffingwell

Carole Keeton Strayhorn

Brewster McCracken

Josiah James Ingalls

David Buttross

Place 2

Mike Martinez

Jose Quintero

Place 5

Bill Spelman

Place 6

Sheryl Cole

Sam Osemene

Place 1, Unexpired Term

Chris Riley

Perla Cavazos


Also on the Ballot in Travis Co.

City Council seats in Bee Cave, Cedar Park, Lakeway, Leander, Pflugerville, Rollingwood, Round Rock, Sunset Valley, Village of the Hills, and Volente

School board seats in Del Valle, Eanes, Lake Travis, Leander, Round Rock school districts

Sales-tax authorizations in Bee Cave, Sunset Valley, and East Travis Gateway Library District

Creation of the Anderson Mill Limited District

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