City Hall Hustle: Tall and Short Stacks of Money

The biggest chunk of change is fueling Place 3 race

More than just a measure of a candidacy's financial health, campaign finance reports are also a window into the citizens and constituencies candidates have tapped into – not to mention their pocketbooks. That's certainly true in the Place 3 showdown between incumbent Randi Shade and Kathie Tovo. According to her 30-days-out campaign finance report filed April 14, Shade had raised more than $98,600 since the start of the year; coupled with previous contributions, she's left with about $106,000 going into election day. Her donors in this last fundraising round include a mix of boldface names: developer Larry War­shaw, publicist Jeff Hahn, Zach Theatre Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley, Planning Commissioner Dave Sullivan, veteran council appointee and Zoning and Platting Commission Chair Betty Baker, former Council Member Brewster McCracken, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Tovo was a late entrant into the race, and so bolstered her fundraising with a self-loan of $40,000. Combined with her campaign's fundrasing, Tovo's haul heading to election day tops $70,000. Her contributors include many from Austin's activist and neighborhood community: Planning Commissioner Danette Chimenti, the Save Our Springs Alliance's Colin Clark, the Heritage Society's Mandy Dealey, the Sierra Club's Roy Waley, ChangeAustin.org's Brian Rodgers, and Shade's email enemy Robin Rather.

Max Nofziger, the former council member also vying for Place 3, has run a shoestring campaign, reporting $1,865 raised, with about $1,600 left. His contributions include $350 from Brian Rod­gers as well as the maximum $700 from anti-rail activist Jim Skaggs and his wife, Betty.

Libertarian marijuana decriminalization advocate Kris Bailey reports approximately $1,400 both raised and spent.

In Place 1, incumbent Chris Riley has the undisputed cash advantage, reporting roughly $57,000 raised this year and $34,000 spent, with some $61,500 remaining. He lists contributions from all of the public safety unions, the Building Owners and Managers Association, environmentalist and Electric Utility Commission veteran Shudde Fath, and Green Doors Director Frank Fernandez, among others.

Riley's opponent, Roger Chan, has collected about $3,400 so far, with almost $2,700 of that left. He, too, collected $700 from the Skaggs household, as well as $350 from transportation bond opponent Dominic Chavez.

Long-shot candidate Josiah Ingalls has raised a total of $79, while anti-fluoridation candidate Norman Jacobson reported no dollars raised or spent in his week-late filing.

Over in Place 4, incumbent Laura Morrison raised just over $43,000 last period, with more than $59,000 cash on hand (though she still owes herself more than $30,000 from her initial campaign). Her contributors include the public safety unions, the Board of Realtors PAC, SOS' Bill Bunch, former Council Member Jennifer Kim, and former state rep and health care advocate Ann Kitchen.

Opponent Toby Ryan raised $14,500 and reports having just over $4,400 left. He reports a rosy $350 contribution from Sixth Street bar owner and TV's The Bachelor Brad Womack, along with contributions from four other Womacks. He also cites performances from band Alpha Rev as in-kind donations. Fellow Place 4 challenger Eric Rangel reports raising about $1,200, and spending some $3,900 during the reporting period (the deficit apparently coming from his own pocket), with less than $300 heading into election day.

This Week in Council

And while we're on the subject: At its meeting this week (Thursday, April 28), City Council is expected to pave the way for big changes at the ballot box.

Agenda Item 48 asks the city manager to draft amendments for council consideration in 90 days on a wide variety of initiatives: drawing districts representing the mayor's preferred 6-2-1 single-member district/at-large scenario (with map included); creating a redistricting commission to re-examine districts after each census; moving city elections from May to November; lengthening council terms from three to four years and ending the "staggering" of council elections; a variety of changes to campaign finance (doubling current campaign contribution limits for at-large races, increasing officeholder accounts, and more); and several changes to the city's governance, with several appointments taken away from the city manager. All in all, it's similar to measures Leffingwell has described previously (see "The Single-Member Situation," Feb. 25), though there are some timing issues; given that charter elections are allowable only once every two years, if local activists collect enough signatures to put their own larger SMD proposal on a ballot this year, that could delay any additional charter vote until 2013.

A press release announcing Item 48 says that while Leffing­well "continues to support November 2012 as the date of the next city charter election" – and the item's 90-day deadline backs that up – "he would consider moving ahead sooner if there were strong community sentiment in favor of doing so." But, he goes on, "If we hold this election in November of 2011, it will come at significant cost to Austin taxpayers – at least $500,000 and possibly more. ... If we hold it in May of 2012, which we could do at no added cost to taxpayers, it could raise a question of fairness. That is, would it be fair to put such far-reaching reforms before an electorate that typically comprises fewer than 15% of registered voters?"

It's all in the timing ....


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

City Council election, campaign finance, Randi Shade, Kathie Tovo

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