The Austin Chronicle

'Chronicle' Endorsement

Place 3 City Council run-off, June 18: Kathie Tovo

June 17, 2011, News

The Chronicle editorial board narrowly endorsed Kathie Tovo over incumbent Randi Shade in the general election, and nothing has happened since then to cause us to reverse that opinion for the run-off. While – as tends to be inevitable – the intervening campaigns have not been particularly edifying, that has not dampened turnout. Tovo continues to run against Formula One and rude emails instead of against her opponent, and after promising a campaign of "stark differences," Shade has drifted sideways into apparently unwinnable ethics complaints and "no growth" scare tactics. The narrowly targeted messages, alas, reflect the steady shrinkage of the Austin electorate; if you're shooting for 51% of 3% of the registered voters, there's not much need for you (or your consultants) to stretch your ideological wings to include the whole city.

To reprise: We've found Shade to be an energetic and wide-ranging council member, doing good and necessary work on social services, on clean energy, and on reforming the city's troubled historic zoning program. We were disappointed with her approach (with Chris Riley) to the Nathaniel Sanders II settlement, and we were split on her support for a new water treatment plant – just as voters are likely to split on whether it's a necessary infrastructure investment or a wasteful boondoggle. Regarding emailgate: Some of us found Shade's public and private personas at odds and occasionally misleading; others felt that the controversy has been overblown and is largely irrelevant to policy matters.

All of us applaud Tovo's dedicated public service on projects both official (Planning Commission, Austin ISD task forces) and unofficial, and we anticipate that if elected, she will bring much beneficial experience to council. Her ongoing efforts to keep open central city schools would be important council assets, as would her interest in inner-city development via affordable, family-friendly neighborhood initiatives. Some of us are concerned that her approach to neighborhood issues would grant too much power to traditional neighborhood groups that tend to see any urbanizing or densifying change as a threat to homeowners; others believe that city policy defaults too readily to developer interests and that Tovo's presence will be a bulwark against such encroachment.

In short, to repeat our original recommendation (posted in full online): While as a group we remain somewhat split on our judgments of both Shade and Tovo, our consensus remains that Tovo is narrowly the best choice in this race.

Election Day: Saturday, June 18

Polls are open 7am-7pm. On election day, you must vote in your precinct.

For a list of precinct locations: 238-VOTE or

Williamson County info: 512/943-1630 or

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