The Austin Chronicle

It's Your City Council!

By Michael King, April 13, 2012, News

Place 5: Battle Royal

Incumbent Bill Spelman was unopposed in his 2009 election (he served an earlier term from 1997 to 2000), and he jokes that karma is now biting back. This race features no fewer than six challengers – which may have less to do with Spelman's specific record than the "gentlemen's agreement" informally reserving Places 2 and 6 for minority candidates. Judging from the early organizational endorsements, there appears to have been some backlash over specific Spelman votes (e.g., reluctant support for continuing WTP4; opposition to moving city elections to November).

Not all the challengers appear equally qualified or even serious. Self-described anarchist and Occupier John F. Duffy expressly prefers neighborhood "general assemblies" to representative government. It seems not to have occurred to film art director David Conley that filing for public office creates certain expectations: e.g., a campaign. R.A. "Bo" Prudente says he decided to run in part to motivate himself to vote, a task he has generally neglected.

Spelman remains the presumptive favorite, although a race with seven candidates raises the likelihood of a run-off. The challengers with the best chance to make a second round are Dominic Chavez and Tina Cannon. Chavez has been visibly active in Republican and local conservative politics, most notably with Austinites for Action, and outpolled Spelman (46%-35%) in the Real Estate Council of Austin straw poll. Newcomer Cannon, a small-business owner and "entrepreneur in residence" at Texas State University, has been a Democratic precinct chair and garnered 18% in the RECA poll. Spelman continues to collect most of the endorsements.

Bill Spelman*

Basic Profile Professor of applied math, urban policy, and public management at LBJ School, UT-Austin; executive director of Texas Institute for Public Problem Solving (training officers in community policing); has served two terms on City Council

Major Issues Addressing traffic congestion; dealing with drought; economic transition for better sustainability; planning for strong population growth

Major Endorsements Central Labor Council, Austin/Travis EMS Employee Assn., League of Bicycling Voters, Clean Water Action, Network of Asian Amer­ican Organizations, Capital Area Asian American Democrats, Central Austin Dems, Capital Area Progressive Dems, Stonewall Dems, Austin Environmental Dems, West Austin Dems, South Austin Dems, Black Austin Democrats

Quote "So long as we're smart about it, keeping Austin weird isn't just a semi-cool slogan. It's a key to survival."

John F. Duffy

Basic Profile Self-identified anarchist, former documentary film producer; active in Occupy Austin; working toward an Austin "in which food forests and small acreage farms exist in every neighborhood, parks are full of community operated gardening initiatives, and unused public buildings and lands have been converted into cooperatives for community residence, activity, and food production."

Major Issues "Community, environment, autonomy, sustainability"; opposes representative government, capitalism, any use of debt (bonds); considers cities unsustainable

Major Endorsements Texans for Accountable Government

Quote "My promise is not of hope, but an attempt at mitigation, at buffering Austin against inevitable decline as best as is possible."

John A. Rubine

Basic Profile Ten-year Austin resident; "hospitality professional"

Main issues Geographic districts; increasing voter turnout; "transparent, accountable and principled government"; opposes Comprehensive Plan

Major Endorsements None as of press time

Quote "I will bring principled government back to the Austin City Council."

R.A. "Bo" Prudente!/robert.prudente1

Basic Profile Fifth-generation Texan; political independent; Captial Metro transportation safety professional, in the industry since 1973.

Major Issues Water and electricity conservation and rising rates

Major Endorsements None as of press time

Quote "By making the right decisions, Austin could be the Mecca of Central Texas, as well as the rest of the state."

Audrey "Tina" Cannon

Basic Profile Austin resident since 1993; entrepreneur of several start-ups, including PetsMD; currently entrepreneur-in-residence at Texas State University; former EMT, financial auditor, and fraud examiner

Major Issues Working toward a "healthy economy with balanced priorities" (environment, schools, dense development); protecting core services; job creation; sustainable economy

Major Endorsements None as of press time

Quote "My goal in serving on Austin City Council is to be a voice of reason ... listening to all sides of an issue from developers to neighborhood groups."

Dominic "Dom" Chavez

Basic Profile Director for External Relations, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; government affairs professional; Iraq War veteran; former NA president (Castlewood-Oak Valley)

Major Issues Austin Energy rates (opposes rapid push for renewables); workforce development through education; public safety; strongly opposes urban rail and bundled bond propositions (e.g., Town Lake Boardwalk)

Major Endorsements None as of press time

Quote "I'm committed to making sure our community stays affordable, safe, and thriving. "

David Y. Conley

Basic Profile Austin resident since 1994; art director working in film production; bachelor's degrees in architecture and architectural engineering (UT)

Major Issues Improving multimodal transportation; residential and commercial property tax exemptions; gas tax rebate; design and zoning reform for "green mixed use"

Major Endorsements None as of press time

Quote "I would support a repeal of the current under-18 helmet law [and] the seat belt law. I don't care what you do to yourself; just don't run me over."

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