City Council districts 1 and 2
This week we're proud to kick off our first- and last-ever 10-1 City Council forum series, Ballot Boxing, produced and sponsored by the Chronicle, the Austin Monitor, KUT-FM, Univision, and KXAN-TV. For more information, including how to RSVP to attend, plus listings of other forums, see the Elections pages at austinchronicle.com/election.
You can watch all the forums live on KXAN-TV or Univision, or listen at KUT-FM.
District 17pm Monday, Sept. 8
Wesley United Methodist Church
1164 San Bernard
District 1 is the designated "African-American opportunity district," anchored in central East Austin and drawn in principle to enable African-American voters a decisive voice. The best-known candidates are retired civil servant Ora Houston, neighborhood association leader DeWayne Lofton (who ran for Council in 2006), and city commissioner Andrew Bucknall (who ran in 2005). Thus far, Houston has garnered the most organizational endorsements, but it's a crowded field (nine contenders in all), now including very late filers Michael Cargill (gun shop owner) and engineer George Hindman, both conservatives in what is likely a liberal district, and both having run unsuccessfully for office before (Cargill for County Constable, Hindman for Congress).
Houston has placed her campaign emphasis on affordability, specifically advocating ways to encourage "workforce housing" and various forms of property tax limits on older and poorer residents. Lofton advocates a multimodal transportation system, and on affordability supports the creation of a District 1 Homestead Preservation District. Bucknall also supports a preservation district, a city homestead exemption on property taxes, "multi-mode" transportation, and better public safety practices, primarily community-based policing.
Arts advocate Valerie Menard is running in part to test whether District 1 (43% Hispanic residents, 28% African-American) might in fact be a Hispanic choice district; she's also promoting the long-promised full completion of the Mexican American Cultural Center. The also-runnings include perennial candidate Sam Osemene, a small-business owner and Austin Community College government professor, who has primarily emphasized public safety ("giving the Austin Police Department the resources they need"). Restaurant manager Chris Hutchins filed, he says, when none of the other candidates offered sufficiently practical solutions to local affordability issues, especially for rising housing costs. As he has campaigned before (2011), real estate investor Norman Jacobson is emphasizing a single issue, "poisoned water" – arguing that the city's water fluoridation is literally killing residents. – Michael King
District 27pm Wednesday, Sept. 10
Dove Springs Recreation Center
The city's most southeast district has an early front-runner in Delia Garza, an assistant state attorney general, who filed for office in late July. The former firefighter (Local 975) has focused her campaign on transportation, affordability, equity, and environmental protection, and has won a number of endorsements, including Central Labor Council, Capital Tejano Democrats, Workers Defense Action Fund, Travis County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Association PAC, Austin Firefighters Association, and Austin Police Association PAC. She's spoken out in support of new flood-prevention methods for Dove Springs and Onion Creek neighborhoods flooded by heavy rains over the past year, and recently said she opposes the transportation bond, local Proposition 1. "I so wanted to promote rail ... but after looking at the Project Connect vision, it has really ignored South Austin. I just can't in good conscience support something that I don't think is going to bring any relief to District 2, and is going to cost those working families more money," she said at a recent Austin Environmental Democrats meeting.
Edward Reyes is best known for his work as president of the Dove Springs Neighborhood Association. He campaigned informally for quite a while before filing on deadline day, and has been adamant about promoting public safety and crime control, affordability, and road transportation. Reyes has little political experience – he runs A. Reyes Tree Service – and his website still holds placeholder text on a few important pages, but he's marketed himself as a strong community organizer who believes families and engaged neighborhoods are what can sustain the district's future.
Also filing on Aug. 18 was Mike Owen, a Coca-Cola technician whose most prominent political presence online is a GoFundMe.com page declaring the 43-year-old in favor of a city run "by hard-working people and not by lawyers and politicians." "I believe government is out of control at every level," he's written. "While we are hard at work they, the politicians, are busy trying to figure out more ways to tax, fee, and fine us out of our middle class way of life." Perhaps that's why Owen has failed to vote in past elections, and is not registered to vote.
Yet Owen's dossier runs thicker than that of the fourth candidate John C. Sheppard, the 42-year-old real estate broker at Austin Home Source who also filed on the final day, maintains basically no online identity, and won't return our calls. All the more reason to show up to the Dove Springs Rec Center next Wednesday – to see who this guy is.
D3: Mon., Sept. 15 The North Door
D4: Wed., Sept. 17 Marchesa Theatre
D5: Mon., Sept. 22 ACC South Austin
D6: Tue., Sept. 23 Alamo Lakeline
D8: Mon., Sept. 29 Alamo Slaughter
D7: Thu., Oct. 2 Alamo Village
D9: Mon., Oct. 6 KUT Studio 1A
D10: Wed., Oct. 8 LCRA Headquarters
Mayor: Wed., Oct. 15 KUT Moody Auditorium