Ten Districts, Many Visions
Candidates building the road to 10-1 work to define Austin's new civic order
District 5: Politically Active
From Zilker, Westgate, and Barton Hills, southward around Sunset Valley, District 5's narrow pattern incorporates Onion Creek to the east, and nearly touches the Hays County line. Drawn around South Lamar and Manchaca, the area is about 23 square miles, and incorporates two versions of Austin – established residential neighborhoods in the northern part, and newly developed strip malls and commercial outlets further south.
As elsewhere in the city, affordability, transportation, and public safety are the priorities. As South Lamar becomes increasingly developed, residents have grown concerned with growing traffic and the ability of developers to work with existing infrastructure. Most of the 80,000 residents are homeowners, rooted for decades in "Old Austin" Zilker and Barton Hills, or newly planted in the subdivisions along Manchaca. Candidates want to show they can respond to needs across the district, and specifically give voice to the more rapidly growing southern tip. Some candidates say that southern residents complain of neglect by City Hall, and are running to fill that gap. Most advocate better public transportation – e.g., expanded bus routes to the south. As for pedestrians: The state of sidewalks, commented another, is "appalling."
After last year's Onion Creek flood, emergency preparedness and flood control is also fresh on residents' minds. All the candidates have sharply criticized City Hall's delay and inaction, and are campaigning in part on the debacle of the city's slow response, promising to ensure that failure is never repeated. They've proposed proactive measures: stronger watershed control, better early warning systems, and upgrading the infrastructure as population grows.
The signs indicate an engaged (and mostly progressive) voting base. The mostly white (59.5%; 31% Hispanic; 4.2% African-American; fewer than 10% noncitizens) district is one of the most politically active, with roughly 56,000 registered voters and generally high turnout – in 2012, a majority voted for Barack Obama. Yet not one, but three candidates, swing GOP: Jason Denny, a General Land Office staffer who is also executive director of Texas Young Republicans, plus retired financial advisor Mike Rodriguez and systems tech Dave Senecal. They face two prominent Dems – Realtor Dan Buda, former chief of staff to state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, and attorney and health care advocate Ann Kitchen, a former Democratic state legislator who represented part of D5 while in office. Of the seven candidates, Kitchen is the best known, best funded, and most endorsed. In the officially nonpartisan city race, partisanship hasn't dominated during forums, but it could make a difference in the voting booth.
D5 Ballot Order
Carol Anne Rose Kennedy