The Austin Chronicle

Campaign Snapshots

City Council Districts 9 and 10

By Chase Hoffberger, October 3, 2014, News

District 9

7pm, Monday, Oct. 6
KUT Studio 1A, 300 W. Dean Keeton (at Guadalupe)

Located smack-dab in the city center, running from 51st Street to Oltorf, encompassing parts of the new Mueller development, much of Windsor Park, and parts of Cherrywood, District 9 stands as an influential municipal power center and boasts the only two City Council incumbents running for re-election.

The face-off between current Place 1 Council Member Chris Riley and Place 3 CM Kathie Tovo is the most hotly anticipated Council contest, with the antagonists disputing on the dais issues like greenhouse-gas emissions and transportation network companies. Advocating denser development, innovative options for affordable housing (e.g., "accessory dwelling units"), incentives for incoming businesses, and de-emphasizing parking, Riley has emerged as the new urbanist, new alternatives candidate, while Tovo, former vice president of the Austin Neighborhoods Coun­cil, has become the strongest proponent of traditional neighborhoods, "family-friendly" development, and more open space. That places Tovo at a natural advantage with the district's more established residents; Riley, who co-founded the Down­town Austin Neighborhood Associa­tion in 1997, figures as the favorite among those less inclined to opt for an Old Austin bungalow and yard, including many younger voters.

In that context, Tovo has tried to portray Riley as a candidate whose focus hangs on "business and developer interests"; while Riley has claimed that Tovo's perspective leads to higher housing prices, sprawl, and greater reliance on automobiles. "There have been any number of incidences on which Kathie and I disagree strongly on land-use decisions," he told the Chronicle last month. "On each one of them you can predict exactly how we would come out."

Expect that division to continue through November's election.

In the difficult role of novice underdog, Bouldin Creek resident and Texas Depart­ment of Criminal Justice program supervisor Erin McGann has waged her campaign on behalf of budget cuts and a need for a fresh Council perspective. She's opposed to the urban rail and road bond – local Prop. 1, endorsed on the dais by both of her opponents – is also against any increase in property taxes, and has advocated a stronger connection between government and citizens. "One of the reasons I'm running for office is because I've had such a difficult time communicating with city government and city agencies," McGann told the Chron­icle in September. "If I'm having this trouble, other people are, too."

McGann undoubtedly faces tough odds against two well-known incumbents who are also veterans of city politics and policy. She's thin on the details of city procedures, and her central positions have focused almost exclusively on the costs of government. As is true of many of the new Council candidates, her opposition to the urban rail project is primarily a reaction to the high costs of implementation.

The District 9 election may well turn on a generational gap, and a division between what elder voters see as the preservation of Austin's old ways, and the aspirations of younger voters looking to take their places in a rapidly changing urban landscape.

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