One background issue in the race for Precinct 1 county commissioner is the legacy of retiring incumbent Ron Davis, who has held the seat since 1998. The current declared candidates have refrained from criticizing Davis, but since the northeast precinct remains relatively underdeveloped, "bringing more resources" to Precinct 1 is a common subtext in campaign statements.
An Aug. 25 Statesman op-ed by Austin NAACP head Nelson Linder – mostly warning against "power brokers" and political consultants who might be "driving the train" of certain campaigns – also painted a bleak portrait of the precinct. Precinct 1, wrote Linder, "suffers from years of neglect based on the lack of social and economic investments. Resource inequity has led to inadequate roads, improper land use and a lack of planning for subdivisions, transportation and job opportunities. Political mismanagement has exacerbated the problem."
That portrayal stung Commissioner Davis, who submitted a response to the Statesman that has not been published. He noted that while County authority is limited in the four municipalities within Precinct 1, residents should not forget years of infrastructure investments by Travis County. "I've played a leadership role in bringing many Capital Improvement Projects to Precinct 1," he wrote. "Some of these include: Hunters Bend/FM969 Improvements, the Manor Road Bridge No. 112 and No. 113, the Decker Lane Sidewalk Project (from 3177 to Loyola), FM 969 Phase I & Phase II, Tuscany Way South, East Metro Park (Phases 1 and 2), the Gilbert Lane Road Extension Project ... and many other projects, totaling $331,148,613.00." Davis also noted his work on property tax exemptions (homestead, and for the elderly and disabled), his efforts to develop water resources and improve land use, his defense of the precinct against environmental degradation, and all in all, his hard work "to lay the groundwork for Precinct 1 to become the jewel of Travis County."
Nevertheless, Linder reiterated to the Chronicle last week that Precinct 1 "is in very bad shape, and needs equity, infrastructure, and social services." Despite Davis' defense of his tenure, Linder said the precinct is "underserved and underutilized."
"Do an analysis," Linder continued. "There is much inequity there, and the precinct is very behind [other precincts]. Davis bears some responsibility for that lack of economic development; that area is in terrible condition." Asked about the exchange, Davis called his letter a "factual piece" intended to make clear the mixed county/city jurisdiction of the area, and also to respond to Linder's "misleading" description of the precinct and Davis' record. "We've got a significant track record," said Davis. "I just didn't want to let misleading and misconstrued statements go unanswered."
Davis said he's "trying to stay out" of the campaign itself, but insisted he has done what he can "to improve the quality of life" for Precinct 1 residents. Whoever succeeds him, he said, "The county has dotted the i's – it's time for other folks to cross the t's."
Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.