Election Notes: It’s a Family Affair ... Again
Susana Almanza’s back in D3, and Ann Kitchen has an opponent
• She's back. PODER director Susana Almanza filed to run for City Council District 3. If that sounds familiar, it's because Almanza, whose brother Pio Renteria represents the district, also ran in 2014, and ultimately engaged in a tense run-off with said brother, who won by 20 points.
Almanza said she was called to run again by community members who feel certain "issues have not been addressed" – in all likelihood meaning land use. Almanza has staunchly opposed CodeNEXT, aligning with Community Not Commodity and serving as one of several plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city regarding the land development code petition that will be on the November ballot. Instead of rewriting our LDC, Almanza wants the city to continue the neighborhood plan process put into effect in the late Nineties, which she said ensures more community engagement. If elected, she'd move forward with enacting the People's Plan, which she also helped craft, and incorporate more feedback from the city's African-American, Latino, and Asian-American commissions.
She insists her run is about policy, not her brother or bad blood, and that Council needs someone who will "think outside the box" and double down on "equity issues," so that Austin can be a city for all. That's embodied in her campaign slogan: "Reclaim, remain, and rebuild our city for all people of all incomes." Yet her announcement wasn't so reserved about Renteria's tenure. She criticized him for "want[ing] to give away our public parkland at Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park," for the potential soccer stadium, without resident input; ignoring "input from the community" on CodeNEXT; voting against putting the land use petition on the ballot; and supporting high-density development, which she believes will "displace numerous residents and make Austin unaffordable." Almanza joins Justin Jacobson, James Valadez, Jessica Cohen, and Renteria in the D3 race.
• Ann Kitchen finally has an opponent in District 5, and it's ... someone who's running for office because Kitchen hadn't drawn an opponent. Nathan White is a 26-year-old administrative assistant at Girling Health Care who said on Monday that he thought Kitchen's done "tremendous work" on Council these past four years, but that after the 2016 election, he didn't think it was very democratic for any incumbent to run unopposed. White does have a platform: He's a firm believer in the Fight for $15 campaign, implying that low wages represent the root of too many of the problems people face. He said he'll roll out other policy proposals when his website goes live later this month, but did confess that he was sorry to see Council put the kibosh on CodeNEXT, and hopes whatever succeeds it applies the "valuable info, studies, and protopolicies" born from the abandoned process. White doesn't have any formal political experience, but had been active in his youth, through both student organizations and canvassing campaigns. He founded the gay and straight alliance at the community college he attended, and remembers fondly the time in fourth grade when he wrote a letter to President George W. Bush about a rain forest that was in trouble.
• A second candidate has filed for District 9 of the AISD Board of Trustees, setting up the first officially contested race on the school board. (The rest will fill up in time.) Carmen Tilton has worked as a policy analyst in the Texas Legislature, spending six years working on education policy for various Democratic lawmakers. She said her knowledge of how state leaders work with education advocates could help solve a problem that has long vexed the school board: successfully changing the state's school recapture finance system. "I could help the board develop a plan to go into the next legislative session with as much force and power behind us as possible," Tilton said. She said it was a "lack of support" for families with young children in the district that motivated her to run, and that the district places too much emphasis on supporting high school students through "college and career readiness" – resulting in a curriculum with a focus on "rote memorization" and academic development at the expense of social development. "If we don't give lower grades the time, space, and resources to explore social skills," she said, "We're going to end up with high schoolers that are good at taking tests, but bad at interpersonal conflict." Tilton will face fellow newcomer Arati Singh, who filed last week.