Lean without Mean

reprinted with permission from the AdlerforMayor.com website:

REINSTATEMENT OF FREE CAPITAL METRO FARES
FOR SENIORS AND THE DISABLED

The State Sunset Commission was asked to review Capital Metro back in 2009 because its financial situation was bleak.  One of the reasons Capital Metro’s financial condition was in such bad shape, as addressed by the Commission’s recommendations, was the spending of almost all the agency’s reserves (for various items including the Red Line rail, the biggest ticket item).  The Commission recommended the agency cut expenses, stop the 22-year Austin tradition of free fares on fixed bus lines for seniors and the disabled, and build back reserves to about $27 million.

The Commission specifically noted that Capital Metro could reinstate the special accommodation for seniors and the disabled once the reserves were built back to that required two month operating reserve. Capital Metro reserves are now over $100 million and in FY 2015 the agency is anticipating a $21 million surplus.71  This free bus service could help more than 12,000 Austinites.  The Austin American Statesman had reported that agency officials estimated that Capital Metro was collecting around $1.8 million annually from bus fares from seniors and the disabled.72  The historic accommodation could and should come back.

I understand the need for solvency and for increasing the percentage of costs covered by fares.  But ridership today is down from where it was in 2006 and 2008 and the public wants to see a greater critical mass on board.  Even seniors and the disabled will not really be getting a “free” ride because they pay for their rides with their sales tax (fares only cover 10% of the cost).73 Capital Metro gets the same sales tax revenue from City of Austin taxpayers as does the entire City government itself (one full penny of sales tax revenue for each).  Capital Metro also gets additional sales tax revenue because it covers a greater service area. In a time of critical affordability issues, and given the slight impact on revenues and reserves this move would have, I think this is something we can afford to do for some of the most challenged of our fellow Austinites.  The government can be lean without being mean.

Mayors Race 2014 – we support Adler

Mayor’s Race 2014 – austinmayor.com endorses Steve Adler in the runoff against Martinez

Steve Adler

Occupation: attorney

Experience: chief of staff/general counsel for state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh; attorney (has argued civil rights cases, focuses on eminent domain defense); Anti-Defamation League Austin Region board chair; Texas Tribune board chair

Issues: new 10-1 system, traffic, affordability, public education, poverty, water, environment

Website: www.adlerforaustin.com

Facebook: Steve Adler for Austin Mayor

Twitter: @AdlerForAustin

Mike Martinez

Mike Martinez

Occupation: City Council member (since 2006)

Experience: longtime civic activist; former firefighter and president, Austin Firefighters Association; Capital Metro board member and current chair

Issues: affordability, traffic and transportation, equity

Website: www.mike4mayor.com

Facebook: Mike Martinez

Twitter: @CouncilManMike

Candidates who lost in the primary election:

Sheryl Cole – lost in primary

Occupation: Mayor Pro Tem

Experience: Three-term City Council member; attorney and CPA; public schools advocate (former PTA president)

Issues: Affordability, transportation, water, diversity, equity

Website: www.sherylforaustin.com/

Facebook: Sheryl Cole For Austin

Twitter: @SherylCole1

Todd Phelps

Occupation: musician; businessman

Experience: energy negotiations, lending projects, farming, ranching, property management; arts and film production

Issues: transportation, environmental protection, taxation, open space

Website: www.phelpsforaustin.com

Facebook: Todd Phelps

Twitter: @PhelpsForAustin

Randall Stephens

Occupation: aircraft mechanic; tech entrepreneur (CEO of AdBirds website)

Experience: Air Force veteran

Issues: campaign finance reform; transportation, small business development, short-term rental rights

Website: www.stephensforaustinmayor.org

Facebook: Randall Stephens for Mayor of Austin

Twitter: @AustinBlueDog

Brigid Shea for County Commissioner

Brigid Shea for County Commissioner, Precinct 2:

“Environmentalist Brigid Shea published a media-savvy package of glowing YouTube testimonials from state Sen. Kirk Watson, ex Texas Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower, former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, Austin NAACP President  Nelson Linder, and Livable City Chair Ann Kitchen. Joining the effusive headliners were AISD Chair Vince Torres, environmentalist  Robin Rather, and community activist Paul Saldana, all gathered for the Sunday grand opening of Shea’s campaign headquarters. ” – Austin Chronicle

Here are just some of the reasons why I will vote for Brigid Shea to County Commissioner and why I hope you will join me in supporting her:

We need to give citizen interests more power than special interests. Brigid has proposed major ethics reforms to severely limit the amount lobbyists and their firms can give to city council candidates.
Under Lee Leffingwell, the City Council has been more concerned with making big development deals than with maintaining the quality of life and affordability for the people who live here. Stop giving away unnecessary incentives like those to the Formula One race track outside the city and luxury hotels downtown.
The city uses less water than it did ten years ago, but our water rates have doubled and are set to rise another 19%.
Electric rates are are expected to rise 20%. Property taxes have gone up. Traffic is up. City fees have gone up. But for many people our quality of life has gone down.
Brigid believes that the protecting the environment is crucial to the economic health of the city.
Leffingwell’s first campaign report showed that 43% of his total campaign donations came from just 11 bundlers, representing lobbyist and city contractor interests. Brigid Shea said, “Just 60 days after announcing my candidacy, I’ve raised almost $100,000 from over 465 people. My contributions show that the people of Austin want City Hall to work for them, not just for the deep-pocketed insiders who are funding the incumbent’s race.”

Please help to spread the word to your friends and associates so we have an extraordinary turnout at the polls.

Message about Technology Leadership:

I believe Brigid Shea will make a great County Commissioner and I am asking you to please join me in supporting her. Here is what she has to say about Technology Leadership:

I was honored to be the Channel 6 host of the very first SXSW Interactive with my good friend, Dewey Winburne. He was my translator for helping folks understand the Internet. I also helped explore how the city could assist this growing industry through the Council’s early Technology Committee. It is amazing to see how the tech community has shaped Austin and made it the place it is today – an incredibly creative and lively place for all of us.

And while the mayor tries to take credit for all of it, I say it’s the people who make Austin so remarkable–not the mayor or council. I am so proud to have been at the beginning of the tech surge, and now I see all the creative media and entrepreneurs who are adding so much to the character and quality of Austin. And there’s so much more to do–imagine what we could do with all the dark fiber that’s lying unused under our streets. Or if the city really listened and acted on the tech community’s many recommendations for innovations. Let’s see what else we can imagine together!

New balance of power?

According to a statesman.com article,”The [Tovo vs Shade] race’s outcome could have consequences beyond election day — subtly shifting the dynamics on the council, possibly making it tougher for Leffingwell to push an agenda, and shaping next year’s race for mayor, according to interviews with two dozen people who follow city issues.”  The article compared the current Leffingwell, Martinez and Shade Council members to a cool kids clique that usually gets what it wants.

Council member Sheryl Cole is supporting Kathie Tovo for Council.  Statesman: “”Sheryl has wielded a quiet, intelligent power on the council, especially on Waller Creek. She’s on the rise,” said Fred McGhee , a Tovo supporter and former president of the Black Austin Democrats . “If Kathie decides to overtly align herself with Laura and Bill, then Sheryl will be in a strong position.”

Source A Tovo win could reshape Austin City Council alliances, unsettle balance of power

Austin Chronicle endorses Tovo

The Austin Chronicle has endorsed Kathie Tovo in the runoff for City Council, Austin, Texas. The Chronicle says that “Shade has drifted sideways into apparently unwinnable ethics complaints and “no growth” scare tactics” while Kathie Tovo has remained consistent in her planned approach to Austin’s future.

The Chron says of Tovo “All of us applaud Tovo’s dedicated public service on projects both official (Planning Commission; Austin ISD task forces) and unofficial, and anticipate that if elected, she will bring much beneficial experience to council. Her ongoing efforts to keep open central city schools would be important council assets, as would her interest in inner-city development via affordable, family-friendly neighborhood initiatives.”  And the Chron editorial staff goes on to say of Tovo “that city policy defaults too readily to developer interests and that Tovo’s presence will be a bulwark against such encroachment.”

The Austin American Statesman noted in an article about the runoff that “One political consultant said Sunday that Shade should seriously consider bowing out. “If you’re an incumbent and get less than 50 percent (in a general election), it’s a very bad sign,” said Elliott McFadden , who has worked on local races but none this year. “You’re basically asking voters to re-hire you, and a sizable majority has already said ‘no’ …” before the runoff gets under way, he said.

The Statesman article went on to say “It looked a few months ago like Shade would sail to re-election. She had been raising money since the fall and had no major opponents.  Then she made public hundreds of her emails in response to open records requests; a few showed her disparaging activists and groups that frequent City Hall. Tovo said the emails added to concerns she already had about decision-making at City Hall, spurring her to join the race in March. She raised money at warp speed, loaned her campaign another $53,000 and scooped up endorsements from neighborhood and environmental groups whose members reliably show up to vote in city races.  Moderate and progressive voters who backed Shade in 2008 felt betrayed by her pro-development votes and were ready to support someone else, said Peck Young, who has worked on past council campaigns and now heads the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College.”

 

 

Kathie Tovo for Austin City Council

Kathie Tovo for Austin City Council
Kathie Tovo for Austin City Council

Kathie Tovo is in a runoff election on June 18 (early voting June 6) with Randi Shade for City Council Place 3, and AustinMayor.com supports her. Former Austin Councilman Max Nofziger, our contributor, also has directed his supporters to Kathie Tovo.  Max was in the primary election with Tovo and Shade.  AustinMayor supported Max in his 2nd place finish in the Mayoral election against Will Wynn, remarkable that he did so well considering he was outgunned financially. Likewise, Tovo was outspent by Shade but managed to win impressively and just shy of a majority in the primary.

 

Here is what Kathie supports:

1. Affordable Housing – all income levels should be able to live in all parts of the city

2. Completing Communities – places where people can live close to where they work and play

3. Neighborhood Schools – keep schools open and growing through city partnerships with neighborhood school districts

4. rebuild trust in City Hall

Election Day – May 14

Early Vote – May 2 – 10

Kathie Tovo website: KathieforAustin.com

 

Austin Chronicle article

Statesman – funds approved for Tovo runoff

Statesman – former Mayor Garcia says Shade should get out and save the city half a mil

Austin Mayor Leffingwell

Brewster McCracken has bowed out of the runoff gracefully, facing a 20 point vote deficit and Lee Leffingwell is Austin’s new mayor.

I’m sure Max will be along soon – when he gets back in town – to give his viewpoint on the Mayor’s race and the future prospects for Austin.

McCracken withdrew just two days after he finished second in the polls behind council member Lee Leffingwell. McCracken made his decision Monday after talking to his supporters, but he says it became apparent on election night that winning a runoff was just too much of an uphill battle.

McCracken received 27 percent of the vote. Leffingwell led with 47 percent, just short of the “50 percent plus one vote” rule, that would have put Leffingwell into a runoff with McCracken.

McCracken said Monday a runoff would have required a tough fundraising drive in tough economic times and that the runoff itself would have been costly for taxpayers to the tune of about half a million dollars.
“I believe that pursuing a runoff election would not be in the best interest of Austin, so that’s why I’m doing it,” said McCracken. “I thought it would have been a distraction in a time when Austin needs to get to work tackling our challenges.”

McCracken offered his support and help to Leffingwell, who will be sworn in next month.

“We know there are some very difficult budget decisions ahead of us,” said Leffingwell. –”It will not exactly be a pleasant time to be mayor, but it’s an important time to be mayor.”

Mayor-elect Leffingwell said his priorities include tackling the budget and establishing a cabinet of community leaders to help advise him.

McCracken had reached his term limits as a council member. He says leaving elected life will give him more time to spend with his 5-year-old son and his new wife. He plans to stay involved with renewable energy issues like the Pecan Street Project.

Leffingwell said Monday that he will consider withdrawing his criminal complaint against McCracken if the issue can be resolved another way, such as by an attorney general’s decision or by city council action.

Stick around Austin Mayor blog for some thoughts and comments from Max Nofziger about Austin’s future.