All posts by max

Runoff: LeeandBrew

LeeandBrew…sounds like a German beer…

The big surprise in the Mayoral election was that almost ALL of the large undecided vote went to Leffingwell.  Brewster and Carole hardly budged from their pre-election poll numbers.

I thought Carole was showing some late momentun, and I felt sure she was really working the Stop Domain! mailing list.  The other big surprise of this election was how little gain she got from that valuable campaign tool.  Either she was unable to reach those specific voters, or they were not motivated enough to return to the polls in large numbers, as they had in November.  Carole only needed a few thousand of them to turn out to support her on that subsidy issue, and she would have passed Brewster…who was/is a big supporter of the Domain subsidies…and would be in the runoff this morning.

Too bad…then we would have a race on our hands:  outsider vs. insider.  We would have a hot discussion of substantive issues, with the candidates highlighting real differences.  This would have been good for Austin and good for Democracy.

With LeeandBrew, we have two sides of the same coin.  Boring…very boring.

In fact, it would not be at all surprising if Brewster announced that  he was dropping out of the race.  It is going to be very difficult for him to raise money, especially because most of Carole’s voters will either not vote, or will vote for Lee.

It’s hard to campaign when you don’t have a chance to win.  The month-long runoff campaign will feel like six months.  Unless Brewster just loves campaigning and the camera (publicity) so much, he would be well-advised to follow Ronney Reynold’s precedent in 1997, when he dropped out of a runoff with Kirk Watson.  I came in third in that race, and it was clear to everyone that my voters were going to go 90% for Watson.

I just don’t see much upside for Brewster if he continues the campaign only to suffer a resounding defeat.  Maybe if he bows out, Lee will drop that criminal complaint he filed about Brewster’s  (alleged) campaign fund-raising violation.

For Brewster to be competitive at all in the runoff, he would have to completely re-invent himself, which would only appear calculated and cynical to the voters.

Carole had the support of the Stop Domain! folks, and that was her only real hope of winning.  But now they are 0-for-2, having suffered a narrow loss in November, and their horse in this race came in a distant third.  I wonder what their next move might be?

I hope they don’t give up and go away, but Leffingwell sure does.  The slow economy is turning out to be hard on the high-end retailers like those at the Domain, and it will become more and more obvious that Leffingwell was willing to risk taxpayer dollars…he must be held accountable for his folly and fiscal irresponsibility.  The media sure isn’t going to do it…they support such special interest subsidies…so it is up to the citizens like Brian Rodgers and Linda Curtis to do it.

Carole was the underdog, and I like underdogs ( having been one most of political career ), especially when you can see a plausibe possibility for their success…a strategy that could really work.  The elements for her success were there, but she was unable to assemble them in a winning strategy.

Her long career in politics is probably over, unless she tries to bring it full circle and run for school board.  But she got only 12,435 votes, a pretty weak showing for someone with such high name ID coming into the race…and she spent a lot of money.

So Lee is going to waltz in, no doubt to continue his big-spending ways and his ignorance of substantive environmental issues…

Come on, Mayor!!  Wake up and DO something!!

RUNOFF: Leffingwell vs Strayhorn

Start the Presses!!  I’m making the call:  Strayhorn edges past McCracken to enter the runoff with Leffingwell, who leads going in.

This one is so close that any two of the Big Three could make the runoff.

I think Leffingwell’s challenge to McCracken’s fundraising violation effectively stalled out McCracken’s campaign, and it probably got a little mud on Lee, too!

Carole did well and gained some ground in that little dust-up, remaining above that bout of mud-wrestling.  Every little thing makes a difference in a tight race like this.

But the big plus for Strayhorn is the Stop Domain! mailing list, which is very fresh.

She should be mining that list and turning out those voters big-time!  It is a huge financial issue in tight financial times, and Carole is running hard on fiscal resronsibility.  That is the key issue against two big spenders like Leffingwell and McCracken, and the nation’s weak economy has clearly revealed how recklessly they risked the taxpayer’s money in investing in the high-end  chains of Domain.

Another factor that favors Carole’s late surge is the fact that her Old Guard voters tend to vote on election day, while Brewster’s younger supporters tend to use the convenience of early voting.  Carole’s Crowd has been voting for decades on Election day, unless they were going to be out of town.

The polls are open…GO VOTE!!!

Your Democracy needs you now…

Vote Tomorrow!! But for Whom??

This race is tight!  And the undecided vote is huge, so late in the campaign…some say the undecideds might stay home, but many, like me, will decide who to vote for while walking to the polling place.

As an Austin Environmentalist for 30 years, this is a key issue for me.  I decided to check out Lee Leffingwell’s website, since he claims to be the environmentalist in the race, and has the endorsement of some enviro groups.  I wanted to see Lee’s position in his own words.

I googled him ( which is legal in this state ) and found his campaign website easily.  There under “Issues”, Lee posted a lengthy column on May 6, in which he “spells out how the three major candidates differ” on key issues.  He discusses several issues, none of which are the environment.  Down at the bottom, under the heading “other issues”, he still doesn’t use the word “environment”.  

In fact, strangely enough, in an article written specifically to point out the differences, he mentions two issues where he and Brewster are the same: ” We both supported investing in alternative energy sources, like biomass and solar.  We co-sponsored the Austin climate Protection Plan…”  These are the only two environmental issues he mentions, and there is no difference between him and Brewster.  In almost 2000 words detailing his position on key issues, only 19 ( about 1% ) are about the environment!!

In fact, the only time Lee uses the word “environment” is at the very end, and he is talking about the “political environment”, not the natural one!!!  Amazing, for someone who considers himself to be the enviro. in the race.

But there’s more…

Under “My Record”, he says he is “most proud” of his enviromental accomplishments.  He lists four: 1) “a new citywide conservation plan to cut water leaks…and save money”.  This must refer to the EPA-mandated replacement of water and sewer pipes that is finally nearing completion.  He didn’t really “accomplish” this…the Federal Environmental Protection Agency required the city to do this, at enormous cost.  In fact, all of the heavy diesel equipment used to complete this project spewed pollution and greenhouse gases into the air for YEARS!!

2) Lee worked with folks to reduce the use of coal tar sealants on parking lots.  He didn’t do anything to reduce impervious cover–which is the key to protecting water quality–but he changed the coating for some of the impervious cover.  This is insignificant in terms of actually protecting water quality, but Lee got a lot of “Greenwashing” out of it.

3) He worked to enable developers to re-do their developments over the aquifer, enabling more impervious cover than the SOS ordinance allowed.  The fact that he is claiming this highly-questionable action as a benefit to the environment shows how thin his record really is.

4) And finally, he tried to reduce the number of plastic bags going into landfills…

That’s it!!  The candidate’s environmental record in his own words…check it out for yourself!

That record is anemic…pathetic…laughable!!

By contrast, allow me to mention four of my environmental accomplishments when I served on the city council:

1) Put an item for action on the agenda that began the discussion of Endangered Species in Cenral Texas, culminating in the setting-aside of 30,000+ acres of habitat…that is HUGE!  And unprecedented…

2) Put an item on the agenda that directed the city staff to write a non-degradation ordinance to protect water quality.  This became the SOS ordinance, which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1992, and later was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court.  Again, this was unprecedented…

3) Together with the LCRA and the State Land Office, we did the first wind power project in the State of Texas.  Now Texas is #1 in the nation, and the wind power industry is growing rapidly around the world.

4) We instituted city-wide recycling, expanding a small pilot project.  Austin was one of the first cities in America with city-wide recycling.

All of those accomplishments were enormous,,,no greenwashing there.

Compare those four to Lee’s, and you get an idea of how much environmentalism in Austin has slipped in the last 12 years.

Lee doesn’t say ONE WORD about air quality!  Is it because he doesn’t care, or because he doesn’t have a clue of what to do?  Air quality is a huge issue…and especially this week the air is very foul…and the leading environmentalist in the Mayor’s race doesn’t even mention it, let alone offer a solution???

Amazing..

If you want to vote for Lee because you like your Grandpa, that’s fine…just don’t vote for him under the illusion that he is going to do anything to protect our environment.

The bottom line in this Mayor’s race: the developers have three candidates in the race, the enviros 0.

Pick your poison…

The Silver Bullet

It’s amazing when I realize that I have accumulated 30 years of public policy experience!

Based on this, I humbly offer the solution to many serious problems facing Austin, America, and the World.

My plan will solve or a least substantially impact these enormous issues:

1) greatly reduces our dependence on imported oil

2) greatly enhances our National security

3) No more wars for oil

4) greatly reduces  the price of oil and gas, permanently

5) saves the US auto industry

6) provides enormous economic development opportunities

7) greatly reduces greenhouse gases

8) enhances the environment in many different ways

9) greatly enhances public health ( less cancer, asthma, etc. )

10) begins an upward spiral of benefits, many of which we cannot foresee

One solution…The Silver Bullet…addresses all of these issues.  The key is to spend money where all of these problems intersect:  the Nexus.  Instead of throwing huge sums of money at these individual issues, find the place where they all connect…one solution for many problems.

This is efficient spending, something we rarely see in government anymore.  It is something we really need right now.

Here’s what we do…here’s where we spend:

1) Since we taxpayers are giving billions to the automakers, we can “work with” ( require ) them to  produce vehicles which support our national interests.  We can require them to set up production lines to make electric cars and trucks: 500,000 per year.  This might cost $10 Billion, more or less, which is in line with what we have already given them ( I’m not sure what they did with all that money.  With this plan, we would at least be able to see what we were getting for our money ).

This is a very direct and substantial incentive to the auto industry to produce products the buyers want.

2) To support the conversion to electric vehicles, the government should spend $2 Billion for research and development on batteries and solar energy.  Research contracts would be awarded to leading universities like UT, MIT, Cal Tech, University of Chicago, etc.  The government should commit to this level of spending for at least three years, a total of $6 Billion.

3) The Federal government should give a tax credit of $10,000 for the purchase of an electric vehicle.  For 500,000 vehicles, that would cost $5 Billion.  To sustain that for three years would total $15 Billion.  This would make electric vehicles affordable for millions of buyers.

4) The Federal government should give money to the 50 largest cities to offer cash rebates to purchasers of electric vehicles, up to 10,000 vehicles in each city.  At $5,000 per vehicle, this would amount to a cash infusion into each city of  $50 Million.  Do that each year for three years, and you get cleaner air and extra money circulating in the 50 largest cities in America.  Total cost: $7.5 Billion.

5) Count electric vehicles at 100 miles per gallon for fleet mileage ( CAFE ) standards.  This would make them very valuable to the automakers: the more electric vehicles they produce, the less they would have to bring up the miles per gallon numbers for the rest of their fleet.  The automakers would save millions of dollars in not having to tinker with their internal combustion engines trying to get marginal increases in mileage.

Total cost for #5: 0

That’s it…that’s the plan.  Five simple steps.  Steps 1 and 5 are substantial, direct incentives to the manufacturers.  Steps 3 and 4 are enormous, direct incentives to the buyers, bringing down the cost of electric vehicles so that millions of people can afford them.

A key to the success of this plan is that BOTH ends of the process are incentivized;  the manufacturers AND the buyers.  That’s why this plan will work!

Total cost: $38.5 Billion, most of it spread over three years.

Now, Dear Reader, go back to the start of this story to see what $38.5 Billion can buy: items 1-10.  This is a huge bargain!!  We can have all of those things we desperately need for the relatively modest sum of less than $40 Billion.

When you consider how much our government has already given to the banks and failed financial institutions…and for what?  What have we gotten??  Not much…

This plan…The Silver Bullet…turns the corner from a century of the internal combustion engine ( look where that has got us ) to a new clean form of transportation…the electric vehicle.  This is revolutionary.  This is truly transformative.  This will change the world, and much for the better.

Especially when we hook up our electric vehicles to renewable power sources like the sun and the wind.

One of our automakers should produce a sleek silver electric car and call it “The Silver Bullet”.  They would sell millions of them, and solve many of the world’s problems in the process.

Think about this…

I really don’t know who to vote for for Mayor.  I’m not interested in telling you who to vote for…I want to provide information and perspective to you so you can make a good decision…

Here’s something I’d like to ask the Mayoral candidates:

Do you know that diesel exhaust is a carcinogen?

If the answer is “No, I didn’t know that”, then that candidate may be too poorly informed (ignorant) to be Mayor.

If the answer is “Yes”, then the question is “Why haven’t you done something about it?”  Especially Lee and Brewster, who have recently sworn oaths to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare ( Carole’s oath, last taken in 1981, has probably worn off by now ).

This morning, I went for a walk in the park, my daily constitutional.  As usual, I had to dodge the UPS and Fed-ex trucks that constantly criss-cross the neighborhood, spewing toxic clouds of exhaust, poisoning the air wherever they go

Why do we tolerate this?  It’s another sign of weakness in the environment movement.

Here’s what a Mayor…or city councilmember…who truly cared about the environment  or the health and welfare of the people would do:  write a letter to UPS, Fed-ex, and Dhl, explaining that it is unsustainable for them to continue to drive their polluting, carcinogenic behemoths all over town, every day, fouling the people’s air and contributing to global warming.  The city could work with them to convert to smaller, battery-powered vehicles.  The city could urge them to be the first one to enjoy the competitive advantage of “going green”.

Big Brown…what can you do for me today?  Go Green!!  Stop spreading that Big Brown toxic cloud coming from your vehicles!

Fed-ex…the citizens of Austin are “Fed-up” with your trucks polluting their air and poisoning the planet.  Let us help you make $$$ without poisoning everyone!

The city, which has launched a climate protection program with much fanfare, should calculate the carbon-footprint of these delivery companies and actually DO SOMETHING about it.

But Will wynn doesn’t really care…he’s already gotten what he wanted: his picture in the paper and a puff-piece saying how “green” he is.  In the 70’s and 80’s, you actually had to DO SOMETHING to be an environmentalist.

I doubt that any of these Mayoral candidates will do anything about it, either.

We haven’t seen any good strong environmental public policy since I left office in 1996…only a lot of greenwashing.  And the big problem with greenwashing, in addition to the hypocrisy, is that the people think something is being done…when it isn’t.  The people are lead to believe that things are getting better, when they are really getting worse!

Time is a luxury we can no longer afford!

“Who should I vote for?”

So I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop when this guy walks up–a stranger–and says, “Max, who should I vote for in the Mayor’s race?”  This happens a lot.

I tell him that I don’t know, I haven’t decided who I’m supporting yet…and since I vote on election day, I still have time to make up my mind.

Here’s my problem:  I’m a strong environmentalist AND a fiscal conservative…there’s no candidate in the race like that.  Lee and Brewster are both big spenders…huge spenders!  In their years on the city council, they have only spent more and more money.  They can’t tell anyone “NO”!  Why?  Because the way you make friends in politics is by spreading money around.  That’s why they hire all these consultants, and want to build all these projects we can’t afford.  Their political ambitions and their wild spending have put the city in a very precarious financial condition.  We are really out of position to deal with the economic conditions we find ourselves in.

Carol is “right on” to run against their unsustainable spending.  What were  Lee and Brew thinking when they gave $60+ MILLION to the wealthiest retail chains in the nation to come to Austin ( The Domain ).  If (when) those stores start pulling out, it will be clearly revealed how reckless they were with our money.  And how much have they spent in subsidizing the Second street retail area?  And how much did they give to the Marriott Corp. to destroy Las Manitas?

Lee and Brew have spent nearly $100 MILLION to turn Austin into Dallas.

How much have they spent on protecting the environment?  On reducing the city’s carbon footprint?  Very little…

As Molly Ivins used to say, “Watch what they do, not what they say.”  That is, watch where they spend money…that reveals their true priorities.   Talk is cheap…

The Problem with Carol is that she doesn’t care about the environment…never has, and obviously still doesn’t.  In fact, her choice of Louise Epstein as her campaign treasurer is a clear signal that she is hostile to the environment.  ( I served with Louise on the City Council, and she was a disaster for the environment, fighting every effort to protect the land, air, and water ).  

If elected, Carol would be much better on fiscal issues, which are front-and-center right now, but she would take this opportunity to dismantle the environmental programs that I and many others have fought for over the last thirty years.

On the other hand, Lee and Brew have records as Big Spenders, and we can no longer afford that.  Our financial crisis is only going to worsen, and they are still talking about bond elections for hundreds of MILLIONS…They are still oblivious to the new economic reality.

So pick your poison, Austin.  If you are an environmentalist who also is concerned about the ever-escalating cost of living here, you have no one to vote FOR…

I can hardly believe it has come to this…

MAX

Thirty Years of Austin Politics

This Spring is the 30th anniversary of my first run for city council in Austin.

In 1979 I was a candidate for Place One, and that’s when I first met then-Mayor Carol McClelland.  She went on to win re-election, while I finished next-to-last in my race…Lee Cook was re-elected to Place One.

So began my quest for a city council seat…I was an “also-ran”, but I enjoyed campaigning, and knew I would run again at the next opportunity…and the next, and the next, etc., until I finally got elected to Place One in 1987.  Since then, I’ve run four more campaigns, with the latest effort in 2003, when I came in second to Will Wynn in an eight-person race.

Thirty years is a pretty long time in local politics, and from this perspective I will comment on the Mayor’s race, and politics in general in Austin.  Much has changed since I served on the council from 1987-1996, and not for the better.  The environmental movement, for instance, has become very weak and ineffective, to the point where there are NO environmental candidates in the race for Mayor.

Lee Leffingwell is green-washed by the media, but has done very little to protect our air, water, or land in his years in office.  McCracken barely bothers to pretend he is interested, and Carol is actually hostile to the environment…you would hope that someone who is so proud of being a Grandma would care about the world we are leaving the grandchildren.

Greenwashing has taken the place of real political power for environmentalists.

The police, the developers, and other special interests…including the media…run this town, and have since 1997 when Kirk Watson put that coalition together to get elected Mayor.  Real environmental power has been diminishing ever since…

More later

max

what the polls say

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin voters are split three ways on who they want to support for mayor, with only single-digit percentage points separating the top three candidates, according to a KXAN-sponsored poll released late Tuesday.

And with the May 9 election just over two weeks away, nearly a quarter of local voters are still undecided.

City Councilman Lee Leffingwell edges ahead with 27 percent of support. He is followed closely by Mayor Pro-Tem Brewster McCracken at 24 percent. Former mayor Carole Keeton Strayhorn has 21 percent.

A full 22 percent are still undecided.