Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Voting in Austin

I'm getting geared up to vote for 3 city council seats here in Austin. As skeptical as I might feel about my ability to influence the November elections for President (the Republicans could put up a pelican for Prez, and Texas would still vote GOP), I DO think my vote counts when it comes to local politics.

But local politics are just as complicated as national, in some ways. I have some things I firmly believe will and will not work for Austin today and looking 10, 20, 30, 100 years in the future. So I'm looking for candidates who share my ideals.

And given the nature of the issues, there's a lot of splitting hairs. We all agree that Austin's traffic is a mess, but how do you solve that? We all know Austin will continue to grow, so how do you manage that? We need to protect the environment in Austin, but how do you enforce that or get industry and individuals to play along because they feel its the right thing to do?

Here's one of my challenges: Jennifer Kim made a pretty big PR flub trying to bypass airport security last year, flashing her City Council credentials, and I haven't always loved interviews I've seen on News 8. But I also think, from reading her site, that she's learned a lot. But I also think Randi Shade seems like a right-on kind of candidate. But I'm not sure, exactly how she'll vote, partly because her website seems a bit unclear other than "I think Austin should have a great future".

And then there's a third candidate for place 3, Ken Weiss. And, seriously, I have no idea what this fellow is up to.

For a bit of compare and contrast.

Jennifer Kim's informative, well-managed site. Here.

Randi Shade's well-designed, but somewhat ambiguous site. Here.

Ken Weiss's website based around begging for money. Here.

He sort of makes me wonder how far I could get raising money for a campaign I couldn't possibly win. What are the rules for how you spend that money once the campaign is over with? Can you keep it? Because if you get to keep it...

I'm just sayin'...

Anyhow, I'm not going to run for city council this year. Maybe one day. It seems better than working.

But, really, if any of them would agree to refuse to allow anymore damn skyscraper condos from going up, they'd get my vote. I don't really how crazy the rest of their policies are.

Now, off to read up on the candidates for the other two seats.

Oh, if you have a good reason why I should vote for Jennifer Kim or Randi Shade, let me know.


Unknown said...

Glad to see you're following the campaign and glad to hear you take voting in local races so seriously.

Your assessment of the candidate websites is interesting. Jennifer Kim's website is mostly dedicated to attacking me these days whereas I go into a lot more detail than I think you're suggesting. I've posted every candidate questionnaire I've written over the course of the campaign on my website, too, which is a good place to get more specific information.

You may also enjoy seeing what Burnt Orange Report had to say about me; it seems to speak directly to the issue of concern you seem to be raising:

"While some may be wary of her resistance to be pinned down on hypothetical specifics, we see this as her recognition of the complexity of governance. Shade's admission that sometimes the best answer is not a quick answer does contrast with her opponent, who at times has given more than one answer to issues in her first term on council.”

Thanks for thinking that I seem like a right-on kind of candidate. I'd love to get your vote.


The League said...

Hey, wow. Thanks for the whistlestop tour of my site here, candidate Shade! I am both pleased and amazed at your outreach.

In all fairness to Austin voters, candidate Kim has also responded to a direct question sent to her information e-mail. So both candidates are responding to voters in an incredible way. Which just makes this a harder decision. I was actually exploring Candidate Shade's site for information before e-mailing her on the same issue. I have no doubt at this time that she would respond ASAP.

That said, should Candidate Shade return to the site, I have a fairly direct question. How will you vote for future development of skyscraper-style condos downtown and development around Town Lake? What sort of business would you support coming downtown? (This is the same question posed to Jennifer Kim).

J.S. said...

Your web site has a sort of "Gumpish" luck to it.

The League said...

My site?

J.S. said...

Yes. Your site, your blog, whatever you want to call it. Celebrities of various forms seem to stop by your site, giving you contact with them in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the lifestyle of Forrest Gump.

How about a promise from Ms. Shade to do her absolute best to protect our parks, greenbelts, and waterways? (the springs and creeks included) I think one of the things that makes Austin so special is that we try to make an effort to incorporate the natural, green world into our city rather than developing over it, and I think it would be great to have a commitment to preserve our green areas for many future generations to come (and even though some exciting development opportunities arise, we can never get back our green areas once they're gone- decisions made now are changing the face of Austin for decades or even centuries to come).

The League said...

I would like to see a commitment from a candidate on this issue. I'd like to see someone say "I will vote for the residents of Austin who live here now, who have expressed their dismay at the constant encroachment along Town Lake by high rise developments which do not benefit the citizens of Austin, and harm the public spaces and sky line of our city." I would like for a candidate to recognize that Austin is in no danger of falling behind, going bankrupt or missing out on opportunities if we do not put yet another high-priced condo building downtown.

I'd like for a candidate to recognize that if people choose to move downtown, they should expect the sounds of Austin to reach them in their condos, just as if they'd moved to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

I'd like for a candidate to respect the greenspace of Austin, and not look for reasons to allow developers to buy up that land and put parking lots, golf courses and business parks over our green space and water ways. And I certainly would like for a candidate to propose for the city to buy up all remaining green space in town, and make arrangements with developers to buy undeveloped space to preserve the beauty of our city, our quality of life and our water supply.

If any candidate is willing to commit to those issues, I suspect much of Austin would support them.

Oh, also a viable plan for expanding public transportation (rails, etc... would be nice).

Anonymous said...

I think you should do a post about Chuck Norris, because it would be cool to see him post on your blog (as apparently anyone you blog about will post).

Good for Randi to be getting her message out in the blogosphere. I am glad she is also against handing out forgiveable loans to "iconic" businesses. I think that was just stupid. Especially when that restaurant wasn't even in the top 10 of best Mexican food places in the city.


The League said...

I do not need Chuck Norris reaching through the internet and kicking my ass.

I wasn't ever really clear on who did and did not qualify for those loans, and in the end, I'm glad Las Manitas turned the loan down. It was well intentioned, but... Anyhow, Las Manitas was a good test case to see how something like that would work, and the answer was: it doesn't.

But, seriously, they and Curra's have a great breakfast. My two favorite in town. Also, both have the best coffee you're going to get.

I'm still wrestling with this vote. I'd love it if Candidate Shade would respond here in the comments.

Snowed In said...

Your desire for Austin's traffic woes and your desire not to have any more skyscraper condos are rather at odds. Since most of the central Austin neighborhoods are trying to opt every site possible out of Vertical Mixed-Use, the only option available other than downtown condos is more sprawl, as apartment complexes and subdivisions pop up like weeds in the outer reaches and suburbs.

Think traffic's bad now? Don't build any more condos, and wait five years.

Sorry, but that's the crossroads that Austin faces.

The League said...

This sort of absolutism doesn't help anybody. And it certainly doesn't help the many, many state, university, county, city and other public service employees employees who actually have to work downtown but can't afford one of the condos, and who will have to commute in, anyway.

Had the condos met their original, intended purpose of providing affordable housing for Austinites, I'd probably be more inclined to agree. Instead, they've run quickly into the half-million dollar range, and provided boutique shopping which most Austinites can't afford.

I would like to see the numbers from the developers as to how many people are actually living in the condos (not how many have been bought by speculators), how many hotel rooms are actually filling on a weekly basis before we rubber stamp any more projects.

Austin neighborhoods are doing what they've always done, and that's attempt to preserve the character of the neighborhoods that made them an atractive or affordable place to live to begin with. A skyscraper condo is not going to benefit the neighborhood of Clarksville, or Hyde Park, or Bouldin Creek, or any of the once reasonably priced neighborhoods who are even now undergoing major price gouging.

Addressing the issue of sprawl: Austin also has a huge opportunity to do what cities like Houston and Dallas waited too long to do and attack urban planning and public transportation now, rather than waiting until folks are driving in from New Braunfels in stop-and-go traffic.

I agree that the condos were well intentioned. I just haven't seen any evidence that they've benefited anyone but the developers and real estate speculators to this point.

J.S. said...

Yeah, I also get tired of fictional mutual exclusivity of the downtown condos or traffic congestion choice. I agree that the high dollar donwtown condos aren't doing a hell of a lot to alleviate the traffic problems (maybe if they were located closer to all of the tech companies along 360 or something), and I believe that we need much better solutions to our traffic problems than simply moving a bunch of people downtown (the residences downtown are substantial enough to make you notice a lot more people in the downtown area, but as a percentage, overall, of the city's population, I don't think that the people moving into downtown make up a large enough percentage of the overall traffic flow to have a very noticeable impact upon traffic).