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April 01, 2005

City Council Update

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First, here is a semi-live blog post about Wednesday's Place 3 City Council Forum thanks to Tim.

As far as the forum went. It changed minds. For a race that has has 4 great candidates, it is certainly hard to set them apart. But the forum certainly rearragned my own choices, though I have some commentary about all the candidates. (btw, 25 members joined last night and voting membership is now locked thanks to our little Constitutional Amendment that was passed for this endorsement.)

Commentary below the fold!!!

Margot Clarke- If there is any candidate in this race that provides what I can call a "vision" it's Margot. It's not too hard to tell that when it comes down to it, Community and the Austin flavor are at the heart of any decision that she might make. It's comforting to know as easily as it is with Margot where her heart it, so even if I don't know how she might vote on any specific proposal, and have a sense of where she is coming from. Granted, that shouldn't be a reason to vote for a candidate by itself (see the case with Republicans and Bush), but it's nice to see in a Democrat for once. Margot has been a friend of University Democrats for a long time and certainly has support there. The big question this week is how much of the membership are naturally Margot supporters or how many Margot supporters are now suddenly part of the membership...

Mandy Dealey- If anyone was a winner of last night's forum, it was Dealey. For someone who made horrible first impressions with UDems (in her frantic, hair ruffling, my car might get towed speech) last night she connected with and audience of students (even though she's the senior candidate in the race) and came across as quite motherly. Her responses showed her depth of knowledge of the issue, as well as how she might go about solving particular problems. Her clear statement that the Smoking Ban was a public health issue, plain and simple was a total plus for me as well as her concept of a Commission of Students from area Universities to work, dialouge, and interface with the Council was awesome, and if that was an on the spot idea, even more so. All semester long I didn't think I would ever be tempted by the Dealey campaign, but that changed last night as she swayed more than one officer's vote and a number of the members.

Jennifer Kim- From the very beginning I have been a supporter of Ms. Kim. I'm not one to turn away from candidates just because they are new, young, or it's "not their time". I can tell that she's doing this for the right reasons and no matter what happens, I hope to see her name on the ballot somewhere once again. But I was a bit disappointed last night, because what I saw as youth, fresh ideas, and enthusiasm, gave way to unpreparedness and a bit of nervousness on the understanding of some issues. I would have appreciated an "I don't have enough information on that issue to give an appropriate response" to some questions than what I heard, though that goes for a couple candidates at various times. People have been challenging me all semester as to having a good reason to vote Kim over others. I have been waiting for that reason, and I do not believe I was given one last night.

Gregg Knaupe- I've been a bit hard on the Knaupe campaign here on BOR. Gregg came off well at the forum, though he has a John Kerry-esqe ability for loooong answers, running over his time limit on almost every question. It wouldn't be so bad if it also weren't for the policy wonkish density of his answers, which would be great in front of the business crowd, but not a UDems Forum. Though his (and Kim's) respecting the choice of the voters on the smoking ban is a cop-out (and likely signal that they are opposed to it) it fits with his pro-business campaign.

But it still feels like the Knaupe campaign is just another Brewster McCracken/Will Wynn white male business guy snoozefest that is attempting to attract support from Liberal organizations to balance his otherwise more moderate background. Come on, he worked for the Texas Hospital Association (compared to a more progressive groups like Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, etc. like Margot or Dealey). He didn't lose any support last night, but I don't think he gained any either.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at April 1, 2005 01:06 AM | TrackBack


Yeah, Margot Clarke has a vision, but so did Stalin. Vision is one thing, being right is another. Margot Clarke is yet another standard-bearer for the anti-development, pro-traffic, anti-business wing of Central Austin politics that sunk Austin for a long time. She would be terrible for Austin. More than anything I simply want to keep her from winning this race. I think she'll almost certainly make it to the runoff on name ID with either Mandy or Gregg facing her there and likely winning.

Mandy looked great and I've been a supporter of hers for some time now, though I am also a fan of Gregg. I'll vote for Mandy, and I'll be disappointed if she loses, but I will be happy if Gregg wins. I came close to switching my allegiances on Wednesday because I learned that he was a Terry Scholar (T-Scholas for life!), but I am committed to Mandy. He made an excellent point about how with smoking bans, etc. we can't have an unpredictable regulatory environment or businesses won't want to come to Austin. Plus, if one of them had said that they hate the smoking ban and would work to defeat it, they'd have my vote in a heartbeat.

Jennifer Kim was fine, but she's just a bit phony to me. In front of the Black Austin Democrats she said she supported a loan to Midtown Live for rebuilding (even though everyone knew it would have to come from general revenues), but in front of the Statesman's editorial board she said she opposed it. This is a sticky issue, but she's riding the waves and not leading.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at April 1, 2005 09:53 AM

When I first found out about Knaupe's Terry status a few months ago, he almost had my allegiance too. But then he started coming off as cold and detached, and being wishy-washy about the smoking ban, and I decided to rethink my position.

And then I remembered something that swung my support in Margot’s direction: last semester, at the 24-hour voter registration marathon, she showed up at Freebird’s late at night to help us out. She and Bruce Elfant both stayed for several hours, and we all had a great time. It’s that kind of grassroots mentality that I want to see in the city council, and I think Margot has the right experience and the right attitude.

As for Margot being anti-development, I think there’s something to be said for encouraging moderate rather than exponential growth at the city level. Is she really anti-development, or is she just anti-turning-Austin-into-Houston? Just some food for thought.

Posted by: Amanda at April 1, 2005 11:09 AM

No, I'd say she's anti-development. She thinks we can just have people stop moving here. That's crazy. That's the attitude that screwed up this city over the last 10 years. You want to know who to blame for sprawl? You can blame the people that didn't deal with growth and that didn't plan. Now we've got strip malls as far as the eye can see.

Vote for Margot Clalrk if you want to cut off your Nose to save your Face.

Posted by: Jakob Price at April 1, 2005 11:57 AM

Huzzah for Jakob! He is absolutely right- I am very much a keep-Austin-from-becoming-Dallas/Houston type of person, but that doesn't mean no development. It means smart development- Kirk Watson style. Margot Clarke is of the old Central Austin, unreformed hippie type of mindset that says that we shouldn't build new roads, we shouldn't build new buildings, etc. If we don't deal with this stuff now, people will keep moving further and further out, creating the kind of sprawl that make those aforementioned cities unlivable.

If you are a progressive, but also interested in planning for the future rather than spiting it, Mandy Dealey is a phenomenal choice. Gregg Knaupe is a good choice. Jennifer Kim is a bit unexperienced for my taste and there is just something phony about her. Margot Clarke is bad for Austin.

One last thing- Knaupe hasn't "dodged" the smoking ban more than anyone else. He starts from the same position- he supports the voters- but adds a very intelligent subpoint: that if we keep changing the regulatory environment every few years, businesses will throw up their hands and leave Austin. We need to come up with a policy that everyone can deal with- the current situation is a good compromise- and just leave it alone. Restaurants are almost universally non-smoking and even a majority of bars are non-smoking in Austin. But if you want to pay the fees, you can have smoking.

I think I'll try and post more on the smoking ordinance in the future, but please, for goodness sake, don't vote for Margot!

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at April 1, 2005 01:27 PM

Where do you guys get off saying that Margot is anti-development? "She thinks we can just have people stop moving here." Did she say that? Is that her campaign platform, or is there something you can demonstrate that shows that is what she thinks, or are you a mind reader? There is something in the COA called the Desired Development Zone, which is an important tool for where the city directs growth away from sensitive areas. While I certainly cannot speak for anyone other than myself, I would be surprised if Margot was opposed to growth in the DDZ. Maybe you heard that the city just convinced Freescale not only keep their headquarters here in Austin, but to move into the DDZ. A win-win.

Andrew, I'm sorry, but you really don't know what you're talking about. Maybe you can expand on what your idea of "Kirk Watson style smart growth" is and how Margot's vision differs from that. If you are not sure, I would suggest contacting her campaign for clarification before jumping to "unreformed hippie type of mindset" generalizations.

Now, if you are into the pave-the-aquifer and build-toll-roads-to-drive-more-sprawl mindset, Margot is definitely not the one for you.

Posted by: Harold at April 1, 2005 08:15 PM

Dear, dear Jakob... "You want to know who to blame for sprawl?"

You really need to get out more. If you want to place blame for sprawl, take a look at the Texas Legislature and the development interests that run it. Practically every effort Austin has made to try and control sprawl has been nullified by the passage of special-interest bills that allow developers to do whatever they want to do. Ever hear of HB1704 and chapter 245? On what grounds do you think the city can say "no" to a developer who wants to come in and build a strip mall? All the tools have been taken away.

"That's the attitude that screwed up this city over the last 10 years..." What city in Texas has done better than Austin in the last 10 years? Houston? Dallas? San Antonio? They built plenty of roads. But, then, so did Austin. Just what is it that Austin didn't do in the past 10 years that could have made things better, and what makes Margot anti-development?

Posted by: Harold at April 1, 2005 08:42 PM

Is Austin better today then it was 10 years ago? Is the enivonment better? What about air quality? What about our water quality? No, No, and No.

Margot wants to continue the failed policies that have made Austin a crappier place to live over the last 10 years. We can keep voting for head in the sand candidates like her, or go out and get a Council Member that will actually puruse policies that fix problems and protect our environment and quality of life.

If you hate the environment and don't care about Austin, vote for Margot Clark.

Posted by: Jakob Price at April 1, 2005 11:01 PM

What candidate are you working for, Jakob? Specifically what "failed policies" does Margot want to continue? What are the policies that will "fix problems and protect our environment and quality of life", and who is championing those policies?

I see quite a few Austin environmental leaders listed as supporters on Margot's website, so I'm not sure where you get your information about Margot being bad for the environment...

You are all rhetoric with no substance.

Posted by: Harold at April 2, 2005 09:31 AM

I'm voting for Jennifer Kim because she's actually got some substance. Harold, I find your personal attacks disheartening.

I think you just don't get it.

(1) Austin has gotten shittier over the last ten years.
(2) Margot wants to continue with our exiting policies.
(3) . . . Hello? She's wants to keep doing what isn't working.

You just don't understand that doing what we've always done isn't going to make anything better.

Posted by: Jakob Price at April 3, 2005 02:16 PM

Yeah, go ahead and vote for Kim ; that is what a large portion of the same Austin progressives that elected George W bush are doing

Posted by: Del Goss at April 3, 2005 08:30 PM

Come on Jakob... personal attacks? You can't answer questions by just repeating what you said before. That's called "rhetoric." I guess you can take that personally if you want to, but it's not meant to be. You accused a candidate of something and I just want to find out where your accusations are based. So far, they seem to be baseless.

You are avoiding my questions. Here are my questions, repeated, to give you an opportunity to back up your assertions:

1) What city in Texas has done better than Austin in the last 10 years?

2) Just what is it that Austin didn't do in the past 10 years that could have made things better?

3) What makes Margot anti-development?

3) Specifically what "failed policies" does Margot want to continue?

4) What are the policies that will "fix problems and protect our environment and quality of life", and who is championing those policies?

All I'm asking for is you to explain your comments.

Posted by: harold at April 4, 2005 12:24 PM

"even a majority of bars are non-smoking in Austin"


I agree with most of your points (I think the Sierra Club no-growthers are the worst people to put into power; smart-growth actually can work, no-growth doesn't), but you completely lost me with this bald-faced lie.

Posted by: M1EK at April 7, 2005 11:42 AM

A few thoughts from the far side….

Hi All,
I am a native Austenite and a UT grad (class of ‘90 just for perspectives sake). I have been reading over the interchange about the city counsel race. Interesting reading on both sides of the issue. I find the conversation to sound a good deal like an interchange I had with my brother via e-mail in the months leading up to the last presidential election (He supported Bush, I took the other side, again for perspective sake... I lost the arguement and my stupid brother helped Bush take a second term... different story).
I have a few thoughts. Growth in Austin is an interesting issue. I grew up near 45th and Mopac and remember as a youngster taking my little three speed bike out and running around on the sand piles where the MoPac highway sits today. I also remember getting my drivers license and exploring to the far reaches of the city (Westlake) to visit a girl I liked. When my wife and I bought our first rental house (WAY out south of town... near William Cannon and Mopac) the highway didn’t even extend down that far. Same was true for our second rental house in Anderson mill…
My grandma turned 90 last year. We had a big family reunion and invited all her kids and there kids to come. Turned into a deal with somewhere just shy of 100 people in attendance and a good number that couldn't make it into town. And it started with just two people....
And the last bit of perspective… I am one of those rabid no-growth folks in every way. But the fact of the matter is, without a major cultural change (both nationwide and worldwide) 0-growth is just not realistic. The number of people is growing and the resources we consume as a society is going to grow with it. We strip the natural resources of the land and the planet not based (well, not totally based) on neglect… We (humans) are apex predators, omnivores at best (less than 1% of the human population are true vegetarians even if you include Asia where it is much more common). If I lived off the land wearing bear skins and hunting with a spear I still consume a ton more natural resource than the cows I would choose as my preferred source of dinner (on the order of 15-20 times the resource per day I feed myself what I would like to eat if you track down all the energy that is spent to grow a cow or much of anything else that I like to eat).
How do I feel about a 0-growth city council? I think they are going to have there hands full trying to slow down the ridicules rate at which our happy home is being over-run by other people that want to live here. There are more people and ANYWHERE you choose to live the population is growing and overcrowding is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Actually, to put a finer point on the issue, I think anyone that truly believes they are going to stop growth in Austin has not looked at the latest population data. If I thought Margot was actually trying to do that then she would be my absolutely favorite choice in this election. That is not because I believe for a second that it is possible or even practical to attempt, but because someone needs to make the good fight and slow things down as much as is practical. I have read over a good deal of stuff about her and I can’t really find any reason to think she is espousing anything except a slow educated growth plan for Austin. Not what I wanted (I was looking for the radical 0-growth person), but as close as I am going to get because a political canadate that even mentions 0-growth might as well fall on there own knife and get it over with.
My suggestion is, if you want to make a difference in how things are looking for my, your and your kid’s future make sure you have less than 2 kids per couple average, and make sure you instill that same value system in your kids. Make sure they understand that right now the human population is running like lemmings to the cliff. Don’t tell your kids about the American dream of HOME ownership, tell them about the American dream of CONDO ownership. Tell them you hate your pick up because it gets lousy gas mileage and that you wish there was a sensible car that got 240 MPG and carried two passengers and an overnight bag. While your at it tell Ford Motor Company the same thing... Tell them that the highest and best choice in real estate ownership is to live within biking distance of where you work. Tell them about telecommuting and tell them to tell there future employers. Starting a social revolution in the thinking of a small populations is overwhelming. Changing the way a species acts is staggering. But if you look at where we are going as a species I think you will find that the time for this kind of thinking is here. Worried about oil prices peaking at the high side of $2.00 a gallon for a few weeks? Whatever. Oil is a renewable resource. But it takes a little longer for earth to make a new load than we are going to take to use it up… what is it, around 20,000 years or so? Your kids are going to have to find a car that gets more like 250,000 MPG if we are going to avoid running out. It might be worth pointing that out to them.

You guys… The college students of today... are going to have to face the rather poor legacy we (the collage students of my day) left to you. I am sorry it is such a tough job. But for all of your sake, stand up and take action now. Don’t leave it for your kids to try and straighten out the legacy you left them. The future IS going to be different whether you like it or not. Choose carefully. Don’t get dragged into making poor decisions based on someone telling you toll roads are a bad idea…. I avidly appose toll roads on the roads that are already built. If someone wants to extract money in exchange for new road construction from those new roads so much the better. Then you are taxing the people that are using the infrastructure that you built for there convenience and leave the rest of us alone. That makes sense no matter what party line you stand with. If you don’t mind sitting in hours of traffic on the old roads then great. If you do then you help pay for the new road like everyone else. And while it happens you get a subtle but daily reminder that living in Cedar Park and working downtown in Austin is not really a very good idea for your pocket book, the environment, or the quality of life in our home town. Show me someone that stands up for THAT point of view in so many words and I will volunteer to help get them elected.

Just my thoughts… Keep up the discussion everyone. And keep the discussion on issues and perspectives. If you have a perspective and you want it to be considered, speak up. Anyone that wants to burn this one to the ground feel free. But consider the perspective top to bottom before you dismiss it.
Have a great day everyone, and think about what’s coming next.

Thoughts from the far side…

Posted by: Craig at June 6, 2005 11:36 AM

"If someone wants to extract money in exchange for new road construction from those new roads so much the better. Then you are taxing the people that are using the infrastructure that you built for there convenience and leave the rest of us alone."
...And I wonder where the money is going to come from in the first place...? Sorry, did somebody say double/backdoor/regressive taxes?
It's "heartening" indeed to hear that the same people that f*cked it up 10 years ago are still as uninformed.

Posted by: k at June 11, 2005 10:04 PM

"If someone wants to extract money in exchange for new road construction from those new roads so much the better. Then you are taxing the people that are using the infrastructure that you built for there convenience and leave the rest of us alone."
...And I wonder where the money is going to come from in the first place...? Sorry, did somebody say double/backdoor/regressive taxes?
It's "heartening" indeed to hear that the same people that fucked it up 10 years ago are still as uninformed. (But I agree, at least, that new roads - not toll roads - need to be built. The money needs to come from, partly, the gasoline tax - but no, people are already freakin' out about gas prices - thanks to the Repubs - despite the fact that the tax hasn't risen in Texas in what, the last 10 years, the fact that Texas' taxes for gas are 15% below national average (and so are our gas prices in general), the fact that gasoline is one of the cheapest fluids you can buy anywhere, and the fact that just raising 1 cent in the tax would generate $100 million in revenue...but no, we just want to keep bitching and yet still continue with our 'rail-less' lifestyles...) The personal 'perspectives' are nice, but more importantly, so is being informed.

Posted by: k at June 11, 2005 10:24 PM
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