Texas Decides 2018 Voters Guide
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Voters Guide

Austin City Council District 3

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  • Candidate picture

    Susana Almanza

  • Candidate picture

    Jessica Cohen

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    Justin Jacobson

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    Amit Motwani

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    Sabino 'Pio' Renteria

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    James Valadez

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Biographical Information

What policies do you support to make Austin a more affordable place to live for all residents?

Explain what important aspects of the land development code revision you support

What is your top environmental concern and how would you address it?

What are the most critical issues in your district and how will you address them?

Background Susana Almanza is Director of PODER, grassroots environmental social justice organization, a longtime community organizer, educator, & grandmother.
Education Over 50 years of working and advocating for social justice. A long time human right activist. A proven leader, recognized locally and nationally.
Implement the Peoples Plan which addresses low-income housing, environment & equity. Support preserving & expanding low-income & moderate housing through rehabilitation, new construction, tax exemptions, community Land Trust and expanded opportunities for home ownership & rental. Support preserving public housing, creating cooperative housing & the construction of energy efficient housing on public land by non-profit groups.Create programs that encourage developers and owners to offer long (perhaps five-to-seven year) leases to tenants at all income levels who commit to staying in a property.
Proposition J gives residents a choice to approve or disapprove any plan like CodeNEXT at the ballot. Refocus on the most important aspects of the land code: prioritize the needs of current residents & discourage their displacement; preservation and construction of truly affordable and low-income housing, streamline & update technology of city’s inefficient permitting process, and return to the community planning districts. Fix the problems with existing neighborhood & small area plans.The adoption & implementation of the Peoples Plan will address housing, watershed protection & equity.
Implementation of Peoples Plan on housing, environment & equity; Recommendations of COA Flood Mitigation Task Force; Austin Community Climate Plan reduction in emission; Reducing CO2 emissions; Water Forward Plan; Climate Protection Plan; Protection of tree canopy; Transportation improvements. Incorporate neighborhood groups in the process of addressing & solving issues. Incorporate residents on the City Council Committees & move meetings to evening. Establishment of several peoples' committees to work on ordinances, policies & evaluations. This will be an on-going process within my office.
Implement Peoples Plan which addresses low-income housing, environment & equity. Support preserving & expanding low-income & moderate housing through rehabilitation, new construction, tax exemptions, community Land Trust & expanded chances for ownership & rental. Control Public land for community development; Preserve & grow small businesses & cultural assets; Provide income & asset creation by providing services-childcare, transportation, retail sector, access to health care & employment opportunities. City-wide living wage of $15 hr. Join our movement to Reclaim, Remain & Rebuild our City.
Background I’ve been a public servant for 24 years, working to protect Austinites and veterans as a senior network engineer and an EMT.
I support Austin's S.M.A.R.T. housing and density bonus ordinances but believe they need to be expanded and built on further. Due to all the surrounding cities, Austin has very little room to grow outward. That leaves the options of building up or building more housing on less space. I support a stronger carrot over the stick approach by reducing or waiving permit and impact fees for developers who meet strict guidelines for affordable and green housing.
The most important type of change I think we should see implemented into our land development code is introducing transects and form codes to refresh the hundred year old euclidean zoning Austin currently uses. Defining areas as rural to high density/urban while also ensuring people do not have to drive to get to the places that they often use, would greatly impact the way in which new developments are designed and implemented. This would promote the creation of dense mixed use areas with parks while still allowing for more traditional residential areas away from the core of each transect.
There are several environmental concerns for Austin that I think should be addressed immediately. 1, The COA should purchase and shut down the coal using Sam Seymour Power Plant. 2, The COA should focus on all the additional drivers on the road due to increased population/ride shares and work to limit their CO2 output. 3, The COA should consider water cooled solar power banks on Lady Bird Lake or Lake Travis. These could be easily implemented without being obtrusive. 4, City Council should pass a resolution to move away from buying our green energy credit to producing it ourselves.
The most critical issues in District 3 are gentrification, soaring property taxes/rent, displacement, homelessness, and crime. All of these things are related to each other. I support developing and implementing a strong Anti-Displacement Policy agenda. I believe that the Council needs to work harder with the AISD board to circumvent the state "Robin Hood" recapture law and return those property taxes to it's constituents. I support a larger budget for transitional housing and social workers in order to reduce homelessness. I also believe we need more officers involved in community policing.
Background I started with LGBTQ activism in highschool through college. Then worked on campaigns for politicians Celia Israel, Wendy Davis, Bernie Sanders.
Education I proudly attended grades K-12 in Leander ISD. I have a B.A. in Political Science from Texas State University.
I want to preserve current affordable housing, identify city owned properties prime for affordable housing, commit to strategic land banking for future needs, establish more Community Land Trusts, create historic & homestead preservation districts, expand home repair and weatherization efforts, strengthen rights of tenets, expand & deepen Density Bonus Programs, reevaluated Fee-in-Lieu schedules, streamline code & permitting process, and add missing middle housing. Yet, the most effective tool is a rewrite of our Land Use Code, ushering in the more units.
I want to see code that allows for building diverse missing middle housing stock, decreased parking space requirements, respect of established neighborhood plans, better compatibility requirements, reevaluating average lot size & permissible amount of units, streamlined standards & rules for ADUs, more robust density bonus programs, preserving affordable housing stock, protected rights to notice and appeal of developments, and simplified build codes & permitting. Ultimately, this is all underpinned by a process that has greater buy in from ALL folks in Austin, unlike CodeNEXT.
Climate Change is our number one challenge. It effects the severity of droughts, the maintenance of our water supply, increased severe flooding events, damage to the urban canopy, increased potential of wild fires, implications of higher average temperatures. These can be addressed by keeping the goal of Austin Energy using 100% renewable energy, create mass transit to lower car emissions, pass stronger water conservation measures, invest in fire resources & the urban canopy, & address the problems of increased flooding. Climate Change endangers the success and quality of life in Austin
The negative costs of Austin's growth, rising rents, tax bills, home valuations, increased displacement, and questions of retaining neighborhood character are most pressing. Needed is a strategy of smart growth allowing for increased diverse housing to help lower rents & providing more options, effective transit solutions, the mechanisms that help long time residents stay in their homes & maintain character of neighborhoods. A rewrite of Land Use code has an out sized effect on how these problems are addressed now and can control for negative consequences in the future.
Background Former software startup executive who has spent his last 15 years in direct human service delivery and mgmt for Austin's most vulnerable families.
Education Amit attended UT's undergrad Business Honors program for 2 years from 1995 before financial hardship guided him to a successful tech startup career.
1.I support the entire bond package on the ballot, specifically, props A & E. 2.Increase deeply affordable and affordable housing supply—develop immediately (or ASAP) on publicly available land for affordable housing. 3.Dramatically increase human service investments: health care, transportation, high quality child care, food insecurity, preventive health screenings, social service needs, low cost/low-interest loans. 4. Strong focus on policy that increases access to public high quality child care 5. Improved access to economic opportunity- coordinated efforts for relevant emp skills training
I support the dissolution of the CodeNext process for exactly the reasons our mayor identified and am keen on participating in a revised process that will be guided by the city manager after a hopefully through post-mortem.

I’d like to see the land development code expediently (though not rushed) re-formed to create additional frameworks for density (e.g. ADU’s, multifamily) where appropriate and sanctioned by local residents, businesses, and neighborhood stakeholders with the goal of simplifying permitting and substituting plain language for equivocal interpretations by code enforcement.
Carbon emissions and greenhouse gases continue to rise at an alarming rate, and the negative effects of climate change disproportionately affect our most vulnerable. 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001 including that last hour hottest years ever. As a council member/board member of Austin Energy, I'll push to add "teeth" or milestones and project plan to Austin's commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2030. I'll also push for policy avenues to include aggressive incentives for residents' adoption of electric vehicles, coupled with cont'd improvements on mass transit
Relief, Access, and Opportunity–median income is skewed downward in my district as compared to the City at large, and affordability relief needs to come immediately, from easing costs of both rental and purchase housing (preserving existing/increasing aff. housing stock) to mitigating cost burdens of healthcare, food, utilities, transportation, and child care. My previous response on affordability addresses ways to address those issues. For mid-income households, permitting and survey cost relief and fast-tracks must be coupled with property tax relief measures. Relief, Access, Opportunity!
Background Native Austinite and long-time activist who retired from IBM after 34 years. In 2014 he was elected to represent District 3 on the Austin City Council
Education University of Texas, Austin Community College, and Austin High.
I ran for Council to ensure that the working families who built our city are able not just to remain but to thrive. That’s why my top three priorities are affordable housing, public transportation, and economic empowerment.

My goal is to provide affordable housing in smarter ways and to build a more accessible and reliable transit system to help create diverse, multi-generational, mixed-income communities in Austin. We must address economic segregation and ensure working families have increased access to quality jobs, good schools, healthcare, and parks.
I support creating a more equitable land development code that addresses the major problems with our current code including traffic congestion, displacement, economic segregation, and flooding.

We need a code that can help us preserve and create more affordable housing in all parts of town instead of keeping our current code that exacerbates displacement and gentrification.

We must not only work to preserve existing affordable housing but create new affordable housing for our children and for families that have already been displaced.
Other than addressing air and water pollution that results from traffic congestion and sprawl, my top environmental concern is water conservation.

As our city continues to grow and climate change becomes and increasing threat, we must work with regional partners including other governmental jurisdictions, schools, and major employers to promote resiliency and protect our scarce water supplies for future generations.

I support the work being done on the Water Forward Plan and solutions for water conservation we can implement now.
The most critical issue in my district is affordability. Families are struggling to find affordable housing and high transportation costs are limiting mobility choices. That’s why during my time at Council I have successfully passed ordinances to help public housing providers create hundreds, if not thousands of affordable homes and on the CapMetro Board of Directors, I have advocated for more frequent and reliable transit services. I will continue to fight for raising the living wage and expanding worker protections like fair chance hiring and earned paid sick leave.
Background TCAD Board of Directors City of Austin Board of Adjustment City of Austin Community Development Commission AISD District of Innovation Task Force
Education B.S. Youth & Community Studies with Minor in Corporate Communications The University of Texas at Austin Texas Real Estate Commission Brokers License
We need to make sure we are using all the tools at our disposal to bring about affordability in the market. Expansion of various exemptions to serve the elderly and disabled is critical. Work to develop city owned land with affordable housing in high opportunity areas with 2 and 3 bedroom options to accommodate family’s needs. Work to pass policy that creates deep affordability to the 60% MFI and below. Our median income level as a district is below the city median so it’s important to know what is affordable for residents in District 3 and not what is affordable for the rest of the city.
As a community we need to learn from this process: What went wrong? What went right? The neighborhood plans being observed and included in the code rewrite process is critical, we have spent incredible amounts of time and money on these resources as a community and they represent the voices of our residents. The density bonus, fee in lieu and parkland dedication fees need to be recalibrated to make sure we are getting the most out of these tools. I am in favor of measured growth to corridors and activity centers as spelled out in Imagine Austin.
Water and air quality as well as preserving and expanding our parkland and green spaces are the environmental issues I would focus on because I believe they would have ripple effects into other key areas like flood mitigation & our cities carbon footprint. I would advocate for the use of pervious materials for our sidewalks and bike paths as well as in and around other flood prone areas throughout our city. I would also strive to implement policy that insures the sources of our energy are in line with our cities values.
The biggest issue facing the residents and business owners of District 3 is displacement. If elected I would work to acquire land in key areas to ensure long term affordability, the largest variable in this equation is the cost of land- purchasing sooner rather than later builds a path to affordability. The use of other tools such as land trusts can play a significant role in keeping tax burdens low by removing the land from the appraisal process. I would also work to implement historic districts to preserve our community’s history and protect some of our most affordable housing stock.