Texas Decides 2018 Voters Guide
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Voters Guide

Mayor, City of Austin

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  • Candidate picture

    Steve Adler

  • Travis Duncan

  • Candidate picture

    Laura Morrison

  • Alan Pease

  • Gustavo "Gus" Pena

  • Candidate picture

    Todd Phelps

  • Candidate picture

    Alexander Strenger

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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 is your vision for the future of Austin, and how would you achieve it?

Background 10 years as civil rights attorney and 30 practicing eminent domain law. 8+ years in State Senate as chief of staff. 20 years on boards of non-profits
Education First in family to graduate from college. BA, Princeton ‘78. AB, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and Int’l Affairs, 74-78. JD, Univ. of Texas ‘82
We need to bring down costs, esp. housing, and help people earn more. I support big investments in housing and mobility, including mass transit. Passed 2016 mobility bond and now pushing for large affordable housing bond. Led on 10% homestead exemption with goal of 20%. Increased senior and disabled exemption every year. Increased funding 540% in affordable housing trust fund. Enacted first regional workforce plan, taking 10k people from poverty. Passed paid sick leave and reworked incentives to target small and local businesses instead of big corps from outside Austin. Still much to do.
More housing, especially affordable housing, in commercial centers and along transit corridors. Better water quality and flood mitigation infrastructure and environmental controls. Increased flexibility and calibration in density bonus programs to provide more affordable housing in more places. Simplify code to make more predictable, easier to understand, and less cost-burdened. Enact Austin Bargain with additional, flexible housing options on corridors while preserving interiors of neighborhoods. Allow more optional tools for neighborhoods to adopt and respect neighborhood planning process.
Climate change is top concern. Need to act swiftly and decisively, and we have. Signed Paris Accords and committed city to action. Purchased largest and most cost-effective solar contracts getting city to 50% renewable by 2020. Actual steps by 2022 to shut down coal plant and working to electrify city fleets. Need code changes for more cost-efficient distributed water supply and energy generation. Continue pushing to maximum renewable goal and get to 100% by 2030 with tech advances. Do this while lowering electric rates, keeping utility affordable and owned by the residents of Austin.
Austin is a warm and welcoming city, magical and special. Must fight state and national politics to keep it that way. We can’t lose what makes Austin special, so need to handle growth in a proactive way. Can’t bury our heads in the sand. We tried that and it didn’t work. Need to make sure we don’t lose artists and musicians, our communities and our people. That means taking bold action like biggest mobility and affordability bonds in history of city, as we have done. That means worker, environmental, and women’s health protections, and progressive policies that benefit all, not just the few.
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Background Austin City Council 2008-2014, ensuring wise use of public dollars & putting people first. Prior to that: engineer & program manager.
Education I hold a master’s degree in mathematics and a graduate certificate in public health, community preparedness and disaster response.
Take immediate action to retain existing affordable housing and stem displacement of residents. Commit to an equitable plan to ensure affordable housing in every Austin zip code. Promote complete communities throughout Austin so all residents have access to schools, groceries, transit and other basic services. Simplify and strengthen the city’s affordable housing density bonus program. Seek legislative changes to fix root causes of unaffordability, notably our broken school finance system, and legalize common affordability tools such as linkage fees, rent stabilization and inclusionary zoning.
In general, I support an effort to accommodate growth with appropriate development and to strengthen city affordability programs, although CodeNext failed to achieve these goals. I support a revision to increase density in compatible ways, to strengthen community benefit requirements for projects with added entitlements and to extend the affordable housing density bonus program to commercial properties. I also strongly support measures to strengthen watershed protections and flood mitigation, an increasingly critical safety issue in light of climate change and Austin’s continued growth.
We must move more aggressively to accommodate our growth in an environmentally responsible way. Key actions I will take as mayor: (1) ensure a safe, sustainable water supply, increasingly stressed by hotter summers, by relying on local sources and implementing Austin’s Water Forward plan on an accelerated timeline including conservation, water reuse and other strategies and (2) reduce traffic and their emissions, soon to be our main contributor to green house gases, by implementing high capacity transit and a robust public and active transportation system.
My vision for the future of Austin is one where all residents have the opportunity to share in our city’s success, with housing we can afford, a range of transportation modes, and a voice in the decisions that affect our lives. As mayor, I will lead inclusive, community-driven processes to ensure affordable housing options in every part of Austin, high-capacity transit and increased alternative modes of transportation. Finally, as my record shows, I am committed to equity and transparency in all city matters and ensuring a voice for the people of Austin at City Hall.
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Background Todd Phelps is an Austin native, small business owner, farmer and musician, with experience in commercial lending and leading a wind energy company.
Education Hills Elementary School, Hyde Park Baptist High School, University of Texas at Austin
Adopting a budget at the effective tax rate—commonly considered the “no tax increase rate” should be the goal. In the past several years new construction has been in the range of $2.5 to $2.9 billion which generates additional taxes even at the effective tax rate. Looking for efficiencies that can provide money for public services and safety without increasing taxes. Use underutilized city property for affordable housing. If not suitable, land should be sold, and proceeds used for affordable housing. No property tax exemptions or expensive incentives should be given to out of town businesses.
Neighborhood input to determine how to preserve the character of neighborhoods, parks and green spaces while increasing density where practicable. Transit oriented corridors that encourage housing on corridors that facilitate residents’ ability to utilize mass transit and located near shopping, health care and jobs. Need for clear concise rules that are easy to follow and do not add unnecessary costs to the development process which ultimately leads to increased costs of construction. Streamline development process to bring out more family friendly housing at various levels of affordability.
Austin needs to continue to strive for high environmental and energy conversation standards in all new and redevelopment projects. Increases in impervious cover and climate change have resulted in serious flood events over the last 3 years. We must demand that flood mitigation be taken seriously. Having to buy out homes is expensive and terribly disruptive to families that are displaced. The 500-year flood plain standard should be adopted on all new construction, attention to open space and tree canopies are vital. Zoning variances that negatively impact the environment should not be granted.
Austin needs to preserve its culture and revive its heart and soul. The people who made Austin interesting and great including artisans and tradespeople, small business owners, musicians, retirees etc. need to be able to afford to stay in Austin. We need to focus on affordability and mobility strategies. The loss of iconic businesses needs to be taken seriously as does the gentrification of our neighborhoods and business districts. Austin needs to protect our small businesses, parks and unique spaces so local Austinites and visitors can enjoy our culture for generations to come.
Background I am a pedicab driver and former substitute teacher in AISD with an extensive background interacting with the public.
Education B.A Psychology: SUNY Binghamton
While our housing supply needs to grow in order to meet the demand for housing, this growth should in no way, shape, or form be subsidized by the city. All incoming developers need to pay their share of property taxes as well as the necessary utility fees to the city of Austin. Affordable units should be between 30-50% of MFI and council need to build the stated amount of affordable units if they do density bonuses. Furthermore, the density bonus fee in leiu needs to be raised from $2 to $4/sq. foot if developers want to bypass implementing the appropriate number of affordable housing unit.
We need a comprehensive land code that the people have a direct say in. The majority of those who planned our land code were connected to the Real Estate industry and we need to restructure our planning commission. Our next land code needs to be written by our various neighborhood councils as a means of generating direct community involvement in the trajectory for a more affordable Austin.
60% of our waterways are found to be contaminated with fecal matter and deemed unsafe to swim. This disturbing fact is caused largely by the influx of dog owners who let their pets dump near our lakes, creeks, and other bodies of water without bothering to clean up after them. When I get elected I plan on increasing police presence near our bodies of water in order to enforce the $500 fine in place for owners who refuse to clean up after their pets. A portion from these fines will go towards helping our homeless find transitional housing.
I envision a more affordable Austin where we utilize all of our transportation options in a practical and effective manner. All incoming developers and multinational companies will pay their fair share of taxes to the city as well as offer direct community benefits. We need to expand our bus system and provide efficient Metro Rapid service to ALL areas of Austin, as well as the surrounding areas. Dockless scooters need to be at every bus stop here in Austin and Electric Cabs should be stationed in all key areas of Austin to enable people to get to their required destinations.