Texas Decides 2018 Voters Guide
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Voters Guide

Austin City Council District 8

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    Rich DePalma

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    Paige Ellis

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    Bobby Levinski

  • Frank Ward

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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 Business improvement consultant. Former Vice Chair Parks and Rec. Board; AISD FABPAC; VP Oak Hill Assoc. Neighborhoods; 2016 Oak Hill Citizen of Year
Education University of Arizona, B.A. Political Science 2013 Austin City Works Academy graduate; and 2015 Leadership Austin graduate.
Affordability is a concern for many and we need to enact a comprehensive but common sense strategy to address the challenges. Looking at the housing data, in order to address affordable housing we must address: (i) housing supply, (ii) land prices, (iii) cost of construction and permitting, (iv) property taxes, and (v) housing funding. Ultimately, one of the main reasons for our high taxes is the broken public school funding formula. I’m the only candidate in the race who has testified at the state legislature on the impact the funding formula is having on affordability and on our facilities.
The next land development code revision must reflect the vision of Imagine Austin. I support 1) providing clarity on land use regulations for everyone, 2) allowing for housing density in transit corridors, 3) increasing housing diversity options for our city’s housing stock, 4) allowing for development of smaller lots (while maintaining appropriate water quality & stormwater protections), and 5) implementing green stormwater infrastructure.
My top environmental concerns are water quality, conservation, and stormwater protection. I want to work to address redevelopment in high impervious cover sites to incentivize green stormwater infrastructure. As the city continues to grow, we need to enact the recommendations presented by the Integrated Water Resource Planning Community Task force and in the Water Forward plan. Lastly, the city needs to partner with other entities like AISD to mitigate stormwater through green and traditional stormwater infrastructure projects.
The critical issues affecting District 8 are 1) affordability 2) improving traffic 3) addressing public safety & 4) reviewing where resources are spent. As the only candidate who has lived in SW Austin for over a decade, it’s time for the district to receive its fair share of resources from City Hall. We have 1 city pool, 1 library, the 2nd highest percentage of poor or failing sidewalks, and not enough fire stations which places our area at great risk. Our district has different needs than downtown Austin’s and we need a strong voice at City Hall to advocate for our SW families and seniors.
Background I work for an environmental firm that ensures compliance with the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act on housing and transportation projects.
Education University of Texas at San Antonio, Bachelor's in Sociology.
We need to protect the homestead exemption for homeowners, and increase dense housing and affordable housing inventory for renters. I will prioritize financial support for affordable housing projects that are 1) accessible by transit or could be accessible in the near future; 2) in close proximity to employment, job training, or education; 3) near Healthcare facilities or community services; and/or 4) identified in the Imagine Austin Growth Concept Master plan. I support the Affordable Housing Bond, I want to limit tax giveaways to corporations - they need to contribute their fair share.
As we work to update the 1984 land development code, we need to allow for density along transit corridors and more missing middle housing in transition zones. We can also utilize HUD grants and Community Development Block Grants to help offset the cost of building the housing supply we need.
Proper watershed and stormwater protection measures. Because we are always protecting ourselves from (and preparing ourselves for) the threat of drought and subsequent flooding, we need to pass Prop D for flood mitigation, open space, and water quality protection. I also aim to promote healthy watershed protection measures and address non-compliance with stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWP3). When contractors fall out of compliance with SWP3 protocols, this should be immediately addressed by the project owner.
Southwest Austin cares about affordability and city services. Among other things we need a code compliance substation in the district. We also need to end corporate tax giveaways such as the soccer stadium deal. If the residents pay our fair share, the corporations need to do so, too. Finally, our region is home to many people experiencing homelessness because they camp on the greenbelt at night and spend their days on traffic medians - but city funds to address this issue are limited to downtown. We pay for these services, we should have access to them in Southwest Austin.
Background I’ve been actively involved in City policy since 2005, having served as a policy advisor to MPT Kathie Tovo, CM Laura Morrison and CM Jennifer Kim.
Education I have a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD) from The University of Texas School of Law and a BA in Economics and Urban Studies from UT as well.
At a time when residents’ property taxes and rents are increasing exponentially, it’s more important than ever to mitigate rising costs of living for homeowners and renters. I support (i) reducing the City’s reliance on flat-rate fees, such as those on utility bills that disproportionately impact lower-income families; (ii) cutting unnecessary expenses, such as Council’s recent increases in their own budgets; (iii) establishing longer-term budget planning and building up reserves to avoid future tax increases; and (iv) raising the homestead exemption for seniors and persons with disabilities.
I was an outspoken critic of CodeNEXT (the land development code revision) as a process. We spent 6 years and $8.5+ million on the process; both numbers are indications of problems that perpetuated throughout. However, there is much we can salvage and move forward with, such as amendments that will help us (i) manage our growth better by directing it to town centers and along designated transit corridors; (ii) address our serious flooding risks by requiring redevelopments to mitigate stormwater runoff; and (iii) reduce wildfire risks by adopting the recommendations of the Firewise Alliance.
We need to adopt an aggressive 100-yr water plan (Water Forward) with an implementation timetable and goals/metrics that recognize the urgency of climate change and the need to become a more water-efficient, drought-resilient city. As an environmental attorney, I have been tracking the preparation of this plan and am eager to get moving on code amendments that will require developers to install green stormwater infrastructure and other on-site reuse options. This will help us avoid future water costs by using local water sources already available to us, instead of importing water at a premium.
What I hear most from residents as concerns are affordability (discussed above), traffic and public safety. To address traffic, we need to better coordinate land use planning with infrastructure planning to direct growth to areas with infrastructure in place to support it and move forward with context-sensitive solutions at the Y in Oak Hill and for S Mopac to relieve congestion. On public safety, I’ve been advocating for a new fire station to serve Travis Country (an area with poor response times), and I’ll support a police contract that will help us recruit, train and retain our officers.
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