Among District Differences, Growth and Traffic Are Consistent Themes

October 6, 2014 by Kate Harrington

City council debates and forums are wrapping up, and early voting is almost upon us. While keeping tabs on all 78 candidates is close to impossible, there are some consistent themes that have emerged around the city in the Austin’s first 10-1 election season.

Growth, and the issues it brings, is a recurring topic in many districts. The issue brings different challenges in each district. In District 3, trendy Eastside growth is beginning to move toward district neighborhoods, making affordability a major concern for many residents. The 12 candidates in that district have focused on infrastructure options and affordable housing.

In District 7, growth is also a hot topic. That district includes fast-growing Burnet Road, as well as some neighborhoods north of U.S. 183. Concern about affordability is reflected in this district, too, along with fears from established neighborhoods that density will change their character. Older sewage and water infrastructure has also become a topic. The Austin Chronicle quotes District 7 candidate Melissa Zone saying “Then down the road, you have pipes burst. … We can build as much housing as possible, but what if the infrastructure fails on you? People will leave.”

And in District 9, in the center of Austin, the two powerhouse candidates Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley have traded jabs about incentives and density. Tovo is a critic of Austin’s incentive policy, while Riley supports it in the name of density.

via City of Austin

Transportation is another huge issue city-wide. In some districts, like District 2, the complaint is that public transportation is largely lacking.

In District 8, which includes more suburban neighborhoods near U.S. 290 and SH 71, traffic jams are a major frustration. Candidates in District 8 have different takes on SH 45 SW, which would connect S.H. 45 and FM 1626. Candidate Ed Scruggs opposes it, saying there’s no plan in place for how MoPac would deal with the additional traffic. Candidate Becky Bray, however, supports 45 SW as a much-needed solution for the district, along with transit options and density.

Traffic is a concern in District 10, as well, which is bordered by U.S. 183 and MoPac, and has high-traffic SH 360 and RM 2222 running through it. Candidates in this district support options like transportation network companies and expanded bus service, along with toll lanes and more highway construction.

District 5, which covers central-south neighborhoods, has seen candidates supporting more public transportation, especially expanded bus routes.

Meanwhile, Proposition 1 supporters say a recent poll indicates support for the measure. Let’s Go Austin, the PAC formed to support the $1 billion road and rail bond, conducted the survey in September that showed 52 percent support for the proposition, to 43 percent opposed, with a margin of error of +/-4.4 percent.

Three of the most visible mayoral candidates, Steve Adler, Sheryl Cole, and Mike Mar­tinez, have said they support Proposition 1, although many council candidates oppose it.

Early voting begins on October 20, and ends on October 31. Election day is November 4.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.