Austin Voters Choose New City Council Members and Reject Rail

November 6, 2014 by Kate Harrington

Election Day in Austin brought about some definitive answers as to what the new city council will look like, and many more runoffs.

Two candidates won their districts: Delia Garza will represent District 2, and Ann Kitchen won District 5. The remaining eight districts, as well as the mayor’s seat, will be decided in a runoff election.

Among the council runoffs are the hotly-contested race between brother and sister Susana Almanza and Sabino Renteria in District 3, and the very tight race between software systems engineer Don Zimmerman and website designer Jimmy Flannigan in District 6. A mere 25 votes separated the two on Election Day. In Central Austin’s District 9, Councilmember Kathie Tovo fell just short of securing the majority, with 49.1 percent of the vote. She and Councilmember Chris Riley will head to the runoff.

In the mayor’s runoff, Councilmember Mike Martinez, who won 29.6 percent of the vote, will face Steve Adler, who got 36.8 percent. Support for the two neatly divides the city between east and west. Martinez did well in the precincts near to and east of I-35, along with mayoral candidate Sheryl Cole, while Adler dominated the West Austin vote.

As for the $1 billion rail and road proposal, voters soundly rejected the measure. The proposal would have allowed the city to borrow $600 million to build a new light rail line, contingent on federal matching funds, and would have also provided $400 million for road improvements.

Voters, especially those who don’t live close to the proposed line, balked at the hefty tax increase. An analysis of the vote in the Austin American-Statesman shows that the proposal prevailed in just 49 of Austin’s 228 precincts, all of which were close to or on top of the proposed route.

Many voters were also disheartened with the proposed route. While the light rail line would have run south of the river along East Riverside Drive, many commuters wanted a line to extend farther into South Austin. Others were upset that an initial proposal didn’t include service to the airport, and a large contingent of pro-transit advocates thought placing the line away from the busy North Lamar and Guadalupe corridors was a mistake.

Stay tuned for more from about what the next steps for city transportation challenges and for transit might be.

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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.