The final ballot list for the Nov. 4 local elections was released Aug. 18, revealing 78 candidates for 11 positions in Austin’s first geographically represented city council.
This will be the first election under the 10-ONE system, a plan approved by voters in 2012 which includes an expanded 11-member council, with the mayor elected citywide and council members selected from ten individual geographic districts encompassing the city.
“Under the new system of government, it’s going to be even more important for a mayor that has a record of collaboration because we’re going to have a lot more diversity,” Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said.
Steve Adler, mayoral candidate and local attorney, said he thinks the city will benefit from the 10-ONE system.
“I think Austin is at a tipping point. A fork in the road,” Adler said. “Cities don’t get the opportunity to do government-culture restarts. We have one. I think it’s a once in a generation opportunity.”
Adler and Cole join council member Mike Martinez and five other candidates on the ballot for mayor this November. Many of the candidates have cited transportation and affordability as fundamental challenges the city faces.
The only two sitting council members running for re-election are Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley, both vying for the chance to represent District 9. This region is composed of much of downtown, UT, West Campus, North Campus and Hyde Park. Other areas, such as Mueller and South Congress, are in the district as well.
Riley said 14 percent of people who live in the Cherrywood neighborhood ride their bikes to work.
“Students are really in a position to lead the charge towards a better urban environment,” Riley said. “They’re saying they want to rely less on their cars. They don’t want to be driving as much as the people that came before them. They want to live in a walkable urban setting.”
Riley, who serves on both the Capital Metro and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization boards, said he believes in “accommodating people over cars.” He said he hopes to ease restrictions that make it difficult to build affordable housing like micro-units and accessory dwelling units.
Both Riley and Tovo said they support urban rail and voted for the proposal in July. All of the candidates running said they want to reach out to the student population.
Tovo said she is concerned about high property taxes being passed onto students in the form of higher rents, and emphasized that she has been leading the council in work on property tax reforms.
Erin McGann, a candidate who works at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in social services, said she wants to create more middle-income housing and does not support the urban rail proposal or the city’s involvement in property development.
McGann said she saw the single-member districts as an opportunity to get involved and was even more motivated knowing the only two incumbents were running in her district.
“There needs to be another choice,” McGann said. “I mean, everybody else gets a brand new city council person — why not District 9?”
A candidate forum for District 9 will be held at the Palmer Events Center on Sept. 18.
Other districts also encompass areas with significant student populations. District 1 covers the east side of campus and East Austin. District 3 includes East Riverside, while District 10 includes the Far West area.