City Council candidate Linda O’Neal: Keep Austin affordable (and creative)

Sami Sparber

High school teacher Linda O’Neal isn’t running for the Austin City Council because she wants to. Rather, O’Neal said the job — and the city — needs her.

“I’m not a politician,” O’Neal said. “I’m an activist. I’m not afraid to ask questions about where our money is going. I’m not afraid to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m not here to make any friends. I’m here to hold city leaders accountable for promises that they make.”

O’Neal is running to represent District 9, which covers downtown, West Campus and parts of south Austin. She is attempting to unseat Kathie Tovo, the incumbent City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem. O’Neal’s platform focuses on keeping the city she grew up in affordable, equitable and creative.

“When I moved from Vietnam to Austin in 1975, our city looked and felt a lot different,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t mind the changes, but now I’m finding it’s really hard for people who have lived here a long time to afford to live here. We’re being pushed out.”

To keep Austin affordable for current residents, O’Neal’s platform proposes lease-to-purchase programs which allow renters to earn equity over a period of 15 years in order to buy a house. She said if Austin wants to keep its “creative class,” the city must provide affordable housing options.

“Our art and music scenes add so much to this city,” O’Neal said. “But we have to keep the rent at a level that allows them to create. Without the creative class, this city will become another San Francisco or Seattle. Those are great cities, but they’re not my city.”

In addition to keeping Austin affordable, O’Neal said she wants to make the city government more transparent.

“Every election year, we pass expensive bonds, but things don’t get better,” O’Neal said. “There’s a lack of oversight. If we’re not careful, and if we’re not watching the money, I think you’ll find there’s a lot of corruption. It’s our job as city leaders to make sure the money is going where we say it’s going to go.”

O’Neal said it’s time to bring a fresh perspective to the City Council.

“My ‘aha’ moment — when I finally decided to run — was when one of (Kathie) Tovo’s supporters knocked on my door, asking for signatures so she could run for a third term,” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘No, I’m gonna run against her.’”