September 27, 2016

Austin City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods (FAN) is a coalition of neighborhood associations and at-large individual members improving neighborhoods and improving neighborhood representation. We appreciated the opportunity to hear candidates’ thoughts on how City Council policies can positively impact the quality of life for residents in our neighborhoods. The following question was based on our vision for inclusive neighborhoods and a sustainable city. We received responses from 20 out of a field of 30 candidates. Candidates Jennifer Virden, Erica Nix, Gary Spellman, Jose Noe Elias, Aaron Webman, Richard Smith, Kimberly Hawkins, and Suzanne Mitchell did not respond to our invitations to participate.

FANs envision an Austin where all kinds of people can safely get around by walking, biking, and riding public transportation, and where they can live in the home and neighborhood of their choice. We believe more neighbors, and a greater diversity of neighbors, enrich our lives and make for a more sustainable city.

With which parts of this vision for Austin and its neighborhoods do you agree and disagree, and what are some examples of policies you would champion on city council to achieve your vision for Austin?


Celia Israel

I wholeheartedly support the Friends of Austin Neighborhoods Agenda. I came to Austin in 1982, and I have built my life here over the last 40 years. As a gay latina, I truly appreciate Austin’s role as an oasis of acceptance for people and families like mine.

I grew up in a working class family, and I am running for Mayor to make sure that Austin works for the people who have built this city and serve its residents every day. Skyrocketing rents are putting this City further out of reach for people, and we are already seeing teachers, nurses, and all kinds of workers forced to commute hours to work because they cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods they serve. We need all types of housing for all types of people in all parts of our great city.

We need to build more housing that makes sense for working people, and I am the only candidate in this race that has put forth a plan to address our housing crisis. There are several essential steps that we can take right now to keep Austin affordable. First, I believe that we have to ease our permitting and building process to make it easier for the development of multi-family housing. Additionally, I believe we should leverage our public land for public good, and move urgently to develop housing on lots owned and underutilized by the City. We can also make senior housing more accessible by revising the City Policy on Accessory Dwelling Units and giving families taking care of senior friends and relatives in their house more flexibility and financial assistance. Lastly, we need to provide relief for renters by replicating successful programs from the American Recovery Act and easing housing shortages that have sent rents skyrocketing by investing in workforce-friendly housing developments.

As we push to build more homes, we must also work to connect our city and build a true community. Reliable and accessible public transportation is an essential investment in a livable city. This issue is personal to me. Growing up, when my dad was on the road, my mom and I relied on the bus. Mom didn’t have a driver’s license. Transportation is the great equalizer for working families like mine. As Mayor, I will invest in a mass transit system that serves everyone and connects our city. I’m excited about the direction that our city is moving in, and look forward to more groundbreakings to come, like the McKalla Station at Q2 Stadium. With the investment in Project Connect, I view every transportation dollar as an equity dollar. Transportation-related deaths and severe injuries have steadily risen in recent years across our country, and Austin is no exception. As a long-time advocate for transportation safety, I will continue to support Vision Zero policies to ensure all road users can get around our city safely.

This election is about who can afford to live in Austin, and who gets to decide. I’m running for Mayor to make sure that working families like mine not only have a seat at the table but a champion in City Hall.

Kirk Watson

I agree with this vision statement. Too many of the people — the very people who make Austin a special place and keep our economy growing and thriving are — finding it too hard to make Austin home. From local regulatory decisions to international economics, the forces driving Austin’s growth seem to drive too many people beyond its city limits.

I’m committed to bringing Austin’s diversity of perspectives, voices, and ideas together to find strategies that will help more people build their lives here. And I will move to quickly pass solutions that can be immediately implemented and impactful. Some examples of policies that I would champion include:

  1. I will accelerate city processes to create affordable housing as quickly as possible, focusing first on areas such as transit corridors where most Austinites support it. We will move with urgency to increase Austin’s housing stock in areas where it is most appropriate, and ensure that city government is moving at least fast enough to not hinder the ability to keep up with the city’s growth. I will lead a top-to-bottom review of the city’s development process and regulations, looking for solutions that leverage the private sector to create more affordable housing without undermining the integrity of neighborhoods. The process will reflect that used by the Texas Sunset Commission — the nationally recognized body that regularly reviews nearly every agency in Texas government.
  2. I will work to adopt appropriate changes to compatibility and parking requirements to allow more housing.
  3. Encourage the use of the market through programs like the Housing Conservancy to preserve and build more housing.
  4. We should create incentives to convert office buildings into residential buildings and add residential
    housing to existing parking lots. Additionally, I will work on a dedicated program to encourage employers
    to participate in the creation of workforce housing by creating incentives and making it easy for partnering
    with workforce housing developers.

These are some examples of how I think about achieving the vision statement. Of course, there are a variety of other ways to develop more housing stock and enhance affordability in Austin. I look forward to hearing new ideas and working collaboratively to bring about needed change.

Phil Campero Brual

I support every part of this vision! The main policies I would champion are the rewriting of the Land Development Code, Replanning of Project Connect, and the improvement of the Austin Police Department. Each of these allow us to build a safe, and flourishing city by allowing us to keep Austin’s charm, fight increases in crime, and allow more people to enjoy this city and raise their families here.

District 1

Natasha Harper-Madison

I wholeheartedly agree with this vision. We must combine sensible housing solutions with equitable transit-oriented development; including market-rate and affordable places for people to live.

We need more housing.

In the midst of a severe housing crisis, without exaggeration, pro housing messaging should emphatically impress upon the housing-hesitant that the implications on human life and well-being constitute a state of local, national and international emergency.

Working families are being priced out of the market, middle-income public servants and essential workers can’t reside where they serve, the price of commercial real-estate is rapidly decimating small business, and even affluent families and businesses can’t escape our nightmarish land use realities.

We must work together to overcome the negative outcomes of our current status-quo zoning and land development code. Our current code is rooted in exclusionary policies that were designed to restrict the amount of housing that can be built in our city. These obsolete and antiquated policies are exacerbating the crisis and reducing the desperately needed housing units we are beyond capable of producing responsibly.

We are a diverse city, rich in culture, intellectual horsepower, innovative courage and potential; we need diverse housing.

In my first term I fought hard to ensure that Project Connect included a historic $300 million anti-displacement fund. This fund will not only preserve but create more affordable housing units along Austin’s future light rail and enhanced bus lines.

I am also currently working on policies that will help identify prohibitive costs and barriers to progress including arbitrary lot size and parking minimums and lengthy/costly planning and permitting processes.

Additionally, moving forward, I’m bringing policy direction to build out more naturally occurring affordability with robust cooperative, intergenerational, resource share as well as public and privately subsidized housing models.

Clinton Rarey

I believe having a community that is well connected through public walkways and public transportation is important. I believe each sub-community should be designed around a park. Growing up my mother spear headed a plan within the Parks and Recreations department to bring more parks to the community. She focused on building parks within new subdivision to give greater access throughout the city for those who may not be able to travel across town to visit a park with their kids. I believe we should do the same here in Austin.

District 3

José Velásquez

As a 4th generation Austinite I’ve seen firsthand how the lack of housing, transportation, and connectivity options have helped fuel the fire of displacement, unaffordability and economic segregation in our city. As your next council member representing District 3 I will fight to ensure we find creative ways to be a pro-housing and anti-displacement, multimodal and inclusive, Austin for all.

Together we’ll work to:

  1. Encourage more pedestrian and cycling traffic by ensuring safer streets, bike lanes, green space, walking trails and equitable access to public transportation.
  2. Work for more and affordable housing options that truly represent the lived experiences of all Austinites.
  3. Preserve and build more affordable housing stock to accommodate native Austinites and newcomers.
  4. Bridge the deep divide between old and new Austin by taking an active leadership role in community building initiatives, sustainability and leveraging our relationships to bring about a greater sense of solidarity.

Daniela Silva

This is such a beautiful vision that I align with closely. I dream of the day I can get around Austin easily, affordably, efficiently, safely, and reliably using transit options other than cars. Not only is making Austin a more transit and pedestrian-friendly city a move forward in environmental sustainability, but a matter of equity. We must create roads that are safer for cyclists, a public transit system that working-class Austinites can rely on to get to and from work quickly and reliably, and sidewalks that are unobstructed and wide enough for our neighbors in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, as well as protected from the sun with tree canopies to keep pedestrians cool.

Diversifying Austin’s housing options is of top priority, from building types to income levels to maintaining a healthy balance of rental versus ownership units. While prioritizing the diversification of housing, we must also work to ensure Austin is a city centered around equity; one that brings about a diversity in neighbors organically throughout all zip codes. Sustainability relies on the reduction of consumption and intentional regulation of natural resources. Shaping Austin’s future to be one with fewer cars, parking lots, and expansive highways is a future I want to be a part of creating; a city with thriving green spaces, neighborhoods conducive to community-building, and one where everyone can live happy, healthy lives.

Some policies I would champion include eliminating single-family zoning, reducing parking minimums, and allowing the rezoning of commercial lots to residential. I’d also work with other city officials to reduce permitting barriers for those looking to increase our supply of missing middle housing, find opportunities for the city to tap into resources like the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Foundation Communities, The Other Ones Foundation, and Community First! Village to build much-needed deeply affordable housing, and reduce barriers to forming housing cooperatives. As Council Member, I would also use our office to help inform residents of tenant’s rights and tenant organizing opportunities as tools to mitigate gentrification and displacement. If we are not mindful as leaders and co-creators of Austin to empower and protect low-income families, diversity in neighbors will undoubtedly decrease as we continue to develop.

All of these priorities (walkability, public transit, housing, diversity) are contributors to quality of life, which is directly and indirectly shaped around health – that of an individual, a family, a community, and the land our city is built on. The healthier an environment, the higher quality of life a person will report having. As a member of Austin City Council, my policies will center on the health and well-being of our residents, communities, businesses, and both natural and built environments.

Bertha Rendon Delgado

As a citizen of this City of Austin my hometown of 43 years I have seen the lack of transit, safety, mobilization has been the biggest challenge we have ever seen in our city. All of us seen the lack in transparency as well as we have been on the side lines allowing political process and Elected Leadership absolutely do nothing for us look at us Today. As your next City Council Woman, I am ready to bring my citizens of Austin to the table to demand priority needs, protection guidelines, affordable ride ship, transit for All. Our streets need to be safe for our children, our elders, our bike users to commute in our City of Austin. I’m ready to get to work and make co-create what our transit system looks like with all our neighborhoods!

Yvonne Weldon

I agree with the entire vision of FAN. I remember and cherish the days growing up in South Austin when I could walk and ride my bicycle to school, or could walk down the street and catch the bus to go swimming or to Town Lake. I believe everyone should strive to live in various neighborhoods and communities throughout Austin where they are safe and can thrive.

District 5

Stephanie Bazan

“All kinds of people can safely get around by walking, biking, and riding public transportation”
Response: I believe that everyone should have quality public transportation options and that we should have safe walkways and bike lanes and paths. We should maximize our 2016 Mobility Bond, and also ensure that Project Connect is on time and on budget as well as equitable and affordable.

“Where they can live in the home and neighborhood of their choice”
Response: We can all agree that Austin is in a housing crisis. To ensure that people have choice, we need more housing supply and homes that are affordable at different income levels to both buy and rent.

“We believe more neighbors, and a greater diversity of neighbors, enrich our lives and make for a more sustainable city”
Response: I love Austin. As a native Austinite who grew up in the district that I am running to represent, I deeply care about the future of our city, and want to create inclusive solutions to ensure that, as our city continues to grow, it remains a place for everyone – small business owners, artists, musicians, creatives, frontline workers and ALL the people who make Austin so special.

I think we all recognize that our land development code is outdated and has led to sprawl which in turn negatively impacts sustainability. I am reasonable, but we do need to act now.

“What are some examples of policies you would champion on city council to achieve your vision for Austin?”
Response: Part of my vision for Austin is a city where ALL our neighbors can thrive. To achieve this, all policy discussions should be grounded in justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. We should have a code that people can understand and that allows for the creation of more housing and affordable housing at different levels. I would champion policies that lead us to fulfilling the promises of the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint, Imagine Austin, and the Austin Climate Equity Plan.

Bill Welch

I agree with all.
Public safety policy is an area that I will champion to make change towards improvement.

Ryan Alter

My vision for Austin is in complete alignment with FAN’s goals for our neighborhoods. My top priority is to create more opportunities for everyone, everywhere. This means a land use code built for what we want Austin to look like decades in the future. It means a city government that excels at providing services to all Austinites in a high-quality, equitable manner. We can create inclusive communities aligned with our values if we choose the right leaders equipped with the experience to make this more than a vision, but instead a reality.

It’s no secret that Austin is experiencing growing pains, but this pain doesn’t have to be permanent. The root of this pain is a land use code that looks backwards and only makes Austin accessible to a shrinking sliver of the population. Allowing for a diversity of housing opens the doors for everyday Austinites to live where they choose while strengthening our community. Done responsibly, we can create more housing opportunities at all rungs of the cost ladder, while simultaneously reducing the harmful environmental impacts of sprawl and supporting robust multimodal transportation options.

Our neighborhoods should be our greatest asset, but they have become the source of some of our greatest divisions. Everyone should have the ability to walk to their neighborhood park, bike to the pool, and rely on public transit to get around town. Some of my most cherished memories with my children are doing just that. Sadly, these options are not equally available across the city, but I am committed to creating an Austin where that is no longer the case.

Ultimately, the next City Council is going to have to decide – do we let our growth exacerbate our problems or make it part of the solution? For me the answer is clear. We must implement a plan that aligns our growth with our vision of what Austin should look like decades from now, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Ken Craig

I agree with this vision for Austin. Our city is better when all neighborhoods are welcoming and accessible to all our residents. Transit access, diversity of transportation options, and employment opportunity across the city will indeed enhance Austin’s culture and sustainability.

Some examples of key policies I would champion to further this vision are:

  • Ensure Project Connect implementation is timely and responsive to public input for all components (light rail, rapid bus, on-demand Pick-Up, MetroBike, commuter lines, etc.). Align existing bus system routes and timing to create interconnected, reliable system for Austinites throughout the city. Reducing congestion and the necessity for car travel makes more of the city affordable and improves our natural environment.
  • Transparent, timely planning for and allocation of the Project Connect anti-displacement funds that includes listening to and working with people living in areas at risk for displacement. Using targeted strategies like home repair, home ownership, rental assistance, right to return, and land acquisition to help people stay in their neighborhoods and avoid displacement.
  • Effectively use city resources, including housing bonds, and revise city code to increase housing affordability. For example, preserve existing affordable housing stock; use vacant city land for housing where feasible; create faster and more efficient cross-departmental permitting processes; promote more options for a range of housing sizes and types, especially near transit.
  • Listen to and encourage participation by all people in neighborhoods. Intentionally welcome and support ideas for improving the quality of life in neighborhoods, such as park improvements, neighborhood partnering programs to enhance commons areas, community gardens, sidewalks and bike lanes.
  • Enhance our natural environment in and near all neighborhoods, from city, district, neighborhood and pocket parks, to greenbelts and preserves, for all in our city.

As a 23 year resident of South Austin I have seen and participated in how our community comes together to care for our natural environment, such as at Bauerle Ranch, the Tom Donovan Greenbelt and Tom Lassiter Park.

I’ve also experienced what we can do when neighbors, agencies and good policy come together to improve the housing for our neighborhoods. One example is the Goodrich Pathways project in the Zilker neighborhood, where the collaboration increased the number and quality of affordable housing units while improving the environmental footprint.

Another is the collaboration with the Parkside neighborhood south of Slaughter Ln. that resulted in improved infrastructure for the entire area, a new affordable housing complex and new dedicated parkland and nature preserve acreage.

Austin holds to the ideal of being a welcoming and nurturing city for all. That requires the willingness to work together on behalf of all our residents in all our neighborhoods. The result will be a city that sustains the vibrance and culture we treasure.

District 8

Paige Ellis

All of them. I believe that for Austin to be its best, we need all types of housing for all people in all parts of town. Housing affordability will only be better long-term when a multitude of options are available. As an apartment renter myself, I would not be able to live in the neighborhood I’ve loved for 10 years without a variety of housing options. I was a champion for Project Connect and was lead Sponsor of the accompanying Safe & Active Mobility Bond ($460M). This bond will create more bike lanes, urban trails, and safe routes to school. If we are to tackle climate change and our affordability crisis head-on, we must focus on housing (the 1984 Land Development Code and more) and transportation policy. I also have a ton of fun Chairing the City’s Mobility Committee. I think we have the best energetic discussions on these topics if you want to check any of them out.

Antonio D. Ross

I am in agreeance with these statements entirely. How mine and my neighbor’s safeties, freedoms, and ability to peacefully live their everyday lives have always something I strive for. For public transportation, I would like to implement more safety measures for bus stops, such as cameras, and better lighting during early AM or late PM hours. Also cooling systems for hot summer days. In addition, bike lane safety is also an opportunity to improve by designating some bike lane areas for bike riders only. especially in high traffic areas. As a resident of Austin, I have experienced the highs and lows of seeking residency, and there are noticeable differences being made and advocated. I would like to bridge that gap.

other visions I have for Austin’s improvement are schools and education. There is a substantial diversity gap which I would like to improve by proposing some re-zoning of some school districts to ensure all students are being educated fairly. I also feel strongly about implementing a citywide school safety training day to include local law enforcement. This, I believe would make sure all students are being kept safe as best as possible. These are my visions for the improvement of Austin.

District 9

Benjamin Leffler

I agree with all parts of this vision, and I’m extremely fortunate to have been raised in a central Austin neighborhood that shared many of these characteristics.

My parents didn’t make much money, but they were able to buy a house and raise my three brothers and I in Crestview because it was accessible to working class folks. The neighborhood had (and has) an extensive sidewalk network, and we could safely walk and bike to elementary (Brentwood), middle (Lamar), and high school (McCallum)—great public schools attended by children from across the socioeconomic spectrum.

We could also easily walk to the #1 and #5 Capital Metro bus routes, which allowed us to explore the city without a car. It wasn’t a utopia by any means—Austin was (and is) extremely segregated, car-centric, and single-family home dominant—but our neighborhood was populated by teachers, first responders, artists, and regular working people. And our lives were better because of it.

Decades of inequitable economic development and rapid growth, and policymakers’ failure to proactively address these challenges, makes my childhood experience nearly impossible in today’s Austin. In many ways, we’re facing a housing and affordability crisis of our own design. The hard truth is that a single-family home with a yard is a luxury item in 2022, but if we prioritize people over buildings and cars we have many tools to make Austin’s neighborhoods more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable.

Many, if not most, of our housing and affordability issues are a direct result of our inconsistent, inequitable, outdated land development code, which subsidizes car dependence and incentivizes sprawl. There isn’t a silver bullet or a magic policy to fix everything, but we could accomplish a lot by reducing minimum lot sizes, reassessing parking requirements, addressing compatibility, and raising the site plan threshold.

Together, these changes would enrich our neighborhoods by providing more missing middle housing, and finally transition roads like Lamar from shadeless, car-dependent swaths into vibrant, walkable and bikeable corridors. They would also incentivize public transit use—and I believe Capital Metro should be a free service for all—and greatly increase Project Connect’s ability to provide both market-rate and Affordable housing. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we can’t afford to miss.

The 2020 Active Transportation and Safety Bond is another huge opportunity to improve Austin’s neighborhoods. Completing our urban trail and bike network and addressing the city’s patchwork sidewalk system would both encourage walking and biking within neighborhoods, and connect neighborhoods across the city. We know more people will choose to ride and walk if they feel safe doing so, and our city will be much better off as a result.

Some additional policy initiatives I would explore to help build vibrant, sustainable, accessible neighborhoods include:

  • increasing city resources and cutting red tape to streamline the permitting process,
  • partnering with UT, ACC, AISD, and the private sector to build housing for students and employees, and
  • enhancing density bonus programs.

Neighborhoods aren’t just buildings—they’re people. Done right, they’re communities that provide those people access to education, health, and opportunity. I’m not naive. I know change is hard and that there are always difficult trade-offs. But we have the tools to make Austin neighborhoods better for all, and we should use them.

Zohaib Qadri

I’m running to fight for an Austin that works for everyone, which means an Austin with abundant homes, reliable transit, and safe streets for all.

After many years of debating and voting down various proposals, Austin voters delivered a strong mandate for public transit in November 2020. It’s our duty as potential elected city leaders to deliver on that mandate, and ensure Project Connect gets completed as close to on-time and on-budget as possible.

But even the best transit systems will not attract ridership if we don’t fix our land use to accommodate it. We must focus on equitable transit-oriented development. This means zoning for community-forging walkability within ½ mile of stops on both the Blue and Orange rail lines and the rapid bus lines permitted by Project Connect. To fully deliver on that goal, we must reform our land use policies all the way down, from compatibility and minimum parking mandates to the site plan review process and permitting and development staffing. Project Connect is also an opportunity to begin healing the decades of inequitable planning that have left our most marginalized neighbors behind. Voters approved $300M in anti-displacement funding to accompany Project Connect- I will fight to ensure that the money gets spent on real actions like eviction prevention, land acquisition, and Affordable Housing construction, not endless task forces and commissions. By building on previous council action such as Affordability Unlocked and the recent VMU2 plans, we can ensure that our limited Affordable Housing dollars can house as many of our neighbors and neighbors-to-be as possible.

We must take comprehensive and bold action on land use broadly, so that we can reverse our trend as one of the most expensive cities in the country, which is killing our community character and dramatically increasing our carbon footprint. The reforms we’re fighting for are not some crazy pie-in-the-sky proposal- Take a walk through Hyde Park or Travis Heights, and you’ll encounter dozens of homes that would be forbidden under the current code and its restrictive minimum lot size requirements, setbacks, minimum parking mandates, and single-family-only zoning prescriptions. While the state of our housing shortage means that we need to think even bigger, even the relatively modest density neighborhoods in our urban core is largely illegal today. Beyond reforming the aforementioned provisions, we must also make it easier to get ADUs permitted, financed, and built, allow more missing-middle density in our neighborhoods, and end the status quo, where we allow luxury single-family McMansions by-right while treating four-plexes with the same departmental rigor as a 200-unit apartment complex. We also must end costly minimum parking mandates in the urban core, which are based in outdated science and prescribe car-dependency onto a city that’s increasingly choking in traffic and looking to a carbon-neutral future.

We must remember that Austin’s history is steeped in racist planning practices that have led to inequities that persist to this day. Some current proposals, such as TxDOT’s disastrous I-35 widening plan, would fortify decades of division that tore our city apart. We need a city council that uses every tool at its disposal to demand a plan for I-35 that is, at minimum, No Wider and No Higher. I’ve been encouraged by the conversations I’ve had with Reconnect Austin and Rethink35, and I’m confident that Austinites can work together to fight for a better future for I-35 that heals the divides it has long torn through our community. But equity in planning goes far beyond I-35- we must invest in safer bus shelters, protected bike lanes, universal sidewalk coverage, more and better crosswalks on major and minor streets alike, increased street lighting, and planting native trees along our streets to encourage comfort in walkability in all parts of our city. We must recognize that land use changes don’t happen overnight, and we need to invest big in eviction protections and capital-A Affordable Housing so that our most vulnerable neighbors can have a place to sleep and shower at night. We must treat our unhoused neighbors with dignity, and invest in supportive housing to help get folks off of the street and into a caring home that welcomes them for who they are. We must reform our community input process to both listen to a more representative sample of our community, so that our most privileged neighbors don’t have a veto over homes and infrastructure for our most vulnerable.

Joah Spearman

Austin is a city that has given many people a genuine sense of belonging for years. Austin has fostered this atmosphere by offering housing affordability for all types of residents, attracting creatives and entrepreneurs who contribute both commercially and culturally, and by valuing local – the businesses, the nonprofits, the values – over corporate or state-led sentiments. Unfortunately, as Austin has grown, that sense of belonging is dissipating for thousands of residents as cost of living increases have evaporated our housing affordability, latency to invest in public transit infrastructure has led to increased traffic congestion, and state-led political actions have infiltrated the progressive sensibilities of Austin. This context is essential in talking about a vision for Austin where all kinds of people can belong, find affordable housing and get around without reliance on a car. I share FAN’s desire for a city that gives all types of people a sense of belonging here in Austin, particularly its emphasis on diversity and sustainability as key pillars to the type of city we all desire. Three specific policies that I intend to put forth to support this vision are: 1) Updating Austin’s land development code to enable duplexes, fourplexes and additional middle market housing to be built, specifically in District 9. 2) Developing public-private partnerships that further decrease reliance on cars to include incentives for e-bikes, investment in bike lanes and bike parking, and minimizing parking requirements. 3) Creating a plan aimed specifically at eradicating the negative impacts on our city, particularly communities of color, as a result of both the 1928 City Plan and the 1980s land development codes that established segregation in our city and protected it to the detriment of our city for decades. I believe a vision is powerful only with a real emphasis on solution-orientation and problem solving, and I intend to use my background as an entrepreneur, a community leader and nonprofit board member, and activist to help Austin reach its full potential as an affordable, creative and inclusive city for all.

Tom Wald

I wholeheartedly agree with the vision as laid out above.

Providing for safe walking, biking, and public transportation access ensures that all people can move about their neighborhood and city, not just those able to access a car. This helps household affordability, by allowing families to become one-car households and for some households to not own a car at all. Providing for non-car modes also makes more efficient use of limited urban space, and allows for those resources to be used for other needs such as housing and green space. There are numerous other benefits, including improved quality of life, reduced municipal costs, cleaner air, fewer transportation fatalities and injuries, healthier lives, and more.

Our city is a better and more equitable place when people of all backgrounds have access to economic, educational, and social opportunity. We each have a better understanding of our diversity when we live in diverse neighborhoods and can interact with people in public. Through stronger social connections, our city becomes more resilient and able to tackle challenges.

Unfortunately, housing is becoming less affordable each year, especially in our city’s most walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

Austin City Council can pursue several avenues to help to achieve this vision: ensuring existing plans get implemented, setting new directions for city staff, working with partner agencies, and maintaining strong relationships with community groups and leaders. We must do this work through multiple lenses to ensure it is successful, including equity & social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic resiliency.

As an Austin City Council member, I would pursue policies and actions in a few areas that would help advance this vision.

Walk, Bike, and Roll:

  • Prioritize completing our walkway network, including sidewalks and shared streets.
  • Prioritize completing a true all-ages-and-abilities bikeway network.
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) network: Bring our walkway network into compliance no later than 2030.
  • Ensure all residents are within one mile of a connected trails and greenways network.
  • Ensure timely implementation of other recommendations resulting from the 2023 ATX Walk Bike Roll updates to the Sidewalk & ADA Plan, Bikeway Plan, and Urban Trails Plan.
  • Ensure availability of secure bicycle storage and charging for e-bikes for a broader range of Austin, including those living in multifamily housing.
  • Renew the Open Streets (Viva Streets) program to help people reimagine and re-experience their public street space.
  • Expand Healthy Streets into new neighborhoods.
  • Develop a sustainable program to expand our street tree canopy, expand street rain gardens, and reduce urban heat.
  • Expand parking benefit districts to fund sidewalks, street trees, and other amenities.
  • Initiate a citywide street lighting plan that includes pedestrian safety.

Expanding and Enhancing Transit:

  • Project Connect: Ensure timely progress toward completion of our initial transit investment.
  • Provide more green lights for buses, queue jumps, and dedicated lanes.

City-Wide and Regional Action:

  • Devote more resources to achieve Vision Zero: zero traffic fatalities and serious injury collisions in our transportation system.
  • Revise ASMP (Austin Strategic Mobility Plan) to have more ambitious goals for non-car trips, including to bring it into alignment with our Climate Equity Plan. Reorient the trips metric to count all trips, not only work commute trips.
  • Ensure that all city departments facilitate employees and residents to be able to live without owning a car. For example, by locating offices and providing services in accessible locations.
  • Build a coalition at CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) to support more funding for safety, bicycling, walking, and transit projects across the metropolitan area, to create a well-functioning multimodal network.

Complete Communities and Abundant Housing:

  • Pursue land use and other policies that support Complete Communities: Ensuring that people can meet their everyday needs within their neighborhood. For example, that people can access a grocery store and other commercial destinations via walking or bicycling.
  • Advance land use regulations that support a range of housing types in all parts of Austin, as outlined in our Imagine Austin comprehensive plan.
  • Pursue policies to ensure our city has enough housing to meet demand near opportunities and services, has more income-restricted units throughout the city, and has funding for adequate subsidized housing.
  • Reduce the time to receive building permits, to help create more affordable housing and more housing overall.
  • Prioritize building mid-rise housing on publicly owned land.
  • Strengthen renter rights to help ensure housing stability.
  • Facilitate development of neighborhood commercial amenities to ensure services within walking and biking distance.
  • Optimize our transit investments through equitable transit oriented development.
  • Ensure residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park, through new parkland acquisition and creating new connective routes.

In the coming months, as I continue to meet with community leaders and industry experts, I will refine and expand upon these policy proposals to help achieve this vision. Once in office, to help the success of these initiatives, I would closely coordinate with community groups and leaders, government staff, and fellow council members and their staff.

I have 16+ years of experience as a community leader working to achieve this vision by advancing walking, biking, ADA, and transit access. This includes serving as Bike Austin’s first Executive Director where I was instrumental in the implementation of our city’s protected bikeway network and increasing sidewalk funding. With Walk Austin, we achieved the first dedicated funding for mid-block pedestrian signals (pedestrian hybrid beacons). With People United for Mobility Action and other local organizations, we successfully achieved $300MM in anti-displacement funding as part of the Project Connect transit investment. I currently lead the Red Line Parkway Initiative, where we are working to create a corridor centered around transit, walking, and bicycling accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds. Beginning this fall, we are partnering with Capital Metro, City of Austin, Travis County, and other local agencies to determine an end-to-end Red Line Parkway alignment for walking and bicycling access. You can read more on my background at www.tomwald.com/about

Linda H. Guerrero

That’s a wonderful mission statement, and I hope to work alongside your members and other neighborhood organizations to further these goals. As a native Austinite, I have seen how our city has transformed from generation to generation. Many of these changes have been good, like becoming the deep-blue flag of hope and salvation in a sea of red, while other changes have left people behind, like the rising costs of living that have forced families to leave their homes and neighborhoods.

I am running for City Council, because I have hope that our generation can be a catalyst for positive growth. Our city has some of the most talented and interesting people in the entire world. When we find ways to collaborate and share our ideas, we progress. Right now, we have a responsibility to our future generations to leave Austin in a better place than we found it. That means protecting and enhancing our environment, becoming more sustainable, and creating more opportunities for equity and inclusion.

As a Parks Board Member and Chair of the Environmental Commission, I have worked to advance these goals. I helped strengthen our parkland dedication ordinance and advanced the City’s policy goal to create public parkland within a 1/4-mile walk of all urban residents. I sponsored and supported policy recommendations to make new developments more water and energy-efficient to reduce the costs of utilities on renters and small businesses.

I played an instrumental part in the UNO project by representing (Hancock NA / my neighborhood) to design/create the UNO (University Neighborhood Overlay) ordinance which brought thousands of students back to Central Austin, within walking distance of their classes.

As a council member, I will continue to advocate for improvements to our public transportation system, so we become less reliant on cars. I will continue to work with neighborhood and environmental leaders on land use policies that allow our city to grow more sustainably, while working to mitigate rising housing values and prioritizing income-restricted housing. And, I will work to prioritize equity in all of the Citys’ decision-making processes.

More than anything, though, I hope you will find that I will be a council member you feel comfortable approaching and working with. We need everyone to work together for our city to grow and shine. I am open to all ideas and perspectives, and I look forward to getting to know each other better in the months and years ahead.

Greg P. Smith

I agree with the mission statement of FAN wholeheartedly. Residents of Austin should have access to a variety of transportation options including biking, walking and public transportation.

We should not lose sight of those that use their vehicle for transportation, either. Proper management with a variety of experts inclusive of the city council is critical to the success. There are many policies in place that will need to be continued over the coming years.

But above all, we must hold our public leaders accountable for delivering on this vision and always focusing on policy that makes this mission achievable. Pursuing responsible growth with fewer barriers to innovation in the development space, providing opportunities to vary the density of housing options at the neighborhood level, and making policy that takes into account evidenced-based approaches to urban planning are all paths that warrant serious consideration.