Austin City Council: How to Vote and Why

Prior to the AURA membership vote for our Austin City Council endorsements, the AURA board shared with members its set of recommendations and reflections on each Council race being contested this November. Since the endorsements line up with the board's original recommendations, we thought we would release the recommendations to a wider audience.

In DISTRICT 2, the AURA board recommends endorsing DELIA GARZA.

Garza has a record of voting for liberalizing land use, including ADUs (where she defeated neighborhood opt-out), the Fair Housing Initiative, and seeking new transit corridors in her district. Garza has consistently spoken out for the benefits of connectivity, and she has been a capable leader on the Capital Metro board, where she has pushed for significant enhancements to frequency. Her opponent Wesley Faulkner states his support for missing-middle housing, but he doesn’t have a full understanding of land-use issues in the city, which is critical for a council member in the Year of CodeNEXT. He has called for more public housing, which is wonderful, but illegal under federal law. He has a lot to learn, but we’re encouraged by his desire to help and hope he serves in some other capacity.

In DISTRICT 4, AURA members have already endorsed GREG CASAR.

In DISTRICT 6, the AURA board recommends NO ENDORSEMENT.

Don Zimmerman has taken his conservative property-rights perspective to the city’s land development code, and in many zoning cases and code amendments, he’s fought against a code that he rightly recognizes as burdensome red tape that costs everyone—developers and residents alike—more than is necessary. He was a helpful ally on the poorly designed parkland dedication ordinance.  However, Zimmerman is no urbanist. He has voted poorly on transit issues, going so far as to make a motion (which didn’t get a second) to have this year’s bond be exclusively road spending. Zimmerman has also unfortunately spoken out against subsidized affordable housing at every opportunity, which AURA recognizes is a piece of the puzzle to solving our housing crisis. His views on social issues and the environment are offensive, and his prominent seat on the dais to voice those opinions is problematic. We cannot recommend an endorsement of Zimmerman, regardless of the occasional convenient vote. His opponent, Jimmy Flannigan, would be supportive of transit and some density on corridors, but has stated opposition to a diversity of housing in single-family neighborhoods in the city core, an important issue in CodeNEXT and fair housing. Specifically, he’s stated that neighborhoods shouldn’t have to worry about four-plexes, that CodeNEXT transition zones (where missing-middle housing will be most prominent) should be as small as possible, that neighborhoods should avoid change for 20 years, and that a home that is torn down should be replaced with a home of a similar style. These views run counter to stances and initiatives that AURA has taken on in the past year and to what we hope to accomplish in CodeNEXT. As such, we cannot recommend Flannigan either.

In DISTRICT 7, the AURA board recommends endorsing NATALIE GAULDIN.

Natalie Gauldin is an up-and-coming candidate who couldn’t be a starker contrast to Leslie Pool. Pool has voted against diversity of housing options at nearly every opportunity, including our primary advocacy goal, ADUs, last year. She has voted against subsidized affordable housing on corridors. She has undermined the development review process, created false narratives around missing-middle housing, and ultimately seems to have her head in the sand as to a solution for Austin’s growth. Perhaps Pool’s view is that “if we pretend it isn’t happening, maybe it will stop.” Meanwhile, Gauldin embraces a rational approach to housing supply as a primary mechanism for addressing Austin’s affordable housing crisis. She is also a routine cyclist who will support transit and mode shift. She has a deep desire to help fix the city she grew up in and where she’s raising her family, and she knows that Council will have to make some hard decisions to fix our housing crisis. We support Gauldin wholeheartedly.  

In DISTRICT 10, the AURA board recommends endorsing SHERI GALLO.

Sheri Gallo has been a consistent vote for AURA’s land-use platform, and we recommend her endorsement. Despite her occasional disagreements with our policies (most notably on bike lanes and on sidewalk spending in the bond), Gallo has shown herself to be one who can solve problems, find middle ground (not just for compromise’s sake), and create better outcomes. When AURA brought to her attention the terribly written parkland dedication ordinance, Gallo listened attentively and convinced her colleagues to fix the problems, creating a new ordinance that dramatically increased parks funding while balancing it with the critical need for more housing supply. She was a critical vote on the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee of the Council, where she provided a consistent counterweight on land use against Council Member Kathie Tovo, allowing items related to ADUs and Fair Housing to pass to a full Council with a committee recommendation. While Gallo has too much of a focus on cars and parking requirements, we can easily recommend her over her principal opponent, Alison Alter, whose focus on parks, “neighborhoods,” and the Grove PUD is akin to Council Member Pool. While Alter attempts to position herself between “NIMBYism” and “density at all cost,” her position of preserving single-family zoning gives us very little hope.

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