Tag Archives: Austin City Council election.

Linda Guerrero Supports Major Reforms At City Hall

By Bill Oakey, November 3, 2022

This is Part 2 of this blog’s endorsement of Linda Guerrero for City Council, District 9. In my interview with her, I learned that she wants to fix many of the longstanding problems at City Hall. She supports reforms that some of us have been clamoring for, as far back as the 1980’s.

Linda’s Reform Agenda Starts With Public Engagement

i asked Linda how she felt about public engagement at City Council meetings. Did she support much better clarity on when the public can expect to be heard at public hearings. And would she reform the chaos that keeps people in wheelchairs and parents with small children outside, waiting for hours to speak on an agenda item. Her response was crystal clear. “Absolutely. I am one of those people!” She has been there, done that, and she’s ready for a change. She supports the Austin Neighborhood Council’s recent public engagement resolution. And, she is interested in my City Council public engagement proposal, that was endorsed by the American-Statesman editorial board on January 29, 1988. That proposal will see its 35th anniversary, shortly after Linda is sworn in, if we can get her elected. Linda also told me that she wants to see more opportunities for citizens to speak to the Council, from the comfort of their homes over Zoom.

Transparency Is a Cornerstone of Linda’s Reform Plans

Lack of transparency is a persistent, nagging problem at City Hall. The City has been dragged into court, only to lose, on more than one occasion, for not complying with all the requirements for posting agenda items and providing proper backup materials. Citizens are often given vague or fuzzy answers to public information requests, and are often met with frustrating delays. We long for the good old days, when every mailing envelope from City Hall carried the slogan, “Austin, the Friendly City.” Linda has seen transparency issues, while serving on several City Boards and Commissions. She told me that she would like to see much better transparency at all levels of the City administration.

We Can Count On Linda to Hold City Officials Accountable

Most City employees are genuinely passionate about their jobs, and they  try to do their very best to help the City Council and the public. But it’s in the nature of a bureaucracy for things to slip through the cracks. City resolutions often carry requirements for things to be done by a specified date. Unfortunately, there is no system in place for citizens to easily find previously passed ordinances and resolutions.

In the worst case scenario, citizens will triumphantly depart City Council Chambers, after getting a hard-fought resolution passed. Let’s call it Resolution X. Then, a year or two later, the same problem that prompted Resolution X pops up again. The City Council approves an action that was supposed to be forbidden under that resolution. Why? Because the resolution was never officially acted upon, or else its existence was forgotten. There is no reliable tracking or enforcement system. In the absence of organization, disorganization prevails.

In 2015, I wrote a blog piece called, What Happens When “The City Manager Is Directed To,” And He Doesn’t? Those explicitly worded directives are printed on many resolutions, and they “must be” carried out by a certain prescribed deadline. But if that date comes and goes, and no response ever comes, does anybody at City Hall remember it and follow up? Well, sometimes…or…sometimes maybe not. That little thing called politics can get in the way. Or else it can simply happen as a result of disorganization. Either way, Linda told me that she wants to see ordinances and resolutions better cataloged, and have tracking and enforcement measures put in place for those funny, familiar, forgotten directives.

Linda is aware that some of these reforms will come with a price tag. Staff time would be required to carry them out. And, of course, she would need majority votes on the City Council to get them adopted. But a nice slice of hope is much better than the status quo. Midnight should be a time for hoot owls and prowling coyotes. Citizens should not be expected to join them on their way home, after endless hours of waiting at City Hall. That’s the way I felt about it, back in 1988. Maybe Linda can finally fix it in 2023.

Senior Discounts – Linda Can Deliver Real Affordability Relief!

Linda won’t be sitting around at City Hall, wondering what to do. She is ready to hit the ground running. She likes my proposal for a broad range of senior discounts, on various City and City-related services. It’s too soon for her to know which ones are the most feasible, and what the budgetary impact might be. But she assured me that she wants to explore this exciting opportunity to help older folks, living on fixed incomes. Bravo for Linda! She will stand by us, if we can put her on the dais! Click here to read Part 1 of my endorsement, and see links to volunteer and donate.

A Closing Poem

If you have any friends who are District 9 voters
Give them some news that will rev up their motors
Tell them that Linda is the candidate of choice
She is the one who will lift up their voice

We need a problem-solver who will get things done
Your pitch for Linda will deliver a home run
For transparency, accountability and public engagement
It’s well worth your time to pound the pavement

As the campaign winds down in the final days
We must support Linda in all kinds of ways
Imagine what she could do for City Hall
With long-overdue reforms for once and for all!

A Very Dated and Hilarious 1943 Chamber of Commerce Video

”Austin, the Friendly City” – The fun starts after the opening roll of  scrolling inscriptions.


Linda Guerrero Is The Affordability Candidate For District 9

By Bill Oakey – October 21, 2022

The first time that I spoke with Linda Guerrero, one thing stood out right away. Everything she says comes straight from the heart. She’s as down to earth as they come. Her values are the Austin values that so many of us remember and cherish, and want to hold onto. Those values, like family-friendly, affordable park events, sensible neighborhood and environmental protections, and our quality of life now face daunting threats and challenges.

Kathie Tovo has been our strongest and smartest advocate for many years in District 9. Now, her vacant seat is up for grabs. It is a seat that powerful, big-money special interests would love to take over. We simply can’t let that happen! Having Linda Guerrero down at City Hall would be like having your favorite neighbor or best friend as a City leader. There would be no invisible wall between you and her, when you sit down in her office. With typical politicians, you can walk out of a meeting, and never quite know what to expect or believe. People who have known and worked with Linda throughout her many years of public service will tell you that her passion for Austin is real. We need to do whatever it takes to get her elected. This blog enthusiastically endorses her, and you should too.

Linda Guerrero – The District 9 Affordability Candidate

Linda’s Background Is Hard to Beat

We don’t need a new Council Member who arrived a couple of years ago, and suddenly decided to run. With Linda, we’ll be getting a lifelong Austinite with a stellar record of public service. Here’s her list of distinguished accomplishments:

Chair, Austin Environmental Commission
Chair, Austin Parks Board
Co-Chair, I-35 Coalition
Member, City Bond Oversight Commission
Vice Chair, Austin Downtown Commission
Executive Officer, Hancock Neighborhood Assn.
Member, South Central Waterfront Overlay Commission
School Teacher (28 years), AISD

Linda is the daughter of Roy G, Guerrero, a longtime employee at Austin Parks and Recreation, with a long list of honored accomplishments. You can visit the 363 acre South Austin park that was named after him. Linda certainly takes after her dad, and then some. So, you might be wondering, where does she stand on affordability?

Linda Is Ready to Turn Affordability From Words Into Action

I looked up the 2023 Austin City Budget and did a document search for the word, “affordability.” The results showed 1000+ occurrences. It has become one of the most popular buzzwords at City Hall these days. But, there is one big problem – Where are the concrete plans to make Austin more affordable? The Budget certainly doesn’t offer a clue. Taxes, fees and utility bills are soaring to record levels. Inflation is at a 40 year high. Rents and property taxes are unbearable. Who has offered any sort of comprehensive plan for affordability?

Linda takes affordability seriously, and recognizes the need to address it head-on. She understands that long term residents are some of the hardest hit. We are the ones who paid our taxes, worked hard at our jobs, and volunteered, to give Austin the prized quality of life that makes it so special. And yet, we see our neighborhoods being turned into destination opportunities for big investors, from California and New York, to Dubai and beyond. Unless the City brings a balance of diversity to the table, we could see neighborhoods filled with nothing but wealthy residents, no on-site parking, and little to no drainage protections for surrounding areas.

Linda embraces the study, published in the journal, “Urban Studies” that debunks the myth about high density neighborhood development. Instead of making housing more affordable, the data shows that it only makes housing more expensive in desirable areas. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Austin developers would simply build more luxury units per lot, if the gates were thrown open for higher density. All you have to do is try a Google search for phrases such as, “high density more affordable,” “high density affordable housing.” or “missing middle housing more affordable,” etc. You won’t find a single example on our particular planet. You can read about the study in this Bloomberg article. And download the study by Googling it.

Linda believes in practical, pragmatic solutions. She wants to work with all sides, to approach the complex issues with diligence and fairness. She has a proven record of doing exactly that. In terms of affordability, she told me that she is open to considering senior discounts for some City services. She would like to see more family-friendly, affordable events at Austin parks. Too often we see park events designed for VIP’s, with elitist, Cadillac prices. That’s fine for the tech engineers and startup founders, who can afford to casually tap out those payments on their phones. But what about the rest of us?

I get choked up when I mourn the loss of the wonderful, free Zilker Garden Festival that was held every year. Community non-profits gathered on the grounds to sell plants and flowers. Did you notice that I used the word, “community?” Austin has lost a lot of its old fashioned community spirit. Linda has not forgotten that spirit. It is big part of the fabric of her being.

in 2014, I wrote an op-ed for the American-Statesman on affordability. I recommended that the City appoint a formal group of representatives from the various taxing entities, to meet and formulate an affordability action plan. Later that year, the Regional Affordability Committee was created. In 2016, they produced a draft of an official Affordability Strategic Plan.

It stayed in draft form through March 2020, when the pandemic hit. Then, the regular meetings of the committee came to a screeching halt. Ever since then, both the committee and the strategic plan have been tucked away in the virtual equivalent of mothballs. Linda has told me that she would like to bring the strategic plan out of hibernation. That would be a very tall order for sure. I would be pleased if the City Council put it on the agenda, and identified certain initiatives that could be formally adopted and put into action. Take a look at this one:

Initiative 3: Government Efficiency

The committee members saw the possible opportunity to improve collaboration between government jurisdictions with a discussion on perhaps eliminating duplication in services between agencies for potential cost savings. With that in mind the Committee identified the following outcome.

Outcome 1: Identify all Costs for Residents (Taxes, Bills, & Fees) and calculate cumulative impact on affordability

● Strategies:

  1. Identify all costs for residents (taxes, bills and fees).
  2. Calculate cumulative impact on affordability.
  3. Establish a Cumulative Affordability Goal that identifies cost-reduction
    opportunities by consolidating services, contracts, and/or benefits.

Objective: Develop a consolidated list that identifies possible cost-reduction opportunities; for example in facilities maintenance contracts, healthcare services, public safety services and capital projects.

Can Affordability Be Ripped Away From Theoretical Hyperbole, and Thrust Into the Amazing Realm of Actual Reality?

I recommend that we work like hell to elect Linda Guerrero, and give her a chance to try! You can go to her website and sign up to volunteer. And go to this link to make a donation. Linda checks all the other boxes that neighborhood and environmental progressives want, to replace the incomparable Kathie Tovo. If you live in District 9, send in your mail-in ballot, if you haven’t already. Or vote early, starting on Monday. Contact your neighbors, fellow workers, friends and social media outlets. Let’s carry Linda over the threshold and into a magnificent victory!

A Poem for Linda

The special interests have lots of gall
They dominate the dealings at City Hall
Now we have a chance to blunt their rambling
Linda Guerrero will send them scrambling

We have ideas that we’d like to discuss
And we can count on Linda to fight for us
Her practical approach will help with mobility
And, wow, she’s a champion for affordability!

Like a scientist who gets high on quasars and quarks
Linda is passionate about our parks
They’ve become a cash enterprise for entrepreneurs
Linda wants more of them to be mine and yours

Developers ask for too much high density
Linda wants to slow down that propensity
Would it make housing affordable? Well, probably not
They would just build more luxury units per lot

Before they’re given a neighborhood to trample
Let’s ask for some proof, with a concrete example
If there’s a place on earth where that myth is reality
Let’s try out their model with impartiality

Until then, you can hardly blame the skeptics
Linda will insist on hard facts and metrics
We’re all going to miss our loyal Kathie Tovo
The best one to replace her is Linda Guerrero!

A Fun Song for Linda

“Linda” –  Jan & Dean, 1963. Originally recorded by Ray Noble in 1946

What Happened To “Affordability” In The Council Runoff Campaigns?

By Bill Oakey – December 8, 2014

Have you ever stood next to a giant balloon just as someone pulled the plug and let the air out of it? At first, you hear a giant shhh-ing sound that is so loud and pervasive that it catches everyone’s attention. Then, once the sound begins to taper off, you forget that the change is still taking place.

That is exactly what’s happening with the affordability issue in the City Council runoff campaigns. For several months, candidates touted their concerns about it, usually branding it the number one issue. Some listed it in a tie for first place with traffic. Now here we are, just over a week before the election, and the affordability platforms are nowhere to be found.

Grab a copy of this week’s Austin Chronicle and flip to the first full page campaign ad. The words
“Early Vote Labor Rally!” come screaming at you. Then a few pages later comes a candidate who boasts of being “The Progressive Choice.” She proudly touts her support from “Our Neighborhoods,” “Our Environment,” and “Austin Women.” The word “affordability” appears nowhere on the entire page. Then comes another full page ad, “You Can’t Believe Candidate X on the Environment.” You would think that this election was being held in 1985 instead of 2014. All of those issues are still important to Austin voters. But 2014 has been described by most observers as the tipping point for affordability. We either grab the issue by the reins now and wrestle it into submission, or Austin will be out of reach permanently for thousands of existing residents and newcomers of modest incomes.

Perhaps the campaign consultants who wrote the ads are simply stuck in a time warp. Or else they are deluding themselves by thinking that the same old cliches will bring voters to the polls and help their candidates win. It’s convenient to fall back on the same entrenched coalitions and time-worn buzzwords that have been used in every City Council campaign for decades. But those who cannot see the handwriting on the wall face peril if they ignore the warning signs.

Taxpayers are fed up and they want substantive solutions. They expect much more than back-burner treatment of the issues that lie clearly in the forefront of most Austinites minds today. Our city has become unaffordable and we seek the leadership necessary to turn that situation around. We are sick of lip service and we are tired of written reports that list affordability as a goal, while outlining business as usual at every step of the way in every published planning document.

The big picture view of the problem is very clear. Austin has been hyped well beyond our ability to cope with it. Assumptions of massive population growth are not backed up with any notion of where the money would come from to pay for the infrastructure. We are rapidly running out of water, and our roads are so congested that total gridlock can be expected on many thoroughfares in the very near future. And yet, CAMPO, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, just published a report claiming that we will spend $32 billion over the next 25 years for roads and other transportation projects. But they fail to suggest where “we” will come up with that staggering sum of money. According to a chart published by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, 80% of that $32 billion will need to come from “local funding sources.” Again I ask, what local funding sources? Who in Austin can you point to anyone who believes that local taxpayers can afford $1.3 billion a year, every year, for 25 years in a row for projects of any kind whatsoever? (See my previous blog post, Can Austin Taxpayers Afford to Build a Whole New City)?

The celebrations following the swearing in of the new 10-1 City Council are now just a few short weeks ahead. But that joyous occasion will be followed by a stark reality check. The hard work will be laid upon their laps with a wallop. I know someone who will be down at City Hall reminding them about truth in taxation, budget transparency, limits on funding vacant staff positions, saving budget surpluses for tax and utility rate relief and a host of other affordability reforms. Our voices were heard loud and clear with the trouncing of the urban rail boondoggle. Any politician who did not get that message or does not understand the gravity of affordability among the voters should expect to incur the wrath of the entire city if they don’t stand up and take notice.

If you’re looking for some reading material to tide you over between now and the ushering in of the new City Council, check out this timely, relevant and disturbing article from Salon Magazine that paints a grim picture of Houston that closely parallels our situation here. It’s called “How Oligarchs Destroyed a Major American City.”

Why I Voted For Steve Adler, And Why You Should Too

By Bill Oakey – October 31, 2014

It is quite appropriate that the Halloween tricksters from a certain male opponent of Steve’s sent out two ghoulish mailers this week. We shouldn’t let them scare us, and it’s easy to tell that they are the ones who are spooked!

The special interests who are backing Steve’s opponents are unwilling to match his pledge of real tax relief for Austin homeowners. Instead, they conjured up a band of outside agitators from South Carolina to send out negative mailers to Austin voters. This represents an act of desperation, and it probably means that Steve’s positives messages are cutting into the hopes of any opponents who were hoping to beat him.

This is where those of you reading this come in. Make your plans to vote for Steve, if you haven’t already. You can vote at any polling location on Tuesday. Then you need to email, Facebook and tweet your friends and remind them to vote for Steve. If we keep the attention focused on these net few days, Austin can finally put the bad old days of business as usual at City Hall behind us.

Steve is a down to earth, hard working guy who is quite the opposite of the spooky character that the outsiders portray him to be. You should set a time to go by his campaign office at 301 Barton Springs Road. Volunteers will be needed right up until the polls close at 7:00 on Tuesday.

In the meantime, just keep in mind that solid, common sense principles like financial transparency, truth in taxation, and real affordability reforms instead of lip service and empty promises can be ours if we just get out the vote for Steve Adler.

Treat yourself to a grass roots victory in the mayor’s race this Halloween. Remind your friends that all of the tough problems that Austin faces today were brought about by the very people who are opposing Steve in this election. It is their “experience” that got us into this mess.

Oh, and there’s just one other thing. Wouldn’t it be fun to see that boyish grin on Steve’s face Tuesday night when he wins!