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’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
- Identify all costs for residents (taxes, bills and fees).
- Calculate cumulative impact on affordability.
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!